Sometimes the simplest games are the best – and they don’t come much simpler or much better than Bananagrams.
I was provided with a copy of this game for review purposes.
If ever any family was suited to playing Bananagrams, it’s us. When Countdown features high up your kids’ list of favourite TV programmes, then a game that involves manipulating letters and words is a guaranteed hit.
But you don’t have to be a bunch of word nerds like us to enjoy the game. It takes just a couple of minutes to learn how to play. The aim is to be the first player to use all of their letter tiles to build a grid of interlinked words. A couple of other simple rules aside, that’s as complicated as it gets.
Easy to learn, much harder to master.
I played a series of games with Isaac (aged ten) and Toby (eight). We soon discovered there is far more to it than having an extensive vocabulary. A bit like Scrabble, maintaining a good balance of vowels and consonants is important, as is ensuring you don’t end up stuck with lots of awkward letters such as Vs and Qs.
Unlike Scrabble, however, you can rearrange your grid at any time to better utilise your letters. That extra dimension combined with knowing you’re racing against your opponents to finish first makes for a fast and furious game.
Yes, Bananagrams is similar to Scrabble at first sight but in reality it’s like comparing Twenty20 to Test match cricket. The basic equipment is the same; the end product is very different – and considerably speedier.
Up to eight people can play Bananagrams. The recommended minimum age is seven, as younger players with a more limited vocabulary may find it tricky. Toby is able to hold his own but he definitely suffered a little (but not excessively so) from being younger with a smaller range of words to draw on.
Bananagrams is a perfect game to take away on holiday. It comprises 144 letter tiles which come in a small banana-shaped pouch that slides easily into a carry-on bag or suitcase. All you need is a flat surface, a spare 15 minutes and you’re off.
There is a good reason why Bananagrams has won multiple awards and sold over seven million units worldwide. (According to Amazon UK, it’s their best-selling game ever.) It’s a terrific game that is simple yet challenging for kids and adults alike. And it has gentle educational benefits in terms of encouraging players to exercise their vocabulary and spelling skills.
If you don’t have a copy of Bananagrams already, consider it a must-buy game. It will definitely be one of the first items to be packed in our bags when we go off on our summer holiday.
If you want to find out more about the background and history of Bananagrams, you can listen to me talking to Rena Nathanson, the game’s creator, here. (The interview starts at 15:40 in.)
Bananagrams is available from a wide range of retailers at an RRP of £15.99.