Over the Easter weekend I went to stay with my girlfriend’s very nice family on the rugged south coast of this rather big country. And every evening the Scrabble board was produced, and hands rubbed together in anticipation of some word-laying.
Although, being Sweden, this was not Scrabble but “Alfapet”, as Scrabble in this country was known in the past. The board is the same, the tiles are the same (except for the Swedish characters of course, and different points and distributions), and the rules are the same.
Except that they aren’t. No sir, the rules are NOT the same, which I discovered to my dismay.
You see, the company in which I sat was playing a version of Alfapet from the 70s that used non-standard rules. The rule in question which caused hackles to rise was the one concerning the connection of words. In my rules (and by “mine” I mean the internationally accepted rules of Scrabble) you may lay a word in parallel to another word as long as all the little words you make along the way are real words.
But not in the game played by my hosts. No sir, in their version each new word MUST “link in” with an existing word. You cannot, for example, lay down an “S” to turn CAR into CARS and then continue with a new word from that S. See the example here:
The first example was not allowed by my hosts; the second was fine.
The worst thing was that the entire family proceeded to explain why their rules were actually NOT a variation and were in fact the proper and logical way to play the game, despite being more complicated and not the same as the internationally accepted rules of the game.
I could not even get them to admit that their rules were a local variation. Oh no, I was simply wrong. And Alfapet was NOT a version of Scrabble (which it actually was when it was introduced to Sweden) but another game entirely which can quite happily have its own rules.
Now I have no trouble playing a variation on a game, but I find it difficult to swallow a lot of complicated reasons why one variant is any “better” or “more logical” than any another, especially when the supposedly “more logical” version has MORE rules and not less.
Still, I played anyway and was of course blown out of the water, even by the family matriarch, the 90-year old grandmother who, I am sure, could trounce me at Scrabble no matter what rules we were using.
And that, despite all the confusion, arguing and slamming shut of dictionaries, was strangely satisfying.