Salt Lake City doom-sludge band SubRosa is a favorite at Decibel HQ, and endeared themselves to us even further when they eschewed predictable “aggro” shots for their back-cover spread in the May 2014 issue in favor of an “action” shot… in front of a Scrabble board. That was apparently all guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon’s doing, so naturally, we had to challenge her to a friendly game of Words With Friends. So, in honor of SubRosa’s placement in the Decibel Top 100 Doom Metal Albums special issue (#88 for More Constant Than the Gods), here’s the inveterate word freak on proper Scrabble etiquette and a quick run-down and recap of the game. Spoiler alert: We got our asses handed to us.
You got involved in playing Scrabble at a young age. Weren't the rest of your friends like, "Screw this, let's play Mouse Trap instead?"
I never played Scrabble with my friends, only my mom’s mom, nicknamed Grandma “Fluffy” because of her fluffy white hair. I played dozens and dozens of games, maybe a few hundred, with her. Most of the games would consist of her pretending to try to beat me, then losing on purpose, and occasionally nodding off to Oprah or The Price Is Right playing at crushing volumes on the TV six feet in front of us. She would pay me $10 for each game I lost and $20 for each game I won, so either way, I “scored.”
Back in May 2014, SubRosa appeared in a Converse x Decibel ad, surrounding a Scrabble board. The accompanying video revealed that it was actually the first time the band had played Scrabble together. Have you had a rematch?
No, although I used to be in a band that played 10 games a month to earn our practice rent from my grandma ($160), like I said in the video. That’s probably why the band broke up.
Is it ever OK to consult a dictionary before placing your tiles in Scrabble?
Yes, in fact, it’s preferable! The way my grandma and I played was to consult dictionaries before a move: three or four different ones. My grandma saw the game as a way to build your vocabulary. We also didn’t have a time limit. The average turn would be 30 minutes. Sometimes our games lasted two days.
Is it more respectable to try to get the highest score possible, or to play the best words possible?
It’s much more respectable to get the highest score possible. My grandma used to warn against playing fancy words in lieu of strategy – a word has no value in Scrabble if it’s not worth points. In other words, showing off won’t help you win.
Are there any words not officially recognized by Merriam-Webster that you INSIST on playing anyway?
No. If it’s not in a dictionary – one of three or four – I won't play it. And no proper nouns.
What role does trash-talking have in an otherwise civil game like Scrabble?
I think you could use it to psychologically disarm your opponent. With my grandma, though, the commentary was always reserved. Once, in a game, my grandma was pretty far ahead of me, but I played a strong move that put me ahead of her. She looked down at the board and said, “Ahhh, sooo, the worm has turned.” That was the first time I had heard that expression, and I told her I was going to use that for the title of an album, and I did.
Rebecca: STOOGE (14 points)
Decibel: GAB (20 points)
Decent opening play by Rebecca on a Double-Word score, but Decibel pulls ahead at the start.
Rebecca: ZEDS (48)
Decibel: JUT (38)
Both players rack up some points by placing 10-point tiles,and Decibel attempts a dangerous gambit by exposing the Triple Word Score, which leads to…
Rebecca: DINER/ROLL (17)
Decibel: JIVE (51)
LOL, the worm has turned! If you’re going the talk trash, you should try to make it relevant to your opponent, especially if you can reference their own artistic works. But sometimes it’s better not to talk trash, because…
Rebecca: SHOVERS (82)
Decibel: PLANE (30)
Rebecca pulls ahead again by emptying her rack with a convincing bingo. Decibel is on borrowed time with borrowed eyes.
Rebecca: CREATION (53)
Decibel: RIB (19)
Bingo #2 for Rebecca. Generally speaking, it’s possible to counteract one bingo, but the odds are seriously against you with two or more. Decibel senses the Grim Reaper is coming.
Rebecca: PYA (21)
Decibel: TOON (10)
“Pya”? C’mon, Rebecca, you totally made that shit up. No, wait, you didn't.
Rebecca: BET/TI (7)
Decibel: [Forfeits -2 points for “L” remaining in rack at end of the game]
To be fair, Decibel ended up with two “w”s and a “g” in the last couple of rounds and scrambled to burn off all of the higher point tiles. This part of the game always sucks.
********Final Score: Rebecca wins, 425-370!************
Parting Thoughts from Rebecca: “You gave me a run for my money, for sure. I definitely got lucky by getting three of the big-point letters - 'x,' 'z' and 'q.' A strong game definitely depends on the letters you get... and there’s just not a lot you can do about it if you don’t get good letters. I’ll be keeping an eye out for my trophy! Just kidding. Sort of.”