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Mattel recently announced plans to change the rules to Scrabble games sold in Britain. Changes would allow for celebrity names and proper nouns, and the focus appears to be on making the game more fun for younger players. The response to this news can be spelled s-t-r-o-n-g, especially in the US, where response has been based partly on misinformation and hearsay. In the spirit of clarifying what the rule changes are, below is a summary of the changes with the greatest impact on gameplay.
1. All spaces are now triple word score bonus squares. The bonuses are also cumulative (i.e. the first letter earns a triple word, the second a cubed score, the third a tricube or “Brady Bunch Frame”, and so on).
2. Correctly spelling a word is now worth double word points.
3. Double letter spaces are banned. Fuck ’em. No one liked them. They are worse than getting no points.
4. Correctly spelled made-up words are worth triple points.
5. Challenging another player’s word will no longer entail a dictionary. Instead, challenges will be decided by majority rule. In the case of a tie the player and challenger shall engage in physical combat a la Spock and Kirk in the Amok Time episode of Star Trek.
6. All players shall have two challenges per half, just like the NFL.
7. Unlike the NFL, one challenge shall be spiritual in nature.
8. Spelling the name of a weapon and then subsequently pulling said weapon on the next player earns double points. Use of the weapon is optional.
9. The decisions of the judges are final.
10. Proper names, places, foreign words, grunted sounds, abstract premises, vague ideas, poorly constructed arguments, disproved theories and imaginary letters are now acceptable.
11. When playing an equation involving long division, it is necessary to show your work.
12. Playing the word “classic” is forbidden. We’re on to you, elitist.
13. To make the game even more exciting, the board and tiles are all now highly flammable.
14. To determine who goes first, all players must pick a tile at random. The one closest to “A” is first to go and must light the included candle before playing her first word.
15. The player who picks the tile furthest from “A” may be beaten severely at the other players discretion.
16. Certain “difficult to use” letters have been removed: Y is now a lower case h; Z has been turned sideways, making it an N; Q has been renamed “O with an attitude;” K and X have been turned into asterisks.
17. Correctly spelling a real word that no one else knows will earn minus-50 points. This game is supposed to be fun, Wordy McWordstein, and you’re getting all wordy on us? What you trying to hide, Wordboy?
18. Any player with more than three duplicate vowels waiting to be played may now earn double bonus points for screaming the vowels as one long sound into the ear of the next player (e.g. Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!).
19. The first player to play the word “of” wins, regardless of score, remaining tiles, or grade point average.
– Sean Ferrell is the author of Numb, coming from HarperPerennial in August, 2010 www.byseanferrell.com