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Scrabble O For Word Lovers

What Scrabble OUGHT to have been from the beginning!

Introduction and comparison with Championship Scrabble

 

*** Introduction ***

Scrabble O is classic Scrabble with the flaws and imbalances carefully corrected. That's a capital letter O, which I like to pretend is a Roman numeral 0, placing it first in line before Scrabbles I, II, and III in the Scrabble For Word Lovers suite.

You may call it "Scrabble zero" or "Scrabble oh". I like Scrabble Ought, since "ought" is another word for zero, and it's what Scrabble OUGHT to have been in its ORIGINAL form, OFF the shelf, OUT of the box.

As in all of the the Scrabble For Word Lovers games, Scrabble O uses a regular dictionary and allows good words only on the board, in accordance with the original box top rules. Here are the other fixes giving rise to Scrabble O:

1. Three letter minimum requirement.

2. Swap for the blank.

3. Big Play Bonus for plays of 5, 6, or 7 tiles.

4. Stretch Bonus for stretching a word by 2 or more letters.

5. Tile distribution: remove one "I"; add one blank.

The 3-letter minimum was suggested by Scrabble itself in 1950 as a "brain-testing variation." Swap for the blank was suggested by Scrabble in 1953. It must be the greatest tragedy in the history of board games that these two suggestions were not made box top rules.

The all-or-nothing "bingo" bonus for a 7-tile play comes along rarely, even for the best players. With a system of Big Play Bonuses you will be rewarded commensurately for nice plays of 5 or 6 tiles.

In "regular" Scrabble, stretching words into impressive, bigger words is something hardly worth considering. Now your efforts will be rewarded with the Stretch Bonus.

Scrabble's classic tile distribution simply has too many I's and not enough blanks. Solution? Remove one "I"; add one blank. Voila!

For more detail and discussion, please visit the Scrabble O rules page, but this handy Scrabble O on a Slip about says it all:

     SCRABBLE O       Two-Letter Words    
                                          
      MAIN WORD      AB  DO  ID  OF  TA   
  3-letter minimum   AD      IF  OH  TI   
                     AG  ED  IN  ON  TO   
   BIG PLAY Bonus    AH  EF  IS  OR       
     Tiles  Pts      AI  EH  IT  OS  UH   
       5     10      AM  EL      OW  UM   
       6     30      AN  EM  LA  OX  UP   
       7     50      AR  EN  LI      US   
                     AS  ER  LO  PA  UT   
    STRETCH Bonus    AT  EX      PI       
  (on fours and up)  AW      MA      WE   
     Ltrs   Pts      AX  FA  ME  RE  WO   
       1      0      AY      MI           
       2     20          GO  MU  SH  XI   
       3     40      BE      MY  SI       
       4     60      BI  HA      SO  YE   
       5     90 *    BY  HE  NO      YO   
       6    110 *        HI  NU           
       7    130 *        HO               
                                          
  Regular dictionary; all words checked.  
  Classic 15x15 board and 7-tile rack.    
  Classic 100 tile set with 8I, 3 blank.  
  SWAP for the blank.                     
  * Bonus incorporates BIG PLAY bonus.    

 

*** Sample Scrabble O Boards ***

Here are 5 real Scrabble O games played by regular people. As you scroll down, consider that your own Scrabble boards average upwards of 40 words, and that your Scrabble words average little more than 3 letters.

Game 1: "APTERYX GARAGE SERVICE"
Sample Scrabble O game board.

  Game 1 Statistics

  10: ETHEREALLY
   9: REPAYMENT
   8: OUTDOING OPERATED
   7: APTERYX SERVICE
   6: BABOON GARAGE JOINED CANVAS
   5: QUILT THIEF
   4: JUNK ZINC LOFT YORE WINE
   3: FAD
   2: DO BE AR EF BY OX

  Tiles: 100 total; played 91; unplayed M O S S W   U I D B 
  Power tiles: 11  J Q X Z _ _ _ S S S S 
  Words on board: 24 total; 25.8 normalized.
  Average word length: 4.92 letters

 
Game 2: "MUCOUS NOSEDIVE"
Sample Scrabble O game board.

  Game 2 Statistics

   9: OXYGENIZE
   8: NOSEDIVE
   7: TRIPPER STAGGER FOREIGN LIBRARY
   6: WINCES MUCOUS NOTATE COWARD STOKED FOAMED PEEVED
   5: QUILL JEANS
   4: NAIL HALO THAT
   3: HUB SUM ASH
   2: EM YO NU EF DO

  Tiles: 100 total; played 100 (in duplicate mode)
  Power tiles: 11  J Q X Z _ _ _ S S S S 
  Words on board: 26 total; 25.5 normalized. 
  Average word length: 4.92 letters.

 
Game 3: "BANNED SHOFARS"
Sample Scrabble O game board.

  Game 3 Statistics

   8: CRAVENLY ABLATION SHALLOWS QUIETING
   7: SHOFARS
   6: SOAKER POLITE AVOIDS ATAXIA CEMENT BANNED GLUTEN
   5: BENTS DYING JUMPS DOZED
   4: REAR TURF WEED
   2: PA TA

  Tiles: 100 total; played 97; unplayed O I I 
  Power tiles: 11  J Q X Z _ _ _ S S S S 
  Words on board:  21 total; 21.2 normalized. 
  Average word length: 5.57 letters.

 
Game 4: "BIOTIC GUTTERSNIPE"
Sample Scrabble O game board.

  Game 4 Statistics

  11: GUTTERSNIPE
   8: AVIATING GRIEVERS AMATEURS
   7: CHOWING QUEERLY UNBOXED
   6: LATEEN KIOSKS BIOTIC OPINED
   5: SWIPE HALOS FORGE
   4: RAJA OOZE CLAD FEND
   3: DAY HEN
   2: GO NO

  Tiles: 100 total; played 99; unplayed M
  Power tiles: 11  J Q X Z _ _ _ S S S S 
  Words on board: 22 total, 21.8 normalized.
  Average word length: 5.50 letters.

 
Game 5: "COUSINLY COXSWAIN"
Sample Scrabble O game board.

  Game 5 Statistics

   8: COXSWAIN CROQUETS COUSINLY
   7: AVARICE UNLIVES TONGUED
   6: MARRED PATIOS GOLFER MOUNDS JELLED
   5: HAIRY ELBOW
   4: RAZE ANKH PATH PLED
   3: FIT MYC DUH BET GET
   2: IT NO RE AS BY

  Tiles: 100 total; played 98; unplayed I I 
  Power tiles: 11  J Q X Z _ _ _ S S S S 
  Words on board: 27 total; 27.0 normalized.
  Average word length: 4.67 letters.

 
Did you see the difference with your own Scrabble boards in regards to bigger, more respectable words? If not, read on...

 

*** Comparison of Scrabble O with Championship Scrabble ***

Let's see how those five games stack up against "regular" Scrabble played at the very, very highest level; specifically, the five-game championship play-off at the 2015 National Scrabble Tournament. (You can view the games here: Game 1 Game 2 Game 3 Game 4 Game 5.)

 
Here are all 199 words on the five Championship Play-off boards, and the 120 words on the five Scrabble O boards above. (Words in red would be disallowed in Scrabble For Word Lovers, which uses a regular dictionary.)

Champions: (199 words) ELATERITE RETINULAE BANTENGS ENACTORY EPINASTY IMPINGED LEAGUING LEUCOMAS LIGNEOUS NONELITE OUTFOUND SATURANT VESTIGES ALEWIFE AUDILES BIGHEAD CAUTION EMBRUTE PRALINE SAILING SIMPLER THERIAN AERUGO AVENGE BANDIT CENSER CITERS HUIPIL JEWING JOCUND MATZAH PAEONS PANTED REECHO WEIRDO WHINEY WHINNY ZOOIER ARROW BARFI COMPS DOLOR DONEE DREAM DRYER FIERY GLOBE HORAL INDOW INLET JESTS KIVAS MEALY OAKED QUERN REUSE ROOTY SEGNO SLEEK SOJUS TRIOS VARVE VOLTI XENON ALIT BALE BRIO CLIT CLUE DEFI DOAT DOOB DORK DUST FAVA GOAD HOED IRID JIGS LOAF MAKI ORCA RELY SOCK SYLI TYRE WEPT YUZU ADO ANA ARF AWA AWL CON DUG ERE ERG FAG FED FOB HAG JOE KIS MAN MOI MOO PAY PIU POL POW QUA RAI RIB SAE SUQ TOY VAC VOX WUD ZEK AA AB AB AG AG AH AI AL BE BE DA DA DE EF EF EH EM ES EX EX FA FE HA ID IF IF IN IN IN IN IS IT JO KA LA LI MI MU NA NE NO NU OD OE OH OH OI ON OP OW OW OW OX OY PA PE PE QI QI RE SO SO TA TA TE TE TI UM UN UP US WE XI XI XI XI YO ZA ZA

Scrabble O: (120 words) GUTTERSNIPE ETHEREALLY OXYGENIZE REPAYMENT ABLATION AMATEURS AVIATING COUSINLY COXSWAIN CRAVENLY CROQUETS GRIEVERS NOSEDIVE OPERATED OUTDOING QUIETING SHALLOWS APTERYX AVARICE CHOWING FOREIGN LIBRARY QUEERLY SERVICE SHOFARS STAGGER TONGUED TRIPPER UNBOXED UNLIVES ATAXIA AVOIDS BABOON BANNED BIOTIC CANVAS CEMENT COWARD FOAMED GARAGE GLUTEN GOLFER JELLED JOINED KIOSKS LATEEN MARRED MOUNDS MUCOUS NOTATE OPINED PATIOS PEEVED POLITE SOAKER STOKED WINCES BENTS DOZED DYING ELBOW FORGE HAIRY HALOS JEANS JUMPS QUILL QUILT SWIPE THIEF ANKH CLAD FEND HALO JUNK LOFT NAIL OOZE PATH PLED RAJA RAZE REAR THAT TURF WEED WINE YORE ZINC ASH BET DAY DUH FAD FIT GET HEN HUB MYC SUM AR AS BE BY BY DO DO EF EF EM GO IT NO NO NU OX PA RE TA YO

 
Now here are some statistics distilled from the above. Take note of the Average Word Length, which in Scrabble O is about 5.1 letters, or 36% bigger than in the Championship Play-off games.


                               Championship Play-off   Scrabble O
                               ---------------------   ----------
                               
    Total Words (5 boards)     199 words               120 words 
                               
    Average Words on Board     40                      24
                               
    Average Word Length        3.7 letters             5.1 letters (36% longer!)
                               
    Weird Werdz                53 (27% of total)       none (ok, maybe MYC)

 
Still not impressed? Then consider the vast gulf in JQXZ usage:

Champions: JEWING JOCUND MATZAH ZOOIER JESTS QUERN SOJUS XENON JIGS YUZU JOE QUA SUQ VOX ZEK EX EX JO OX QI QI XI XI XI XI ZA ZA

Scrabble O: OXYGENIZE COXSWAIN CROQUETS QUIETING APTERYX QUEERLY UNBOXED ATAXIA JELLED JOINED DOZED JEANS JUMPS QUILL QUILT JUNK OOZE RAJA RAZE ZINC OX

You hardly need statistics to confirm what's easily visible to the naked eye: 12 of the 27 Championship JQXZ words are just 2 letters; 17 of 27 are just 3 letters or less. In fact, the Championship JQXZ words average just 3.4 letters. And fully half of the Championship JQXZ words longer than 3 letters are weird werdz! On the other hand, the 21 Scrabble O JQXZ words are all highly presentable, often quite dashing, and average a whopping 68% longer.

 
If after this headbanging comparison of Scrabble O For Word Lovers with the absolute best of modern, tournament Scrabble you are still not sold, I ask you to give it a fair trial for my sake. After all, I've only been trying to get Scrabble back on track as the best ever WORD game for about 30 years now. Then you can send me a photo of your completed game and tell me how much you hated it...

 

*** Summary of differences with "regular" Scrabble ***

Here, at a glance, are the differences between modern, "regular" Scrabble and Scrabble O For Word Lovers.

  "Regular" Scrabble                    Scrabble O
  ------------------                    ----------

  Word list memorization                Vocabulary-based

  Overloaded OSPD                       Regular dictionary

  Weird two-letter words                Refined 2-letter word list

  Invalid words allowed                 Points for good words only

  Bluffing                              No bluff element

  2-letter minimum                      3-letter minimum

  Single bonus for playing              Stepped bonuses for Big Plays
  all 7 tiles                           of 5, 6, or 7 tiles

  No reason to stretch words            Stretch bonus

  "I" overload (9 I's)                  One "I" removed (8 I's)

  2 blanks                              3 blanks

  Single use blanks                     Reusable blanks

  Tile tracking                         Expose final rack

  A few thousand players                Tens of millions of players?

  Top players wallow in obscurity       Top players rich $uper$tars!

 

*** Play Scrabble O on-line with a friend! ***

Scrabble O can (almost) be played on-line between two players who agree to the additional Scrabble O rules while playing Scrabble or Scrabble rip-offs such as Words With Friends.

You won't be able to do anything about swap for the blank, or the hideous "I" overload, but you can agree to the "three letter minimum" rule and keep track of the bonus points for Big Plays and Stretches manually.

You will have to abide by the honor system regarding invalid words. When your word doesn't fly and the computer tells you to try again, you will simply pass your turn.

The computer's word set is not under your control, but you can agree to a refined "Two-Letter Word List". See the "Scrabble O Summary Slip" near the top of this page. You could take it further by agreeing to disallow weird stuff like Q-without-a-U words and the Hebrew letters. That's all up to you, but remember the whole idea is Scrabble as a rollicking word game.

Here is the first ever Scrabble O game (out of three) played with the official Facebook Scrabble program:

Scrabble O on Facebook.

That's a slim, trim 23 words on the final board. (The typical "regular" Scrabble board is crawling with 40-plus words.) The game featured four nice bingos: OVERALL TRASHMAN TOWELING LAVATIONS. OUTFOXED was a 3-letter stretch from FOXED. And you wouldn't be ashamed of these JQXZ words anywhere: JAILED QUAILED OUTFOXED ZERO.

 

*** Legal statement and a plea ***

I retain the rights to these additions, adjustments, and modifications giving rise to Scrabble O, singly or in combination, insofar as I may be allowed.

Having said that, I will give Scrabble O to Hasbro for free if that's what it takes to make the Scrabble world safe again for word lovers. Anyone out there with the connections to talk to them?

 


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Note that four of the Scrabble O games were played on one of the very first Deluxe Scrabble sets ever produced. It can be dated surely to Sep-Oct 1953 based on the scoring error in the rule booklet.

Jesse Day and Matthew Tunnicliffe squared off in the five-game playoff for the 2015 National Scrabble Championship.