If your biggest problem with Scrabble is that when you win, you’re never quite sure if you played better than your opponent or you were just luckier, Duplicate Scrabble could be your game. On the other hand, if the only way you can beat your opponent at Scrabble is to draw better letters, you’re better off playing with Hasbro’s rules and stashing a lucky faux rabbit’s foot in your pocket.
Before I discuss the rules of Duplicate Scrabble, a historical note. When I met my husband five years ago, he introduced me to his own version of Scrabble, a variant game he’d played with friends and relatives for years that eliminates much of the luck factor in the game (see Drew’s Rules of Scrabblefor details). As much as I admired and enjoyed Drew’s version of Scrabble, his rules did not completely eliminate the luck factor. Since I tend to be pretty lucky at games, I won our competitive Scrabble games a disproportionate number of times given that I suspected my husband was the better Scrabble player between us.
As an occasional bridge player, it struck me one day that Duplicate Bridge, the method used by expert bridge players to establish their true skill level, would work perfectly for Scrabble. I looked up Duplicate Scrabble on the Internet to see if it existed, and it did, but not the way I pictured it. I found an online Duplicate Scrabble game you can play (click here), in which you compete with every Scrabble player in cyberspace and I also found some party games that require a bunch of extra supplies.
My idea of Duplicate Scrabble was far less complicated: just use a regular Scrabble set, but instead of each player having his own rack for which he draws seven letter tiles, both players or teams share one rack and take turns drawing the letters for it.
How to Play Duplicate Scrabble
For the sake of simplicity, I will describe the rules of Duplicate Scrabble as if only two people were playing, although four people could play with two players on each team. In round one of Duplicate Scrabble, each player studies the tiles on his rack, and the player that comes up with the higher scoring word wins that round. The player who scores lower subtracts the number of points in his word from that of his opponent, and that number becomes the score for the winning player of that round. Thus, if my word score is 20 and my opponent’s is 18, I score two points and my opponent scores zero.
If both players in Duplicate Scrabble score the same number of points with two different words, neither player wins that round. The two players mutually decide which word to place on the board, typically selecting the one that opens the Scrabble board up more.
That’s all there is to it, unless you’re the sort of person who likes to complicate things. For instance, you can add a timer limiting each round to three minutes or another agreed upon interval.
If you are my husband you will complicate Duplicate Scrabble by combining his Scrabble rules with mine (see Drew’s rules here) so that there are more decisions to make about which collection of letters to draw from (vowels, consonants or power letters). I do not recommend trying this hybrid approach right away, although it is arguably the ideal way to optimize opportunities for both players and achieve a higher collective game score.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering, it turns out my husband is a better player than I am, although I occasionally win a round or two with a higher scoring word. I still feel like a winner, however, because Duplicate Scrabble is increasing my skill level, and one day I may even beat him at my own game.