We are once again presented with a fruit-like cloth bag, this one, true to its name, looking not like a banana, not like a pear, but everso clearly apple-like. Inside the bag: 110 letter tiles of similar quality to the Banagram tiles (ivory-like, pleasing to the touch and to the smushing around) but thick enough to stand on end, and a comparatively long two-sided rule sheetlet.
The first game described is APPLETTERS itself. It’s designed for 2-6 players, ages 5 and up. The tiles are placed face-down on the table, and then, in a process we have named “smush,” mixed around and around. Players each get 9 tiles.
The first player makes a word out of her tiles (as many as she can use) and places them in the center of the table. The next player then attaches another word, connecting the first or last letter of his word to either the first or last letter of the first player’s word so as to make two words, Scrabble-style. The next player adds yet another word. Note, however, that the words must create a chain, no tile touching more than two other letters. This results in an intriguingly different, and easier to play Scrabble-type game.
If a player can’t make a word, he picks three more tiles from the CORE (the smushed letters). And on and on until someone uses all her tiles, winning the game.
Apple Turnover is a bit more challenging, and designed for 2-4 players who are at least seven years old. There are two significant differences: each player gets 21 tiles, and, if a player can make a longer word, he can replace one of the opponent’s words and give him back his letters – causing a most satisfying moment of chagrin.
The third game is played for score. It’s called Apple Core. There are two mentally exacerbating differences. First, there are the 5-point bonus score possibilities: if your word is eight or more letters, or if your word is a palindrome (it can read backwards and forwards). Next, you can add your tiles anywhere – not just to the first or last letters of someone’s word, but also so the letters touch on multiple sides.
The APPLETTERS play experience is significantly different than the other Bananagram games. Here, you have to take turns. So the games tend to be longer, and more contemplative, and more challenging for the patience-impaired. But for those who like Scrabble, APPLETTERS is far more rewarding, and arguably more fun.