If you’ve ever played Scrabble, you know the feeling of staring slack-jawed at your opponent for seemingly hours on end while he tries in desperation to form a word out of four E’s, a J and two O’s. Maybe in those impatient moments, you cursed the makers of the game for not imposing a time limit in the rules. Or maybe, you were just better-suited for a word game introduced in the 70s called Boggle.
Allan Turoff invented Boggle for Parker Brothers in 1973. The “original three-minute word search game” features sixteen six-sided dice peppered with different letters. These sit inside an enclosed tray where, after a generous shaking, they sit face up on a four by four grid. For the next three minutes, players scramble to scribble all of the possible word combinations they see. Words must be at least three letters in length and can be found by moving horizontally, vertically, or diagonally at any point in the word. Each letter in the tray can be used only once, but plurals and derivatives are fair game. Three minutes later, pencils drop and scoring ensues. A predetermined dictionary settles most disputes, and words common to any player are thrown out entirely.
Players quickly learn the crucial indicators and unerring strategy of Boggle. Many advocate the virtues of “reverse spelling.” At first glance, one searches for suffixes ed, er, ing, able, less, ition, and so on. A one point “cool” therefore becomes an eleven point “coolness.” For those not gifted in the art of “swell spell,” there are always anagrams. Perfect for nickel and diming your way up the scoreboard, anagramaniacs know that a word as simple as “point” could possibly yield up eight points with “pin,” “pit,” “nip,” “tip,” “top,” “pot,” and “pinto.” Of course, the ultimate, unbeatable Boggle coup comes with spelling “Inconsequentially,” “Quadricentennials,” or “Sesquicentennials,” the only possible letter combinations that use every space on the grid.
With advantages going to top spellers, Parker Brothers released numerous variations of Boggle to try and accommodate all comers. Big Boggle (later known as Boggle Master and Boggle Deluxe) added nine letters to the grid by upping it to five by five and prohibited the three letter words. Boggle Junior went in the other direction, simplifying things up for the little tykes. Travel Boggle (or Boggle Folio) is a compact version for the car. Parker Brothers also borrowed concepts from other games to liven up the already lively Boggle. Less popular than the original but noteworthy all the same are Body Boggle (Twister with letters instead of colors), Boggle Bowl (something of a microwave version of Scrabble), and Math Boggle (no real explanation needed for that one).
And then, there’s this nifty futuristic version:
While spelling perhaps isn’t the coolest game in the world, anyone who ever played Boggle can argue the inverse. Spelling, especially in under three minutes, is a game to be reckoned with. We hope you’ll share all of your Boggle memories with us in our comments section and help us all recollect this great little game together.