scrabbleI’ve mentioned this before on my own blog, and I wasn’t the first to do so. Now Carl Bialik of the Wall Street Journal joins the fray about tile values in Scrabble.

The issue: ever since the fourth edition of The Official Scrabble Players Dictionary added the words Za and Qi, the 70 year old tile values for Q and Z now no longer seem to make as much sense as they once did. Even before these additions, the regular use of two-letter words with J and X, such as JO, XI, and XU, also seemed to make playing these letters a tad easy compared to the score they give.

That makes the game luckier: the tile scores are supposed to offset the difficulty you will encounter in getting them out (and forming seven letter words with them). Without this difficulty, players who draw the bulk of the higher-valued tiles simply have an advantage, slightly offsetting the advantage that skill (anagramming and memorization) should be providing.

Carl notes that other games sometimes have similar imbalances, and that these imbalances are sometimes only noticeable to professional players but not amateurs, and therefore hard to change. Notwithstanding nostalgia for the original ruleset.

He also points to additional reading on the subject.

(source, source)