Bananagrams is a word play game where players will collect letter tiles to create words in their own intersecting grid. To do this, players must first use up their 11-21 starting letter tiles. After they will shout “peel,” to collect more letters from the middle of the table. Once these have depleted, players race to place their tiles. If a player manages to add all their tiles into their grid they exclaim, “Bananas!” If the player’s grid checks out and there are no misspelt or made-up words, they are victorious and are heralded, Top Banana.
Sounds easy enough? But like most word games, Bananagrams can be difficult as you race to the end and get stuck with a dreaded ‘Q’. So here are my top tips to help you become, Top Banana!
Go Big Or Go Home
To win Bananagrams you need to get off the line quick. To give yourself the best head start you need to create the longest word you can out of your starting letters. A long word at the beginning means 2 things; you use more of your letters, and you have more letters to expand from. A long starting word also means your grid will be spacious as you have more letters to network from.
To Prefix Or Suffix
Knowing prefixes and suffixes will help you a lot in this game. For those not common with these terms let me break it down. A prefix is something which you can add before the stem of a word to turn it into something else. For example, if you have ‘usual’ in your grid you can add the prefix un- to turn it into ‘unusual’. A suffix is the opposite, so it's something that is added to the end like –ful, -er, -ed, -ing, -ly, -ent, -est, -ity and more. Knowing key prefixes and suffixes can help you shed letter tiles quickly and adapt words in your grid.
Similar to prefixes and suffixes it's good to choose words which can easily be adapted into others. So, you can start with a 3-letter word like ‘hat’ and eventually turn it into; ‘that’, ‘hate’, ‘thatch’ and more. You can then adapt these words with suffixes like ‘hated’ or ‘hateful’ to really stretch your letters. Having flexible words means you can add letters quickly and expand faster.
When To Dump
One mechanic in Bananagrams lets you dump. Dumping is where you put 1 letter back in the middle and pick up 3 new ones. It’s a great way to get rid of pesky letters but it also lands you with more tiles to shed. Dumping is best used in the early game because there are more tiles to choose from and you can hide the letter you didn’t want. Also, as you have more letters to choose from, you are likely to get vowels or common consonants that will help you develop your grid. Dumping in the late stages is risky as you have less letters to choose from and are more likely to pick up something worse. It can be dangerous to dump excessively, so use it wisely.
Mix It Up
Sometimes it is easy to get attached to your grid. However, don’t be afraid to mix it up and get rid of words to make space for new ones. Take time in the early game to change up your grid and expand on the length of your words. Your starting grid will not be the one which sees you all the way to the end. Nothing is fixed in Bananagrams and if you get fixated on keeping everything you will find it hard to add. But be careful, too much shuffling will leave you with nothing as other players hurtle towards the end. When mixing it up make sure you are adhering to the other tips to make it worthwhile.
Like Scrabble, two letter words are a lifesaver. Absorbing a two-letter dictionary before entering a Bananagrams game can give you that winning edge. Quick two-letter words can keep you peeling faster and help you tidy away those rogue tiles as you draw closer to the end. It may be hard to remember them all but here are some good ones to keep in mind.
Qi, ax, za, ew, pa, pi, re, se, ti, ta, xu, xi and sh.
Although mixing up your grid is a good strategy in the early game, you don’t want to be doing this late on. If you spend too much time mixing up your grid you will lose valuable time. Instead, you want to build your grid as wide as possible to avoid running into dead ends. If you build your grid wide, you’ll have more letters to grow from and more possibilities. For example, if you had the starting word, ‘gameplay’, you wouldn’t want to build the words, ‘graphic’, ‘mimic’ or ‘pope’ off it. This is because all the words will be going down and then you limit which letters you can use in ‘graphic’, ‘mimic’ and ‘pope’. Instead try and make words which will go up and down. Then you’ll have room to build left and right.
In short, small tight grids are bad.
The Dreaded ‘Q’
Picking up a ‘Q’ can feel like a curse if you don’t have a ‘U’. Mainly because, most words with Q in them require a ‘U’. Instead of despairing, try and remember these ‘Q’ words which do not require a ‘U’.
Qi, qat, qin, qis, qaid, qoph, qats, qanat, qapik, qorma, qadis, qibla, qaids.
We can thank Middle Eastern dialect for most of these amazing words which stop you getting stuck in last place.
Half of the Bananagrams battle is speed. And I am not talking about the time it takes to think of words. Flipping over starting tiles, dumping and peeling all take time. To speed things up adopt a strategy to flip over as many as you can. Having fast fingers will help you stay in the race.
Grouping letters is also handy. Once you flip a tile organise it into vowels, useful consonants or the not so useful. This will help you survey letters and construct words quicker.
With adrenaline coursing through your veins, it’s hard to not shout “Bananas,” when your grid is complete. However, hold off if you can. Make sure you scan over your grid and check there are no misspelt words, proper nouns, abbreviations or fake words. If you stop the game and have an anomaly, you will be coined the Rotten Banana and miss out on the winning spot. If you have time, a little proofreading never hurts.
There you have it. Take this knowledge and earn the title, Top Banana!