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/discovered that I simply like to call: Collaborative Bananagrams.

Where to buy

You can conveniently find the standard game of Bananagrams at most retailers, including Amazon (note: affiliate link).

How to play


As a team, the goal is to empty the Banana Bag as fast as possible.


Put the filled banana pouch on your table. That’s it!


Phase 1

  1. Unzip the Banana Bag, grab a handful of tiles (~21), and place them face-up on the table.
  2. Everyone plays simultaneously to make a single crossword at the center of the table that uses all face-up letters. We call this the “core”. Any part of the core can be modified at any time. All words in the core must respect the Important Rules below.
  3. When the core uses all the face-up letters, move on to phase 2.

Phase 2

  1. The person closest to the Banana Bag grabs a single letter from it. They tell everyone what their letter is. They must add this letter to the core while respecting the Important Rules outlined below. They can rearrange any part of the core as needed.
  2. The Banana Bag is passed to the player on the left, who repeats the steps above.
  3. Play continues clockwise until the Banana Bag is empty, at which time all players can claim victory!

Important Rules

  • All tiles forming the crossword must be connected into one big crossword; separated crosswords (i.e. touching only from corners of tiles) are not allowed.
  • Proper nouns (e.g. “Félix”) and acronyms (“LOL”) are never allowed.
  • Words must be read from left to right or top to bottom, as in typical crosswords.
  • Mistakes on the board must be resolved before normal play resumes. In other words, when a new letter is drawn from the Banana Bag, all the words in the core must be valid and all letters must be connected.
  • The use of the internet for word suggestions is not allowed, though it is allowed to verify others' words.

Additional Ways to Maximize Fun

You don’t have to add all of these twists to your game, though I personally recommend all of them since I feel they all contribute to make our games more alive and rewarding.

  1. Before beginning the game, give yourself an objective, such as beating your previous best time, finishing before the end of the lunch break, etc.
  2. For added pressure, when the timer is stopped, all words in the crossword must be valid, otherwise the team is disqualified.
  3. Since this is a collaborative game, players are encouraged to help each other, especially when someone seems stuck trying to place their letter during their turn. However, if a player wishes to come up with their own solution without help, the other players are encouraged to respect that (even if it feels annoying).
  4. Players can draw a tile from the Banana Bag before their own turn for a “buffered move”. They can use it to plan their next move, but they shouldn’t announce their letter yet. This technique helps when the group is pressed for time.
  5. Players may choose to skip their turn, leave or (re)enter the game at any time.
  6. Outsiders (“the board”) who are watching you play can voice their opinions about word legality and game state. Their feedback is binding, even if players disagree with it. In our experience, the best use of the board is to ask for their opinion when you are unsure about the legality of a specific word.
  7. All official languages are accepted (this is the best twist by far). Use this to your advantage, as it opens up more combinations of letters.
  8. When someone puts down a word you have never seen before, ask for what it means. It will help you remember it and it might come in handy in future games. Learning is fun!


Here is a 40 seconds video demonstration of the game being played:

Why I can’t stop playing 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 Bananagrams 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 with 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! 😁

We did it, within 54 minutes! 2023-05-16

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 off 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! My colleague Louis took it upon themself to start a game, and they managed to assemble a small crowd. It was a great day for bananas everywhere!

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. 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. 😃

If you give this game a try, please tell us your fastest time in the comments below. 🍌 Have fun!