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March 7, 2013

Fog of War Scrabble

Rob @ 7:55 AM

My significant other Gus and I played a game of Scrabble the other day, and while cleaning up the board afterward I was struck by the idea for this variant. I've been tweaking the rules in my head since then, in hopes of playtesting it someday, and I thought I'd share it here as well. I'm not sure if there's been anything like it done before; my searches have come up blank. If any of you are into such things, please shoot me your feedback.

Please note that Scrabble is a trademark of Hasbro or Mattel depending on where you live, its use here is unofficial, I'm not affiliated with either of them, and blah blah blah. Full credit to Gus for applying the term "Fog of War" to the concept.

How to play Fog of War Scrabble
Fog of War Scrabble
The game requires a standard Scrabble set and compatible dictionary. The Fog of War rules are the official Scrabble rules, with the following modifications:

  • In addition to the game's normal 2-4 players, there is an impartial non-playing position called the Observer.
  • All tiles are flipped over and used on their blank sides. The actual letters printed on them are meaningless; tiles can be played as any letter, in the manner of the normal game's blanks.
  • All played tiles score one point each, no matter which letter they are. Board modifiers (double/triple letter/word score squares) apply normally. There is no "bingo" bonus for using all seven of your tiles.
  • When a word is played, the player announces what the word is and how it's spelled. The Observer has a paper representation of the Scrabble board (a 15x15 grid on graph paper would work) out of view of the other players; on this the Observer fills in the words as they are played. Thus, the Observer is the only one looking at the actual word game in progress while the players are looking at the blank tiles.
  • Memory is key. In order to make a correct play, the player must remember what all the words laid out on the board are and play accordingly. Any failure along these lines - say, playing a word on a letter which is actually a different letter - is an immediate out. Once you complete your play, if the Observer tells you that your word is invalid due to a tile on the board being something other than what you thought it was your word is removed from the board. You are "lost in the fog," and eliminated from the game.
  • The game can end in one of two ways. If all players but one get "lost in the fog," the scores are discarded and the last player remaining wins. If more than one player survives to the end of the tile supply and the natural end of the game, the scores are tabulated in the normal Scrabble manner.

I see a few ways this could put a really novel spin on the old Scrabble.

  • Without the normally-limited letter supply, differently-scoring tiles, and bingo bonus, the strategy of saving up rare high-value letters to play on the modifiers is irrelevant. Go ahead and play "QUIZZICAL" on a triple word score, but it won't shift the game in your favor in one fell swoop anymore.
  • Players can deliberately play words they think their opponents will have trouble remembering, in order to accomplish easier "outs."
  • Players can decide whether to play lots of small words, or go all-out with larger words each round, without appreciable scoring difference. If you play to confuse your opponents and get them lost in the fog before you, the numerical scores are meaningless anyway. On the other hand, longer words and mod squares will get you more points if the other players do last. What wll your strategy be?
  • When playing multiple games, the group can rotate everyone in by assigning the Observer role to either the winner or loser of the previous game.

What do you think? Would this actually be any fun?

One Response to “Fog of War Scrabble

  1. Griffin Boyce says:

    I would play this :D It might actually give me a bit of an edge over the usual Scrabble game. Typically, I wind up playing lots of tiny words and competing against a human dictionary. Having to memorize the board would level the playing field a bit.

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