Bananagrams is a word game that can be quickly summarized as “Real-time Scrabble without a board or points”. Its 144 letter tiles come in a banana-shaped pouch that looks adorable. The official way to play Bananagrams is simple enough (click here for the official rules). However, what I would like to discuss in this post is a variant I invented (?) by accident that I simply like to call: Collaborative Bananagrams. Here is a 40 seconds video demonstration of the game being played:
Rules of Collaborative Bananagrams
- Unzip the Banana bag, grab a handful of tiles (~21), and place them face-up on the table.
- Use all the tiles to make a crossword, known as the “core.”
- Pass the Banana bag to the person on your left.
- The player draws 1 tile and tries to fit it into the crossword. They can rearrange the crossword as needed.
- If the player successfully places a tile, they pass the bag to the next person. Play continues clockwise.
- The goal is to empty the Banana bag within a pre-defined time limit (e.g., 1 hour).
- All languages are accepted, but no internet use for word suggestions. Internet use is allowed to verify others' words.
- Players can draw a tile from the Banana bag before their turn for a “buffered move” to plan their next move.
- Players may choose to skip their turn.
- Mistakes on the board must be resolved before normal play resumes.
- Proper nouns and acronyms are not allowed as valid words for gameplay.
- Outsiders (“the board”) who are watching can voice their opinions about word legality and game state. Their feedback is binding.
- All tiles on the crossword must be connected; independent crosswords are not allowed.
Why I care about Collaborative Bananagrams
These rules create a collaborative and dynamic gameplay experience where players work together to build a complete crossword grid using the available tiles. The added twists, such as allowing different languages, buffered moves, and involving observers, add layers of complexity and interaction to the game. Overall, it seems like a great way to enjoy the word-building fun of Bananagrams in a collaborative and social setting. Kudos to you for coming up with this innovative variant!
As I have said earlier in this post, I discovered Collaborative Banagrams by accident. We had had the Bananagrams game in the office for some time, and when I had players to play with, we played it the official way. Unfortunately for me, there wasn’t anyone interested in playing most of the time. The fact that Bananagrams is by default a competitive game also seemed to rub people the wrong way (“Why would I play when I already know I will lose?")
I started playing Banana Solitaire to pass the time at lunchtime, and that seemed to get people’s attention. Slowly but surely, day by day, people would look at me and make comments, asking what game I was playing. I told them the truth: “I’m playing a crossword game, the goal is to finish the bag as fast as possible.” At that point, I was already playing it in bilingual mode, simply because that made it more fun for me.
Little by little, people started to join in. Someone dared to use a Spanish word, so I made the rules even more inclusive: use any language you know. Soon came the first Italian word, then the first Greek, the first Mandarin, the first Latin. The flood gates were open!
For weeks, every day I was at the office, I would rush to the cafeteria
at lunch to prepare the core using a handful of tiles and wait for someone
(anyone!) to jump in. I learned that people are more likely to jump in
if you play by yourself for a while instead of asking them to make a
move right away. It seems to make them feel more at ease when they can
see the game in action and see what it’s about. I would also post
pictures on Slack (in our
#office channel) to thank anyone who took
the time to participate me, along with the picture of our game. This was
great at creating memories and visibility:
After two months, we finally got our first win! 😁
It was incredible! We high-fived each other all around the table. People were cheering. We were genuinely psyched to have finally done it. Through teamwork, practice, and with determination, we pulled of what we initially thought was impossible.
My next highlight came the following week when I opened Slack while I was working from home and realized people played a game of Collaborative Bananagrams by themselves, pictures and all! Someone took it upon themselves to start a game, and they managed to assemble a small crowd. It was a great day for me.
From this point on, I saw that Collaborative Bananagrams could be more than a game. For me, it is a tool that has the potential to rewire relationships at the office. During gameplay, I enjoy using every opportunity I can to high-five people and make them feel valued. I see it in people’s eyes: they derive meaning from pulling of a complex move in front of everyone and getting rewarded for it. This can have a lasting effect on the rest of their day at work.
So there you have it: Collaborative Bananagrams! Feel free to try this concept at home or at your workplace and let me know what you think! I am still in the process of discovering the many ways Collaborative Bananagrams can be used to foster positive, fearless relationships in my current workplace, but I must say so far that I am quite happy with the initial results. 😃