Really Playing

I love the game Bananagrams. I also despise it.

If you don’t know it, here’s the quick and dirty: there are 144 Scrabble-esque tiles. Each player gets 21 tiles from the bunch of 144 and makes her own grid of horizontal and vertical intersecting words (like a crossword) as fast as possible. When a player has used all 21 tiles, he calls, “Peel.” Everyone grabs a tile from the bunch. And on it goes until there are no tiles left to grab.

What I love about this game? It zooms along without any waiting. And you can play it anywhere. I’ve done it at dinner and coffee tables, four-star hotel lounges; get thee to a flat surface and away you go.

What I despise about it? To be really good at Bananagrams, you have to be willing to change, re-change, and re-re-change what you’ve built.

Say you’ve made the word EATER. It fits nicely into your word grid. But in your unused tiles, you still have a C. You could leave EATER alone, hoping you’ll draw enough other tiles to make something short and tight with that C. But if you sit around hoping, you’re not really playing the game of Bananagrams.

To really play, you have to take apart and rebuild, trusting that you can figure your way through the collateral chaos.

Plenty of times, you’re sure you’re getting creamed. Other players are gliding along drawing S’s and Y’s they can easily tack onto their grids. While you. You don’t even have a grid. You’ve got this bomb blast of tiles because you blew the whole structure up.

But stay with it. Because here, in this bomb blast, there are some horizon-wide possibilities. Like scrambling up EATER plus C to make CREATE. And who knows what else.

Certainly, there are times to sit. And times to hope. But let’s not go confusing those with the times to really play.

The Lightning Notes is funded solely by kind donors. If something here strikes you, I’d be grateful if you’d consider donating. Click to Donate!