MDA – Bananagrams

One of my favorite games is Bananagrams, a simple game that my friends and I have dedicated game nights to play. The mechanics of Bananagrams are fairly simple. Physically the game consists of a set of letter tiles that are assembled into personal scrabble-like crosswords. These tiles create two mechanics: the center pile and your individual hand of tile. Throughout the game there are two action mechanisms player can take: “Peel”ing and “Dump”ing. Both of these have an affect on player’s hands. Using “peel” requires every player to draw another letter from the pile. Using “Dump” allows you to dump a letter you don’t want to use back into the center pile and take 3 new letters. 

Time is a key mechanism that plays into the competition of the game. Each player is trying to complete a fully formed personal crossword before the other player. This speed competition creates different strategy dynamics within the game that are also affected by the types of players in the game. If one player in the game is much faster at completing crosswords than the other players, this can cause other players to strategically create crosswords out of common short words to speed up their time. If the players in the game set an environment of taking your time to come up with unique pairings of more complex words, this can transform the time pressure off of the game into a more intellectual pressure. The dynamic of sabotage plays into the game through the mechanism of Peel. If multiple players peel in a short amount of time they inundate the other slower players with more letters in their personal hands. This can have two effects. it could allow the player to draw a letter that they desperately need like a “U” if they already have a “Q” in their hand, effectively giving them a leg up and an opportunity to take the lead. It also could further leave losing players in the dust, since they were having a hard time creating a crossword with a smaller hand and now have much more letters to handle. “Dumping” creates the dynamic of self-sacrifice. You are intentionally giving yourself a more difficult hand with more letters in hopes that eliminating a difficult letter can turn the tide on your hand. 

These dynamics all contribute to aesthetics of Challenge, Competition, Fellowship, and Submission within the game. The act of assembling letters into a dynamically growing crossword is a fun past-time to exercise your brain and vocabulary. Since your hand is constantly changing throughout the game, this creates an ever changing challenge to continually adapt your strategy to assemble your crossword. Inherently, competition is core to the gameplay. However, one of my favorite parts of Banagrams when I play it with my friends is how competition quickly turns to fellowship once the game ends. Typically at the end of our games we finally turn our attention from our personal crossword and look around the table to admire the crosswords each of the other players were able to build within the round. This time of admiration allows us to all improve because we learn from different effective words or strategies other players have employed and use them in our future rounds.

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