Boggle is played with 16 letter dice in a small 4x4 grid with a lid. (Big Boggle is the same with a 5x5 grid and 25 dice.)

One player shakes up the letters real good, nudges them all down into the holes in the grid, and reveals the result and starts a timer.

Now all players attempt to form words as follows:

  1. Start at any letter, and move to an adjacent letter orthogonally or diagonally.
  2. Each letter follows the next as above.
  3. Do not repeat the same die within a word, though you can repeat a letter if it appears on another die.
  4. No proper nouns. The usual other odd cases are similarly prohibited.
  5. There's a minimum length limit, usually 3 in basic Boggle and 4 in Big Boggle, though more skilled wordsmiths may wish to up these by one.
At the end, all players compare their lists. Any word which two or more players found is worth nothing. Thus, there is an incentive to try to find unusual words and words you don't think others will find.

The scoring used for unique words can vary. One system scores one point for 3 and 4 letter words, two points for 5 letter words, three points for 6 letter words, four points for seven letter words, and so on, adding one for each additional letter. Another system uses the Fibonacci numbers; the points for words up to length 6 are the same, but 7 letter words score 5, 8 letter words score 8, 9 letter words score 13, etc.

At the 1999 National Puzzlers League convention in a game of Big Boggle that I was playing with about 8 other people, somebody found the word international. Yes, it was really there, and didn't repeat any letters. Interestingly, several other people found inter and national but nobody else put them together. This was one of the most amazing feats of word gaming I've ever seen, and the 89 points for a 13 letter word blew away any chance of anybody else catching him.

This is a fun game, although it seems fewer and fewer people are interested in games that require them to be able to spell. Fortunately, it's also possible to play as solitaire. The original version uses a 4x4 grid of letters; various 5x5 versions exist (such as Boggle Deluxe, a.k.a. Big Boggle or Boggle Master), but these are all out of print at this time (2002-04-16).

Tactics

  • Look for "S"s and "E"s: Plurals are the easiest way to make longer words. Knowing where the "S"s are can help this quite a bit. "E"s are almost always useful, especially if they have any "S"s, "D"s, "I"s, or "R"s around them.
  • Look at what you write down: Some words make other words when spelled backwards: sag and gas, tang and gnat. Looking at them after you write them down might be easier than trying to find them on the grid. Check for substrings as well: there, here, her, ere, the.
  • Look for rhymes and common endings: If you find hold, there might also be bold, cold, told, fold, sold, etc. Don't forget that old is a word on its own, as well!
  • Some words start with vowels: It's very easy to forget this, and never even bother looking for them.
  • Find common triples: Some letters create lots of words, especially when they are in a triangle (or "L") configuration. Consider A-R-T (rat, tar, art) and A-E-T (ate, eat, tea).
  • Memorize lots of three-letter words: While they don't score many points, they are by far the most common -- and, if you don't record them, someone else might. Some good obscure ones are: tam, qua, roc, tor, mar, lei.
  • "Proper" nouns that are also common: Quite a few proper names have alternate meanings that allow them to be used: tommy, josh, ken, tony, sherry, curt.

House Rules

  • Alternate scoring method: This one is even easier to remember than the basic rules above. Each word is worth 2 less than its length. So, a three-letter word is worth 1 point; a four-letter word is worth 2, etc. Relative to the basic scoring method, this tends to reward unique words a little more
  • Writing plurals: When you find a word and its plural, the basic rules indicated that you have to write them seperately. I've found that using a notation like "+s" is sufficient; it's more important (to me) that people spend their time finding the words, not recording them.
  • Word challenges: If a player can provide a meaningful definition of the word, we tend to let it slide. Marginal words are often permitted, often with some give and take: I'll give you kludge if you give me snarf. This sort of bargaining is most often necessary when people want to use slang words that are in common use in their group, but are fairly rare in the overall language. When a dictionary is required, I find that The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary is very handy. Their rules for acceptable words are very similar, and the paperback version is small enough to take with you almost anywhere.
  • Misdeal: If a majority (or quorum) of the players think that the shake of the dice is boring or untenable, then it's time to shake the grid up again. Usually this is invoked only in dire straits, most often caused by having an insufficient number of vowels on the board.

Examples

E T M L
A E S B
S C O N
T G S A

I found these words: cost, cog+s, ate, tea, eat+s, tee+s, see, sea+s, scat, cat+s, met, son, goes, sans, boa+s, bog+s, cob+s, con+s, snog, test, meat+s, sat, sate+s

A H H O
P E N S
K E J O
R S L S

I found: nee, seen, see, peen, pee, peer+s, peek+s, eek+s, seek, reek+s, ape, pea, heap, pen+s, hen+s, ken, keep, neap, josh, sheen, sheep, sneer+s, sheer, jeer+s, lee, son, shone, she, sole, lone, one+s, slosh, sleep, perk

Details

The 16 dice have the following 96 letters on their faces:

 1. A E A N E G      9. W N G E E H
 2. A H S P C O     10. L N H N R Z
 3. A S P F F K     11. T S T I Y D
 4. O B J O A B     12. O W T O A T
 5. I O T M U C     13. E R T T Y L
 6. R Y V D E L     14. T O E S S I
 7. L R E I X D     15. T E R W H V
 8. E I U N E S     16. N U I H M Qu

If you're curious, this gives the following distribution:

A-6    H-5    O-7    V-2
B-2    I-6    P-2    W-3
C-2    J-1    Qu-1   X-1
D-3    K-1    R-5    Y-3
E-11   L-4    S-6    Z-1
F-2    M-2    T-9
G-2    N-6    U-3

I always wondered if the dice were designed according to any particular criteria, or if they were mostly randomly assigned. The only obvious observation is that none of the unique letters (J, K, Qu, X, Z) are on the same die.

A rough measure of how popular each die is can be found by summing the frequency for each letter on each face. One quick perl program later, and we have (sorted from least to most popular):

    die       sum  mean  sdev
------------  ---  ----  ----
A S P F F K    19  3.17  2.23
N U I H M Qu   23  3.83  2.14
O B J O A B    25  4.17  2.79
L N H N R Z    27  4.50  1.87
A H S P C O    28  4.67  2.16
R Y V D E L    28  4.67  3.27
I O T M U C    29  4.83  2.93
L R E I X D    30  5.00  3.41
T E R W H V    35  5.83  3.49
T S T I Y D    36  6.00  2.68
W N G E E H    38  6.33  3.88
E R T T Y L    41  6.83  3.25
O W T O A T    41  6.83  2.23
A E A N E G    42  7.00  3.46
E I U N E S    43  7.17  3.19
T O E S S I    45  7.50  2.07

Unfortunately, that doesn't show any particular trends. (Although, as yesno points out, it does mean that one cannot spell "FUCK", as the two 'F's and one 'K' are all on the same die.)

For comparison, the 100 tiles in a Scrabble set are distributed like this:

  A-9    H-2    O-8    V-2
  B-2    I-9    P-2    W-2
  C-2    J-1    Q-1    X-1
  D-4    K-1    R-6    Y-2
  E-12   L-4    S-4    Z-1
  F-2    M-2    T-6    Blank-2
  G-3    N-6    U-4

Bog"gle (?), v. i. [imp & p. p. Boggled (#); p. pr. & vb. n. Boggling (#).] [ See Bogle, n.]

1.

To stop or hesitate as if suddenly frightened, or in doubt, or impeded by unforeseen difficulties; to take alarm; to exhibit hesitancy and indecision.

We start and boggle at every unusual appearance. Glanvill.

Boggling at nothing which serveth their purpose. Barrow.

2.

To do anything awkwardly or unskillfully.

3.

To play fast and loose; to dissemble.

Howell.

Syn. -- To doubt; hesitate; shrink; stickle; demur.

 

© Webster 1913.


Bog"gle, v. t.

To embarrass with difficulties; to make a bungle or botch of.

[Local, U. S.]

 

© Webster 1913.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.