Keyboard Geniuses


Scrabble Skulduggery

Highlights from the week’s comment threads.

By John Teti • May 18, 2012

Keyboard Geniuses is our weekly glance at a few intriguing, witty, or otherwise notable posts from the Gameological discussion threads. Comments have been excerpted and edited here for grammar, length, and/or clarity. You can follow the links to see the full threads.

The Quest For Kwyjibo

The Cheater's Cup

Drew Toal’s expose on the altruistic Scrabble cheaters of 826NYC led to much discussion of underhanded Scrabble strategy. PugsMalone endorsed the dark art of placing a knowingly fake word on the board:

Playing phonies is a legitimate tournament tactic. You can even play a phony and challenge it off the board if your opponent tries to pluralize it with an S.

That sly move does depend on what type of Scrabble challenge rules you’re playing, of course—in some tournaments, players can challenge a word at will, with no penalty if they’re wrong. Elsewhere, Peter Roizen piped up with a link to his own twist on the Scrabble formula, WildWords, which introduces multiple-letter wildcards into the game and expands the universe of playable words:

Based on some of the comments, people might find WildWords of interest. Unlike Scrabble, the emphasis is on long words, and every word in English can be played. Bluffing is a serious part of the game—especially when you are behind.

In a reblog from the Gameological Tumblr, reader nonvolleyball shared this Scrabble insight gained from one of the oldest and greatest gaming pastimes, typing profanities to see what happens:

Fun Scrabble fact: Those little electronic dictionaries usually provide definitions, but if you put in something dirty, they’ll just say “correct word.” (I learned that from my awesome Scrabble-champion grandma. who is more than willing to allow you to play aggressively foul four-letter words in her presence if the game demands it.)

The Golden Rule

The Scrabble cheaters article also led to a discussion of rules in soccer, obviously. It began when doyourealize groused about the use of a penalty-kick shootout to break a tie at the end of a soccer game. He also asked about the offside rule, which always vexes casual viewers like myself. Arthur Dowie observed that penalty shootouts haven’t always been the norm:

The offside rule in soccer is to stop the strikers just hanging around the goalmouth and the rest of the team just constantly booting the ball down to them. I think you might have slightly misunderstood what this version of the offside rule is. As for your other point, there has historically been a rule called “golden goal,” where if a game is a draw after 90 minutes, there is a further 30 minutes of play, and as soon as a team scores they win. I don’t think it’s used anymore.

The “golden goal” rule sounds like it would create more excitement in a tie game, but Electric Dragon was among those who pointed out that in reality, the opposite was often true:

The problem with the golden goal rule was that it didn’t give teams chance to come back after conceding—and this meant that defense became even more important. Paradoxically, it made games even more defensive in extra time.

Atari Mixtape

In our Inventory of Cold War fear-mongering in games, George_Liquor pointed that one of the weirdest examples on the list, Communist Mutants From Space, was released on an obscure Atari 2600 add-on that has become a footnote in games’ technological history

Fun fact: Communist Mutants From Space is one of a handful of Atari 2600 games released on cassette tape. You stuck the game cassette into a regular tape player and plugged it into this thing called the Arcadia Supercharger, which itself plugged into the 2600’s cartridge slot. The idea was that tapes could hold more data than cartridges (and the Supercharger itself had much more RAM than the 2600 console), so the games could be more complex.

The add-on is better known by its later name, the Starpath Supercharger. Wikipedia has more.

Yeti Envy

Ski Safari

In Ellie Gibson’s Sawbuck Gamer review of Ski Safari, commenter Mike Mariano had a suggestion to the makers of the free Windows game SkiFree, if they’re still around. In SkiFree, you ski down a mountain while being chased by an angry yeti. Mike said:

I wish there was a SkiFree spinoff where you play as the yeti. I want to eat skiers!

Gameological commenters routinely come up with game concepts that make me says, “Yeah, I’d play that.” To wit, LimeadeYouth offered this promising idea in response:

I could see a sasquatch game where the objective is to try to appear to as many cryptozoologists as possible without allowing them to prove your existence.

Of course, how do we know LimeadeYouth exists? Ponder that over the weekend. We’ll see you on Monday.

Kudos to Landon Gray Mitchell for his help compiling this week’s Keyboard Geniuses.

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1,209 Responses to “Scrabble Skulduggery”

  1. Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

    I have accepted the fact that I will never be featured here. Now i’m gonna shoot for quantity over quality. 

    • The_Misanthrope says:

      You won’t with that attitude, mister!

      Forgive him, Comment Cat, he knows not of what he speaks.  The Comment Cat is Wise and All-Seeing.  The Comment Cat Giveth and The Comment Cat Taketh Away.

    • Girard says:

       As I read your comment, I began to anticipate a dark turn.

      “I have accepted the fact that I will never be featured here. Now I’m gonna shoot [pigeons/squirrels/joggers] in the park.”

    • John Teti says:

      Not true! We’re already planning to publicize your fine Steam-group exploits in an upcoming edition of the feature. I just didn’t have a chance this week to get a closer look at how the Steam group works and how folks sign up for it.

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Woohoo! Also, I don’t really know how to use steam groups. I think I can organize events but then it pops up for everyone in the group and is super annoying. People seem to be leaving comments on the wall though, which is neat. I’m still hoping that some people get together for some TF2 or whatever else.

  2. John Teti says:

    Side note: Don’t forget about our Game Of Thrones giveaway. Seems like people have been hesitant to enter — maybe overestimating the number of correct answers they need to crack the top 10? I’ll just say the field is pretty open, so it’s worth a shot:

  3. HobbesMkii says:

    There’s a Gameological Tumblr? Have other people know about this?

  4. Mr. Glitch says:

    Hi everybody, Mr. Glitch here with another classic game
    review! Today, in umm… honor of Battleship: the
    , I’m reviewing the Game Boy classic, Radar

    Radar Mission, released by Nintendo in
    1990, is two games in one. Game A is essentially Battleship played on an 8×8, 10×10 or 12×12 grid, It sports a few new features that add a little variety to the classic Battleship formula, however: A “near miss” has been added to the game that alerts you if your shot or your opponent’s landed within one square of a ship. There are two “lucky shot” stars scattered at random around the grid that give you a little extra firepower on your next turn. If you hit the black lucky shot star, the next missile you fire will destroy any ship it hits. If you hit the white lucky shot, you fire a salvo of 5 missiles (9 on the 12×12 grid) on your next turn that land in a star pattern. Finally, after enough turns have passed, your or your opponent’s aircraft carrier will launch a plane that flies around it. The plane can be shot down in only one hit, but its position changes after each turn making it hard as hell to zero in on. For Battleship purists who fear change, each of these extra features can be disabled at the beginning of the game.

    Game B is a bit more lively: It’s a side-scrolling naval shooter played as if you’re looking through a periscope. You control a submarine tasked with destroying the enemy fleet while protecting your own from the enemy sub. You use the D-pad to move left & right, submerge and
    use your sonar to track down your next target, then surface to fire torpedoes at it. The first to sink all of his opponent’s ships wins the match, but if you cross paths with the enemy sub, you can try to sink it with torpedoes or your deck gun and win that way. You’re scored both on the number of enemy ships you sink and the number of ships remaining in your fleet, So getting that high score is often a balancing act between picking off as many easy targets as possible and going after the enemy sub before it does the same.

    Radar Mission isn’t the most complex or action-packed Game Boy game available, but it’s easy to pick up and play, and it offers a decent challenge on the harder difficulties. Both Games A & B support two players through the Game Link cable too, and that’s really the best way to experience Radar Mission. The Game Boy cartridge is dirt-cheap and easy to track down, but if you don’t have a Game Boy, you can download it for the 3DS’ Virtual Console. Unfortunately Nintendo has left two-player support out of the VC re-release, which both totally sucks and sets a lousy precedent for future VC games.

    Thanks for reading my review! Next week, if the eBay gods
    are smiling, I will be yammering on about R.O.B. the NES Robot and Gyromite!

  5. George_Liquor says:

    Wahoo, I made it! I’m somebody! 

    Geez, that comment of mine could really use a proofreading. 

    • caspiancomic says:

       I’m pretty sure they do proofread the comments before posting them for Comment Cat’s perusal. I’ve noticed some of my own guttersnipe language has been made more presentable, and some of my British English U’s have been excised in the past.

  6. caspiancomic says:

    So I was at Snakes and Lattes again last night, and played a variation on Scrabble called Upwords, where you can stack knew letters on top of old ones to make new words. So if someone played “WOOL”, you could place a D over the L to create “WOOL” and get all the points for that word, plus a bonus for the number of tiles you stacked. Actually pretty fun, and a bit more freeform than classic Scrabble because it’s more difficult to choke up the board with unplayable words. Also, pluralizing something on the board is specifically forbidden in the rules. We were pretty lenient with the word allowances though: one of us played “jorts” and “shart” practically back to back. One of us eventually turned “shart” into “shirt” just in case anybody came by to look at our board and used it to judge the strength of our characters.

  7. LimeadeYouth says:

    The Limeade is a lie!

  8. PugsMalone says:

    This is Tournament Scrabble’s policy on playing fake words: