Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Brief Guide for Scrabble Players Who Want to Play Word Chums

Lately, I've been playing the loosely Scrabble-based, cartoon-animated, fast and loose Word Chums. My adorable cat character has unleashed some massive words, culminating in a 126-point sextuple word score bingo against a Genius-level (the highest level) Chumbot (computer AI - the Genius ones actually aren't bad). Sextuple word score, you say? Well, that doesn't sound like Scrabble at all!

Some of the key differences I've noticed in my 16 games of Word Chums, as compared to my probably thousands of games of Scrabble:

The board layout is different. In Word Chums, it is quite possible to land two double word scores on the same word, or even a double and a triple. Adding to the craziness is that landing a triple word score isn't the holy grail in Word Chums it often is in Scrabble... precisely because capturing one so often leads to your opponent having a wide-open shot at two concurrent double word scores.

There are also quadruple letter scores located in the four corners of the board. (Triple word scores are now along the edges.) These are located conveniently close to the triple word scores. You can imagine the fireworks that follow.

Awarding of points is different. Bingos aren't 50 points in Word Chums. They're only 40. There are two trade-offs for this. One is that there are mini-bingos of sorts; playing five letters awards an additional 10 points, and playing six letters awards an additional 20. The other is that with bonus squares all over the board like the mines in a ridiculously hard game of Minesweeper, by the time you're playing 5-7 letters you're probably hitting multiple bonuses anyway.

Point values are different. Stock up on Cs (6 points rather than 3) and the X (10 points rather than 8) in Word Chums. Don't bother so much with Ys (3 points rather than 4). Gs (3 points rather than 2), combined with the awarding above, make -ING endings particularly punchy in Word Chums. Some of the 1-point consonants in Scrabble are 2 points in Word Chums, and the U along with them, so watch for those too.

The main takeaway from all this is, in Word Chums, to be prepared for a game high on points and short on defence. The closest comparison would be that Scrabble is the NFL and Word Chums is the CFL. There are so many bonus squares on the board it's tough to keep them all away from a crafty opponent at once. It is common for a player to top 500, 600, or in one game I hit 850 points. I've had two games in which both players topped 500, including one in which both topped 550. (I lost both, naturally. I even got my 126-point word in the higher-scoring one. The lack of the ability to lock up the board wounds me.)

I'd recommend Word Chums to any Scrabble player. I just wouldn't recommend taking it very seriously.

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