Bananagram Variations

Part I: Constraints

Constraints to make the base game of Bananagrams more interesting and engaging. Different constraints may also be combined to create new variations.

Themed Bananagrams

Players2+
Time???
Stress LevelMedium

In Themed Bananagrams, each word in your crossword must connect to a general theme. The connection between each word and the chosen theme should be clear or you should be able to describe the connection to the other players.

The theme can be chosen by all players to center their crosswords around, or players could individually choose their own theme for their crossword. In the latter case, it may be possible to change your theme mid-game by completely redoing your crossword.

Relations Bananagrams

Players2+
Time1 - 4 hours
Stress LevelInsane

To play Relations Bananagrams you must simply relate each word to all other words which it connects to. You must be able to describe the relationship between each pair of words to the other players and it should make some plausible sense. For example you may connect “boot” to “foot” in your crossword, and “toe” down from foot, but you cannot connect “boot” to “tooth” unless you have recently been kicked in the face.

Example of one player’s finished crossword in Relations Bananagrams

This variation is usually only played by the most dedicated of grammers as it will definitely drain your soul and your mind and you will find yourself hours later still staring at the same stupid words.

For a marginally easier variant, separate out all K’s, J’s, X’s, and Z’s at the beginning of the game. These letters are public use: at any time, a player can take them from (or return them to) a stash where everyone can access them.

Made-up Words Bananagrams

Players2+
Time30 spibbles
Stress LevelFlinnoflobe

Made-up Words Bananagrams is a fun and creative spin on the original game where every word in your crossword must be made-up. No real words allowed.

Bonus if you come up with definitions for each of your made-up words.

If you’re feeling like a bit of extra gobbledegook, replace the words “SPLIT”, “PEEL”, “DUMP”, etc. with new made-up words.

Here are some suggestions to get you started:

SplitSploof, Spliff, Sprat, Spog, Spleeb, Skrit, Sloop, Spib
PeelPlob, Pleeb, Plick, Prag, Prosh, Pliff
DumpDrimp, Dromp, Doomble, Durft, Driffle

Made-up Words Relations Bananagrams

Players2+
Time1 - 2 prots
Stress LevelMindergolk

This game is an all-time favorite for the fribbled grammer.

Combination of Made-up Words Bananagrams, and Relations Bananagrams.

Just like with Relations Bananagrams, adjacent words in the crossword must be related in meaning. However the meanings are all made up by you!

Example of one player’s finished crossword in a game of Made-up Words Relations Bananagrams

Word Limit Bananagrams

Players2+
Time20 - 60 minutes (depends on word limit!)
Stress LevelMedium - ???

Word Limit Bananagrams plays exactly as it sounds: a normal game of Bananagrams, but with an upper limit on how many words your crossword may contain at any point in time. A relatively large word limit can be used to discourage spamming short words, or a stricter word limit can be used to add some serious challenge to a game.

After extensive research, we have arrived at the following suggested word limits, and their relative intensities:

PlayersWord LimitStress Level
214Medium
210High
310Medium
37High
47Medium
45High

(“medium stress” means the average length of a word in a finished crossword at the end of the game is expected to be around six letters long; in a “high stress” game, the average word length is around eight)

Minimum Word Length Bananagrams

Players2+
Duration20 - 90 minutes (limitation dependant)
IntensitySignificant

This is like Word Limit Bananagrams, but bigger and badder. With a word limit, you have a cushion to fall back on--you can still have short words if your others are long enough. Not so with Minimum Word Length Bananagrams. Every word must count, and considering how often you’ll be rearranging your crossword in this variation, you’ll need a lot of words.

A minimum word length of 7 will lead to a long, drawn-out game; 6 will be a fun challenge which is difficult but not insane; while 5 is more suited for a short game.

Shape Bananagrams

Players2+
Time15 minutes
Stress LevelMedium

Instead of a constraint on the type of words you can create, Shape Bananagrams puts a constraint on the arrangement of your crossword. At the start of the game, choose a shape; this could be a flower, bird, house, animal. Each time you call “peel”, your crossword must be generally look like the decided shape.

No E's Bananagrams

Participants2+
Duration???
Strain Amount???

Prior to playing a round of Bananagrams, pour out all small slabs facing up and pull out all fifth glyphs. Now start playing.

Possibly pull out a small amount of consonants to bring down your consonant to non-consonant ratio.

Collaboration Bananagrams

Players2+
Time15 minutes
Stress LevelLow

All players must collectively build a single giant crossword.

Having never played this variation we aren't sure how the peel mechanic should work under collaborative circumstances.

Part II: Spinoffs

Games which combine rules and mechanics from other games with the tiles and word-making of Bananagrams.

Setanagrams

Players2+
Time10 minutes
Stress LevelHigh

Also known as Satanagrams.

Setanagrams is a combination of the games Set and Bananagrams. It can be played using only pieces from Bananagrams.

Bananagram tiles are laid out in a grid and players must find words using any combination of tiles within a grid. When a word is found, call out the word and place the word in your scoring area. Replace picked-up tiles with the face-down tiles from the pile.

Before the game, decide on a minimum word length. If you’re playing for the first time, four is a good minimum word length to start out.

Board Size

Through extensive testing we have found optimal board sizes depending on the minimum word length, please refer to the table below.

Minimum Word LengthDimensions
43x4
53x5 or 4x4
63x6

If you cannot find any words in the grid of letters, you may temporarily expand the grid with more letters. However, when a word is found, refill the grid to the original size.

Scoring

The score is typically determined by the Fibonacci sequence starting at the word length of four.

Word LengthPointsAlternate
41-
511
621
732
853
985
10138
112113

It is recommended to try the alternate scoring if you are using minimum word length of six or if you want an extra challenge under word length five.

Ascending Setanagrams

A variation on Setanagrams, in this mode your first word must be 1 letter long, your second must be 2, your third must be 3... and so on. There is no scoring in this mode. Instead, the winner is the first person to call a 10-letter word! (This is very difficult. We haven’t done it yet.)

While Setanagrams often plays at breakneck speed, especially with large groups, Ascending Setanagrams tends to be much slower... after the initial bloodbath, that is.

Settlers of Banan

Players2 - 4
Time2 - 4 hours
Stress LevelMedium

Also known as Catanagrams.

This game is a combination of Settlers of Catan and Bananagrams, and requires both Settlers of Catan (no expansions) and two sets of Bananagrams to play.

Setup

Board setup is identical to the original Catan game, except that the six border tiles are removed, and the hexes making up the game board are separated about 2 inches. Turn all Bananagram tiles face up and separate them into five groups, one for each resource. To ensure there is a roughly equal supply of each resource, use one of the following distributions:

Resource 1 Resource 2 Resource 3 Resource 4 Resource 5
A P T VB E H M ZC F J K O RD G N Q U YI L S W X
A D F W ZB E H X YC J K L O SG N Q T UI M P R V

Once the tiles have been divided up into resource groups, flip them face down and mix them within their respective group. Keep the groups separate. Mark which letters are in each group, and which resource each group represents. These Bananagrams tiles will, from now on, be referred to as “resources,” where taking a resource means taking a random tile from that group’s pool.

Once the board and the resources have been set up, roll to see who goes first. Place initial settlements and roads as in Catan, then take one resource for each tile surrounding either of your settlements. (If a tile borders both settlements, it is counted separately for each one; that is, you will end up drawing 2 resources from settling around it.) Each player must keep their resources face up.

Gameplay

Many rules are identical to those of Catan; the basic turn structure remains the same, as do Catan’s rules about scoring, settlement placement, and trading resources. All of the same items can be constructed as in Catan, and they function in the same ways. However, they are purchased by forming words of certain lengths from the resources in your hand, each with its own condition for purchase:

ItemPrice (word length)Word Restrictions
Road4Uses 2+ resource types
Settlement6 - 7Uses 3+ resource types
City8+Uses 4+ resource types
Development Card5Is a verb

To compensate for the increased prices, the hand limit is raised to 13; that is, if a 7 is rolled, each player who has more than 13 resources must discard half of them, rounded down. Additionally, if a tile adjacent to a player’s settlement is rolled, the player draws 2 resources of that type instead of 1, and similarly city yields are increased to 3. Further, whenever a development card tells a player to draw some amount of a resource, the player draws twice as many resources as stated on the card. However, the player must draw from the same amount of groups, e.g. a player using the Year of Plenty development card would draw 4 resources of 2 different types.

When a player buys a road, they must place the word they used to purchase it on the Catan board as well as a Catan road piece of their colour to mark that they placed it. When buying a settlement or city, the word the player used to buy it is stacked vertically, and a settlement or city piece of their colour is placed on top of the stack. When a city is bought, the resources making up the settlement it replaces must be returned to the supply. Additionally, resources spent on buying a development card are immediately returned to the supply.

Example of a late-stage 4-player game of Settlers of Banan

If a player is targeted by the robber, they must flip their resources face down and mix them together. The robber then steals one resource at random. The robber blocks tile yields as normal.

If a player uses a Road Building development card, they place two Catan roads on the board, but no resources.

End of Game

The game ends when a player reaches 10 victory points, or when two resource piles run out. The winner is the player with the most points.

Amarillo

Players2 - 4
Time1 - 3 hours
Stress LevelInsane

This game is a combination of Azul and Bananagrams. While best played using the Azul game board, it can be played using only Bananagrams tiles.

Basic Setup

Each player has their own board, which consists of a scoring area at the top, five “conga lines” in the bottom left-hand corner, a 5x5 grid to their right, and a “compost pile,” the negative point slots to the right of the grid. At the center of the table, a number of “banana trees” are laid out depending on the number of players. Five in a two player game, seven with three players, and nine with four players. Four Bananagrams tiles are laid out on each banana tree (represented by a circular disc).

Letters are broken up into five different groups, designed so that each group should have roughly the same potential for creating words, and so that the letters in each group complement each other. There is room for experimentation with this, but first-time players should use one of the following preset distributions:

Resource 1 Resource 2 Resource 3 Resource 4 Resource 5
A P T VB E H M ZC F J K O RD G N Q U YI L S W X
A D F W ZB E H X YC J K L O SG N Q T UI M P R V

The tiles on each banana tree should be sorted by group.

Between the banana trees, set up a board which is broken up into five sections, one for each group. (add picture) This is called the “banana harvest.”

Gameplay

Gameplay consists of several rounds, which each have two phases: taking tiles and scoring words.

Players take turns taking letters from the banana trees and placing them in a single row on the left side of their play board. When a letter is taken from a banana tree, the player must take ALL the letters of the same category from the banana tree. Any letters from other groups are “harvested” for future consumption, and placed in their respective group in the banana harvest. Letters may be taken from the banana harvest just as they are taken from trees, however the first player each round to take from the banana harvest receives a -1 point tile. Having this tile is not entirely a disadvantage, though, as the player with the -1 point tile goes first in the next round.

Upon taking letters from a banana tree, the player must commit all of them to one of the five conga lines. Any letter can be put in the top line, which allows a single tile; however, in all other lines, the player must be able to arrange the line’s tiles into a word when the line is full. If a player fills a conga line with letters that cannot be arranged into a word, every letter in the conga line is composted. Once a line is full, no more tiles may be placed in it. If a player does not wish to (or is unable to) put all of the tiles they drew into a conga line, the player may pick some or all of the tiles they took to place in the compost pile, starting in the slot with the lowest penalty.

Once the banana harvest and every banana tree is empty, the round moves on to the scoring phase.

Scoring

At the end of each round, any completed conga lines which form valid words are scored. To score a word, take any letter from the word and place it in the corresponding row of the grid (all other letters are discarded into the box). The letter can go in any of the row’s empty spaces, but once placed, it can not be moved.

If the tile placed is not adjacent to any other tiles, gain 1 point. Otherwise, if the tile is horizontally linked to another, count all the tiles the newly placed tile is horizontally linked to (including itself) and gain that many points. If the string formed by these horizontally linked tiles is a word, gain points equal to the length of the word as a word bonus. (This does not include 1-letter words, for obvious reasons.) If the newly placed tile is vertically linked to another, go through the same scoring process as for horizontally linked tiles.

Finally, each player discards the tiles in their compost pile into the box, decreasing their score by the amount shown on the game board. If the player has the -1 tile, decrement points as normal, but return it to the banana harvest instead of the box. If all the letters in a player’s compost pile spell a word (2 letters or longer) in the order they were placed, the player discards the letters into the box, but does not decrease their points unless they also have the -1 tile, which is resolved as usual.

Once every player has scored their words, a new round begins, and all the banana trees are replenished from the supply. If the supply runs out while replenishing the banana trees, mix up the tiles in the box; they become the new supply.

End of Game

The game ends when any player completes a row of five tiles in their scoring area. At this point, each player finishes calculating their score for the round, and a winner emerges victorious.

Unlike the original game, Azul, there are no extra points for completed columns or rows in the scoring area. However, at the end of the game, if all the rows and columns of a player’s scoring mat form words (aka there are no gibberish combinations), that player gains an extra 10 points.