Monday, March 14, 2005

I'm addicted

Playing Scrabble - only, it's called Literati on Yahoo Games - is addictive. I find it especially fun because you can play against real people, real-time. Playing different games against the computer is one thing, but to pit your skill against human beings is the best way. On Yahoo Games, there are different levels and leagues and tournaments, but I have to admit I'm still only at the beginner level.
The thing is, even at that level, there are some awesome players... I can only imagine what the competition and skill levels are like at the tournament or league levels. I've never ventured into those areas - not even as an onlooker.

Also, I cant decide which plays the bigger role in winning - skill or luck. It takes skill to form words that garner the maximum points, it takes experience to spot and make use of the best openings, agreed. But it also is very much down to luck because you never know what sort of letters you're going to get. You might have letters with high individual points, but if you dont have the humble, single-point vowels to use along with them, you're sunk. On the other hand, too many vowels, and if at all you get to make any words, they dont really help increase your score by much.

I've been lucky enough sometimes to get the right mix of consonants and vowels... but even then I've been beaten by somebody who's better at spotting the best openings and making the most of them - so that DOES involve skill. And then again, I've ended up nearly crying with frustration because my opponent gets all the juicy letters and chances while I struggle to make a word - ANY word - with letters like N N N N D H G. Or possibly V X Q (terrible letter, that) R R G M.

Once, when all I had was 6 vowels and one consonant, and I could only make one-syllable words like "do", "one", "ma", my opponent asked me - at the end of the game - if I was actually an adult! I didnt know whether to laugh or cry at that point. (I may have done both, because Pete asked me why I was braying.Dismay)

Still... episodes like this dont stop me playing Literati. Because there have been glorious occasions when I could do nothing wrong, when I scored bingo (that's when you use all 7 letters at one go) more than once in a game. I've picked up some tips here and there from the better players (the only plus in losing!) on how to shoehorn in one letter that makes two or three words. The points add up then, believe me.

But what I really need to learn - even more important than Literati skills - is how to be ruthless. When I'm winning too easily, or if I keep getting "good" letters, I feel guilty about it, and unobtrusively leave chances open for the other person to lessen the score gap. And sometimes they make use of it and leave me lagging behind. Which is very annoying because then I feel that they're taking advantage of my generosity! I mean, they should be polite enough to close the gap, but not cross it! (Ok, contrariness is built into my very DNA itself.)

However, I've noticed that the best Literati players are the ones with no compassion. You might be lagging 150 points behind them, but they wont leave a single window of opportunity (so to speak) for you to catch up. And if THEY cant use a 3word-score box, they make sure that you cant use it either.

THAT'S how I need to play.

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