Product Type: Bananagram board games
Newest Review: ... inlaid tiles are very solid plastic that is a pleasure to handle and that you just now is going to last for years. Game play starts w... more
Go Bananas about this Game!
Member Name: azana
Date: 04/03/12, updated on 04/03/12 (80 review reads)
Advantages: not boring at all, fast, fun and adaptable
In my time I've spent rather a lot of time playing games from Scrabble to Monopoly via Trivial Pursuit and the lesser known Dotty Dinosaurs, be it during interminable Christmases as a child - telly was banned, or with my own kids on rainy days. I've got to say, many board games leave me... bored, if you will excuse the pun.
Not this game, it's great!
Banagrams is a game that is manages to be deceptively simple to learn how to play whilst working on lots of levels and providing plenty of challenge and fun. The product itself is pretty well as pictured above; you get 144 letter tiles in a banana shaped pencil case which has a little tag with a summary of the rules which are explained in greater length in a leaflet inside. You can expect to pay anything from £8-£16 for the game, I am reliably informed that Father Christmas snapped it up for the lower figure on Amazon, where it seems to consistently appear amongst the most sold toys. It's actually good value in my opinion given how addictive and interesting the game actually is.
Both the tiles and 22cm long case are really good quality, the 2cm squared inlaid tiles are very solid plastic that is a pleasure to handle and that you just now is going to last for years. Game play starts with the letters, known as the "bunch" being placed face down on the table. If 2-4 people are playing you take 15 tiles, 5-6 and you take 11 tiles each if there are more than 7 of you. I've mainly played with 3-4 people, you need really to have some sound knowledge of spelling to be able to play, despite the manufacturer's guidelines I think your average 5 year old would struggle to play by themselves, the game really comes into its own for a fairly confident reader and it's fun for adults too - even the most anti board game ones, like me.
The twist in this game is that everyone plays at the same time, meaning there's no turn taking as such and each player makes their own words. Tiles are laid out like a crossword to make words horizontally and vertically and must interconnect, so for example you could make the word "table" and have the word "eggs" going down. You can make any configuration you like with the tiles you have.
In the main game (there are variations as I shall explain) when you have no tiles left you must say "peel" and take a tile, as must everyone else and if you have a letter that you don't want you can say "dump" and put it back in the bunch, taking 3 more tiles. Play ends when there are fewer tiles in the bunch than players and the first player with no tiles left after that is the winner, assuming all the words they wrote are correct, ie in the dictionary and not proper nouns.
I like the fact that playing this really gets your brain thinking, and for younger children it really helps them understand the challenges of spelling in English, like the different sounds two vowels can make - eg "ai" is "pain" but also "pair". When playing with children we do tend to help them with the spelling if they need help, and also have a dictionary to hand for any differences in opinion on the validity of a word. I assume that the tiles take into account the frequency of letters in the English language - there are lots of "E"'s and only one "X", but playing is certainly a reminder of how complex spelling in our language actually is. Everyone playing at once really does make things interesting and I like the fact that it's not necessarily the best or most prolific speller who wins, it's down to chance as well as skill and really is anyone's game! You could play one game which could last from 5-15 minutes or spend hours playing "best of 10" or more, it really is an open ended game which we all enjoy.
As well as being fun, Banagrams is very portable and adaptable, you can play shortened versions, eg whilst waiting to eat a restaurant you can just take 21 tiles each and designate the winner as the first to use all the tiles. You can also play the game like solitaire - my 8 year old really likes this way of playing and will make huge layouts of words with the tiles which we have also used for making learning spellings for tests more interesting.
I really like this game which fast became one of our favourites as soon as we got it and which is played with often, I think it was a great buy. I have yet to investigate the various puzzle books and the app that comes with this game, or the other connected fruit games (there is an apple and pear case as well as this), but this one is certainly a winner. Highly recommended by us.
Summary: a great game, full stop.
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