Tile tracking is a technique most commonly associated with the game of Scrabble and similar word games. It refers to the practice of keeping track of letters played on the game board, typically by crossing letters off a score sheet or tracking grid as the tiles are played. Tracking tiles can be an important aid to strategy, especially during the endgame when there are no tiles left to draw, where careful tracking allows each player to deduce the remaining unseen letters on the opponent's final rack. The marking off of each letter from a pre-printed tracking grid as the tiles are played is a standard feature of tournament play.
Tracking sheets come in many varieties, and are often customized by players in an attempt to make the manual process of recording, tracking and counting tiles easier, more intuitive, and less prone to error.
Accurate tile-tracking depends upon knowing the total letter distribution and letter frequency of the game and then reproducing each tile in its correct frequency to facilitate the "accounting" of each letter as tiles are played. Pre-printed forms are popular for Scrabble games because they eliminate the need to continuously create such a list for each new game.
While Scrabble-branded 'tracker sheets' are available for purchase, customized tracking sheets of all types can be found freely available for downloading online, usually in .pdf format to facilitate printing. Scrabble club websites are the most common source for free pre-printed tracking sheets, and players often create their own tracking sheets.
The introduction of Scrabble for computerssaw the practical application of automated score-keeping, but the rapid technological advances brought about by computers and the internet seemed only to serve the wider distribution of pre-printed tracking grids via downloads in terms of new tile-tracking tools.
Some websites offer online tile-tracking alternatives to paper and pencil. Users are required to manually input played tiles via the keyboard, and the input is then subtracted from a separate letter pool representing total tile distribution. The user then counts or otherwise calculates the status of the remaining tiles. Notes are made on a separate piece of paper as necessary. The user is still tracking and counting tiles manually, and the risk of receiving an inaccurate count through human error remains roughly equal to the non-technological option.
The migration of Scrabble to mobile devices and the popularity of the digital exclusive Words with Friends has seen the introduction of a dedicated tile-tracking app exclusively for games played on mobile app devices that automates the process of tracking tiles and requires no manual input.
The benefits of tracking and counting tiles are widely known among competitive Scrabble players and tile tracking is considered a standard part of tournament play.By tracking played tiles, players can learn more about what tiles remain unseen (either in the bag or on their opponent's rack), and can use that information to make strategic decisions about what tiles to hold, which squares to block, and which tiles to play to create advantages.
Tile tracking provides much of the data required to make many of the strategic decisions a player makes in the course of a game, and it has a key role in other strategic elements, including rack and board management.It is considered especially critical in the end game (when there are no tiles left in the bag and seven or fewer tiles on each player's rack). At this point, ‘Scrabble is chess’ If both players have tracked the tiles correctly, each knows what tiles sit in the other's final rack. Assuming a close game, the win will go to the player who can plan and calculate the best move while taking into consideration the other player's possible responses—winning a close game by blocking an opponent's big play or setting up a high-scoring play the opponent cannot block.
Scrabble champion John Holgate notes that tile-tracking is particularly important in tight "bobbing" finishes when the bag is empty, and that many games are lost through "just not knowing what tiles your opponent has on her rack. You simply cannot calculate possible permutations if you are unsure about which letters are relevant."
Tracking can also tell a player if the bag is ‘vowel-heavy’ or 'consonant-heavy', how many S's or blanks are unseen, if an opponent is likely to have a bingo on their rack, or which tiles to play or conserve.For example, if Alice has the option of playing J(I)NN or J(I)LL, and four N's and zero L's remain unseen, then assuming both plays are otherwise equal (in terms of score, openings for the opponent), J(I)NN is likely the better play.
Letter frequency lists for both Scrabble and Words with Friends are easily accessible (some versions of Scrabble have the tile distribution directly on the board) and, unlike word lists, using them is not against tournament rules.
Whether done mentally, using a paper and pencil to track tiles, accessing a website program or a tile-counting app on mobile devices, every player has the same level of access to the same amount of readily available data——and even those unfamiliar with tile tracking as a studied technique are 'tracking tiles' every time they note that the 'Q' is still unseen or when they count the number of 'S's on the board before playing a word that can take an S hook to the opponent's advantage.
Manual tile tracking can take away game time that would otherwise be used for finding words and making decisions about where to play them. Inaccurate tile tracking can lead to mistakes, such as setting up a spot for the player's 'S' when the opponent also has an 'S', or failing to block a winning play from the opponent. John Holgate, five-time winner of the Australian Championship recalls winning a game in the 1993 World Championship because his opponent inadvertently crossed off two ‘S’s with one stroke and failed to block the last S-hook.
The traditional method of manual tracking and counting tiles is generally understood to be a tedious and time-consuming practice.As a result, some players track tiles in a simplified manner, usually by mentally tracking and counting the letters considered ‘key’ in any game: the Q, J, Z, X, the esses and the blanks. Often, it can take several months to a year for players to track all 100 tiles consistently without affecting their game play.
The idea that an opponent can 'know what's in your rack' or have knowledge to what tiles remain unseen has been labeled in some discussions and reader comments related to Words with Friends as 'outside help'or 'borderline cheating.' and or using AI or Artificial Intelligence. While the practice of tile-tracking is considered an acceptable part of Scrabble and sanctioned by NSA and NASPA rules, there is much colloquial evidence to suggest that tile-tracking as both a legitimate technique and a strategic tool is not widely known outside of the Scrabble community. The similarities to the technique to 'card counting' is credited as contributing to some of the confusion among novice players.
Zynga's Words with Friends online game includes tile-tracking as a paid feature, known as 'Peeks'. This received some criticism as being a form of "cheating" that the Zynga both condones and profits from.The author concludes the article lamenting that Zynga's strategy was a threat to the integrity of the game, because of what it might cause 'loyal Scrabblers' to 'think' about the Words with Friends player: "I seriously doubt that loyal Scrabblers are going to be happy when they find out that the reason their friend has been winning lately is because he paid an extra $10 to have an advantage."
The value of tracking and counting tiles becomes apparent once a player understands that the game of Scrabble is as much about math as it is about vocabulary.Once possible plays have been discovered, the strategic decisions to be made have been described as being as "dark and complex as a forest."
Scrabble is a word game in which two to four players score points by placing tiles, each bearing a single letter, onto a game board divided into a 15×15 grid of squares. The tiles must form words that, in crossword fashion, read left to right in rows or downward in columns, and be included in a standard dictionary or lexicon.
Upwords is a board game invented by Elliot Rudell and originally published by the Milton Bradley Company, now a division of Hasbro. Worldwide marketing rights to Upwords have been licensed to Spin Master Inc. by Rudell Design, LLC as of 2018. Upwords is similar to Scrabble or Words With Friends, in that players build words using letter tiles on a gridded gameboard. The point of difference is that in Upwords letters can be stacked on top of other letters already on the gameboard to create new words. The higher the stack of letters, the more points are scored. This typically makes words built in later turns of the game more valuable than earlier words, increasing play intensity and adding a level of strategy unique to Upwords. The memorization of two-letter words is considered a useful skill in this game.
Anagrams is a tile-based word game that involves rearranging letter tiles to form words.
Boggle is a word game invented by Allan Turoff and originally distributed by Parker Brothers. The game is played using a plastic grid of lettered dice, in which players attempt to find words in sequences of adjacent letters.
Maven is an artificial intelligence Scrabble player, created by Brian Sheppard. It has been used in official licensed Hasbro Scrabble games.
Scrabble is an American television game show based upon the Scrabble board game. Muriel Green of Exposure Unlimited developed the idea for a television game show based upon the board game concept. During 1983, Green convinced Selchow and Righter, who at that time owned the Scrabble board game, to license Exposure Unlimited to produce the game show. Exposure Unlimited co-produced the show with Reg Grundy Productions, and licensed the show to NBC. Scrabble aired on NBC from July 2, 1984, to March 23, 1990, and again from January 18 to June 11, 1993. Chuck Woolery hosted the program. Jay Stewart was the announcer for the first year and was replaced by Charlie Tuna in the summer of 1985, who announced for the remainder of the original version and the entirety of the 1993 revival.
Super Scrabble is a board game introduced in 2004 and a variant of Scrabble. It is played on a 21×21 grid board instead of Scrabble's usual 15×15, and uses twice as many letter tiles.
Scrabble variants are games created by changing the normal Scrabble rules or equipment.
Francophone Scrabble, or French-language Scrabble, is played by many thousands of amateurs throughout the world and the Fédération internationale de Scrabble francophone has more than 20,000 members. Just as in English, points are scored by playing valid words from the lettered tiles. In French there are 102 tiles - 100 lettered tiles and two blanks known as jokers. The official word list for Francophone Scrabble is L'Officiel du jeu Scrabble.
In the game of Scrabble, a challenge is the act of one player questioning the validity of one or more words formed by another player on the most recent turn. In double challenge, if one or more of the challenged words is not in the agreed-upon dictionary or word source, the challenged player loses her/his turn. If all challenged words are acceptable, the challenger loses his/her turn.
Bananagrams is a word game invented by Abraham Nathanson and Rena Nathanson of Cranston, Rhode Island, wherein lettered tiles are used to spell words.
Scrabble ME is a variation on the classic board game Scrabble, where each player plays on their own small board as opposed to all players playing on one main shared board. It was published by Winning Moves Games USA in 2008 but is no longer in production.
The Computer Edition of Scrabble is a computer game developed by Leisure Genius for the Macintosh in 1988, and was an official computerized version of the board game Scrabble.
Words with Friends is a multiplayer word game developed by Newtoy. Players take turns building words crossword-puzzle style in a manner similar to the classic board game Scrabble. The rules of the two games are similar, but Words with Friends is not associated with the Scrabble brand. Up to 40 games can be played simultaneously using push notifications to alert players when it is their turn. Players may look up friends either by username or through Facebook, or be randomly assigned an opponent through "Smart Match". Players can also find potential opponents using Community Match.
Scrabble Showdown was an American game show created for the American cable network The Hub. The program was based on the board game Scrabble and was hosted by Justin Willman. It ran from September 3, 2011, to April 15, 2012.
Word Streak is a word game developed by Zynga with Friends for iOS and Android and released in January 2012. Gameplay is similar to that of Boggle—players try to find as many words as possible in a jumbled 4x4 grid of letters by connecting adjacent letters to form words within a two-minute time frame - though with extra features and a different scoring system. Words may be formed vertically, horizontally, and diagonally. Scramble with Friends is one of the top ranking games in the iOS application store, available as both a free ad-supported version and an ad-less paid version. Scramble with Friends replaced Scramble Challenge at the end of 2011, but did not retain the solitaire option of the latter.
WordZap is a puzzle video game designed by Michael F.C. Crick, son of scientist Francis Crick. In 1991, it was included with Volume 3 of the Microsoft Entertainment Pack and was later released by Jaleco for the Game Boy in 1992. An updated version for newer editions of Microsoft Windows is available on the game's official website as shareware. The game has been compared with Scrabble and Boggle; in WordZap, players race to make words proper English words to fill their rack of words, but when one player makes a word already found by the other player, the word is "zapped" from both player's racks. Each round ends when either one player fills the word rack, or time runs out without either player being able to make another word.
Fightin' Words is a multi-player, multi-platform word game developed by InterWorks, Inc. The game was designed as a mobile software application for mobile phone users. In the game, players compete against each other by creating words on a Scrabble style game board. The game was first developed for BlackBerry, as the BlackBerry App World lacked Words With Friends style games. The game is now available for BlackBerry and Android systems, allowing for cross-platform gameplay.
Ruzzle is a mobile game developed by Swedish gaming company MAG Interactive and was first published in the Apple Store in March 2012. Ruzzle is inspired by the classic board games Boggle and Scrabble. The game is highly social and based on online matches, requiring the player to find an opponent who can be appointed randomly by the system from online users, chosen from a list of friends set by the player, or selected from amongst their Facebook friends. Ruzzle is now available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phones.
Scrabble is an official computerized version of the board game of the same name.