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Scrabble: do you think the letter values should change, or should we keep it classic?

A researcher has introduced new guidelines for point scoring

Laura Davis
Tuesday 15 January 2013 13:56 GMT

Some love it, some don't get the appeal, but we all know it. Scrabble: the greatest word board game there ever was.

During the Great Depression, unemployed architect Alfred Butts decided to invent a board game. 75 years later, and his wordy creation has become one of the most treasured games in history.

He based the point value and the distribution of letters in Scrabble based on his analysis of the front page of the New York Times.

Researcher and player Joshua Lewis has now created a new system called Valett (based on probability) which would potentially completely change the game.

He feels that the recent inclusion in Scrabble’s official dictionary of modern and dialect words like 'Quaazy', 'Zowpig', and 'Splawder' has rendered the board game’s scoring system dramatically out of date.

In the new system, C would be worth only 2 points, G worth 3, Q would remain at a hefty 10 (highest-scoring letter) but those seemingly pesky Alphabet-tailing X and Z would both drop - the former down to 5, and latter to 6.

X always did seem rather generous.

It's interesting, and kudos to Lewis for initiating the discussion (yes, yes, there are more important things. But times are tough, and board games are fun - and cheap). It's definitely worthwhile considering creating a new and modern version with a greater emphasis on probability, but is there a need?

Monopoly has been rolling with the times and now has modern credit card versions with hefty inflation - a train station costs millions. I played this at Christmas (click on image above to see the results of our three and a half hour game), and it's far too easy for the less serious players (children) to cheat with the electronic card machine. Plus holding a wad of cash was fun, even if it wasn't real - but naturally having your very own snazzy credit card will appeal to youngsters.

Scrabble, however, has kept it classic. The game relies on chance - and anyone could find that lucky X (8). It's what you then do with it that counts, and therein lies the skill.

It's tactical; you can screw other players over by creating words alongside their own, thus closing the board, and instead of opening up that illusive treble-word score tile for them you could play somewhere else. Do you risk saving the Z until you can use it on at least a double-letter score?

The World Scrabble Championships started in 1991 and take place every two years (UK players have taken the title home three out of 11 times, not bad.) John Chew, co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association says there would be “catastrophic outrage“ if the scoring system were to change. There are die-hard fans who've spent years perfecting their knowledge of useful words and the full two-letter list. Last year a Scrabble player was even thrown out of the US national championship tournament after being caught hiding blank letter tiles. It's a serious business.

In my opinion, it's already the perfect combination of chance and skill, and wild-card blank tiles add a hint of extra luck. We should keep it classic. You can always accustom yourself to the new, quirkier words, if you really want to win.

But do you think it's time for a Scrabble rule overhaul?

Vote below, and see the extra tips to win underneath.

Here are some extra tips to win:

  • Familiarise yourself with the two-letter words. QI is particularly useful if you have the Q but no U. None of them contain a V, so don't bother looking. ZA, however, is acceptable. As in "I want some PIZ-ZA".
  • Know the rules: Here are the NSA Official Tournament Rules
  • Practice. Zyzzyva is a computer program used by Scrabble fans for learning words
  • Set your own specific rules out before you play. i.e. do you need to be able to quote the meaning of the word? Do you get to wedgie your brother if he loses?
  • Here are some more tips from the real experts

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