Sunday, March 02, 2008



Aside from two Puerto Rico games with Rachel (both ties), the only other game I've played on this vacation is Anagrams. Anagrams is the Eurogame version of Scrabble.

Anagrams is a game for 2 or more players. It takes about 30 minutes and there are no turns; everyone plays all the time. You can win right up to the very end of the game, and, while a good vocabulary helps, it is less of an issue than it is in Scrabble. More important is a quick pattern matching ability.

You can play Anagrams with any old Scrabble set. You don't use the board or racks.

Players sit in a circle. Flip over tiles, one at a time, with a reasonable amount of time between each flip. If you flip the blank tile, discard it.

Whenever you see a word that can be formed using the flipped tiles, simply call out the word. If you are first to call out a valid word, take the tiles and arrange them into a word in front of you, facing you.

In addition, whenever you see a word that can be formed using at least one flipped tile added to an existing word - yours or someone else's - you can call out the word and take the new word into your area. The new word must be of a different root - it can't simply be adding an "s" or "ed" or somesuch to the word. It must make an entirely new word. E.g. you can't steal a word by adding an "s" to "lair" to make "lairs", but you can call out the word "liars" to steal the word, because it is a new word ("liar" and not "lair").

You cannot break words into multiple words. You can combine two words into one entirely new word, so long as it uses one additional flipped tile from the center.

The game ends when the tiles run out and no new words can be found. There are many ways to score: length of words, number of words, number of tiles, points on tiles, and so on. But the game is one that doesn't demand any rigorous scoring; the play it all the fun.

At the beginning, it's easy to steal words and form anagrams. But as the game goes on and dozens of words litter the board, it's hard to wrap your head around all the words in play. At that point, you're usually best just focusing on the one letter you've been waiting for all game that will transform "trace" into "crated". If two people are waiting for the same letter to use in different words, you better be on the ball!

Anagrams is not a new game. Scrabble players have been playing it for ages as a way to hone up their Scrabble skills, but versions of the game actually predate Scrabble.

It's fast, fun, challenging, engaging, and often silly. And it's so easy to play and explain; anyone can join or leave the game while it's in progress without ruining the fun.

I taught it to two couples, all totally non-gamers, this Friday night who immediately took to it and had a blast. It's one of my top ten games; I'll always suggest it and I'll play it anytime.

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