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Math Games

Scrabble Needs a New Scoring System 202

innocent_white_lamb writes "A researcher says that some letters are over valued and some are under-valued in Scrabble, due to recent changes to the lists of allowable words. Z and X are now much easier to play and should be worth less, while U, M and G should be worth more than they are now. Joshua Lewis wrote a program to re-calculate the value of each letter to better reflect the current usage. The co-president of the North American Scrabble Players Association says that he often hears criticism of Scrabble's scoring system, but any change would bring about 'catastrophic outrage'. A spokesman for Mattel says that they have no plans to change the game."
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Scrabble Needs a New Scoring System

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  • by mark-t ( 151149 ) <markt@nerdfl[ ]com ['at.' in gap]> on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:13PM (#42607095) Journal
    Okay, yes. Mattel *DOES* make Scrabble... but only *outside* North America.

    Considering the second-last sentence in the summary just mentioned the "North American Scrabble Players Association" right before Mattel, I trust you can understand my confusion. The article clarifies the point by noting that Mattel make Scrabble in Europe.

  • by doug141 ( 863552 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:16PM (#42607141)
    is Upwords. Scrabble can get adversarial with the rules on challenging a word. Upwords lets you challenge a word without fear of losing your turn. Also, you can play just fine with a more limited vocabulary due to the nature of play. If you are playing with kids or just want a more amicable game, try it.
  • by stuckinarut ( 891702 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @03:46PM (#42607563)
    Original Joshua Lewis (the researcher) blog posting: Rethinking the value of Scrabble tiles []

    I've developed an open source package called Valett for determining letter valuations in word games based on statistical analyses of corpora. In addition to calculating the frequency of each letter in a corpus, Valett calculates the frequency by word length and the incoming and outgoing entropy for each letter's transition probabilities. One can then weight these properties of the corpus based on the structure of the game and arrive at a suggested value for each letter..

  • by jfengel ( 409917 ) on Wednesday January 16, 2013 @05:08PM (#42608639) Homepage Journal

    The guy who developed the game tinkered with the ratio from the get-go: he put in too few "S" tiles to reduce one obvious tactic (playing a word across another by adding an S to it and making it plural, like taking COP and playing SKATE such that you get the points for both COPS and SKATE).

    The corpus is all well and good, but real points are scored on Scrabble strategy. Two-letter words are absolutely crucial in Scrabble, since they let you easily double-count each tile you lay down. If you have APE on the field, and I lay down TIN next to it, I can count not just TIN but also AN, PI, and EN.

    This is made even more profitable by the addition of (bogus, at least to me) words like QI and ZA (a way of spelling "chi" as in Chinese medicine and a slang word for "pizza" that they somehow decided was mainstream enough). If you leave me [triple letter score]AT on the field, and I have Q and I, I get to count SIXTY POINTS for that Q (plus the I and the AT). (QAT is also pretty damn bogus.)

    You can tweak the words according to the corpus, but all it will do to real Scrabble players is to tweak the game, not fundamentally alter it. It's not really a game of practical vocabulary, and never has been, not if you're planning to score well. It's a game of tactics (generally well understood) and an official dictionary with words that often bear only a dim connection to reality.

"Don't worry about people stealing your ideas. If your ideas are any good, you'll have to ram them down people's throats." -- Howard Aiken