Friday, June 19, 2009

Scramble vs. Boggle

I've recently gotten sidetracked by Facebook's Bejeweled Blitz game, which has temporarily supplanted the real reason I subscribed to Facebook: Scramble, which it looks like I've played over seven thousand rounds of now....

Scramble, for those who don't already play, is an online version of the old-fashioned analog game of Boggle. The site gives you a set-up of sixteen letters in a 4-by-4 grid, and you enter various words spelled by those letters, typing them in or using the mouse, and the machine keeps score of how many points you score in three minutes. On-line games are played against other folks in real time. I play regularly in Scramble Classic room 3, where the competition is (in my opinion) serious but not overwhelming. The room has a whole cast of regular players, and I see the same names and profile pictures of high scorers often enough that they have come to seem familiar figures to me.

Unlike Boggle, where you score zero for any words also found by another player, in Scramble, all words score. And it's a good thing: one can play for round after round and find only words that other players have already found. But once in a while, one gets a word that none of the competition has found: the word is highlighted in green in your scoring summary, and there's a special pleasure in scoring a good green word.

(In the old King of the Hill episode where Peggy defeats her Boggle nemesis by scoring all the one-point words, while her opponent looks for the longest words only, Peggy's strategy would be a dud in Scramble: it's a strategy designed for head-to-head playing. In Scramble, it's the long words that get the high scores, since no words ever get canceled out.)

In the past day or two, I've scored a few good green words: cabaret, triode, toenail, tilde, tierce, masoned. In the past, I've scored words that I only know for professional reasons: uncial and uncials (a specific early medieval letter style) and fourteener (either a 14000-foot peak in Colorado or, more likely, a late-medieval/Elizabethan metrical form of fourteen-syllable lines. I did once fail to find runelike, however: Scramble tells you all the words there are in a particular round, even if no one found them.

Boggle has long been a family favorite (or unpleasant routine, depending on your perspective), and I've always preferred the strategy of finding the long words. But seven thousand rounds of Scramble may be just a bit too much practice to ever play Boggle at home again. And they said I was just wasting time playing on-line.


Rosemary said...

Hmm...didn't get out much this weekend while I've been out of town, did you? :-)

I should add, though, that I'm pleased Tom has discovered Scramble, since a) I tend to go with the Peggy Hill strategy, which is no fun for him; and b) the fact that he usually beats the pants off everyone he plays means that there are few left who are willing to take him on.

Joe P said...

I recently discovered facebook's Scramble, but had to quit because it was eating too many hours. So I went back the the old Boggle for a few games, and I am convinced that a typical Boggle board has many fewer long words. I'd get frequent 6 letter words in S, and a few 7's and 8's, but only an occasional 6 in B. Do they randomize in different ways or (as I suspect) is the Scramble board not really random?