Scrabble’s Party Play Mode Misses an Opportunity

ScrabbleWe recently had some family over for the holidays that have spent the last year playing Words With Friends over iPhones and Facebook. Someone suggested playing a “real” game of Scrabble. We looked in our game cabinet and found a travel edition of Scrabble with 3/8″ tiles and three tiny tile racks. We broke out the card table and sat down to play. The first word played was “QUA”. Is that a word? What are the challenge rules again? After the first move it was obvious that there was a flaw with this plan: someone would have to keep score.I remembered the SCRABBLE for iPad app that I bought for a previous family vacation but never played. I fired it up on my iPad and turned on AirPlay with Mirroring to the living room TV. Now everyone in the room sitting comfortably on the sofas could see the board. Everyone had to run out to the App Store and “buy” the free SCRABBLE Tile Rack app. After a little network tweaking the game was up and running.

Tip: The game likes Bluetooth instead of Wifi for some reason. You do not need to pair anything, just make sure Bluetooth is on. The iPad of course needed Wifi for AirPlay.

Game play was very awkward. EA Games has really missed an opportunity here. Each person has their own iPhone to act as their tile rack. This part works fine. They have obviously designed the game as if it were still set in the middle of a card table with four uncomfortable chairs around. It is a minimal improvement over the old board game. You select your tiles from your tile rack and flick them onto the iPad. Then you have to place them using the iPad screen. With the AirPlay mirroring turned on every was able to see the board.

Tip: Turn on screen rotation lock on the iPad to keep the image from flopping from landscape to portrait when handed from person to person. Each player has a rotate screen button that can override the screen rotation lock option.

As play continued we passed the iPad around the living room to the current player. The other players could see their own tile rack and look up words in the built in spelling dictionary. This way when it was their turn the game could hopefully proceed more quickly.

The game would have been improved if we did not have to pass the iPad around. This would be a simple matter of moving the tile placement action to the iPhone. This one change would have simplified the game play. Hopefully they will include this feature in some future version. Even better would be to make this something that Apple TV can do without the intermediate iPad.

In the end the family game night experience was pleasant. We surely plan to do it again. In fact my wife went out the next day and bought a proper Hasbro Scrabble board. I guess we will all have to learn how to keep score and learn the rules for challenging “QUA”.