Bananagrams Tournament Rules

Revised: Wed Sep 14 10:52:12 EDT 2011. Please send suggestions for corrections to John Chew at

Bananagrams is a fast-paced word game that can be enjoyed by players of all ages and abilities. When you buy an official set, you get 144 letter tiles, which look like Scrabble tiles but without point values, a set of rules and a cloth banana skin to keep everything in. The original rules are fun, but when we play competitively, we use the following rules, which lead to fewer arguments and let everyone have fun together even when the World Scrabble Champion is playing with children.

1. Setup

Decide who is going to play: these rules can be enjoyed by one to six players. Everyone should sit within reach of the centre of the table, and have a working area of at least 40 cm by 40 cm (16 in by 16 in) in front of them.

Take all tiles out of the banana skin, lay them face down on the table to form the “pool”, and shuffle them around so that no one knows which is which.

Each player pulls two sets of tiles toward them, without turning them over. (If any get turned over, they must get mixed back in with the pool.) The first set is called the “handicap” set and should be closer to the player. The second set is called the “reserve” set and should be placed between the handicap set and the pool. The reserve set has ten tiles in it, the handicap set varies according to each player’s strength, see handicapping below. If a player is playing under these rules for the first time, they should take ten tiles in their handicap set.

2. Play

The object of the game is to arrange all of your face up tiles as quickly as possible into a “tableau”: a crossword-like arrangement where all tiles are connected, and any words in the crossword are acceptable in the current edition of the Official Club and Tournament Word List if they are 15 or fewer letters long, and in the current online edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary if they are longer.

You may consult a word reference at any time, to check whether a specific word is acceptable, but not to ask for a longer list of words that can be played.

You may at any time during the round set aside one of your face up tiles, draw three tiles from the pool, add them to your face up tiles, return the tile you set aside face down to the pool, and shuffle the pool.

If you make a tableau and you still have face down tiles remaining, say “Flip, X left.”, whereupon all players must turn over one of their face down tiles, and where X is the number of tiles that everyone will then still have face down. If two or more players say this at the same time, everyone turns over just one tile.

If you make a tableau and you have no face down tiles remaining, say “Done.” to end your round, and pay attention to the order in which other players finish. You may rearrange any or all of your tiles at any time until you have said “Done.”, and may not do so after you have said so.

If you discover after you have said “Done.” that your tableau is invalid (e.g., because it is disconnected, missing a tile, or has a phony in it), possibly as a result of having it pointed out to you, then you have not ended your round, and must resume building your tableau.

3. Scoring

Award 1 point to the player who finished last, 2 points to the player who finished second-last, and so on. After a predetermined number of rounds, the player who scored the most points wins.

4. Handicapping

When playing with two players, the player who finished first increases his/her handicap by one, and the player who finished second decreases his/her handicap by one.

When playing with three players, the player who finished first increases his/her handicap by one, and the player who finished last decreases his/her handicap by one.

When playing with four players, the players add +2, +1, -1 and -2 respectively when they finish first through fourth. For five players, adjust by +2, +1, 0, -1 and -2. For six players, adjust by +3, +2, +1, -1, -2 and -3.

A player's handicap may not drop below three, and should remain at three despite any negative adjustments.