Wednesday, March 02, 2005

My Hardscrabble Life

I recently tried out Super Scrabble with a bunch of co-workers for an article games editor Malcolm Kelly wrote about the board game, which appears today in the National Post and is free online. Super Scrabble is like your run-of-the-mill Scrabble but...
The Super hybrid has 216 more squares than the original, which has a mere 225. There are four quadruple-word score corners and eight quadruple-letter score squares. There are twice as many letter tiles (the original has 100), and some subtle changes in letter distribution including four more Is, three more Us, 10 Ss (as opposed to four in the original) and two each of the high-scoring J, Q, X and Z.
I wasn't terribly impressed by the bigger, brawnier version, though it could be fun to play with your long-time Scrabble partner to keep things interesting now that the passion is gone. Here's what I e-mailed Malcolm about the super-sized word game:
-- With twice the tiles, the game is longer. If you are playing with faster players, this isn't so bad, but with ditherers (I am sometimes classified thusly) it becomes a little too much. With four players, it moves along at a lively enough pace because you have time to think, but with two players it could take forever...
-- Because there is a bigger playing area, 7-letter words -- what some people insist on calling "bingos" -- are much, much easier to play. Perhaps too easy. It takes away some of the joy of that moment. When every day's a celebration, no day is.
-- On this note: the longer game and increased opportunity for high scoring makes the gap between the good players and the average players more pronounced. Winning by 500 points rather than by 50 points is not as pleasant in my socialist-Scrabble opinion. Even an inexperienced Scrabble player can occasionally beat a good Scrabble player with normal Scrabble thanks to the randomness of the draw... But with Super Scrabble, more tiles and plays means less probability that you'll get a series of bad racks. Half-way through the game, it's obvious who's going to win or lose... no suspense, no nail-biting, no real "game."
-- Quadruple letter/word scores are not terribly exciting or enticing. Maybe if you're playing more competitively...
-- It was fun to try it out, but ultimately it's not my cup of tea. Scrabble vs. Super Scrabble is like CFL vs. NFL.. I'm a CFL guy: I like my games shorter in length, less ridiculously "big", more rigid in rules, "friendlier", less permissive, less hype. Moving on to another sports metaphor: As soccer fans know, higher scores don't necessarily mean better games.
Post-script

In other, non-Scrabble-related news, my interview with Hong Kong superstar Maggie Cheung is also online for free.

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