Scrabble Rules: 10 Different Ways To Play The Classic Board Game

Scrabble tiles and board

by Anne Robertson |
Updated on

From simple Scrabble rules tweaks to a completely different board, these 10 variants bring new life to the much-loved classic game invented by Alfred Mosher Butts.

1. Fours

How to play

Each player must play four letters in each turn, to form a four-or-more letter word on the board. For example, the letters E I D E could be added to an L on the board to make ELIDE; the letters H A I N could be added to a C on the board to make CHAIN; the letters G U Y S could be played so the S joins with SCAM on the board to form GUYS and SCAMS. If a player isn’t able to make a move, they can swap some letters and miss their turn. The game ends when each player has fewer than four letters left, with remaining letter values deducted from their final score.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: Turns are quite quick, as options are restricted.
Consider this: It’s more of a challenge to play the letters J, Q, X and Z.

2. Tag Team

1950s Father Playing Game Of Scrabble With His Three Teenage Kids A Girl And Two Boys Sitting At Living Room Folding Card Table (Photo by H. Armstrong Roberts/ClassicStock/Getty Images)

How to play

You need to have four players, to form two teams of two players. Each player has their own letter rack. Each team plays two moves in their turn: first one team member, then the other, then play passes to the other side for their turn of two moves. Conferring is allowed, so set-ups are possible within a team. Team members confer on who plays first after they’ve reviewed their letters.

Number of players: 4
Pro: Set-ups lead to big scores.
Consider this: A timer is recommended, so turns don’t take too long.

3. Clabbers

Scrabble board

How to play

Every word played must be either an anagram of a valid Scrabble word or a valid Scrabble word itself. For example, the letters WEB could be played as BEW, BWE, EBW, EWB, WBE or WEB on the board. If the move joins with other letters on the board, any words formed must also be anagrams of valid Scrabble words or valid Scrabble words themselves.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: It makes it easier to place the high-value letters on the premium squares.
Consider this: This is a ‘marmite’ variant: you’ll either love or hate playing this way.

4. Duplicate

Two Scarborough kids Alex Li ,14 (left) and Jackson Smylie ,13 , who won national Scrabble championship on weekend in Orlando, Florida; one of just three Cdn teams even entered on April 18 2011.

How to play

You need to have a Scrabble set for each player plus a master set.

For the first round, the nominated leader draws seven letters from the master tile bag for the master letter rack. Then, all players, including the leader, retrieve the same letters from their own tile bag for their own letter rack. When everyone’s letter racks are identical and match the master rack, the first round begins.

Within an agreed time, all players play a word on their own board. Once the time is up, the leader compares everyone’s moves and announces the highest scoring word. This is the winning move for that round, which is selected and played on the master board. All players place the winning move on their own boards also, so all boards match the master board. However, each player scores only for the word they made that round.

For the next round, the leader replenishes the master rack up to seven letters, and again the players match their own letter racks to it. Play continues until there are no letters left in the tile bag.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: It’s engaging because everyone plays each turn.
Consider this: Coordinating the letter racks is a bit fiddly and time-consuming.

5. Stacking

Scrabble board

How to play

This is a home-made version of the game Upwords. Players can place one or more tiles on top of existing letters on the board, provided that the newly created words are also valid in Scrabble.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: If you have an imbalance of vowels or consonants, you won’t get stuck.
Consider this: It takes longer to play, as there are more options to weigh up.

6. Vowels & Consonants

Consonant and vowel letters written on blackboard by a student

How to play

You start by dividing the tile bag into vowels and consonants. Players then draw letters one by one in their preferred proportions (like the letters game in Countdown). This simple rule change maximises the chance that a player’s letters will meld and makes bingos (a play in which a player puts seven tiles on the board in a single turn) more likely.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: You’ll never get stuck with seven vowels or consonants on your rack.
Consider this: Playing with an imbalanced rack is part of Scrabble, so this version is best for beginners.

7. Polyglot

Scrabble board

How to play

You can play words in any nominated language; in all other respects, the rules are the same as classic Scrabble. Players agree which languages and dictionaries they’ll use before play begins.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: A fun challenge for language learners, bilingual families, and language professionals.
Consider this: Adding letters to words already on the board is more difficult.

8. Zen

Members of the public play Scrabble as they queue for tickets outside The All England Tennis Club in Wimbledon, southwest London, on July 2, 2018, on the first day of the 2018 Wimbledon Championships tennis tournament.

How to play

There are two main differences in Zen Scrabble: firstly, players don’t seek to block their fellow players. Secondly, when a player can’t see their own high-scoring move, they seek to open an opportunity for their fellow players. Conferring is allowed. More relevant than who wins is the combined final score of the players, which can be quite high.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: It maximises the use of premium squares and coverage of the board.
Consider this: The vibe is chilled and non-competitive, so if you enjoy playing to win, this version won’t appeal.

9. Solitaire

Scrabble board

How to play

A single player plays all the turns, until they run out of letters.

Number of players: 1
Pro: You have maximum control over the evolution of the game, enabling you to set up the premium squares, as well as find bingos.
Consider this: It removes the element of chance, so other than comparing your previous scores or playing against the clock, this version quickly loses its interest.

10. Scrabble Trickster

How to play

An honorary mention must go to Scrabble Trickster, although this is a separate game, played on a different board. Trick cards – such as ‘Play a proper noun’, ‘Steal your opponent’s last score’ and ‘Spell a word backwards’ – permit novel moves and can reverse the game in a heartbeat.

Number of players: 2-4
Pro: A brilliant, dastardly twist on Scrabble for those who enjoy a curveball.
Consider this: Scrabble traditionalists will recoil from this anarchy in horror!

from Mattel Games

Scrabble board game box
Price: $11.99
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The classic version of the word-based board game.

[Images: Scrabble®]

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