A few years ago, while my family was taking its annual vacation to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, my mom's cousin came up (or learned from someone else? I'm not really sure) with a variation on Scrabble that is an order of magnitude more exciting than Scrabble's intended play style. Almost overnight, Take Two became the most popular beach game in our family, and it would be a grave injustice to keep it to ourselves.

## Those Involved

All you need to play Take Two is four players (see variations below for two or three players), a standard bag of Scrabble letters (count: 100), and a small table with four chairs. A Scrabble dictionary comes in handy if you have one.

## Playing Time

Each game takes five to ten minutes, depending on how quickly the players can creatively use their letters. (Keep in mind that since the game is so short and simple, you may never want to stop, a la Solitaire.)

## Gameplay

Dump the Scrabble letters in the middle of the table and position the players around the table so they are equidistant from the pile. Make sure every letter is face down, and shuffle them so nobody knows which is which. Each player then takes seven letters, keeping them facedown. When everyone is ready, the players flip their letters and begin to form a valid scrabble board. All words must be connected and all seven letters must be used. As soon as a player reaches this point, he or she yells "Take Two!" and everyone grabs two more letters out of the pile. The next time a player completes a valid board with all of his or her letters, the process repeats. (Note that players may restructure their boards as the game is going. As long as the resulting board is valid before "Take Two!" is called.)

If, at any point, no player can figure out how to complete a board with their current letters, all players can agree to take two and continue.

A player wins the game by completing a board and yelling "Take Two!" or "Done!" when there aren't any letters left.

## Strategies

(Note: I'm not an expert at Take Two, but I've played with those who are. Anyway, take my strategies with a grain of salt. You'll come up with your own after playing a few games.)

There are some cases where you are simply screwed. If your first seven letters are all consonants, for example. (Maybe including Z, X, Q, or Y.) All you can do is think of words involving your letters and wait for someone to yell "Take Two".

Unlike Scrabble, where the emphasis is on playing words that give lots of points, Take Two is a speed game. Study your Scrabble dictionary and remember all of the weird words like "Ex" and "Qaid". They come in handy all of the time.

Try to structure your board for growth. Three-letter words may be easier to come up with, but they can stunt the growth of your board, making a restructure necessary. Build off of ends of words.

Start your board with the hardest letters to use. Nothing is more frustrating than having a complete board except for a single unused Q.

## Variations

If four players are hard to come by, you can play with two or three. In this case, you will eventually end up with too few letters in the pile to distribute to the players. With four players, 100-7*4 = 100-28 = 72. 72/(4*2) = 9, so there are nine "Take Two!"s called and no pieces left over. With three players, you'll end up with one left over. With only two players, you'll have two left. You can end the game right then or each take one. The game is pretty flexible in this regard.

Modify these rules as you see fit. In fact, my grandma and grandpa play "Take Four" when they are playing by themselves.

Happy Take Two'ing!

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