In thinking about games of Bananagrams I have played, I've realized that the amount of time it takes me to finish a grid can depend heavily on what letters I get and what order I get them in. Thus, the winner of any single game can depend heavily on the randomness of the drawn tiles.
Here is a way to take a massive amount of the randomness out of a Bananagrams game: Have someone who is not going to play, sort through all the letters and give each player an identical set of 21 (or however many) tiles to start off with. Also set up identical queues of tiles for each player to peel from. The outcome of such a match should be determined extremely strongly by the actual performances of the players.
Admittedly, it takes a lot of the drama out of the game and makes it a very different exercise. Played in a less competitive fashion, this would be a really strange and unique game: Imagine the reactions as all players peel a Q at the same time. It would be almost like everyone was sharing the same experience. Comparing grids at the end would also be interesting as it would better highlight the different approaches and tricks of each player.
This idea suggests to me a puzzle: Is there a way that two players could agree on an algorithm ahead of time which would allow them to make the same (or nearly the same) word grid? In principle, of course, you could just give them the same instructions as a Bananagrams-playing computer program, so the better question is whether there is a relatively simple way of doing it?
One more twist: It would be interesting to try to play a game where the objective was for players to make maximally similar grids. Without looking at the other player's grid, it would have a sort of mind-reading, Taboo-ish potential. If played where the players could look at the other players' grids (and where we would go back to a standard random drawing of tiles), it would add a sort of frantic element to gameplay.
If you try any of these Bananagrams variations or have ideas about solving the puzzle, feel free to contact me. I'd love to hear your game reports or other feedback.
UPDATE: Since writing this post, I've discovered that the Supernifty online speed Scrabble game (which I previously reviewed) actually implements the synchronization option that I described above. When one player starts a new Supernifty speed Scrabble game, they have the option (which appears to be the default) of having all players receive the same letters. This option can be changed by clicking on the link under the progress bar that counts down the time to the beginning of the game. So if you want to experiment with synchronizing your Bananagrams, you now just need two computers and a willing accomplice.