Dabble is a word game that combines elements of Scrabble and crossword puzzles. Although I requested a sample copy ostensibly for my two sons, it also looked like something I’d enjoy playing too. While I don’t think it’ll replace a classic like Scrabble, I was delighted to find that it called for some different kind of thinking than those other word pastimes.
The letter tiles that come with Dabble look a lot like their Scrabble counterparts, and each letter has a point score on it as well. But there is no board in Dabble. Instead, it comes with four tile racks that have multiple tiers. The idea of the game is to take the 20 tiles drawn at the start and use them to build a two-letter word, three-letter word, four-letter word, five-letter word, and six-letter word. You get five minutes per round; if no one has completed the task within that time, you can discard the tiles you don’t want and draw new ones. The players continue until either someone has produced all the words — in which case, they win the total points of their opponents’ unused letters — or you decide to start over. The winner is the first to reach 100 points (or whatever score you agree upon).
The added limitation on word length, and the challenge to use all 20 tiles at once, made the game challenging and exciting. I found I was using a different part of my brain as I mentally sorted through the various combinations I could create (including contractions and possessive words, since Dabble comes with two apostrophes). On the other hand, because each person only focused on their own tile rack, the game was missing some of the interaction of traditional Scrabble. And one other minor annoyance was that the game used an egg timer, which meant you had to keep your eye on it, rather than a wind-up alarm that would make a sound when time was up. I suggest using your own kitchen timer or setting the alarm on your phone, rather than relying on it.
My kids also gave the game a try at their weekly teen boardgame meetup with their friends, and the group enjoyed it. It’s rated age 10 and up, but younger kids who enjoy word play would like it too.
After one recent family session, when everyone else was done playing, I also discovered that Dabble works well as a solo challenge as well. In fact, you can download Dabble apps for several devices.
The Dabble board game lists for $24.99, but you can get it cheaper on Amazon.
An interesting side note: Dabble was invented by 84-year-old tinkerer George Weiss of Brooklyn. Here’s a video of George explaining how Dabble is played: