The game pieces consist of a set of tiles with letters on them. Tiles are turned over one by one, and players form words by combining unused tiles with existing words, their own or others'. The game has never been standardized and there exist a great many varieties of sets and rules. Anagrams is now often played with tiles from another word game, such as Scrabble. Web and mobile app based versions of this game have also been created.
Reputed to have originated as a Victorian word game, Anagrams has appeared in many published versions since then.
An early modern version is Charles Hammett's Word Making and Taking, released in 1877. The first version to include the word Anagrams in the title may have been The Game of Letters and Anagrams on Wooden Blocks published by Parker Brothers around 1890. Another game called Anagrams was published in 1934 by the manufacturer Selchow and Righter, who would later publish Scrabble in 1953. Spelling and Anagrams (a set incorporating two distinct games, Spelling and Anagrams) was also published in the 1930s. In 1975, Selchow published the Scrabble Scoring Anagrams version which featured tiles with point values similar to the familiar Scrabble system. Another version was published in the 1960s by the now defunct Transogram. The Embossing Company, formerly Halsam Products Company, also produced a yellow-on-black Eye-Rest set. A variation called Swipe was published by Leslie Scott (the creator of Jenga) in the early 1980s and since 1990, Scott's company, Oxford Games Ltd, has published Anagram, the ingenious game of juggling words. Up For Grabs was published by Tyco in 1995. Prodijeux has been marketing a variant called wordXchange since 2000, and Portobello Games produced a version under the name Snatch-It in 2001. One Up! is a version of the game that adds a "wild" tile that can be any letter, much like a blank tile in Scrabble.
A version of the game has been popular among tournament Scrabble players. Writers John Ciardi, James Merrill, John Malcolm Brinnin, and Richard Wilbur reputedly played together regularly in Key West, Florida, with novelist John Hersey also sometimes sitting in.
To begin, all the tiles are placed face down in a pool in the middle of the table. Players then take turns flipping over tiles until somebody notices a word of three or more letters that can be formed from the tiles on the table. A word can be formed by either:
- Using a number of face-up tiles from the pool
- "Stealing" a word from in front of any player, and combining it with one or more tiles from the pool to make a new word (eg. the word CART may be combined with a K from the pool to make TRACK). Players may also combine their own words with additional tiles from the pool, in the same way.
When a player sees a word, they call it immediately (irrespective of who flipped the last tile) and move the tiles in front of them. The game then continues with further tiles being flipped.
All words must be at least three letters in length. When a word is expanded with tiles from the pool, the added tiles may not simply add a suffix to it (like -S or -ING).
The game ends when all tiles are face-up and no further words can be formed. Players then score according to the words they have in front of them: a 3-letter word is worth 1 point, a 4-letter word 2 points, and so on.
A host of variations come from both different versions and players' house rules.
Other scoring systems include:
- Simple letter count. The most tiles win.
- Simple word count. The most words win.
- Add letter point values, using Scrabble letter values.
- Remove one or two letters from each word and count the remaining tiles, rewarding longer words.
- Sum of the squares of the lengths of the words, rewarding long words more.
- The first player to spell or steal some number of words (in the Selchow & Righter, eight) wins.
The minimum acceptable word length can be adjusted to a player's skill level (for example, in a game with adults and children playing together, the children may be permitted to form four-letter words, while the adults are restricted to words of at least five or six letters). Tournament Scrabble players often play with a minimum word length of six or seven.
In some editions of the game, such as the Milton Bradley and Selchow & Righter versions, only the player whose turn it is is allowed to form words.
In the Selchow & Righter edition, however, a word may be stolen by any player immediately after it was made, if they can see a longer anagram that uses additional tiles from the pool.
National Scrabble AssociationEdit
The National Scrabble Association has published a set of rules for competitive Anagrams play in tournament setting. On a player's turn, after revealing a tile, they have a ten second window during which only they can call a word. If a player calls a word on their own turn they take an extra turn. After 100 turns, the order of play reverses. Minimum word length is six letters.
One variation is to have each player have a "bank" of tiles in front of themselves, which affords players a clearer view of the "pool" of face-up letter tiles in the middle of the table.
A faster-paced version of the Fanagrams rules — known to some as "Alaskan rules" — has each of the players (or perhaps several, if there are too many) simultaneously turn their tiles into the pool. This results in many more possibilities being available at a time.
Players may not create a word by creating a word that is already on the table or steal one resulting in such a word.
Some versions of the game name the winner as the person who, after the round of turns has finished, first acquires eight words. If more than one player has done so, then the winner is the player is the one with the most tiles. There may be a tie. A very similar rule found in The Embossing Company set simply says the "first player to complete ten words, wins."
Players are permitted to combine two or more existing words with zero or more letters from the pot to create a single new word, although this is often difficult in practice.
In popular cultureEdit
Though there are many variants, one standard letter distribution of 188 letters (given in the Rust Hills article) is as follows:
A variant with 220 letters:
The distribution of 180 letters for Scrabble Scoring Anagrams (according to a review on funagain.com):
- Hills, Rust, "Wordplay" an article in Esquire; March 1996, Vol. 125, Issue 3
- "Snatch-It Rules". US Games Systems. Retrieved 11 March 2020.
- https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Anagrams-Embossed-Edition-92-Tiles-Selchow-Righter-No-79-w-Rules-Orig-Box/114044118180?hash=item1a8d8f24a4:g:Tm4AAOSwPn1eDQyb. Missing or empty
- "Anagrams Rules". www.poslarchive.com.
- National SCRABBLE Association: Tournament Anagrams Rules Archived 2009-01-30 at the Wayback Machine: 2005
- Internet Movie Database. Suspicion (1941) - FAQ.