How to Play Speed Scrabble or Bananagrams
If you like scrabble, word games, speed, and fierce competition, you must own Bananagrams (sometimes referred to as Speed Scrabble). This seriously fun word game is even more fun when you know how to win!
This article will give you instructions on how to play the classic version of Bananagrams, as well as tips for kicking some serious butt!
How many tiles does each player receive?
General set up and instruction
Bananagrams comes in a yellow banana bag filled with tiles. You should have 144 tiles. You can play between two and eight players (although technically it can be adjusted for more people if you have a large group).
1. Spread the tiles out on the table facedown.
2. The amount of tiles each player takes, depends on how many are playing. (See chart)
3. When everybody has their tiles (still facedown), you yell "SPLIT!" The game begins.
4. Every player races to form their own scrabble puzzle with the letters in their pile.
What if I have a letter I don't like?
If you get stuck with an X, J, Q, or Z, you can put it back in the middle. Here's how you do it:
1. Yell out the word, "DUMP". You are notifying the other players that you are putting a tile back.
2. However, you must take three in exchange.
5. Once someone is finished with their puzzle, they yell, "PEEL!"
6. At that point, every player must draw one more tile from the pile and incorporate it into your puzzle. You may have to rearrange your puzzle to accomodate the new letter.
7. The came continues, with people yelling, "PEEL" every time their puzzle is complete. All players take a tile whenever PEEL is yelled out.
Winning the game
When the number of tiles in the middle is 1 LESS than the number of players, that is the last round. This means that when someone finishes their puzzle, they must yell, "BANANAS!" instead of peel. The game stops and all players check the person who is finished. If his or her puzzle is correct, then they win. If a mistake is found, all of his or her tiles go back into the middle and the game continues. The player is out of the game.
If you are used to playing Scrabble, there are some new strategic tips you will have to learn. In Scrabble, the letters have points, so it is in your best interest to form long complicated words with high scoring letters. In Bananagrams, all letters are equal. A Scrabble board remains the same. A Bananagram puzzle is constantly changing. If you play Bananagrams with the idea that each new tile will build onto your existing puzzle, you will lose.
Do not get attached to your puzzle! Good Bananagram puzzles know how to constantly switch words, rearrange, and even start over!
Know your two letter words
People who don't play word games regularly might gawk if you start pulling out two letter words, but they are absolutely crucial in a timed game like Bananagrams. Should you play online (through Facebook), you won't stand a chance without learning the list of two-letter words.
Deal with tricky letters first
Try to find words that use the J, K, C, X, Z, and Q first. These letters are much harder to work into an already established puzzle (remember, don't get attached to your words). You will have to do some rearranging throughout the game, and even if you love your eight letter word, it won't necessarily help you win.
Dump as a last resort
I know people who hate the hard letters so much, they'd rather just dump them and take three in exchange. That is okay, however, using that option frequently usually backfires. Even though you have more letters to work with, you now have to incorporate more into your puzzle than before. Good Bananagram players know how to use up the hard letters first.
One stupid letter doesn't fit!
If you have a puzzle completed (with the exception of one fairly common tile), a strategy you can use it to wait. Usually within one or two minutes, another person will yell, "PEEL" and you can grab a tile and hope that the extra letter helps you with placement. Sometimes this is better than rearranging your whole puzzle. However, if it is at the end of the game, waiting is risky.
A great way to get better is to sit down alone and play against yourself. Start with 21 tiles. Make your puzzle and then continue to add one letter at a time (pulling from a facedown pile on the table). Keep going until you have used every tile. It's harder than it sounds!
There are entire books on different variations of Bananagrams, making it one of the most versatile games available. It is small, easily fits into a purse or bag, and captures children and adults alike.
Be careful, you might just get hooked!
About the author
Julie DeNeen is a freelance writer and mom of three. She is a master Bananagram player, and beats everyone she goes up against. In fact, she won a gold medal in a Bananagram competition two years ago!
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