A blog for fans of Bananagrams, word games, puzzles, and amazing things

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Videos of the Omegathon Bananagrams tournament

A couple of short videos from the Bananagrams round of PAX East 2011 Omegathon have shown up on YouTube.

As I understand it, there were 24 Omeganauts at the beginning of the Bananagrams round and 12 after it. This suggests that each team played Bananagrams once and winning their match was essential to advancing.

The first video shows the beginning of a match between two teams.

Watching this video, you can see the difficulties in having two people work on the same grid, particularly at the beginning. The team that the camera spends most of the time on does a pretty good job of coordinating their grid formation verbally. Starting with the long word HASTILY was a smart move. Also, the first team was able to get off to a really fast start because they got an easy set of letters to work with. The other team had to contend with a J, a Q, and two Xs.

The second video anticlimactically cuts to when the match is already over, and there is some controversy over whether the word HASTILY is legal. It's not nearly as interesting as the first video, but I include it for completeness.

Further reading:

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Guess My Word - a fun word-guessing game

Imagine if you were trying to play Twenty Questions but weren't allowed to ask about the meaning of the word, only its position in the dictionary. Well somebody else imagined it first, wrote it up, and put it online.

It's called "Guess my word!", and each day there is a new word to guess.

You start by making some initial guess about where the word might be in the alphabet:

You find out where the word is with respect to your guesses (with the closest words being highlighted in blue and red (indicating before and after, respectively)):

And after a number of guesses, eventually you should converge on the word:

...after which you can enter your name to appear on the leaderboard and check out other people's times and guesses. It's a good way to work on your active vocabulary when you are not playing Bananagrams...

You can play Guess My Word by clicking here. If you really like it, there are now two separate words you can play each day. Plus there is a new iPhone app called Lexicographer which is a little different, and for which I have written a separate review.

The best thing about this game is that you can also easily play it offline as a two-person game. You can take turns thinking of the secret word and guessing, and since this can be played without pen and paper (as long as you can remember the two current bounding words), it makes a great game to play in the car.

Further reading:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Follow-up on Bananagrams at PAX East 2011 and Bananagrams doubles

Since this year's PAX East Omegathon paired up players into teams, the Bananagrams round was played in doubles mode. The picture below (from the official Bananagrams Twitter feed), shows a winning grid from the first round of the Bananagrams part of the Omegathon.

I attempted to read off the words from the grid and got:
   H A     P
  AS         A
   EEL    FIAT
     E  Z U  E
     A  O E  N
     D COIL
   A R U
   K   MUTER
   EON   I
    N   ME

A few comments on this picture: The grid incorporates a lot of the short words that I find myself using including EEL, EON, YET, and ZOO (two ZOOs, actually). CHUM also seems like a useful word to have in one's Bananagrams vocabulary. And observe the left and right branches of the grid and the way that the players have positioned themselves. If both players are right-handed, it seems to make sense for the player on the right to move closer to the table, so he can more easily reach the upper-right corner of the board with his right hand and still easily cover the lower-right corner of the board. You can see a similar posture adopted in photos of other teams.

It appears that the player on the left sometimes also turns toward the center; this is probably the best strategy, as it will allow the left hand to contribute more.

I've wanted to experiment with Bananagrams doubles for a while now. Knowing that it has been successfully played in the Omegathon gives me confidence that Bananagrams can work well as a team game.

UPDATE: Some video from the Omegathon Bananagrams round is now up

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bananagrams to be an event at the PAX East 2011 Omegathon

PAX (Penny Arcade Expo) is a semi-annual convention for fans of video games that also includes a few sessions about role-playing games, interactive fiction, and board games. A major event at every PAX is the "Omegathon", a multi-round game tournament for which the twenty (this year, thirty) contestants are chosen randomly from the pre-registered PAX attendees. The Omegathon always features a different set of games. Past selections have included Mario Kart, Doom, Connect Four, Dance Dance Revolution, Tetris, skee-ball, and Pong. The four games that have been announced so far for the March convention in Boston are Katamari Damacy, Operation, Jenga, and Bananagrams. While it won't be a tournament between the best Bananagrams players, I expect that there will be coverage of the event through video or other media, and it will be interesting to see how the competition is set up and how it plays out.

The Omegathon has never before included a word game. Bananagrams will be the first.

Further reading