Games People Play: Bananagrams

27 Jan

Games People Play is a series where I attempt to make the world a better place by encouraging more game playing.

This edition features a review of Bananagrams, also known as “Fruity Pun-Enhanced Speed Scrabble.” The game’s creators claim it is an “award winning* game that will drive you bananas.” Read on to find out if this game truly is the Top Banana.


Game play: Place the 144 Scrabble-ish tiles face down. Each player takes seven, and at the same time (there are no “turns” in Bananagrams) flips them over and begins to create intersecting words (each player should be essentially building their own crossword puzzle). When any player uses up all of their letters, they call out “Peel!” and every player has to take an additional tile (or two, depending on how you want to play) from the center. Continue playing until all of the tiles have been taken. The first player to use all of their letters wins.

Variations: Yes, a bunch (ahem…get it?). Develop an actual scoring system, to encourage longer words. Or require a thematic connection between words; players must justify how each word fits into a theme. Or reduce the level of chaos by just dividing all the tiles equally between players at the beginning – so there’s no “peeling,” but otherwise the same rules apply.

Fussiness: Minimal. All you need are the tiles, which come in a banana shaped pouch; and a big enough space to play. No board, no pencil or paper.

This game is fun for: People who see the word “stop,” and immediately think “pots, post, opts, tops, spot.” Fans of Boggle, Clabbers, or the Jumble. People who dislike slow things.

Risk of making someone feel bad: Low. Unlike Scrabble, Bananagrams is not a word snob game. Because of the speed element, most of the words played are short, well-known, and easy to spell. There’s less strategy as well – there’s no need to save the Q for a triple word score, for example. People who don’t do well in Bananagrams can simply blame the speed element, go off on a tangent about how the world is moving too fast anyway, and distract everyone from their lack of Bananagram skills by starting a tangential conversation about the Slow Food movement.

How to cheat: An interesting thing about Bananagrams is how easy it is to accidentally cheat by not taking your extra tiles because you’re just so focused on rearranging your board. I’m not saying I’ve ever done this, but it could happen. Stealthy cheaters can take advantage of this.

Benefits of playing: Improves dexterity. Good preparation for career as an anagrammist (that’s a real thing!). Raises potassium levels.

Upgrades: Yeah. It’s called Scrabble. Sorry, haters.

Verdict: Gwen Stefani said it best: This game is bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.

*Fact check: Bananagrams has won several awards including the Dr. Toy Best Products award, Creative Child Magazine’s 2007 Top Toy of the Year award, and the 2006 Play Matters Good Toy Award. Most recently, it won the Hannah Kane “Anagram This/Math Sangria/Asthma Grain/Giant Ashram” Award for Service to the Cause of Anagramming.


2 Responses to “Games People Play: Bananagrams”

  1. Peter January 30, 2010 at 2:05 am #

    You can play the very similar Speed Scrabble online.


  1. Board Game Theme Dinners! « Everybody’s Invited! - March 31, 2010

    […] (And, yes, we played Bananagrams. See my earlier review here.) […]

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