What is Scrabble?
Scrabble is the most popular and recognizable word tile-based game in the world. This modern classic’s origin begins in 1938, when Alfred Mosher Butts, an American architect, created the first iteration of the game.
At this point, the now-ubiquitous 15×15 board and addictive gameplay were already in place. It was in 1948 that the rights to the idea were bought, and the name Scrabble was introduced.
How to Play Scrabble?
Scrabble is a boxed-board game for 2-4 players, and all you need to play is included in the box. The 15×15 board and the 100 letter tiles are all you need to play, and the complementary tile racks can be used to hold the tiles.
The game is designed for 2-4 players, but competitive settings are often 2-player affairs. There are also variations of the rules that allow for 2 teams of two. Regardless, the rules and instructions remain identical.
The set-up of the game is simple. The 100 letter tiles are put into a provided opaque bag to ensure fair drawing. A dictionary or word list is specified to settle potential disputes regarding the validity of words that may occur throughout the game.
Turn order is determined with each player drawing one tile. The player drawing a letter closer that occurs earlier in alphabetical order will go first. Blank tiles will win when drawn against an ‘A’ tile.
Each player then draws 7 tiles from the draw bag, and places the tiles such that no other players can see the tiles.
The main gameplay in Scrabble involves the arranging of tiles to form words. The player going first is required to play a word with a minimum of two letters, and must come into contact with the center square (H8).
On the following turns, all words must use parts of the words already present on the board. Every subsequent word must use at least one letter from the words on the board. Words can be formed so long as they read from top to bottom or left to right.
Each player can choose from three options during their turn. They can play on the board, forming words with a corresponding granted score. A player can also opt to swap out tiles from their hand with the same number of tiles from the draw bag. If desired, a player can also choose to forfeit their turn by passing.
There are 2 blank tiles in the total of 100 tiles. These tiles can be used as a substitute for any letter, but they have no point value.
If a player plays out a word during their turn, they call out the calculated score value of the played word. Scoring is discussed in the Value, Points, and Scoring section of the guide. A player then refills their hand from the draw bag, returning to a total of 7 tiles. Once tiles are drawn from the bag, the play cannot be changed.
How does Scrabble End?
Based on the official tournament rules, a game of Scrabble ends when a player plays all tiles from their rack, and there are no more tiles in the bag to replenish their hand. Also, a game can end when both players go through 6 turns of both sides passing.
At the end of a game, the scores are calculated, and the winner is the player with the higher score.
With scoring being a major factor in Scrabble, there are rules in place to smoothen the gameplay process. The following discussion will be based on the official Scrabble rules used in tournaments.
In general, all words in the dictionary of choice are valid. However, players in tournaments do not have a dictionary on hand to check. Instead, players operate with their inherent knowledge. As the norm, proper nouns, hyphenated words, and acronyms are not allowed, barring those that find usual use. For tournaments, there are two main word lists used, the Tournament Word List (TWL) and the Collins Scrabble Words (CSW).
On an opponent’s play, a player can challenge the validity of the played word, provided the opponent has not yet drawn tiles to refill their hand. The challenger then looks up the word in the agreed-upon sources. If the word is found to be a fake word, the opponent will be forced to remove the played tiles, and the turn then passes to the next player.
If a challenge is unsuccessful, where the challenged word is found to be valid, penalties may or may not be imposed, depending on the rules being used for said game.
In conclusion, Scrabble rules are:
- Each player draws 7 tiles.
- The first player plays in contact with the center tile, with a minimum length of 2 letters.
- Play continues until an end-condition is reached.
- Players can challenge words when they believe said words to be invalid.
Value, Points, and Scoring
Scrabble scoring is simple. All letter tiles have Scrabble letter values that describe the point value for each tile, which is also based on the letter distribution.
You simply sum up the Scrabble points for each letter in the word. This includes any previously played tiles as well.
For example, if a player adds an S tile to a previously played DICE, making DICES, the player gets the score for all 5 letters, not just his/her S tile.
The letter distribution for the English version of Scrabble is shown below:
On the board, there are special squares that grant bonuses to players who manage to cover them with letters. These squares include the “Double Letter”, ‘Triple Letter”, “Double Word” and “Triple Word”.
The letter squares double or triple the score of the letter placed on that tile, while the word squares do the same, but for the entire word. Each of these squares can only be used once.
For example, in the DICE example, if the DICE word covered a Double Word square, the player will get double the score for the DICE word, whereas the player adding the S tile will not benefit from the doubling.
At the end of the game, if a player manages to clear all tiles from their hand, they will have ‘gone out’, and they get the sum of the opponent’s remaining tiles added to their score. To keep score, a Scrabble score sheet can help.
Strategy and How to Win
The following are some tips to win and get better at Scrabble:
- Memorize two and three-letter words, this is the key of Scrabble strategy.
- Manage your S tiles carefully, as there are only 4 S tiles in the game, and they can be used to make two words at once.
- Learn to hook, which is extending words (adding S to RING to make SPRING), while also making another word at the same time (FAST with the S extending RING to SPRING).
- Learn the “Q-without U” words, there are 17 valid words in the TWL.
- Play to the high-scoring squares. If you can capitalize on the Triple Word square, you can get a massive lead on your opponent.
- Save extensions. The S tile is not the only way to extend words, “ER”, “ED” and “ING” can be used as well.
Frequently Asked Questions
How many letters are in Scrabble?
There are a total of 100 tiles, with 98 being letter tiles. All 26 letters in the English alphabet exist.
How many of each letter are there?
How many tiles are in Scrabble?
In the English version of Scrabble, there are 100 tiles in total.
What is the highest-scoring Scrabble word?
The highest scoring Scrabble word is “SESQUIOXIDIZING”, coming in at a theoretical maximum of 2044 points.
What is the highest score ever?
The highest recorded Scrabble score in tournaments was 764 points, scored by Russel Honeybun in 2007.
How many squares are on a Scrabble board?
The Scrabble board has a 15×15 layout, having a total of 225 squares.
What is a bingo in Scrabble?
A bingo is a play made using all 7 tiles from a player’s hand. These grant a bonus of 50 points to a player that has achieved this.