Word Racer

Word Racer

Word Racer is a game developed by Yahoo! in 1999 for use on its Yahoo! Games page. The game play is similar to Boggle with some notable exceptions, especially the scoring and game board configurations.

Rules and Scoring

There are four rounds per game of Word Racer, each round lasting two minutes. Round 1 begins as the computer semi-randomly places letters in a 4x4 grid. Each player then searches for words that can be constructed from the letters of sequentially adjacent letters. Here, the meaning of "adjacent" includes the horizontally, vertically, and diagonally neighboring letters. Words must be at least three letters long, may include singular, plural and other derived forms separately, but may not use the same letter square more than once per word. The computer records each player's words; only the first person to find each word is awarded points, as follows:

*After 6 letters, each additional letter used in a word is worth 40 base points.
*In "Strict Scoring" style of play, a player loses 5 points for every incorrect word typed. There is no penalty for typing a word that has already been found by another player.

Play in Round 2 is identical to Round 1; however, the shape of the board has changed and bonus tiles are introduced. The board in Round 2 consists of 24 letters instead of the 16 letters in round one, and is roughly shaped like a hexagon, with two blue letters included - one at the top of the board and one at the bottom. When a player uses one of these blue letters while forming a word, the score of the word is doubled. For example, a 5-letter word that uses a blue letter would be worth 80 points instead of the normal 40. Additionally, the bonuses are cumulative, meaning that if both blue letters are used in the same word, the player would receive four times the base word score. There is no limit to how many times the blue letters may be used during the round. As in Round 1, only the first player to find a word is subsequently awarded the points for finding it.

Round 3 consists of two overlapping 4x4 squares, forming a 30-letter board. Two red squares are included in the Round 3 board, one in the upper left corner and one in the lower right corner. These red squares are worth a triple word score if used in a word.

Round 4 is a 6x6 square with a 2x2 hole in the middle, totalling 26 letters in all. There are four bonus letters in Round 4; Red tiles in the lower left and upper right corners and blue tiles in the upper left and lower right corners. The score of a word that uses both a red and blue tile would be multiplied by six.

Strategy

Given that only the first player to find a word gets credit for it, it makes good sense to concentrate on bonus letters in the later rounds. Additionally, it is useful to memorize common sets of anagrams. For example, when one spots the word tea, one might instantly type eat, ate, tae and eta rather than trying to determine whether those words are actually in the board.

Before writing any words, some players scan the board for the letter s and the combinations ed, er, and ing. Being aware of the possibilities often allows one to find words in groups. For example, the word head can lead to heads, headed, header, headers, heading, and headings. Other useful combinations include ier, est, iest, able, ible, less, ness, ight, tion, and many others.

In a game of many players, it is relatively less beneficial to hunt for common words because they will be found early in the round.

Variants

Players of Word Racer occasionally create their own rules for a change of pace. Because there is no way to set rules other than the default ones, special-rules games are done on the honor system. Below are a few of the common variants:

Fives (sixes, sevens, etc.) - Players must only submit words that are five (six, seven, etc.) letters or longer.

Pyramid - Each word submitted by a player must be one letter longer than the previous one they've submitted each round. Players start by entering a three-letter word, then a four-letter word, and so on.

100s - Each submitted word must be worth 100 points or more.

Bonuses - Players may only submit a word if it contains a bonus tile.

Notes

One of the letters shows on the screen as "Qu". This is because Q is almost always followed by U in English words. To give players a chance to use the Q more frequently, QU is provided as a single letter tile. However, for the purposes of scoring QU counts as two letters: "squid" would score 40 base points (for a five-letter word) but is formed from a chain of only four letter tiles. Additionally, the Q may be used without the U for spelling the rare words that do not require a U such as Qaid, Qoph and Qintar.

The Dictionary used in Word Racer is a semi-unabridged dictionary maintained by Dictionary.com. Profane words are discluded from eligibility. Borderline profane words, such as arse and twat, were excluded in 2006.

There is an "incorrect word limit" put in place to help prevent cheating programs that automatically type every word in the dictionary to get all the possible words. Once this incorrect word limit is reached, no more words may be entered for the rest of the game - any remaining rounds. Some players who are fast typers will hit the limit during the later rounds.

Up to 8 players may play in a game. The player that creates a new table is the host. The host sets the type of game - such as regular (30 seconds between rounds), fast pace (10 seconds between rounds), rated or unrated, and if there will be strict scoring. The host can also set how other players can join a game. In Public games, any player may sit in an open seat. In Protected games, any player may observe a game but must be invited by the host to sit. In Private games only the host can sit and then would have to invite other players to join.

Word Racer has a dedicated following. Advanced players often play in Protected games so special rules can be applied. A common rule is "5s" - where only words with 5 or more letters are allowed. Another, less common variant, is Progressives where only 1 word is allowed in round 1, 2 words in round 2, etc.

In order to attain a high rating in Word Racer a player must learn many uncommon words. Dictionary.com has a large collection of obsolete and uncommon words. Examples include "gleets", "ghi" and "antae."

There is a version of the game on Yahoo Kids. A player does not log in using a username or password so no ratings are kept. No chatting is allowed in the kid version.

Prior to 2002, the maximum base score per word was 110 points.


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