i’m starting to think i’m in danger of getting swept away in all this flood of casual gaming. a friend of a friend was telling me and the bf about how she’s been completely hooked on scramble, so i checked it out, little suspecting that i’d be sucked into it as well. scramble is simply a facebook clone of the parker brothers classic game boggle. i have a dim recollection of my family owning at least a few of the boggle letter dice, gathering dust among a pile of other sorely fragmented board games; but somehow during my fairly normal board-game-playing childhood i can’t remember ever actually encountering a compelete set or playing it.
oh, what hours of time wastage i have missed! boggle is a simple game in concept: on a 4×4 grid of letters, simply find as many words as you can by connecting adjacent letters (and not repeating any within one word) within 3 minutes. my family’s always been rather into scrabble, and my sisters had been playing it on facebook for some time. i played a few games, but one of the main things i hate about scrabble is the number of random words that you have to memorize to do well, and so i quickly lost interest. the other thing i hate about it is, as in chess, having to ponder all of your options in order to maximize your points. i just don’t have enough patience to strategize that much (odd, seeing as how i’m into strategy video games, but i guess in the video games you don’t ever have to agonize over any single decision that much).
and thus, my overwhelming preference for boggle/scramble to ye olde scrabble. in boggle you’re on a time limit, so there’s no time spent just sitting around. in the classic version of boggle you make words with 3 or more letters, but in scramble among the host of options and features there’s one where you can limit the game to words of 4 or more (although the game actually uses the scrabble dictionary which you can find online here), which helps minimize the amount of random words that you have to deal with. here’s the rundown of the features that make scramble one of the many games that really benefit from the leap from tactile board game to virtual computer game:
– play virtual matches with 2 to 10 rounds against any of your facebook friends. like online scrabble, your friends can take their turns whenever they want, although you won’t be able to play the next round until at least one person in the match has finished a round you’ve already played. also you can set each round to last from 1 to 10 minutes.
– limit the words allowed to 4+ or 5+ letters (the default is 3+).
– play on an expanded board: 5×5 instead of the classic 4×4. i find i prefer the 5×5 boards because you’re less likely to get really constraining boards (e.g. ones with 8 vowels on one side and 8 bad consonants on the other).
– play live in “rooms” (like chat rooms) against whoever else is in that room (usu. at least 40 other people). there’s a good assortment of rooms, including beginner, intermediate, and expert rooms; rooms using the 5×5 board and/or 4+ words only (those are the rooms i usually frequent); and even rooms for spanish and french word-seekers.
– in all the modes you’re given the list of all possible words at the end of the round.
– in matches vs friends you can also view a side-by-side comparison of who got what words for each round.
– in live mode words that only you got are highlighted in green.
there’s also a fair amount of stat tracking scramble maintains, such as your all-time highest score and your ranking compared to your friends.
i’d just started getting into scramble when my brother-in-law and sister visited. it turns out that my bro-in-law had completely independently gotten addicted to a version of boggle with his friends on the iphone, called quordy. quordy makes great use of the iphone’s touch screen. it has a “pass and play” feature where two people can take turns on the same phone, and you can also send challenges to people you know who also have the game. it lacks some of the best features of scramble, such as live rooms and a 5×5 board (although i think the latter is being added to the next version), but it does have the distinct advantage of letting you switch to a “lite” dictionary in which only “regular” words are allowed. being able to constrain the dictionary to a normal collegiate dictionary instead of the scrabble dictionary is pretty much the only thing scramble lacks, but although quordy doesn’t have as many features it does make a viable portable alternative (although you’ll also have to factor in the fact that it costs $3 versus scramble which is free). our little group of 5 spent a whole evening with two iphones challenging each other with pass and play games of quordy and teaming up 2 people vs 1, and afterwards when we weren’t all in the same room we turned to scramble to continue the word-making mayhem.
i beat my high score in scramble today and at the same time beat most of my friends (i had a really good 5×5 board), although i’m still behind my one friend who became a boggle master after spending a whole summer backpacking around europe and playing it while riding on trains. my fixation has died down, although it looks like i’ll still be playing for a good while, as my family is still sending me scramble challenges. a modern version of a classic game, and pick-up-and-play, episodic, casual gaming at its best.
some mind-boggling links:
– entry about boggle on wikipedia, although it doesn’t say much about it, not even when it first made its appearance.
– there’s a downloadable official version of boggle, although with all the features of scramble (which is free) i can’t imagine anyone wanting to get the official version which is $7.
– likewise, there’s a DS compilation that includes monopoly, boggle, yahtzee, and battleship, but from the reviews it sounds like the boggle part of it at least is really lacking in features. it’s an especially unattractive option, given its current price, which at the time of this writing is right around 65 smackeroos.
– if i really get in the mood for a word game on the go, i may check out wordjong, a combination of word-making and mahjong, for the DS which caught my attention a while back when it received buckets o’ praise from rawmeat cowboy at gonintendo.com. apparently a wii version of the game, wordjong party, came out this past december, although i don’t remember reading anything about it anywhere and it only has one review on metacritic. but if my family’s still boggling it up by next christmas i may have to pick that one up as well.