Triple Word Score: Gaming Philosophy and Scrabular Impotence
My wife Anne is one of those Scrabble players who regularly scores between 350 and 400 in a two player game. I am one of those Scrabble players who is lucky to break 150 without opening the dictionary to find out if the collection of mysterious glyphs laid out before him can somehow be assembled into a legal word that is more complicated than one you would find in a Dick and Jane book.
I do not provide even a nominal challenge, and where the average player would experience something akin to fun while playing a game, I experience only frustration. Yet she insists that we play together. "Making words is fun," she says, oblivious to my failure to use all my letters even once in the decade we've been playing. But since she puts up with me describing everything in the world in RPG terms ("Some idiot cast Freezing Cloud out there! I thought I'd have picked up some Resist Cold with all my trips to Seattle, but I just took 1d8 going fifteen feet to the garage and back, and I keep failing my saves even though I'm back in the house.") the very least I can do is provide some companionship while she makes the Scrabble board (and me) her bitch.
For several months, I have been able to avoid the humiliation of putting my Scrabular impotence on full display, but when she asked me to play last night after dinner, her breathtaking beauty illuminated only by the twinkle lights on our tree and the flickering glow of our fireplace, I failed to save vs. Charm and went directly to our game closet. I looked past games that would be fun for me to play, like Battlelore, Carcassonne, Guillotine, The Awful Green Things from Outer Space ... even Uno and Sorry. Enslaved by her spell, I pulled Scrabble off the shelf and took it to the living room. Our dogs curled up on the floor next to us as we began to play.
I drew an X. She drew an E. It was an unnecessary harbinger of things to come. She went first, and instantly took a twenty point lead. I scored seven, much better than usual. Four or five turns later, she played SEXY for a triple word score, and I never caught up. It was a blowout. I was Custer at Little Bighorn, Varro at Cannae, The Broncos at Superbowl XXIV.
With about twenty tiles remaining in the bag, I saw a chance to draw within 40 points. I had QIEEB after I'd played an ineffectual two letters for a humiliating three points. If I drew a T, N, or R, I could place the Q on a triple word score, build off the U in FUGUE, and make QUIET, QUEER, or QUEEN.
I drew the T and held my breath, for Murphy's Law of Scrabble is that, with 85 potential places to play, your opponent will always play in the one place that leaves you thoroughly fucked.
Anne put down two tiles, building off the F in FUGUE and blocking me.
"Are you fucking kidding me?" I said.
"It's a bundle of sticks," she said.
"I know what it is," I said. "But you couldn't have made ... WAG? TAG? NAG? HAG?" I pointed to four of the eighty-five potential places she could have played on the board.
"I'm sorry," she said. "Do you want me to play in a different place? Because it'll be the same score."
This is how it always is when we play games together. She isn't competitive, she is blissfully unaware of my anguish as I attempt to match her score. She doesn't know that if she doesn't double my score, I consider it a small moral victory.
"No," I said, "I'll find another place to play." I found it and put my tiles down. "That will be two points." She recorded my score. I noted that she wasn't doubling it by ten points and resolved to close the gap.
I failed. With only a U and an I to play, I was down by over 100 points and just wanted the game to be over.
"Okay, I play the U here and make VUX." I said.
"What's VUX?" She asked.
"Oh you don't know? It's what it's called when you suck so hard at scrabble that you just make up a word so the damn game can be over. It's like, 'My wife kicked my ass so hard, I just went for the VUX.'"
She looked at me and slowly shook her head. I took the tile off the board and replaced it with the I.
"VIX?" She said.
"Yeah, VIX is what it's called when you try to VUX and your wife cockblocks you. Like, 'I tried to VUX, but my wife totally VIXed me."
She looked at me again, and laughed.
I joined her. "I concede," I said. "You are the ultimate master of Scrabble."
She leaned over the board and kissed me. "Thanks for playing with me," she said. "I love you."
Our gaming philosophy is simple: it's not about winning or losing, it's about enjoying the time you spend playing it. This is why Anne puts up with my VUXing, and I come back for more, even when she VIXes me.
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