Game Review: Bananagrams

For those who love the idea of games like Scrabble and Words with Friends, but hate the slow pace and limited creativity of these games, Bananagrams is the game for you.

bananaBananagrams comes in a zip-up pouch conveniently shaped like a banana and features 144 lettered tiles. Unlike Scrabble, there is no board to play on, and no point values associated with the tiles. Alternatively, a player will individually form words as they acquire different letters throughout the duration of play. Bananagrams improves upon Scrabble’s rules by making the rules more lenient and it also allows for groups of people to decide their own game experience.

The primary game mode has the players begin with an equal amount of letters depending on how many people are playing. With four people, each player takes 21 letters face down while the remaining tiles sit in the center of the table in a pile referred to as the “bunch.” When someone says “split,” everyone scrambles to create words with their tiles. If a player is stuck with a pesky Z or Q, he or she can say “dump,” and get rid of that tile at the price of taking in three more tiles from the bunch. After a player correctly uses all of his or her tiles to form words, he or she declares “peel,” and at that point each player grabs another letter from the bunch.

This process continues until a player says “bananas.” This means that the player believes he or she has used all of his or her letters properly to form words and that there are fewer tiles left in the bunch for the people still playing. Often times, not all the words are correct, so it is beneficial to double check the placement of tiles before saying “bananas,” because if a player is wrong, then all of those tiles are reintroduced into the bunch. Groups can change this rule at their leisure, as well as the words that qualify as correct. Deciding whether proper nouns and abbreviations count is an essential first step. This game mode is fun, but limits the possibilities of the words that a player can create.

In a game mode called “Banana Smoothie,” all of the tiles are equally distributed to the players face down. There is no “peeling” or “dumping” in this game mode, only “bananas” at the end. Players must take the large amount of letters they are dealt to create words. Because resources are somewhat limited, rearranging and restarting is common. Again, be sure to double check the validity of words – or at least prepare to defend odd words – before calling “bananas.”

Winning is not the important part of Bananagrams, because there are no points, only bragging rights. There are also ways to mix up the gameplay by having the winner decide categories for the words the players must make. For example, one round might have the category “ocean,” where three of a player’s words must relate to the ocean.

While engineering students may tend to stay away from word-related games, Bananagrams is surprisingly fun and a great way to learn new words. You can find the game for about $12 at stores like Target, and while it is somewhat expensive for just some lettered tiles, it is entirely worth it. Who knows, you may even be able to sneak some nerdy science words into the game, such as “aulacogen.”

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