I received an excellent present at Christmas - a game called Bananagrams. As a Scrabble fan, Bananagrams pandered to my love of word games but with the added heart-elevating play that Scrabble could never bring.
Requiring no pen or paper to score, and in a cloth bag containing 144 plastic letter tiles weighing in at just over 400g, Bananagrams is very portable - perfect for taking on holiday or to a friend’s house.
The basic idea of the game is that, starting with a small number of tiles, each player makes their own crossword as fast as they can. As soon as one player has used all their tiles, they shout “Peel!” and all players take another tile. Players can make and remake their crossword as many times as they like during the game.
When all the tiles are taken from the bag, the first player to use their last tile shouts “Bananas!” and the game stops. The other players then check the finished crossword to validate that all words are spelt correctly; if not, that first player is declared The Rotten Banana and their tiles are returned to the bag; play resumes among the other players. If all the words are spelt correctly, the first player becomes The Top Banana.
Game Variations - The 4-Letter Word
No, this is not a variation where the only words allowed are profanities (though that probably would work as a variation too!).
Instead, play is done as normal, except that every word must have at least four letters. The winner is declared only when all letters are used and every word of the player’s crossword has at least four letters.
The rules can be relaxed slightly during play - if a four letter word really cannot be made but a 2 or 3 letter one can in order to clear a player’s letters to allow them to peel, then that shorter word is allowed. For the player to win, however, the crossword must be remade so that each word has a minimum of four letters.
This is harder than it looks! Making words with a minimum of four letters, given a fixed set of letters and working as fast as possible can be challenging, not to mention giving an adrenaline rush! Still, it’s not so hard that kids can’t join in.
Game Variations - 5-Letter Words
This is a further variation on the 4-letter variation - this time using minimum 5-letter words.
Again, the same relaxation of rules can occur during play, but all words in the final crossword must have a minimum of 5 letters for a player to win.
Imagination is the only limitation on possible variations. Some other possibilities are:
- Just verbs, or just verbs in the present tense
- Just nouns
- Under a time limit
It is definitely a game worth investing in, especially if Scrabble or word games are your thing.
Note: I am not affiliated with Bananagrams in any way. I received the game as a gift from my family. Game variations described here are of my own making and are not necessarily endorsed by the makers of Bananagrams.