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Scrabble - Dastardly Review #028

Updated: Jul 2, 2018

I wish that I still had the old, worn out box that my grandpa played with us. Besides the family memories It had something very unique about it… the rules printed on the inside of the box lid. I thought that was really smart since it made it difficult to lose the rules! Not that I really read them anyway!

Scrabble was created in 1938 by Alfred Butts an unemployed American architect. He worked out the values of the letters by doing a frequency analysis of the New York Times. Alfred called his game Criss-Crosswords. He made up some copies

but was unsuccessful at sales.

In 1948, James Brunot bought the rights to Criss-Crosswords giving Alfred a royalty for each game sold. James changed the name to Scrabble and made some slight changes to the bonus squares on the board. He and his family were making the game and selling some but losing money.

Parker Brothers, Milton Bradley and other big game companies turned down Scrabble.

Then...the head of Macy’s played scrabble while on vacation. He loved the game so much he placed a large order. The Brunots could not keep up with demand and sold the manufacturing rights to a company that had previously turned him down. Almost 4,000,000 games were sold in just the second year.

Scrabble is played on a grid board that is 15x15 and with 100 wooden letter squares each with a value of the letter in the bottom right corner. A couple of the squares are blank which means they are wild. The letter value is based inversely on how frequently the letter is commonly used. The grid board includes some squares that are have bonuses - double and triple letter values, double and triple words etc.

Letters are played to form words crossword style and the points for each word formed is added up. The player with the most points at the end of the game wins.

Today, Scrabble has had incredible success:

  • Sold in 121 Countries

  • 150,000,000 games sold

  • In ⅓ of American homes and ½ of British homes

  • Hundreds of versions have been sold

  • Played on sets decades old and on new iphones

Not a bad legacy for a game that would not initially sell!

The Good: Simple fast classical fun making words to score points.

The Bad: Don’t like the electronic versions...go old style!

The Dastardly: My grandpa once formed a word that spanned two triple words...he read the American Heritage Dictionary for fun.


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