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Scrabble III For BIG Word Lovers

With a 6-letter minimum and "JQXZ wild!"

The Rules

Here are the rules for Scrabble III For BIG Word Lovers. As discussed in the Scrabble III introduction page, Scrabble III goes beyond Scrabble II in these three ways:

1. Six-letter minimum requirement.

2. JQXZ wild! Play right-side up for a bonus, or flip for a blank.

3. Pick off 1 or 2 letters from the end of a word in the service of stretching that word into a bigger word.

There is a slight adjustment to the tile distribution since the JQXZ are now wild. And there is a Swap Final Racks challenge round which will become important in tournament play.


RULE 1 (Scrabble III) - The word set

The word set will be based on a regular American college dictionary.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble For Word Lovers common rules page.

RULE 2 (Scrabble III) - Good words only (the "challenge rule")

"Good words only" simply means, if you you play a valid word you score points. If you play an invalid word you score no points, your word comes off the board, and play passes to the next player.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble For Word Lovers common rules page.

RULE 3 (Scrabble III) - Six letter minimum

"Six letter minimum" simply means the main word of a play must be at least 6 letters long. Words of 6 or more letters are called "big words", so we could say, "the main word must be a big word."

As was the case with the "three letter minimum", the rule addresses word length, not the number of tiles played. You may play 5 tiles around an existing tile on the board, for example.

As was the case with the "three letter minimum", hooking across the end of a big word does not open up a back door to small words. For example, you may not hook DJINN across the end of ANTIQUATE, forming ANTIQUATED, because the main word, DJINN, is not a big word.

For more discussion, refer to the "three letter minimum" section in the Scrabble O rule page.

Embarrassing admission: When I developed Scrabble II For Word Lovers, the "three letter minimum" rule only meant that at least one of the new words formed had to have at least three letters. So you could hook ID across the end of PLACE, forming PLACED, for example. All of my former, and now obsolete, Scrabble II pages were created with that interpretation of the "three letter minimum."

In developing Scrabble III, with its six-letter minimum, I quickly realized the rule had to apply to the main word played. Otherwise, small words would infiltrate the game via hooks across the ends of big words. In fact, I had never even had a notion of "main word" until I got to Scrabble III. Scrabble plays were, in general, made up of multiple words all of which counted in the scoring; what would be the point of viewing any of them as the main one? Now I know.

RULE 4 (Scrabble III) - 8-tile rack

Scrabble III uses an 8-tile rack, and the number of tiles needed in the bag for an exchange is set at 8.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble II rules page.

RULE 5 (Scrabble III) - Stepped bonuses

Scrabble III offers stepped bonuses for "big plays" of 6, 7, and 8 tiles.

                 BIG PLAY BONUSES

    Tiles Played   Bonus Points      Name
    ------------   ------------     -------
      6 tiles         20 pts        6-tiler
      7 tiles         50 pts        7-tiler
      8 tiles         80 pts        8-tiler

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble II rules page.

RULE 6 (Scrabble III) - Stretch bonus

Scrabble III offers stepped bonuses for stretching a big word on the board by two letters or more. The stretch bonuses are the same as in Scrabble II, but remember that a "big word" is one of at least 6 letters; think of anything shorter as "riff-raff".

       (on big words)

  Tiles Added  Bonuses Points
  -----------  --------------
       1              0   
       2             30   
       3             50   
       4             70   
       5             90   
       6            120 * 
       7            150 * 
       8            180 * 

  *Bonus incorporates BIG PLAY bonus.  

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble II rules page.

History: The Stretch Bonus was conceived to encourage the formation of jumbo words in Scrabble III. It had not been a part of Scrabble II, which was adamant about not adding anything new to pure, basic Scrabble. But in retooling the Scrabble For Word Lovers games leading up to Scrabble III, it was obvious those games needed a reward for stretching words, too. I see the Stretch Bonus as a fundamental element of Scrabble that the inventors simply missed.

RULE 6.1 (Scrabble III) - Pick off 1-2 end tiles to stretch word

In the service of stretching a word you may pick off 1 or 2 tiles from the trailing end of the word (not from the beginning.) The trailing letter(s) must be free-hanging; they cannot be part of two words.

IMPORTANT: Picking off a tile(s) from the end of a word declares your intent to stretch that word. It must end up bigger, by at least one letter. You may not merely pick off the R from CHEATER and replace it with a D, say, thinking you will score points for CHEATED, or looking to improve your rack.

You will most often pick off 1-2 trailing letters to get past stoppers like a silent -E, or -ED, or -Y, etc., to end up with a different form of the same, base word. For example, you could get from

  - DREAMY to dreamILY*2 or dreamIEST*3
  - OPERATE to operatIONS*3
  - ARPEGGIO to arpeggiATION*4
  - ABOLISH to aboliTION*2
  - CONCEDE to conceSSION*3
  - CONQUER to conquISTADOR*5
  - PIRACY to piraTICALLY*5
  - FILTERS to UNfilterED*3
  - CAFFEINE to DEcaffeinATED*5
  - CONNECTS to DISconnectIONS*6 
  - BREWER to MICRObrewerY*6 to microbrewerIES*2
  - SLOPPIER to sloppieST*1 (valid play, but no bonus)

There is no rule demanding that the two words retain the same root word, or are related by meaning. To try to legislate that would be folly, not to mention that the rare occasion of changing a word to something completely different adds a really fun touch to the game.

For example, you could get from

  - GALLING to galliGASKINS*5
  - SCENTING to COGNOscenti*3
  - CELERY to ACcelerATE*4
  - PROPER to APpropRIATED*6
  - CLERIC to CHRONIclerS*5

Got it? There's a whole new aspect to Scrabble. When a new word goes down, visualize it with the end cropped and roll it around in your mind. Find a board-buster.

In my notation for the stretched word, lower case means unchanged letters and upper case means changed or added letters. The * notation tells by how many tiles the word was stretched. This is what determines the bonus, not how many letters were "played with". Think of the word's before and after "footprint". To make sure, just to look at your rack to see how many tiles went missing in making the play.

You will get credit for just the premium squares that you cover that weren't already covered by the original word. Put the other way around; you will not get credit for a premium square which you uncovered and then covered again.

When you pick a letter off the end of a word, it is yours to do with what you want. It may go in your rack. It may be reused immediately in stretching the word. (There are many instances of this in the examples above.) If you can use it to swap for a blank, go for it! That play is called a "pick-swapper".

Two tiles was chosen as the "just right" maximum for picking off. One tile would not be enough to break past common endings like -ED, -ER, and -ES. Three tiles is simply too many. That's half of a 6-letter word, leaving a front half with hardly enough DNA to remember the original word by. (Who would think of "proper" looking at "pro"?)

SOME JUSTIFICATION: If picking tiles off of a Scrabble board sounds like too radical a departure from classic Scrabble, remember that picking blanks off the board was suggested by Scrabble in 1953, and this is not such a big step beyond that. They also suggested an "anagrams" variation, in which a player may shift the letters of an already played word and add one or more new letters to form a new word. Wow, we almost had Scrabble III back in 1953!

RULE 7 (Scrabble III) - Swap for the blank

If a player has a letter represented on the board by a blank, he may, when his turn comes, substitute the letter and pick up the blank and proceed with his turn.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble O rule page.

RULE 8 (Scrabble III) - Hitting multiple premium word squares

Double and triple word score squares act individually on the score of the word, not piled one on top of the other. So, hitting two triple word score squares yields a 6x multiplier, not 9x.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble O rule page.

RULE 9 (Scrabble III) - Extended board

Scrabble III uses the extended board with "wings" of 3 rows on all four sides. Every square in the wings is basic, single letter score. The main word of your play must connect to the classic, inner board.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble I rule page.

RULE 10 (Scrabble III) - Scrabble III Letter Distribution.

A Scrabble III game is played with a random scoop of 100 tiles from a set of 298 tiles as shown in the middle column:

      Scrabble I/II             Scrabble III         Scrabble III Adjustment
   Letter Distribution      Letter Distribution        from Scrabble I/II
          25 A                     25 A                       
           6 B                      6 B                             
           7 C                      7 C                       
          14 D                     14 D                       
          38 E                     38 E                       
           5 F                      5 F                       
          10 G                     10 G                       
           6 H                      6 H                             
          23 I                     23 I                       
           2 J                      3 J                       +1 J      
           3 K                      3 K                             
          13 L                     13 L                       
           6 M                      6 M                             
          19 N                     19 N                       
          21 O                     21 O                       
           7 P                      7 P                       
           2 Q                      3 Q                       +1 Q      
          21 R                     21 R                       
          14 S                     14 S                       
          19 T                     19 T                       
          11 U                     11 U                       
           5 V                      5 V                       
           5 W                      5 W                       
           2 X                      3 X                       +1 X      
           5 Y                      5 Y                       
           2 Z                      3 Z                       +1 Z      
           9 blank                  3 blank                   -6 blank         
         ---                      ---                        ---                                                              
         300 total                298 total                   -2 tiles

This is the same "nice" letter distribution as for Scrabble I and Scrabble II, except that the J, Q, X and Z, which are now wild (see Rule 12), have been bumped back up to the original 1 each per 100 tiles. And now that the JQXZ are wild, the number of blanks has been chunked down from 3 per 100 tiles to just 1 per 100 tiles.

Thus, with the random scoop of 100 tiles, Scrabble III will average five "potential blanks" per game -- just right for a Scrabble game demanding a 6-letter minimum!

For more discussion of the more natural mix of 300 tiles, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble I rules page.

RULE 11 (Scrabble III) - Small Word Point Cap rule

The Small Word Point Cap rule simply states that, in words of 4 letters or less, the value of a letter is capped by the length of the word.

For more discussion, refer to the corresponding section in the Scrabble II rules page.

RULE 12 (Scrabble III) - JQXZ wild

You may play a JQXZ tile right-side-up or flip it over for a blank.

If you play a JQXZ tile right-side-up in a big word (and all main words in Scrabble III are big words) you receive a bonus of 10/20/30 points for words of 6/7/8 (and up) letters. Understand the JQXZ bonus depends on word length, not tiles played. (Tacking EX- on the front of TENDED will net the 30 point JQXZ bonus, plus a 20 point stretch bonus.) You will receive a separate bonus for each JQXZ tile played in the word (so find the JaZZiest thing you can!)

Understand that using an already played JQXZ on the board in your word nets no bonus.

Remember that if the JQXZ tile is involved in a new secondary word, it would be subject to the Small Word Point Cap (Rule 11) in that word, and would only score another bonus if the secondary word were also a big word. (Fat chance!)

The JQXZ bonus acts independently of all other bonuses. So playing a 6-tiler using a JQXZ tile yields a 50 point bonus (20+30=50). Playing a 7-tiler using a JQXZ yields an 80 point bonus (50+30=80). Think of it as the JQXZ "bad boy" stepping you up to the next Big Play bonus.

If you swap for a blank (Rule 6) and it turns out to be an overturned J, Q, X or Z, it's yours to do with as you please; play it right-side-up or flip it over for a blank, right then or later.

Players are not expected to remember what is under each blank on the board; they are free to check before making a swap.

The stepped JQXZ bonuses were determined to be "just right" relative to the benchmark 50-point bingo bonus. If it strikes you as being overly generous, consider this: In five National and one World Scrabble Championships in recent years, there were 197 "Table 1" games showing 1185 JQXZ words. Of those, no more than 98, or just 1 out of 12, would have qualified for the JQXZ bonus.

For a bit of the rationale behind the wild JQXZ, revisit the top of the Scrabble III introduction page.

RULE 13 (Scrabble III) - Swap Final Racks

In Scrabble III, with its 6-letter minimum requirement, the usual case is that both players are stuck with tiles at the end.

The Swap Final Racks round adds an exciting challenge element to Scrabble that has never existed before -- players going head-to-head with the same rack and same board.

The rule states that, when regular play comes to an end and both players have leftover tile(s), you will be rewarded if you find a play with your opponent's tile(s). You will receive the score for that play plus a 50 point bonus. At the same time, your opponent will be charged for all the consecutive turns at the end of the game in which he made no play, with 0 points awarded, in calculating his average Points Per Turn (PPT).

(Average Points Per Turn is a very simple, direct, easy to understand statistic that "says it all" about a Scrabble player. In Scrabble For Word Lovers, players will be known and ranked by their PPT. The turns in which you are "stuck" at the end of a game do not figure in your PPT unless, as discussed above, your opponent finds a play with them. Moral: if you have a play, you had better play!)

The Swap Final Racks round is definitely not without risk. If you make an invalid play with your opponent's rack, your score will be decreased by the points tallied for the would-be play. And your PPT will have an extra turn figured in, with 0 points awarded.

The time allowed for this round is whatever time you have left on your clock.

The Swap Final Racks round is definitely optional for recreational play!


*** Summary of differences with "regular" Scrabble ***

Here, at a glance, are the differences between modern, "regular" Scrabble and Scrabble III.

"Regular" Scrabble       Scrabble O                  Scrabble I             Scrabble II        Scrabble III
------------------       ----------                  ----------             -----------        ------------
Word list memorization   Vocabulary-based            (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
Overloaded OSPD          Regular dictionary          (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
Weird two-letter words   Refined 2-letter word list  (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
Invalid words allowed    Points for good words only  (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
Bluffing                 No bluff element            (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
2-letter minimum         3-letter minimum            (ditto)                (ditto)            6-letter minimum

Big points for tiny      (ditto, but main word must  (ditto)                Small Word Point   (ditto)
plays                    be at least 3 letters)                             Cap

Cheap JQXZ points        Tougher JQXZ (regular       (ditto)                (ditto)            JQXZ wild:
                         dictionary, 3-ltr min)                                                Play for bonus, or
                                                                                               flip for blank.

Classic 7 tile rack      (ditto)                     (ditto)                8 tile rack        (ditto)
Single bonus for         Stepped bonuses for Big     (ditto)                Bonuses for plays  (ditto)
playing all 7 tiles      Plays of 5, 6, 7 tiles                             of 6, 7, 8 tiles     
No reason to stretch     Stretch bonus               (ditto)                (ditto, adjusted   (ditto, plus pick off 
words                                                                       for 8 tiles)       1-2 tiles to stretch)
Classic 100-tile set     100-tile set with           Nice 300-tile letter   (ditto)            Same, but with 
with I overload (9I)     one "I" removed (8I)        distribution                              1 JQXZ_ per 100
Same 100 tiles every     (ditto)                     Fresh 100-tile scoop   (ditto)            (ditto)
game                                                 for each game          
2 blanks                 3 blanks                    Average 3 blanks/game  (ditto)            Average 1 JQXZ_ per game
Single use blanks        Reusable blanks             (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
Classic 15x15 board      (ditto)                     Extended board (3      (ditto)            (ditto)
                                                     extra rows each side)  
A few thousand           Tens of millions of         (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
players                  players?

Top players wallow in    Top players rich            (ditto)                (ditto)            (ditto)
in obscurity             $uper$tars!


*** Scrabble III on a slip ***

Here is Scrabble III on a Slip, suitable for printing in a fixed-width font, and keeping by your rack at the Scrabble III table:

                           SCRABBLE III

BIG BOARD and 8-TILE RACK.               SWAP for the blank.   
MAIN WORD: 6-letter minimum.             JQXZ wild: flip for a blank.
TILES: random scoop, nice 300-tile set.     
GOOD WORDS ONLY: regular dictionary; all words checked. 
  Tiles  Pts      (on sixes and up)          Wd Length  Pts     
    6     20        Letters   Pts                 6      10      
    7     50           1        0                 7      20      
    8     80           2       30                 8...   30 (cap)
                       3       50               
                       4       70              
                       5       90              
                       6...   100 (cap)    All bonuses additive.
PICK OFF 1-2 tiles from free, trailing end of word you will STRETCH. 
Small Word Point Cap.                    
Swap final racks?
Two-letter words (RESPECTABLE and bearable): ab AD AG AH ai AM AN ar AS 
AT aw AX AY  BE BI BY  DO  ED ef eh EL EM EN er EX FA  GO  HA HE HI ho  
PA PI  RE  sh SI SO  ta TI TO  uh um UP US ut  WE wo  XI  YE yo 


*** Legal statement and a plea ***

I retain the rights to these additions, adjustments, and modifications giving rise to Scrabble III, singly or in combination, insofar as I may be allowed.

But I will give Scrabble O, Scrabble I, and Scrabble II in their entirety to Hasbro for free if that's what it takes to make the Scrabble world safe again for word lovers. Anyone out there with the connections to talk to them?


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