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Poslfit: Scrabble Variants

The majority of tournament Scrabble players are extremely conservative about the game that they prefer to play and stick to one lexicon and set of rules. Some even refer to other versions as perversions or sacrilege. This is a personal guide to some of the more interesting versions: to dispute its contents, please e-mail John Chew at For a more encyclopedic treatment, consult Wikipedia.

Cool Variants

These versions work well enough to run as side events at tournaments.


In Clabbers, you can arrange the letters in each word in whatever order you like. (Mathematically, Clabbers is Scrabble modulo anagramming.) This variant appeals to strong players, who can recognize words regardless of the order of the letters, and to those who get frustrated when they can’t play a word on their racks: it’s much easier to hook a word in Clabbers than in Scrabble.


In Duplicate, the director draws tiles, which are used by each player to construct a solitaire game. At the end of each round, the highest-scoring play is placed on every board and each player gets credit for the play that they found.

This variant appeals to players who like puzzles and those who dislike the element of luck inherent in regular Scrabble. It is the predominant form of tournament Scrabble in French.


In tournament Polyglot Scrabble, originally developed for the American Translators’ Association, you can play words in whatever language you like. This variant appeals to translators and other polyglots.


In Speed Scrabble, players start with much less than the regulation 25 minutes; click the heading to see my favourite rules. Other rules require players to keep score while they play, or add up scores after they play. They may have different time controls: one particularly frenetic one is zero minutes to start, with each second costing one penalty point.

This variant appeals to players who are dextrous and able to make quick decisions, and to those who feel that the lower expectations of level of play forgive them for not having studied as much as they should have. Fast intermediate players also enjoy the edge they have over slow expert players, though of course not vice versa.

Might Be Interesting

These sound as though they might work at tournaments, under the right circumstances.

One Blank Per Turn

On each turn, you must play one tile upside down, as a blank. Some players require further that each turn must be a bingo.

Two Turn

Each player takes two consecutive turns.


Volost is Scrabble where the only acceptable words are VOLOST and VOLOSTS. I understand there are a few other rules, and that it is usually played with alcohol on hand.

Boring Variants

These variants are not worth playing more than once.

Boardless Scrabble

If you have a set of tiles and no board, and for some reason don't want to play Anagrams, you can play Scrabble without a board or bonus squares.

Ecological Scrabble

If you have the tile that matches a played blank, you can use put it on the board in place of the blank, which goes on your rack.

One Blank Each

Take the blanks out of the bag at the beginning of the game. Give one to each player, to put on his rack whenever he likes.

Toroidal Scrabble

Words may run past the left/right/top/bottom side of the board respectively onto the right/left/bottom/top. Very high scores are possible at the corners, but watch out for inadvertent phony hooks.

Not Scrabble

These are fun, but don’t have to be played with Scrabble equipment.


A very popular after-hours game with tournament Scrabble players: start with a large number of tiles facedown, turn them over in turn and shout out words formed using the faceup letters in the unused pool or steal existing words by adding to them and anagramming.


Fast-paced parallel solitaire boardless Scrabble.