How often do you play Scrabble and eat bananas? Those activities aren’t usually done together, but they can be combined when you play Bananagrams! The family who invented the game came up with the name because according to them, it’s an “anagram game that will drive you bananas!” Well, it will, especially if you don’t know how it is played!
What is Bananagrams?
Bananagrams is best described as a mix of Scrabble and Boggle, but with no physical board or game grid. All you have are 144 letter tiles that are drawn from a banana game bag/pouch. Two to eight players can play the game, so it can be played with your family or friends. There are certain words you need to shout as the game progresses, so it can really be an exciting interactive experience!
How to play
Bananagrams’ rules are pretty easy and fun to learn. The game begins by removing all the tiles from the banana bag and flipping them face down so no one can see what the letters are. The initial number of tiles each player gets depends on the number of people playing. 2-4 players draw 21 tiles each, 15 tiles for 5-6 people, and 11 tiles for 7-8 people.
Once each player has the correct number of tiles, any of them can say, “Split!” This signals the players to start flipping their tiles over and use them to form words. Similar to Scrabble or a crossword puzzle, the words must intersect or interlock with each other. This means you can form them horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally.
When a player has used up all his tiles, he or she exclaims, “Peel!” All players must then draw another letter from the remaining tiles that are still facing down. Each new letter must then be integrated into the word grid a player has already formed. He or she can make a totally new word grid or add the letter to any of the words he or she has already formed. The process of “peeling,” drawing letters, and forming words is repeated as long as the number of tiles in the original pile is more than the number of players.
If you have a letter that you can’t seem to use, you can swap it for three letters from the remaining tiles by saying “Dump!” Only a player who exclaims this will get new tiles.
The game continues until there are fewer tiles from the mother bunch than the number of players. When this happens, all players must now find a way to use up all their remaining tiles and the first one to do so exclaims “Bananas!” This player’s words will then be checked if all are valid and legal. A specific dictionary is agreed to be used before a game of Bananagrams is played, and to be considered legal and valid, all words of the player who first completely uses up his or her letters must be found in that dictionary. If a word is challenged or questioned, the player will not be penalized. However, if illegal or invalid words are played, the player will be declared a rotten banana! He or she will then be dropped out of the game, while his or her tiles will be put back in the mother bunch, and the game is continued.
Online version of Bananagrams
Because of the game’s popularity as a gift or a souvenir, an online version of the game was later on developed.
The main difference of the online version from the original one is the availability of different game modes. The online version has four play modes: Solitaire (for solo play), Banana Café, Live Games, and Challenges.
In addition, foreign words and proper nouns cannot be used. If they are played in a solo game, the player is given a time penalty. Moreover, instead of being declared a rotten banana, a player who uses illegal words is given rotten bananas and is excluded from the game.
Another difference from the original version is the inclusion of three Charms: Word Check, Smart Dump & Smart Peel, and Mini Dump. Using the Word Check charm allows a player’s word to be validated as legal first before declaring bananas. Smart Dump & Smart Peel uses dumped and peeled tiles to form words automatically, if possible. With the Mini Dump charm, only one tile is dumped instead of three.
If you play Scrabble often, you’ll definitely find this as a great alternative. Though the Bananagrams’ rules can be a bit challenging to learn at first, you’ll soon find yourself going bananas over this game.