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QUIZZES
January 21, 2013 6:49 AM   Subscribe

Is it time to re-value the tiles in Scrabble?
posted by Chrysostom (42 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
Spoiler: the point value for 'kwijibo' remains unchanged.
posted by mazola at 7:02 AM on January 21, 2013 [10 favorites]


Scra-buhl? Don't you mean Words with Friends?
posted by FJT at 7:09 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Heard a bit on this on NPR last week. One of the Scrabble experts was quoted as saying that this would be well and good for casual players, but 'a catastrophic outrage' for tournaments. That seemed a little excessive to me.

After I ZOQUOU, I like to USHNUU.
posted by jquinby at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's spelled kwyjibo, dude.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 7:10 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Heretics! Heretics!
posted by gerryblog at 7:15 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I want this.

C is currently the worst tile in Scrabble. It frequently seems to stave off whole sections of the board from expansion when it appears in the first word or two. And X is, in my opinion, way overvalued, considering that you can make a two letter word with it and any other vowel (and a great number of three letter words). I'm honestly a little surprised that he didn't address that bit more thoroughly in the article.
posted by likeatoaster at 7:18 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


Here's the NPR piece from last week, which ended with this thought:
But ultimately, what you'd be doing is you'd be making the game more boring. It would be less fun to play because it would flatten out the values. And the great thing about a game like Scrabble is that there is this element of luck and there's this element of strategy. And part of the strategy is understanding how the letters are valued and what you should do with them.
Which I agree with. It sounds a bit like checkers versus chess.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:19 AM on January 21, 2013


Point values should be randomly assigned to each tile at the beginning of a game.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:21 AM on January 21, 2013 [7 favorites]


Point values should be randomly assigned to each tile at the beginning of a game.
Ha! I was just going to say "Next, they'll want to change the way the chessboard is set up."
posted by MtDewd at 7:30 AM on January 21, 2013


Eliminate the role of chance in scrabble by having players buy their letters rather than draw them at random. Whenever a player needs to replenish his tiles, a tile is turned over and put up for auction. Players bid for the tile with points. A player who already has seven tiles who wins the auction selects one of his tiles to replace and puts that tile up for auction. This continues until all players have seven tiles.
posted by Pants! at 7:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's spelled kwyjibo, dude.

*d'oh!*
posted by mazola at 7:40 AM on January 21, 2013


The most important difference between chess and Scrabble is that chess is a game of perfect information (you know everything your opponent knows, it is all right there on the board ) and Scrabble isn't (you do not know what tiles your opponent has, although I guess as the game moves to the end stage it becomes clear by elimination). So, auctioning letters, as suggested above, would be a very big change theoretically, much more radical than merely reassigning letter point values.
posted by thelonius at 7:44 AM on January 21, 2013 [3 favorites]


(I would also like to take a moment to preempt criticism from the competitive Scrabble™ community by saying that strategic decisions made by the players need not be brought into consideration here. The point values of tiles are an engineering constraint of the game. Strategic decisions are made by the players, given the engineering constraints of the game. Words that are “available to be played” are different from “words that actually do get played.” The potential usefulness of individual letter tiles should reflect whether or not it is even possible to play them, not whether or not a player decides that using a particular group of tiles constitutes an optimal move)

This guy isn't a very good game designer.
posted by LogicalDash at 7:51 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


Also there's this recent-ish Deadspin thing.
posted by box at 8:04 AM on January 21, 2013


One of the Scrabble experts was quoted as saying that this would be well and good for casual players, but 'a catastrophic outrage' for tournaments.

The idea is when you value the tiles based on the corpus of common plays, yes, Z and Q are overvalued. In tournament plays, where a much larger portion of the dictionary is commonly used, that may not be valid. However, I don't think it would be, because good tourney players dump Q and Z, esp, the Q.

Forgotten in this analysis is that, other than the opening play, there are *outside* constraints to playing valid words -- namely, the valid words already on the board. Anybody who's played the game for very long has had that horrible situation of having a bingo in the rack that cannot be validly played.

I do think this affects helps Z more than Q.

In OSPD3, there were no two letter words with Q or Z. In OSPD4, they both gained on -- QI and ZA. But the A is a much easier play with average players, who find A much easier to play than I, despite the fact that they both have 9 tiles in the bag.*

In terms of two letter words, there was only one you can add Q to: AT (QAT).**. You can also play it off the other end of an A, but you need QUA to form AQUA as the shortest.

With OSPD, Q picked up QI and the plural form QIS, which hangs off IS. But that was it.

Z? With OSPD 4, Z has picked up a hook of the A -- (ZA), and can hook off far more two letter words. AG (ZAG) AS (ZAS) -- new in OSPD4, AX (ZAX), ED (ZED), IN (ZIN), and IT (ZIT). It also picked up ZEP, ZUZ and ZZZ as valid three letter words.

Arguably Q is easier to play. But Z has become even easier to play -- and it might now be the same level of easy as X.

Strategy factor two for average players is wanting to play Q and Z on colors -- there's nothing like dropping Z onto a triple word score with a solo A to the right and below (one tile, 62 points! Works with Q and I as well!). Dropping the score of them will change how they are played by average players.

QI has already changed how the game was played in tournaments. In OSPD3, you either had to dump tiles or sit with it in your rack until you got a U or AT to dump it, or hope you got lucky. With the Q in the rack without a U, you couldn't bingo at all. Now, with QI valid, a common thing to do is dump the Q onto the board as QI if you don't have a decent play for it right then.

Why? If you had a set of tiles likely to bingo except for the Q, it became worth it to dump the Q onto the board (getting at least 11 points, rather than none for swapping tiles) and hope you picked up the tile that lets you bingo. If you're sitting on something like AEINSTQ, you don't even want to dump QI, you just want to play the Q off an existing I, because 23 of the 26 letters you can draw with AEINST give you a bingo play, and, of course, you just played one of the three that doesn't! (J and Y are the other two.) So, never ever play TISANE, you either have a J, Y or Q to dump or you have a bingo.

In tournaments, bingos are everything. Indeed, okay players tend to play to the multipliers, and average 15-25 points a play. Good players ignore them at first and build bingos -- what's left in the rack after a play is just as important as what's played, because there are few times that even a triple word is going to score over 56, but *every* bingo played does. Typically, on the tournament level, players score at least three every game. If they have a floating bingo play, one that can be played in multiple places, they'll then, of course, fit it to the best score, but if it means missing a TW but playing a bingo, they play the bingo. As, of course, should you.

So, I don't think it would change everything. It would almost certainly change the highest scoring 8 letter words with a blank (QUIZzIFY, double-triple, blank Z not on the DW, 419) and the same without a blank (BEZIQUES/CAZIQUES, double-triple, both 392) but with the tourney focus on bingos, the 2 initial points lost by dropping Q or Z to 8 isn't going to really change the game. At worst, you would lose 36 points in a play (if the Q or Z is on the double letter and you have two triple words -- see QUIZZIFY above...) and you're more likely to lose only 2-6 points over the old score.

The 50 point bingo bonus is far, far more important. That's why AEISNT is so valued, despite the fact that it's six one point tiles. It's six one point tiles that with another one point tile becomes a potential 57 point play.


* Scrabble hell is drawing IIIIIII.

** You won't have a UA laying open if you're playing a valid game.
posted by eriko at 8:08 AM on January 21, 2013 [39 favorites]


The Slate article by Stefan Fatsis linked in the FPP's article is a good explanation of why this is a silly idea.
posted by zsazsa at 8:16 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scra-buhl? Don't you mean Words with Friends?

Yes, I saw this in the store along with Draw Something or as everyone else knows it: Pictionary.

*facepalm.
posted by Fizz at 8:18 AM on January 21, 2013


Ha! I was just going to say "Next, they'll want to change the way the chessboard is set up."

Well, knights are too weak; bishops are overpowered and need to be nerfed.
posted by straight at 8:24 AM on January 21, 2013


box: "Also there's this recent-ish Deadspin thing."

Linked in the original article.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:27 AM on January 21, 2013


Well, should we change J from 8 to Lewis' 6 or to Deadspin's 14?
posted by MtDewd at 8:30 AM on January 21, 2013


There are definitely way too many Is in the bag. But that's the way God intended it.
posted by gerryblog at 8:31 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Scra-buhl? Don't you mean Words with Friends?

I unceremoniously dumped Words With Friends off my phone last year after the advertising kept getting worse and worse, plus Zynga's bad vibes. Decided to stick with the official Scrabble app.

Then the damned thing pushed an advertising notification to my phone. On Christmas Day. Deleted!

As I told my friends upon getting rid of Zynga's apps:
I hereby invite all of you over to play actual Scrabble, Pente, or any other games you like, as long as we promise not to shout random commercials at each other during the game.
posted by Celsius1414 at 8:32 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


And X is, in my opinion, way overvalued, considering that you can make a two letter word with it and any other vowel (and a great number of three letter words)

Yes, it has a big advantage in two letter words over J, and in three letter words, over Q and Z, but it's basically just as hard to use as J (also 8.) The fact that far fewer words start with X makes it harder to play as well.

Indeed, that's part of the analysis I haven't seen done -- how likely is a given rack going to bingo, which effectively makes every tile in that rack worth 7.14 points more? A mid value letter likely to bingo is worth more, over time, than a high value one that is very hard to bingo with.

Indeed, are they even considering the score of the play? If you're looking at a start position, so you have the entire bag of tiles to draw from, and you decide to run a Monte Carlo situation, what you need to do is draw seven at random, look not only at how many words score, but much the score, and repeat. I could even see the outcome being that an S should, in fact, be worth 0 or a negative amount, because, with it dramatically increasing the number of bingos, its actual average scoring potential is so high that it shouldn't earn as itself -- so basically, you're penalized if you use an S without a bingo.

The analysis gets even worse with a few moves into the game. One, of course, the potential tile distribution has changed -- your opponent has 7 tiles you can't have, and you can't draw what's on the board. Yes, this means the blank become more valuable as the bag empties. So, not only are there tiles that aren't there, but there are going to be words in your rack that aren't valid plays, and valid words that aren't in your rack at all.

Example:If I'm holding DEENQIR and there's a U in the right place on the board, I can play ENQUIRED, which is 18 by tile, 50 for the bingo (68) plus being 8 letters long is almost certain to hit some sort of multiplier, which could push it up as high as 221 (double triple with the first E and D on triple words, either the U or the I on the double letter in the outside row, pushing the tiles value to 171, plus 50.)

Without that U on the board somewhere? I'm looking at DENIER (7) or QI (11) or something like that. (I'd play QI and hope for a bingo draw.) Even if we ignore bonus spaces, the value of that rack is very low -- unless the U is in the right place, then its a very, very valuable rack indeed.
posted by eriko at 8:40 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Leave it alone, please. Make up a new word game if you want to mess it up.
posted by glip at 8:50 AM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


If anyone needs me, I'm going to be tending to the qanat, or series of irrigation ditches.
posted by "Elbows" O'Donoghue at 9:55 AM on January 21, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was playing Words With Friends until technical and advertising problems effed up my game, and have been avoiding the official Scrabble app because I remember what Scrabble did to the Agarwal brothers and their magnificent, first-to-market game Scrabulous (which became Lexulous).

REMEMBER THE AGARWALS
posted by gusandrews at 9:58 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


I finally realized why WWF is so far inferior to Scrabble, and I think it's primarily (though not solely) because of the location of the triple-word scores. Since they're not in the corners, there is no incentive to reach out to the corners of the board, hence I ended up with clogged games alllllll the time. It seemed every game got all congested and practically unplayable. Part of the genius of Scrabble is that the locations of the Big-Money Spots (blanking on what their official name is - you know, double and triple letter and word) sort of coerce players into spreading things out. Furthermore, the reduction in bonus for a bingo in WWF - 35 rather than 50 points - and the fact that quite often you can score more points with some crazy combos (triple-letter AND triple-word, which is impossible in Scrabble) only adds to the cloggedness.

As to the article, I love this kind of Sabermetric-style reevaluation of value. I remain, however, fervently opposed to any value changing. The game is too established for that. I've only JUST started being OK with Qi and Za, the introduction of which dramatically changed the game.
posted by ORthey at 10:11 AM on January 21, 2013


Is the WWF bonus for finishing all of your tiles first present in Scrabble as well?
posted by Chrysostom at 10:29 AM on January 21, 2013


ORthey : Yes, I think that's exactly it.

I don't think WWF is necessarily "inferior" but it is a much different game because of the concentric placement of modifiers and the value adjustments (particularly on bingoes). When I switched games, I had to radically change my approach. Instead of swapping for bingos, I'm plotting to get my opponent to open access to a TL+TW or DW+DW lane – which give you silly points with 4-5 letters.
posted by pokermonk at 10:33 AM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's neat. H and Z definitely feel kind of meaty in my head, because they are easy to use for their value, and I hate getting Vs. (Yes to the too many damn Is too.)

On the subject of Scrabble variations, I was thinking about a version where the tiles all have the same value, but you also draw board sections from a bag to place around a smaller core board. So the strategy becomes more explicitly to do with preparing the layout for your next turn.
posted by lucidium at 10:50 AM on January 21, 2013


Jozxyqk?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 10:55 AM on January 21, 2013


The WWF board does seem a lot more "juiced" than Scrabble's, especially with the easy TL - TW combo.

Paying for the app was a huge improvement in quality of life (well, within that narrow scope). Those WWF ads were some of the most moronic, soul-crushing, pray-to-God-for-another-flood messages I've ever seen. I remember one being the name of the app, a button to get it, and that was it.
posted by kurumi at 11:17 AM on January 21, 2013


I play a lot of WWF and the occasional Scrabble app game. The Scrabble app only lets you play against the computer and the upper two speeds seem (to me) offputting; "medium" I can't lose, "hard" I can't win. WWF seems to be much less focused on the bingoes, which I think is a feature; if you play someone who is always swapping and saving for bingoes you will win with just a consistent laying down of 4-5 letter words on multipliers. I would guess that overall WWF scores are lower than Scrabble scores for individuals who play both.
posted by chavenet at 12:42 PM on January 21, 2013


I finally realized why WWF is so far inferior to Scrabble

The effect of living in a Facebook-free bubble: I spent ten or so seconds wondering what pro wrestling has to do with Scrabble, and why such an unusual comparison was being made.
posted by Daily Alice at 12:44 PM on January 21, 2013 [9 favorites]


stay strong, Daily Alice
posted by thelonius at 1:16 PM on January 21, 2013 [1 favorite]


Try playing the Irish version - J, K, Q, V, W, X, Y and Z are absent since they are rarely used in the Irish language. Rarely, not never? They should have them in and make them worth 50.
posted by unliteral at 4:11 PM on January 21, 2013


I think that C's and V's need to be more points, since you can't make 2 letter words with them. Or that we need to make up some 2 letter words.
posted by JDHarper at 5:38 PM on January 21, 2013


The effect of living in a Facebook-free bubble: I spent ten or so seconds wondering what pro wrestling has to do with Scrabble, and why such an unusual comparison was being made.

I actually very nearly included a parenthetical specifying that I meant the word game and not the wrestling organization.

I'm not sure there's any incentive to get to the corner of the "board" in the other WWF either, though.
posted by ORthey at 9:35 PM on January 21, 2013


Of course, WWF nowadays refers to the World Wildlife Foundation and not the wrestling organization formerly known as the World Wrestling Federation, and now known (thanks to litigation) as World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE).
posted by Celsius1414 at 9:47 PM on January 21, 2013 [2 favorites]


A mid value letter likely to bingo is worth more, over time, than a high value one that is very hard to bingo with.

Value Over Replacement Tile? Scrabblemetrics? Get Nate Silver on the phone, let's make this happen.
posted by cortex at 10:17 AM on January 22, 2013 [2 favorites]


Value Over Replacement Tile? Scrabblemetrics? Get Nate Silver on the phone, let's make this happen.

No way, man. Nothing replaces the true grit, hustle, and intangibles of the True Tiles. Go change tile values in your mother's basement. The only way to win Scrabble is by playing smart, professional small-ball, and with proper fundamentals. Plus did I mention intangibles and grit? Because that's how you win Scrabble.
posted by ORthey at 5:29 PM on January 22, 2013 [1 favorite]


Value Over Replacement Tile? Scrabblemetrics?

MLB Cap Insignias and Their Scrabble Points.
posted by zamboni at 12:22 PM on January 25, 2013 [1 favorite]


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