Distracting talk during Scrabble. Good strategy? Just a thing?
April 14, 2016 1:07 PM   Subscribe

How much talking goes on in your 3 (or more) person Scrabble games? I've been playing Scrabble with two friends recently; at some point, they decided to put a time limit (2 minutes) on each person's turn because I was taking a while to play. In our most recent game, I realized I was getting distracted during my turn because the two of them would chat a bunch.

Typically, I don't talk much when waiting for someone to play. But to demonstrate what was happening, in this last game, I purposely started talking (not to the person whose turn it was, but the other player) more during their turns, then pointed out as each person's time was running out that the talking was slowing them down. They acknowledged the dynamic, and we all laughed about it a bit, and they started talking less during my turns, which sped up my game. I ended up getting my best score ever as a result.

So my question is - how does this play out in your Scrabble games when there are more than 2 people? Do you keep the talk to a minimum to speed things up, are you casual about how long turns take, or what? One of the other players takes the game, and winning, pretty seriously; the other not so much.
posted by mistersix to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total)
(I suppose I'm looking for what you might call cultural norms for this game, and how much to push back about this sort of thing.)
posted by mistersix at 1:12 PM on April 14, 2016

Our house rule is that you're only allowed to comment on how long other people are taking when you're sitting there waiting for them and not doing anything else.

So you can check your email on your phone while I rearrange my tiles for the 19th time to see whether I can make anything of ANICORS. But you can't look up from it and say "You're taking a long time" without giving it at least a few seconds of silence.
posted by Etrigan at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [4 favorites]

I am terrible at Scrabble and don't take it seriously at all, so no, if I'm talking it's not a strategy, I just would rather chat and visit and enjoy your company than play a silly low-stakes game.

Other more serious Scrabblers might have better answers for you.
posted by Sara C. at 1:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [16 favorites]

Referring to the National Scrabble Association's Official Tournament Rules Appendix D Paragraph 9:

It is every player's right to ask his/her opponent to remain silent during play. While many people often play the game in informal social gatherings where it may be accepted by the group to talk during play, players should understand that tournament conditions require that each player respect his/her opponent's right to concentrate fully during play.

Culturally though, in a group of friends setting, telling people not to talk because you seriously want to win is a total bummer.
posted by Think_Long at 1:15 PM on April 14, 2016 [24 favorites]

I don't really play board games to win, I play to hang out with my friends, and occasionally talk shit, so I am okay with some jibber jabber during the game.

Thankfully, my main jam is RPG's, so there is TONS of shit talking, and hanging out, and no one ever wins, especially in Call of Cthulhu, your character just dies or goes insane.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 1:18 PM on April 14, 2016 [8 favorites]

I really like board games, but they are, for me, a social activity. Anyone taking a game so seriously as to demand TOTAL SILENCE during a group game (assuming, of course, the game doesn't require needing to hear a thing) is essentially declaring it open season on mocking them mercilessly. I get that people Scrabble as a sport, but I am not that person and I no game I participate in would ever be that make-or-break competitive.

The official scrabble rules do however dictate that players must comment on how long turns are taking, so that happens regardless of how serious a game it is.
posted by phunniemee at 1:23 PM on April 14, 2016 [7 favorites]

No time limit, no excessive talking.* Each player takes responsibility to not exceed time, though... Better to put down something lame and move on with the game after, say, five minutes or so. We call that "good Scrabble citizenship."

* I mean, seriously. If you're playing a game go for the game. If you need to waffle...
posted by Namlit at 1:24 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

A great deal of talking because I am playing the game with either friends or family. If I want to play a game minus all socializing I play single player on my phone or tablet.
posted by Julnyes at 1:27 PM on April 14, 2016 [6 favorites]

No time limit, lots of talking because I am a brat and like to argue about whether a word is a valid play or not until someone goes, "Ugh, FINE", and I win because they usually end up placing really crappy words down instead. 😁
posted by Hermione Granger at 1:32 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I agree with phunniemee--when I'm playing board games with my friends or family, I'm doing it for fun, and that includes fun socializing and chatting during the game. If you're in the headspace of playing to win to the extent that you're snapping at your friends for being chatty, or trying to use chattiness as a distraction method to deliberately get the leg up over your opponents, I think you may be making the game less fun for the people you play with. It's only a game.

You even said so yourself: One of the other players takes the game, and winning, pretty seriously; the other not so much. What happens if I'm playing board games in a group with this dynamic is...I find new people to play with. And I don't mean to say that flippantly! I just think you need to figure out in your group whether you are there to have fun or be competitive.
posted by capricorn at 1:36 PM on April 14, 2016 [5 favorites]

Honestly, this is why I stopped playing Scrabble so much: I like the game, but I play board games with people to socialize, and socializing doesn't mesh well with Scrabble. I've had a more satisfying time with Boggle, since everyone needs to do their focusing at the same time in that game.
posted by needs more cowbell at 1:55 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

What everyone else said: it depends on whether you're playing a social game or a serious one. Either rule works, as long as everyone's on the same page.

I play for fun, and would much rather have a leisurely, chatty game, but I'd get pissed if people were chatting specifically as a strategy to get my time to run out. If you're gonna chat, relax the time rule.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:58 PM on April 14, 2016

no time limits and talk what you like: the cultural norm of a german and an englishman playing scrabble in spanish in chile (and he just beat me, with his last play "brazos" on a freaking triple word score).
posted by andrewcooke at 2:11 PM on April 14, 2016

We are serious Scrabble players, playing for points, bragging rights and glory. And everyone who's turn it is not talks to one another while waiting for a word to be put down. Your ability to concentrate, or lack of ability to concentrate, when it is your turn is not the load of the rest of the table to carry or cater for.

But! If you want to see how much difference the silence of a controlled environment brings to your game, you could try Words with Friends online. Funsies!
posted by DarlingBri at 2:34 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

what you might call cultural norms for this game, and how much to push back about this sort of thing.

I play Scrabble like it is my job. But I usually do it online. The rules for doing it online (and no, this is not Words with Friends, this is synchronous, time limited play) are that low key chatting via text box is okay but if you're seriously in the lead it's usually nice to shut up if your opponent is struggling.

In real life when we play with a board it's "whatever" time and we talk and shake our fists and all the rest BUT you can ask people to hush if you're trying to think about things. We don't play timed. But we're also free to pick up a magazine or something else if someone wants it quiet during their turn.

When I play with neighbors and not my longtime nemesis/SO/boyfriend, then we usually just blabla and don't really focus too terribly much so I don't feel like I need to be competitive so we do whatever. For me it's either a "friendly game" in which case there's going to be talking, or you're trying to play to win in which case people often need to concentrate and there's more call for quiet.
posted by jessamyn at 2:41 PM on April 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

I think whatever rules work (silence/chatting or time limits/no time limits), but your group has to be in sync with this or find another way to hang out, or else there will probably be a fair amount of frustration. For me personally, I don't take Scrabble too seriously so I would find a silent game boring/not fun. And I also find people who take forever to find the perfect word super annoying - to me, it's supposed to be fun, not waiting on one person to try and get some super high score - just set something down! But obviously others are more competitive. I would say that if you are finding your time is sufficiently longer than the others playing such that they're complaining about it, it is probably too long and you need to just put down a word and move on with your life. :)
posted by rainbowbrite at 4:13 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I mostly play with family, we're mildly competitive in that we all like to score well, but it's mostly about the fun/social aspects. We will actually help each other when someone's having a really bad/discouraging game. I've also played occasionally with friends. Chatting is always part of the game.

Also one person in my family frequently can take a REALLY long time looking for that word that he just knows is there. Usually sometime after 10 minutes or so goes by we'll start to gently tease him, and at 15 maybe encourage him to try again next turn. But he really likes getting seven letter words (more then he likes winning) so we usually just humor him because that's what he enjoys. I think it would be different if someone is taking a lot longer then everyone else because they really want to win AND definitely if they expected everyone else to be silent while they did it.
posted by pennypiper at 5:07 PM on April 14, 2016

My husband and I play mostly in silence. We read books or magazines or play on our phones during the other person's turn. I would feel like an antisocial freak playing this way with anybody but him, so we only play with each other.
posted by gatorae at 6:41 PM on April 14, 2016

A fast game's a good game. I cannot stand people who take forever to make a word, I am not patient and all the hmmm ahhhhh, noooo, hmmmm makes me murderously rageful.

If the other players are chatting then that's fine since it means I haven't succumbed to laying on the floor kicking and screaming at the slowness.
posted by kitten magic at 7:43 PM on April 14, 2016 [1 favorite]

I adore Scrabble but I find it totally sucks to play it with more than one in-real-life person, because it's so boring waiting your turn and also so annoying if people talk when it's not their turns. Scrabble is better in silence, but then why bother playing it with friends?
I once went on a date to a board game cafe, and the dude chose Scrabble. It got so weirdly quiet and intense and boring that I finally grinned at him and dashed the board asunder, because the Scrabble vibe is just NOT the social vibe. (He was gobsmacked in the moment, then burst out laughing and said he thought it was funny and cool that I took a stand.)
I'm extroverted to the core and love group games but I have a firm rule that Scrabble (and chess) are meant to be played online, with faraway, silent opponents.
The only thing that makes in-person Scrabble and chess fun is a chess clock, because all the panicky slapping kind of makes up for the boring silence.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 8:40 PM on April 14, 2016

Instead of a time limit, you could use an alternative (Scrabble-rules-supported) play: the 9-tile option. Instead of 7 tiles, you all get 9. You can make longer words, tiles get used up faster, play moves quicker. No time limit means less worry about distraction from chatting friends and allowing chatting is more supportive of the social aspects of playing a game.
posted by carrioncomfort at 7:28 AM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

People taking a long time with their turns, for any game, are just the worst. There's nothing less fun. Not only am I going to talk if you do that, I'm probably going to wander off. Ugh, so boring.

May I recommend, if you like an intense play-only no-talking vibe, the awesome variation take two? Nobody talks during take two because everyone is playing simultaneously, in parallel, as fast as they can. And unlike scrabble, it doesn't suck to have people of different levels playing together, because really every player is just playing against herself. The most sophisticated player might win, but maybe not; a less sophisticated player may play faster, just making a simpler matrix. It's super fun.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:25 PM on April 15, 2016

Thanks for the perspectives, especially considering this question wasn't quite as focused as it could have been. Part of what I tried to get across is that the folks I was playing with didn't like the combination of people talking with the time limit either... they just didn't realize it until I started talking more.

And thanks for the story about that date, pseudostrabismus.

Part of why I posted this question is remembering, a long long time ago (teenage years), playing ping pong with a friend in his basement; every time he set up to serve, I would get ready to defend, and he would pause for one or two heavy sighs. When I told him how distracting it was, he said "That's why I do it." Think icing the kicker or shooter in football or basketball. So I got used to his deliberate pauses, and started using similar tactics.

I'm sure the folks I'm playing with aren't purposefully trying to throw anyone off. Like some people have suggested, I'll try to make sure we're all synced up as to whether we're more into the scoring or the social aspects.
posted by mistersix at 4:56 PM on April 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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