Have you ever heard of Alfred Mosher Butts? (No, Randini, he is not Seymour Butts’ little brother.) While he was an architect by profession, the Great Depression came along in 1929 and changed life in America for everyone. Because no one had any money for building, Butts found himself out of work with plenty of time on his hands. However, he did not sit idly by bemoaning his fate, waiting for his ship to come in. The man who had made his living drawing up plans for buildings, started drawing up plans for new games instead.
According to Hasbro’s SCRABBLE web site, he had a light bulb moment, which was the result of quite a bit of research on his part. He began studying popular games and noted there were 3 types – numbers, moves and words. Surmising that word games were the least popular because they were scoreless, he set about to rectify the situation.
He called his first attempt to give birth to a new word game that combined chance and skill LEXIKO. While a player’s knowledge of words, or lack thereof, provided the skill element, Lady Luck could step in and level the playing field in a flash with the random drawing of the letter tiles. His game was a work in progress with multiple name changes. Eventually, he added a game board, which governed letter placement giving players the opportunity to watch their scores soar to ever higher heights by using premium squares to their advantage. After World War II with a final name change from CRISS CROSS WORDS, SCRABBLE as we know it today hit the market.
We have all been there. You have the ultimate rack. The player two turns ahead of you, leaves the perfect opening for your word – a bingo involving Triple Word and Double Letter bonus squares dances before your eyes. You can hardly contain your excitement – good thing you’re not playing poker. You’re adding the score up in your head and the player sitting next to you spoils it all.
Cutting his eyes in your direction, with a smirk on his face, he gingerly drops down 3 letters -T,O,O - and your bonus points evaporate into thin air. Deflated, you search frantically for your next play with the only possibility presented - adding an L for a whopping score of 4. Oh, how quickly your hopes are dashed. You definitely don’t need any help calculating your score for this turn. The only thing that could possibly make this turn any worse – yep, you draw the dreaded Q.
SCRABBLE has been manufactured in over 25 languages and has sold over a 100 million games in more than 120 countries. Seems like Butts must have known a thing or two about designing games. Not only has SCRABBLE stood the test of time, it has kept up with technology over the years and now comes in electronic versions as well.
While the electronic version plays at a faster pace, there is nothing quite like fingering each wooden tile as you painstakingly draw your letters only to find the tiles you drew so carefully are all vowels –A,E,I,O,U,E,U – yes, every last one of them. However, if you happen to be playing at Buckingham Palace with the Queen, you’re in luck. Never heard of euouae? Look it up. It’s in the English dictionary.