Updated: Nov 20, 2019
Back in the days when new games were a rarity rather than a daily occurrence, the only word game that offered seriously rivalry to Scrabble was the Waddingtons card game Lexicon. In fact, the Lexicon card game (originally published in the USA in 1933 by Parker Brothers) actually predates Scrabble. It somehow never managed to achieve the iconic status that Scrabble eventually won. It’s a quicker game – very playable as a filler – and it has the big advantage over Scrabble that it is genuinely as playable with four as it is with two. (Scrabble only really works as a two-player game because, with more players, the player whose turn follows that of the weakest player will almost always win).
Like the letter tiles in Scrabble, the Lexicon letters all have an assigned value. In this game, the lowest score wins because points are the penalties players take for the cards left in their hand when another player goes ‘out’ (as in Rummy). For this reason, letter values are the reverse of the values in Scrabble, with the highest penalty value applied to A and E.
There are legendary stories about the exhaustive analysis of letter frequency that fed into the design decision taken over the number of each letter in Scrabble. There obviously wasn’t the same care taken in deciding how many of each letter there should be in Lexicon: aside from the equivalent of the Scrabble blank or joker, the distribution of the 52 letters is AAAABCDEEEEFGHHHIIIIJKLLLMNOOOPQRRRSSSTTTUUUVWWWXYZ. That seems, for example, to grossly over-represent letters like H and W.
OK. So what’s all this to do with Lexicon-Go. Well Lexicon-Go is a reworking of the original Lexicon card game that replaces the cards with large plastic tiles. These can be used to play the original turn-based game or they can be used to play a fast and furious variant devised by Claire Simon and Tom Liddell where players are racing to be the first in each of five rounds to use all 10 of their tiles. As in Lexicon, swaps are permitted (you can play an I to LAKE to turn it to LIKE and take the A for use elsewhere) but the only concession to turn order in this variant is that once you make a swap, you can’t make another until another player has made a swap. The values on the letters are ignored in this speed variant: the winner of each round is simply the first to use all 10 of their letters.
Both the Lexicon-Go game and the original game rules work well using the tiles, though they’d work even better if the tiles were thicker so that they could more easily stand on their edge like tiles in Mahjong. As it is, you have to play this game open (your own and your opponents’ unplayed tiles displayed face up), as the tiles don’t lend themselves to fanning in your hand.
Lexicon-Go comes neatly packaged in an L-shaped bag, making it a convenient travel game that’s a good deal more robust than the card version of Lexicon. The game still bears the Waddingtons imprint, although it is actually produced and sold by Winning Moves. Oddly, we weren’t able to find Lexicon-Go in the BGG database. It’s sufficiently different to the original card game to merit its own separate listing so we’ve submitted it ourselves.