Boards? Where we're going, we don't need boards. Or pens, paper, timers - or even turns! In Bananagrams, all you need are the 144 letters that you'll find in the giant banana-shaped pouch. Tip the letters out onto your table and turn them all face down. Each player takes the same number of letters. One player shouts "split!" and the fun begins!
Laying Out Your Letters
Players flip over their letters and begin to arrange them into a word grid similar to a crossword. Letters can be moved around freely and you're encouraged to adapt your words to fit in new letters as they arrive.
There are no turns in Bananagrams - each player creates their word grid at the same time. There is never any waiting time in this game. Letters have no different point values. All that you're trying to do is use all of your letters correctly.
No Slipping Up Involved
Did you pull out two Q's, an X, and a V? Don't worry, just switch them!
Say "dump!" and place your unwanted letter face-down with the rest of the unused letters. However, you need to grab three in its place. This exchange can be made at any time and you can perform it as many times as you'd like - as long as you pick up the extra letters each time.
Careful use of dumping difficult letters can help you complete your word grid. It doesn't affect other players but keeps you from getting stuck.
When a player finishes their personal grid, they call out "peel!" and take a new letter from the bunch of upside-down letters. Every other player also takes an extra letter and has to add it to their tiles.
Please be an S... please be an S...! If a player is fortunate, they can often pick up a letter that they can immediately use and force everyone to pick up even more letters! This ramps up the pressure as each of you frantically tries to make sense of what's in front of you.
You may think that this would allow one player to storm ahead of the others but, in my experience, this doesn't happen. Often, other players pick up just the right letter to complete their crossword and are the next person to call a 'peel'. Either that or all of your hard work creating a finely crafted grid of intersecting words doesn't help you, as you suddenly need to dissemble and reconfigure your letters to accommodate your new K!
Once a player has used their last letter and there aren't enough for each player to take one, they call "bananas!" and the game ends. The other players check over their words to make sure that there are no misspelt or incorrect words.
As in Scrabble, words cannot be abbreviations or proper nouns (names) - and all words need to exist in a dictionary! If a player has made any mistakes or is using unacceptable words, they are out of that round and all of their letters go back into the upside-down bunch of letters. Brutal!
If a player passes this test, they are crowned the Top Banana!
How Many Ways Can You Use a Banana?
Bananagrams suggests different ways to mix things up. Including a more relaxed version, a version for smaller tables, and a solo mode.
This game is brilliant for house rules and your own made-up games. Because the components are simply lettered tiles, the game is incredibly flexible. I've played Bananagrams with numerous groups, and everyone brings their own unique twist on a fun way to play the game. There are also some clever alternative play modes to be found online!
Final Thoughts on Bananagrams
If you like word games, I highly recommend Bananagrams. Personally, I'm torn! Normally, I don't gravitate towards word games. Whilst I'm good at the game, it tends to make me a little stressed! Perhaps I take it a little too seriously. However, I am aware that there are many people who love games like Scrabble or working through word puzzle books. This would be the perfect game for such a person!
If you're looking for something that includes hilarious forfeits - like forcing opponents to run around the table - then you should go for the Party Edition. If you're a low-vision player or have difficulty with small tiles, check out the Big Letter edition. There is even a My First Edition that can help children aged 4+ to get a hang of making words! You can find all of the new and exciting editions of Bananagrams here.
Bananagrams is a top-notch word game. If you enjoy playing with letters and words, this is definitely one for you.
Epilogue from James
Whilst it might not be pertinent to my review, Bananagrams will always have a place in my collection because of one special memory. My mother-in-law is normally indifferent to board games but loves crosswords. My wife and I went to visit one evening, Bananagrams in hand. We had no idea if we would get it to the table or not!
My mother-in-law was up for a game and I warned her that I was quite good. After briefly explaining the rules, heads went down and I blitzed through my letters. My mother-in-law was still engrossed in her word grid when I called that my wife and I had won. She looked up and read our tiles, "WE ARE PREGNANT" and shouted with glee once the message had sunk in!
Editors note: This blog was originally published on December 13th, 2018. Updated on February 1st, 2022 to improve the information available.