Updated: May 19
I will argue for days and days that Scrabble is the best board game ever created but I think I can sum up my love for it with one simple equation.
PVE + PVP = Happy Me
Dating back to 1932, the tile-based word game is a staple, familiar to even those well outside of the board game sphere. Yet, within this game are all of the elements of a game that I love. A great game, for me, is a nice mix of competing with your opponents and competing with the game itself. Scrabble is the perfect mix of these elements.
Knowing what words you can play with the letters in your hand is an important part of the game. This is where you are competing with the game. Because the game gives you letters at random, you are challenged by the game to figure out what words are even playable.
That being said, when you watch the highest level of Scrabble play (y'know as you do), you notice that they tend to play smaller words, with much tighter boards. This is because just knowing that a word is playable doesn't necessarily mean you've been left an opportunity to play it. There is a world of strategy in denying your opponents optimal positioning.
Words, Words, Words
Scrabble has informed my game design because this balance of personal strategy and reactive strategy is the benchmark I compare my designs against. Games where your strategy is only as valuable as your ability to accurately predict your opponent's behavior are always what my heart is pulled towards. These are the games that are guaranteed to play out a little different every time.
Me and Sarah (one of our great designers) played a ton of Scrabble. It was fascinating watching our games evolve from these large sprawling games to much tighter, closer games. Even though I played this same game, with the same person, no two games ever felt the same. The different letters available and changes in starting position meant that each game had to be approached with a new plan of attack.
This is what I enjoy most about board (and other tabletop) games as a medium; the variance. Board games do this better than any other artistic form. Art can be viewed in different forms but the objective experience of most art is the same on repeated experiences. Board games, however can be an objectively different experience each time. Board games are the best mediums for this variance.
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