Saturday, November 03, 2007

Hardscrabble

My friend JC has recently bought himself a Scrabble set, and we’ve played a couple of games to break it in.


I’m in two minds about Scrabble. On the one hand it’s a game that rewards a wide vocabulary, and the level of strategy needed to play well adds a challenging dimension. However despite appearances it’s not a game that celebrates language. It treats language the same way a real estate agent treats a fine piece of architecture: as something that’s only valuable to the extent that it can be used for his own personal gain.


Most of the time creating a big word opens up double or triple word score squares for your opponents, so creating big words that open up the board is a sure-fire way to lose. The wisest strategy is to alter the existing words by adding letters as prefixes or suffixes, which scores decent points and prevents your opponents from accessing the aforementioned double and triple word scores. As such, the game encourages players to be mean and self-sabotaging. The beautiful English language becomes a tool to be grudgingly metered out, not something to relish and use expansively.


JC twigged to this earlier than I did, so while I was splashing the board with the biggest and most interesting words I could devise, he was pushing out two letter words that linked them up. Eventually I lost my patience when he put an ‘H’ in the little elbow between two longer words to create “ah” and “oh”.


Me: You’re kidding me.

JC: And the “H” is on a double letter score, so that’s 18 points.

Me: So far you’ve had, “um”, “ah”, “oh”… why does every game with you start to look like a transcription of a porno soundtrack?


Fortunately that comment set him off in a paroxysm of laughter, which allowed me to surreptitiously cheat and win that particular game. All’s fair in love, war and Scrabble.

2 Comments:

Blogger Laziest Girl said...

Scrabble in our house quickly degenerates into a slanging match for this very reason. Buster is king of the three letter words and it drives me crazy.

Now, in order to maintain a positive focus on our relationship, we never play Scrabble for points.

7:42 PM  
Anonymous flashman said...

Two letter words make me say four letter words. Scrabulous is the devil. But if you want to see hardcore scrabble, hire out Word Wars.

7:13 PM  

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