Confused Drow mages play with letters (part 3)

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Arise from your wage-dorms, cast aside your warm Doges and your dower mags, and if you are a gambler apply some wager-mods. This post will be no sog-warmed amalgamation of mowed rags, no sad gem row through which the hapless gamer morg-wades. Today we cut, saw-gormed, through the dewar smog and distill the very orgasm dew of truth from the subject of word games.

The Interview

Can you do well at word games with a poor vocabulary or bad spelling?

“It really depends on the game, although remember that there is usually no penalty for getting it wrong. In a game like Snatch it would be tough but something like Bananagrams, where you have a lot of choice over what words you use, should be ok.”

What is your favourite letter?

“Mmm. I don’t know. B is a strong contender.”

(B? Really? I know I’m only supposed to be asking the questions but B is such a horrible letter…)

Are there specific word games you do or don’t recommend?

“To everybody? It really depends what you think about words, and about games. Things that also have a more traditional game aspect, like Paperback or Hardback, are a good choice for gamers who aren’t that into words or want a bridge into word games, while things like Balderdash and Articulate are good if you like using words but not rearranging letters or spelling. I have never played a word game I really didn’t like.”

(I have played some word games I really didn’t like, usually because I was being beaten by the interviewee. I’m also not that much of a fan of Bananagrams – it seems to lack the competitive aspect for most of the game and only really depend on the last few moves.)

Would you bat a crocodile on the nose with a stick?


Do you have any tips for anagrams?

“Look for common endings or beginnings like -ing, -ate etc. If you have a difficult letter such as a V or a K try to focus on this letter and its immediate environs first, as there will often be fewer options and it will help you to narrow things down. And keep going – there are an awful lot of possible ways of arranging letters so even if you feel like you have tried everything you probably haven’t.”

(For example, with 7 letters there are 5040 possible ways to order them.)

Do you think your husband should drink more tea and do less housework?

“Is the answer to all of your stupid questions just going to be no?”

Are there any specific words you think are so useful that they are worth mentioning?

“The word ‘QI’ has revolutionised Scrabble. Without it a Q could be disastrous. It is a short form of CHI, meaning life-force.”

(Well, this has maybe ruined my next question…)

Scrabble is probably the most popular word game – do you have any specific tips for it?

“Think hard about what letters you are leaving on your rack. It is almost always worth sacrificing a couple of points in order to leave behind a more useful spread of letters. Try to keep good combos like ING together if you can.”

(I would also say don’t be too afraid to change your letters, particularly in a two player game.)

What is the funniest story you can remember about a word game?

“I remember my 86 year old grandma trying to help out one of my siblings in a game of Scrabble. She looked at their rack for a moment before shouting ‘Bastard!’ at the top of her voice. It used all their letters so they got quite a lot of points for it.”

What is the question that I should have asked you but didn’t?

“You never asked me what I liked about word games. They seem to be quite a Marmite thing. There are many word gamers who play no strategy games and vice versa. I think they give you a different kind of satisfaction, and perhaps use a different part of the brain. In general they are less holistic and more about tactics than strategy. Each individual move doesn’t have to fit so neatly into your overarching plan, but you get extreme moments of adrenaline and enjoyment when you make a really good word, score a lot of points or really screw-over your husband. Some people seem to get a real kick out of them and others don’t.”

(I assume she means word games and not husbands.)


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I am a physicist who lives in Nottingham and I have been boardgaming for the last 10 years. My favourite boardgame is Agricola. I also enjoy playing the Yetis in Terra Mystica, hence the profile pic. I should also credit Sophie for drawing most of the cartoons that feature in the blog. Without her, there would be no grumpy oxen.

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