Product Type: Mattel board games
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Scrabble Has Never Been So Cut-throat!
Mattel Scrabble Trickster
Member Name: GodfatherOfSoul
Mattel Scrabble Trickster
Date: 26/03/12, updated on 19/02/13 (141 review reads)
Advantages: More fun, more competitive and more ruthless.
Disadvantages: Squabbling will come thick and fast!
Scrabble Trickster by Mattel
I would bet a considerable sum of money that the vast majority of people reading this review have at least heard of that time-honoured family favourite that is a game of Scrabble. Most of us will have played it at some point and have our own stories to tell of family fall-outs, unscrupulous tactics and dodgy wordplay. And then there is the occasional harmonious game where everyone gets along.
Mattel clearly decided that board games were not venomous enough and thus have presented us with a new form of Scrabble called Trickster. Scrabble Trickster is very similar to regular Scrabble and the basic rules and points scoring systems remain in place. You still have 100 letter tiles all with their classic points value and the aim is of course to outscore your opponents when the letters run out. I will not give a run-down of the rules of Scrabble because I think for most people these are already well-known and can easily be found online if not.
I will however point out the differences between regular Scrabble and Scrabble Trickster.
The board layout is very similar to the classic board with its 15 x 15 squared grid and usual double and triple letter/word squares. The crucial difference here is the addition of a new square - the Trick Square! If you make a word that runs through one or more of these trick squares then you get to pick up a 'trick card' from the pile. These trick cards can then be played throughout the game to help you amass your overall points total. Each trick card has an action on it which you keep secret from your opponents and can play (usually) at the start of your next go.
I will not spoil the surprise by detailing each trick card as I think the first few games are very fun when you don't know the details of the tricks. As a taster though I will give you a few examples - 'Steal a tile from your opponent's rack', 'Turn one of your tiles face down and use it as a blank' and 'Steal your opponent's last score'. These give you an idea of the type of underhand actions that the trick cards allow you to make legally. The latter example is also a sure-fire way to make a new worst enemy and the general feeling towards the player playing any trick card is "You jammy so-and-so" but not necessarily as polite! Pretty much every time-treasured rule of Scrabble can be broken with the use of these trick cards.
There are 22 trick cards in total and you can only pick them up when you play a word that runs over a trick square. If you make a word that covers three previously unused trick squares then you can pick up three trick cards. You do not have to use every single card you pick up but you can only hold a maximum of three at any one time.
The rules are not exhaustive regarding this and we have had to make our own rules up regarding the disposal of trick cards to pick new ones up. We have it so that you can only discard one trick card in a game so if you have three tricks you do not want to use and have already discarded one then tough. This adds to the fun of the game by stopping someone running through all the trick cards to find the best ones whilst other players do not get a look in.
To keep your trick cards the letter racks of classic Scrabble have had a revamp. They now have a thin slit across the top of the rack for you to slot your cards in. This way you can see which cards you have without your opponents seeing them.
The main downside to the trick cards (despite the squabbling) is the complication it can cause when adding up points. It is not unusual for someone in our house to score a total of 150+ points using a combination of trick cards. After the collective sigh from the group has subsided, the person unfortunately appointed chief scorer has to begin the laborious task of adding up each double letter, triple word and trick card computation. This slows the game down a bit and can be tricky at times.
That aside, the addition of trick cards is a brilliant idea in my opinion. It adds a great deal of fun to the game and is a refreshing revival for the classic game. Since buying Scrabble Trickster we have rarely played Classic Scrabble and usually always opt to play with its younger cooler brother. With three of us, games can last around 40-60 minutes which is a little longer than we find with the classic version. This is because everyone seems to take longer to take their goes as they mentally tot up all the various points scoring scenarios regarding their trick cards and deliberate risking a treasured friendship by playing a devilishly mean trick card.
On the whole though, we find Scrabble trickster is much more fun than the classic version and every game turns out differently depending on who gets which trick cards. The potential for high scores escalates and the thrill of scoring 200 points in a single turn is certainly exciting even if does not endear you to your opponents. This means that a game is never quite over until the last tile is played no matter how big a lead someone may have.
As with classic Scrabble, Trickster can be played with 2-4 players but you can include more people if some players play together in a team. I have played with five players before where two people combined to make a team. It is worth pointing out, for my own amusement, that double the brain power did not work on this occasion and they still came in a resounding last place.
This leads me onto a worthy advantage of Scrabble Trickster. Whereas luck will always play a role in the outcome of a game, Trickster significantly levels the playing field. Having the best vocabulary, although definitely an advantage, no longer means you are a shoo in for victory on most occasions. Average players can haul back the advantage by playing trick cards and dishing out their share of treachery and wicked behaviour. As a result, everyone is in with a shout of finishing on top due to the added luck element of the trick cards. This makes Scrabble much more appealing for some and the suggestion of a game is not met with as many groans as its classic version attracts.
Another plus point of Scrabble Trickster is that it becomes a much more personal and involved game than it ever used to be. We would regularly cruise through games of the classic kind with such monotony and quietude that the dialogue exchanged could be written on a postage stamp. With Trickster, there is a greater sense of energy around the game and everyone is glued to the board whilst plotting their menace (or revenge!) and trying desperately to become victorious. It becomes less about the letters and more about the person sat opposite. I still have to exact my vengeance on the person who dared to cross my path on the last outing resulting in me falling short of victory by an agonising three points!
Of course, how personal you decide to take the game depends entirely on your disposition and those you choose to play with. You can of course laugh it off when someone steals your precious points haul or snatches the last trick card remaining in the pile but then where is the fun in that? In my mind, and the minds of my enemies...I mean fellow players, it is all about dishing out as much villainy and wickedness as you dare get away with!
So, would I recommend Scrabble Trickster? The answer is an unreserved yes! If you like Scrabble but want something with a little more bite then this game is a must buy. If you do not like the sound of the traditional Scrabble game being altered so much then this may not be for you. However, I think Trickster makes Scrabble much more fun and definitely much more competitive. The trick cards level the playing field and every game is an event in itself. Just remember one thing - Revenge is a dish best served cold!
In the box:
Scrabble Trickster Game Board
100 letter tiles
22 trick cards
Red cotton drawstring letter bag
4 x Black letter racks
Card showing all possible 2-letter words
Scrabble Trickster is currently available from Amazon.co.uk for £13.07 (with free postage) and can also be found in all good games stores.
Thanks for reading :)
Summary: A refreshing renewal of the classic game.
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