We’ve all been there: you play an ambitious word in Scrabble using the limited letter tiles you have, and someone immediately asks whether it’s real. 10 minutes of dictionary-searching later, you have to think of a new word using two Qs and an X. Now, finally, there’s a version of the classic board game that lets you score for made-up gibberish.
Blabrecs is a free online Scrabble variant created by artificial intelligence researcher and game designer Max Kreminski that changes the rules of the spelling game so that only nonsense words can be used. Time to chuck that dictionary in the recycling bin.
However, there is a catch. You can’t just play any old gobbledegook; for your invented word to be allowed, it must fool an AI into thinking it’s real. Faurn, nurnia, bloake, indied: none of these are real words, but they sound like they could be, according to Blabrecs. Kreminski described the alternate rules as "the wordgame that hates you".
BLABRECS: the wordgame that hates you— Max Kreminski (@maxkreminski) December 13, 2020
a rules modification for SCRABBLE that swaps out the dictionary for a capricious AI. real words aren’t allowed – you can only play nonsense words that *sound* real to the AI
my entry for #PROCJAM 2020https://t.co/a3CyPGZ9Jg pic.twitter.com/Ympw4lsXTM
Kreminski has programmed Blabrecs’ AI based on the letter patterns in real-life English words, using the ‘ENABLE’ list of words that determines legal spellings in apps such as Words with Friends. The AI analyses a player’s fake word to see how closely its combination of letters matches up with actual words, permitting anything that passes muster. Or “pasies moustir”, if you will.
Once a player has successfully tricked the AI into allowing their word, they can add a fake definition for their nonsense. Kreminski suggests that the best definition for a word should award half of the word’s points to that player’s score at the end of the game.
Blabrecs’ name itself comes from rearranging the letters in Scrabble in terms of their statistical likelihood in English words according to the AI, with Kreminski swapping the L and R in Brablecs “because BLABRECS sounds better and I'm not about to let a computer tell me what to do”.
Blabrecs was created as Kreminski’s entry for this year’s PROCJAM, a game jam where creators were challenged to “make something that makes something” from December 4th to 13th.
Kreminski said they may update Blabrecs’ AI in the future to allow different opponents based on varying word-analysis technologies, adding on Twitter that “future versions might use more sophisticated classifier(s) to explore alternative shadow-Englishes”.