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Fantasy Scrabble

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When Nao and Stephen and I were hanging out the day after Christmas, over in Half Moon Bay, we spent some time playing with a game called Syzygy. Basically it's like Scrabble without the board and without point values on the tiles. The game itself was somewhat entertaining, but we had more fun making up other things to do with the tiles.

One of the things we did is something that I will, for lack of a better name, call Fantasy Scrabble.

To play along at home, get three or four people together, and dump a bunch of Scrabble or Syzygy tiles (or Magnetic Phonetics tiles, but there probably won't be enough of those) on a table, around the edges of a large clear space.

Without taking turns, all players begin picking up tiles and placing them into a crossword-style network of interconnected words. No word created should be a real word in whatever language you're speaking, but all words should look like real words in that language.

Feel free to add onto each other's words as you go, turning them into longer words and linking them to other parts of the grid. Occasionally point to particularly entertaining words and say them out loud.

Ideally, all players should occasionally explain words. One might note that ZEGDEV is a desert land, for example, or that HORGET is a loanword from the French. If the words all begin to sound like character and place names from a bad Big Commercial Fantasy trilogy, all players should explain who the various characters are and how they relate to each other. ESPTOR, for example, is clearly the villainous prime minister who uses his minions, the GEBAAD, to control King OTTIY, who must be freed by Prince EDNARIS and Princess ESSTLI. Or whatever.

Note that there are wildcard tiles that can stand for any letter. When you play one of these, you may specify what letter it stands for, or (as with the mysterious and ancient word *****W*IAD**Y), you may note that the letters represented by the wildcards are never written down or spoken, on pain of Evil Things From Beyond entering our dimension and wreaking havoc. Note that a wildcard tile doesn't need to represent the same letter in the Across and Down directions.

Play continues until all tiles and/or all players are exhausted and/or bored. (Players who are easily amused may play longer games than those who are not.)

For an example of a completed grid, see my Fantasy Scrabble page. Warning: page consists of a 36x31-cell table, and may not display properly in all browsers. May even crash some browsers.

There are question marks in a few table cells, because the flash from the camera reflected too brightly off a few tiles, rendering them unreadable. Oops. There's also one cell that contains an OE ligature (or at least it's supposed to; who knows how that will appear in your browser), because our grid on the table wasn't quite perfectly aligned and so we effectively squoze an O and an E into the vertical space of one grid line.

Okay, now it's really time for bed.

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