This (belated) post is about a game I have preserved in a shadowbox in our guest room. It immortalizes my favorite game ever played. I happened to have won this game, but that is not why I chose to preserve it in this way. It is my favorite because it was a four-player game, which is a very rare thing, especially in tournaments or on the internet, and three players scored over 200 points, while the third was within 11 points of that mark. 200 is nothing special in a two-player game, but in a four-player game, you are seeing many fewer tiles to choose from, as you are sharing the assortment with three other players instead of the usual one. The reduction in available letter tiles means it is more difficult to manage your letters in such a way that you can score a bingo. In this game, all four players had a bingo–I had two myself–and the total of five bingos is good for even a two-player game. This game was played online, on the first Scrabble website I ever discovered, the now-defunct Nuthouse site.
The game started rather ominously for me, as there was a bingo on the board before I had even seen my first letters:
EUCRITE n pl. -S a type of meteorite
I was 72 points behind from the start. Not to worry, though. In my experience as a retail manager, I have seen bulging filing cabinets filled with applications from people who were never hired, or had gone UNHIRED. That’s 73 points to me, for the lead, thanks to a couple of handy 2-letter words:
UT n pl. -S the musical tone C in the French solmization system now replaced by do
NE adj born with the name of
Heads had to be spinning by the time the third player took his turn. In any other game, his would have been a noteworthy start, a good 44 points:
AIRGLOW n pl. -S a glow in the upper atmosphere
But this was no ordinary game, as the fourth player would emphasize with a bingo of her own, OVARIAN, for 71 points, just two points off the lead after round one.
Unfazed, player 1 dropped an X on a triple letter score, two ways, for the Greek letter XI and a quick 50 points, catapulting back into a presumably safe lead.
My second turn saw the normally respectable hook off of AIRGLOW with an S-word for 36 points:
SOOTH n pl. -S truth
But so far that was the lowest scoring play in six turns. However, trailing only by 13 points, I felt pretty good. Player 3 then placed his second long word, but again just missed a bingo of his own, this one for 22 points:
UNDRAW v-DREW, -DRAWN, -DRAWING, -DRAWS to draw open
Who was I to argue with an “UN-” word? Player 3 remained in the game but in last place. Then player 4 placed HYPE for a mere 36 points, and it seemed the game was calming down a bit. Player 1’s ZOO for 32 points marked four consecutive game turns without a bingo. I terminated that statistic and REPLACED it with a new one: First player to play two bingos. The 74 pointer put me back in the lead, by 29 points.
The highest-scoring play of the game followed my bingo, player 3’s DOMINATE for a whopping 86 points. At that point every player had at least one bingo, and he was just 31 points behind me.
An S-hook by player 4 off of DOMINATE earned a quick 32 points, and while she remained in last place, she was just 52 points out of first place, a number that seemed strangely small by this time.
Player 1 kept the pressure on with a combination of two- and three-letter words for a nice 37 points in turn four, including:
OKA n pl. -S a Turkish unit of weight
KA n pl. -S the spiritual self of a human being in Egyptian religion
Seeking a triple word score, I squeezed in GNOME for 33 points to maintain a slim lead, thanks to a two-letter word from the English alphabet:
EN n pl. -S the letter N
Somehow struggling to keep up, player 3 offered the game’s first play under 20 points, with the 15-pointer:
GAFFER n pl. -S an old man
You may recognize GAFFER, too, as an electrician on a movie set, and such person has to be neither old nor a man.
Back to the game. Player 4 kept close to the lead with another big-letter 50-pointer, QUIET. But it opened up a triple word score, that I was certain player 1 would pounce on and grab the lead yet again. Finally, though, he had hit some bad luck, stuck with mostly 1-point letters and playing DINER for 12. It put him over 200 points total, but he remained in second place.
On my turn, I also could not capitalize on the Q four spaces from a TWS, but I was determined to block it. While I wanted to stretch the last high-value letter onto a triple letter score and reach the double word score as well, I settled for the block and JURY for a good 28 points. I knew the game was winding down fast, and hoped it would be enough to preserve me lead for good. At 244 points, I had reason to believe it would.
Player 3 played another long word, and in fact all of his plays formed exactly one word and no more, another rarity in a typical game. Long it was, but not a much-needed bingo. It was a good 26 points:
BEDAUB v -ED, -ING, -S to besmear
Finally, player 4 ended the game with IF and two other two-letter words, getting 13 points from two 1-point letters. One of the final words meant “thank you,” for a wonderful game.
TI n pl. -S the seventh tone of the diatonic musical scale
TA n pl. -S an expression of gratitude
The bonus for using all her letters first pushed player 4 into second place, and did, in fact, preserve my victory. Player 3 finished fourth with a very respectable 189 points.
I don’t play many four-player games anymore, as the only place I can seem to find four chairs at a table is POGO.com. But I have not played there for a while. Tournaments are usually 1-on-1. But I know there are informal Scrabble groups that meet in real life, away from a computer, and believe they would welcome a multi-player matchup. I wish I could make time for that!
TI–3 points, DLS. But also a drink with jam and bread.
All definitions courtesy of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary, Fourth Edition.