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Scrabble For Word Lovers suite - main page.
Scrabble II introduction.
Scrabble II rules.
It has been superseded by the Scrabble For Word Lovers pages.
These are the rules for the Dover Scrabble Club. That's Dover as in Delaware, USA. If you enjoy Scrabble but think, as I do, that the Official Scrabble Players Dictionary messed things up by turning Scrabble into an artificial point-scoring exercise, as opposed to a real word game, you might consider these guidelines for your own play. You'll find the small rule fixes bring the game to a state of near perfection. I call it Scrabble II For Word Lovers, or simply Scrabble II. For more discussion, visit my main Scrabble page.
Before you have a heart attack over someone "changing" the sainted "Scrabble rules", keep in mind that with Scrabble, as with all games and sports, there have been variations in the rules with time and place since its creation. I maintain that Scrabble II rules are either strictly in accord with the box top rules, or derive very naturally from them by loosening or tightening various constraints slightly. It's all in the quest for longer, fresher words on the Scrabble board, words which make us dig into our vocabularies rather than Scrabble word lists.
The box top says to choose a dictionary; we choose the American Heritage Fourth Edition. We play by the original, pre-1976 box top challenge rule. Scrabble was designed for four players; we prefer multi-person games. Drawing a batch of tiles for a game from a mixed set keeps things wonderfully fresh on a game by game basis while maintaining the same tile distribution overall. Scrabble itself suggests a 9-tile variant to open things up; I find that just one extra tile, for an 8-tile rack, works magnificently. The single, all-or-nothing bingo bonus for playing 7 tiles has been stepped out to cover plays of 6, 7, and 8 tiles. Scrabble has authorized a Super Scrabble game with three extra rows all around; we utilize three extra rows for overrun from the classic board only. The three-letter minimum was suggested in the Scrabble brochure from way back in 1950: "Play a minimum of three letter words . . . then watch your score soar!"
Come on, let's make words!
Alfred Butts would be proud.
GOOD WORDS ONLY: A player scores points if, and only if, all his words in a play are spelled correctly. He removes his tiles and receives no points if any word is misspelled. A word is double-checked in the dictionary if anyone has the slightest doubt. Double-checking is not taken personally. Nobody risks losing a turn for having a word double-checked. This was the Scrabble box-top rule prior to 1976 and was the British and international tournament rule until very recently.
OFFICIAL WORD SET: Basically, the American Heritage Dictionary, Fourth Edition, 2007 (AmH4). Like all conventional dictionaries, the AmH4 can be stingy, or silent, with respect to inflected forms; this is what made an Official Scrabble Players Dictionary (OSPD) necessary in the first place. So, assuming the root word is in the AmH4, the OSPD is the authority when the AmH4 is not explicit in the following cases:
UN- (opposite of)
-ER (one that)
noun-ED (having it)
-ER (comparative) - if adjective is not a main entry in AmH4.
-EST (superlative) - if adjective is not a main entry in AmH4.
-ISE ending - if AmH4 has word with -IZE ending.
-S (plural) - see discussion further down.
ANTI-, DE-, IN-, MIS-, OUT-, OVER-, -ABLE, -LESS, -LIKE, -NESS, -FUL, -ISH, -INGLY, etc.
This validates such words not explicitly included in the AmH4 such as REVOTE, UNTRIM, FLINGER, JOWLED, LINTIER, LEGALISE, BASHINGS, GASPINGLY, ANTITAX, DEVEIN, MISFEED, OUTEAT, OVERMIX, TRUNKFUL, YOUNGISH, ANTSINESS, GROWABLE and TOELESS.
The AmH4 requires certain English words to be spelled with foreign characters. (Very strange, in my view!) We ignore the little blips over the e or i, validating words like ECLAIR, SEANCE, PIU, OLE, etc.
Words in the AmH4 labeled offensive or vulgar are disallowed. (The OSPD, much to its credit, eliminates them for you automatically.) There is also a short list of "Personally Disqualified AmH4 Words" down below which contains several hand-picked words disqualified by me for a variety of reasons.
Plurals are a bit of a mess. If only the print version of the AmH4 is handy, refer to the OSPD in cases where the AmH4 is not explicit about a plural. If, however, the electronic version of the AmH4 is available, it is respected in the case of plurals. For some reason, the electronic AmH4 alone makes a determination of which nouns do not take an -S in common usage (IRE, OZONE, SEDITION, ZITI, etc.) When the electronic AmH4 rejects a plural, the OSPD is consulted. If the OSPD has it, the player removes that play and makes another play. If it is not in the OSPD, the player loses his turn.
Plurals - Special Case 1: Unfortunately, the electronic AmH4 only supplies plurals for nouns which have a main entry. For the plurals of nouns which are given as secondary entries (BALERS, EXPORTERS, HOARDERS, etc.) it will come back with, "Sorry, this term was not found." For such words, the OSPD is the authority.
Along those lines, the OSPD is the authority on inflections of verbs which are given as secondary entries in the AmH4 (DEMOED, LUGED, etc.)
Plurals - Special Case 2: Regrettably, a special rule is made for plurals of the form verb-INGS (BLADINGS, DOPINGS, GATINGS, etc.) The OSPD is the authority for these. Too many players think you can slap an -S on any gerund, and the AmH4 takes a bashing for being a piece of junk when it says you can't. The club director takes a bashing too. (That's two bashings!) Chalk one up for self-preservation.
Plurals - Special Case 3: Oddly, the electronic AmH4 seems to have missed a small handful of perfectly reasonable plurals. These words are acceptable: AIS CUDS PAPS BANES; EFS KAYS; LAS RES UTS; GAMMAS IOTAS KAPPAS LAMBDAS SIGMAS PHIS. If you suspect the AmH4 missed the plural of something that certainly seems countable, consult the MS Word spell-checker for a second opinion.
Plurals - Special Case 4: Rambunctiously, the AmH4 recognizes the plurals for the individual letters of the alphabet (BS, CS, DS, . . . XS, YS, ZS) as words. These are not acceptable! (But wait'll the big-league Scrabble boys discover 'em!)
THREE-LETTER MINIMUM: No plays consisting solely of 2-letter words. At least one of the new words formed in the play must be at least 3 letters long. This does NOT mean you cannot play 2-letter words. This does NOT mean you must play 3 tiles. You may add a single letter to an existing 2-letter word, for example.
MIXED SET OF TILES: For each game, about 100 tiles will be drawn from a mixture of three standard sets of Scrabble tiles.
8-TILE RACKS: Eight tiles are maintained on the rack. Plays utilizing 6, 7, and 8 tiles from the rack earn bonuses of 20, 50, and 80 points, respectively. These plays are called the Six-tiler (or "Little Bonus"), the Seven-tiler ("Bingo"), and the Eight-tiler ("Big Bonus").
EXTENDED BOARD: The Scrabble board has three extra rows on each side. There are no premium spaces in the outer three rows. The extra rows are for word overrun only, That is, on every turn, at least one tile must be played on the main, 15x15 inner board.
MULTI-MULTI-WORD SCORE: Double and triple word score premiums are interpreted literally; they act individually on the score of the word. Thus, hitting two triple word scores yields six (3+3=6) times the value of the word. Hitting a double and triple word score yields five (2+3=5) times the value of the word.
2-MINUTE TIME LIMIT: When 2 minutes are up, you stop thinking and make a play. The timer is your friend! It puts you, and everyone else, out of your misery. Shoot for about a minute per turn, on the average.
OVERDRAWN TILES: There is a stern penalty for this ultimate sin, so never take too many tiles to fill your rack! If you do, you must expose ALL of your tiles, and your opponents get to select the tile(s) to return to the bag. Do NOT say, "But I haven't seen them yet!" or, "But they haven't gone on my rack yet!" When it happens, have a good chuckle over it.
"CHECK THE OSPD" RULE: Also known as the "I know better than the American Heritage" rule, there is a tiny cost that goes with it. If the AmH4 rejects a word, the player may have it checked in the OSPD. If the word IS in the OSPD, the word is removed from the board and the player makes another play. If the word is NOT found in the OSPD, the player's score is reduced by the face value of the single word in question, without premiums figured in. The play is removed and the player's turn is ended. It is expected that all players develop a feel for normal vs. far-fetched words.
GAME OVER: When the bag is too empty for trading, and the play goes around one full circuit plus one play without anything being added to the board, the game is over.
TIES: A tie remains a tie.
IF A BAD PLAY IS NOT CAUGHT RIGHT AWAY: There is no statute of limitations! The points scored for the bad play are deducted from the player's total. If no word has been connected yet to the bad play, the tiles are removed from the board and returned to the bag. If words have already been connected to the bad word, tiles not involved in the good words are removed. This may result in a discontinuity in the crossword puzzle, but so what?
BENEVOLENT DICTATORSHIP: The club director (that's me!) will look over the board of every completed game a) for the fun of it, and b) to make sure that Scrabble in Dover remains junk-free!
This list of the 72 acceptable two-letter words is suitable for printing and laminating. It is made available to all players during play, forever.
Dover Scrabble Club American Heritage 4th Ed. Two-Letter Words AB DO ID OF TA AD IF OH TI AG ED IN ON TO AH EF IS OR AI EH IT OS UH AM EL OW UM AN EM LA OX UP AR EN LI US AS ER LO PA UT AT EX PI AW MA WE AX FA ME RE WO AY MI GO MU SH XI BE MY SI BI HA SO YE BY HE NO YO HI NU HO
To come up to speed quickly on the two-letter word list, note that it contains 34 ordinary words known to one and all, and 38 cheapies that can be conveniently categorized:
English letters: EF EL EM EN AR EX (no ES). Greek letters: MU NU PI XI. Notes of the scale: DO/UT RE MI FA SO LA SI/TI DO. Grunts and groans: AH AW EH ER HA HO OH OW SH UH UM YO. Lazy-mouth junk: AB AG BI ED. Uncommon: AI (sloth); LI (Chinese 500m); OS (mouth, or bone); TA (thanks); WO (woe); UT and SI (musical notes).
For the benefit of players who are familiar with the OSPD, here are the disallowed two- and three-letter words. The lists consist mainly of OSPD words not included in the AmH4, but there are also a few AmH4 words which I have personally rejected for reasons given further down.
If a player plays one of these words, he must remove the play and make another play. To expedite matters, he could ask someone to check the list for a certain word in advance. The reason the list isn't kept out is because it's simply unbelievable how much time players will stare at a word list rather than working on their racks.
These words are NOT ACCEPTABLE:
AA AE AL BA BO DE ES ET FE HM JO KA KI MM MO NA NE OD OE OI OM OP OY PE QI UN XU YA ZA
AAL ABY AFF AGS AHI AHS ALS AMI AMU APO ARF ATT AVA AWA AZO BAL BAM BAP BAS BES BOS BRR CIG CIS COR DAK DEL DEV DEX DIB DIF DIS DOL DOM DOR DOW DUI DUP EAU EDS EEK EFF ELD EME ENG ERS FEH FEM FER FES FET FEU FIL FIZ FOH FON FOU FUB FUD GAE GAN GED GEN GEY GHI GOR GOS GOX GOY GUV HEH HET HIC HMM HON HOS HUN HUP HYP ICK IFF IGG JEE JEU JIN JOW JUN JUS KAE KAF KAS KAT KEP KEX KIS KOP KOS KUE KYE LAR LAT LAV LES LIN LIS LUM LUV MAE MEL MEM MIB MIG MIM MOC MOG MOR MOS MUN MUT NAM NAW NEG NOH NOM NOO NOS OBE ODA ODS OES OKA OKE OMS ONO ONS OOT OPE OPS ORC ORS OSE OXO OXY PED PEH PHT POH POM PST PUD PUR PYE QAT QIS RAS RAX REE REG REI REX RIA RIF RIN ROM SAB SAE SAU SEG SEL SER SHA SHH SIM SRI SUK SUQ SYN TAE TAO TAS TAV TEL TET TEW TYE ULU UNS UPO URB URD UTA UTE VAR VAU VAV VAW VID VIG VIS VOE VOX WAB WAE WAP WAW WHA WIS WOS WUD WYN YAG YAH YAR YEH YOD YOK YOM YUM ZAG ZAS ZEP ZIG ZIN ZOA ZZZ
QOPH and all Hebrew letters.
Believe it or not, armed with just the above lists and an OSPD, you will be abiding by the American Heritage for all practical purposes. For years I had maintained a list of longer words which are in the OSPD but not in the American Heritage, but I came to realize the list was never referred to! The explanation is simply that nobody's vocabulary goes beyond the American Heritage dictionary. Moreover, I've come to realize that even the most rabid devotees of the OSPD rarely have any familiarity with its oddball words beyond three letters, with the exception of small handful of goodies involving the J, Q, X, and Z. Heck, I've never met one yet who knows more than a handful of the disallowed three-letter words above.
Simply by using any version of the OSPD and abiding by the disallowed word lists above, you will be playing by the American Heritage Dictionary for all practical purposes.
In moving up from the second to the fourth edition of the American Heritage a few years ago, I found a few words were added which I couldn't bear fouling up my Scrabble boards. While I was rejecting those words, I took the opportunity to "retire" all the Hebrew letters (letters aren't words; Hebrew is foreign) and a few old-timers, including AZO and ZOA, which never pop up in real life and which have long since worn out their welcome on the Scrabble board.
By all means, feel free to reinstate these words in your own play.
AA - Hawaiian; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. AE - Scots; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. JO - Scots; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word; added to AmH4 just for Scrabble players(!) PE - Hebrew letter; failed by MS Word. QI - Chinese; new since AmH2; not in RHW; failed by MS Word. ZA - Dumbest word ever; new since AmH2, failed by MS Word. AZO - tired of seeing it on Scrabble boards; retired. DEX - slang; new since AmH2; not in RHW; failed by MS Word. DIS - AAVE; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. HOS - AAVE; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. IGG - AAVE; new since AmH2; not in RHW; failed by MS Word. JEE - misspelled interjection; new since AmH2; not in RHW; failed by MS Word. MEM - Hebrew letter. QOPH - Hebrew letter. SUQ - misspelled souk; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. TAV - Hebrew letter. VAU - Hebrew letter. VAV - Hebrew letter. WAW - Hebrew letter. ZAG - stupid word; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. ZIG - stupid word; new since AmH2; failed by MS Word. ZEP - Foreign (New Jersey); new since AmH2; not in RHW; failed by MS Word. ZOA - tired of seeing it on Scrabble boards; retired. Abbreviations: AAVE = African-American Vernacular English. AmH2 = American Heritage College Dictionary, 2nd edition, 1985. RHW = Random House Webster's Dictionary, 1991 (an extremely permissive dictionary, in my view.) MS Word = Microsoft Word spell-checker.
I'd like to think that a "normal" person looking over the lists of disallowed words would exclaim, "What is this garbage???" But veteran Scrabble players are a world apart and seemingly cannot make a distinction between common and oddball words, or, at least, won't admit it. So, for a "second opinion" on all of the 2- and 3-letter OSPD words disallowed in the Dover Scrabble Club, I turned to the MS Word spell-checker (Oct 2007).
Of the 29 disallowed 2-letter words, these 8 are passed by MS Word:
AL DE ET KA MM MO OP UN
Of the approximately 225 disallowed 3-letter words, these 28 are passed by MS Word:
AHS BAL BAM BAS CIG DEL DIB DIF DUI DUP EAU EEK ENG FEM HIC HMM JUS KOP LAT LES NOM OPS OXY REX SER TAE YAH YUM
Now if those are fine, upstanding English words, imagine the flunkies!
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