Klingon Scrabble

Klingon Scrabble tiles

A completed game of Klingon Scrabble

A game of Scrabble in progress

Scrabble is a turn-based word game in which two, three or four players must use combinations of tiles, each of which bears a letter, to build words on a board in the form of a crossword. Each lettered tile has a point value, and the aim of the game is to score the maximum number of points possible by playing only legitimate words formed from the seven tiles in each player's rack.

The value of the game to language learning and preservation has already been realised by researchers(1), and this, coupled with Scrabble's value purely as an entertainment in itself, was quickly realised by Klingon speakers as well.

Letter distributions

The number of tiles in the original English version is 100 (there are 98 lettered tiles, plus two blank tiles which may substitute for any letter). These have a total value of 200 points; the two blank tiles are both worth zero points. In the original English version of Scrabble and in derivative versions created for other languages, letters are assigned different point values based upon their relative frequencies in words: that is, the English letter E, which is by far the most common, scores the least points (1), where the least frequent letter, Z, scores the most (10).

Like any language, not all Klingon letters appear equally frequently in words or in connected text. But at least at first, the absence of a good database of Klingon text meant that developing a useful description of letter frequency statistics was impossible. The publication of The Klingon Hamlet in 1996 at last offered a chance to observe the distribution of each letter in connected Klingon text, and the first Scrabble distribution was based solely upon the text of The Klingon Hamlet.

In 2013, with the assistance of Robyn Stewart and Roger Cheesbro, Rhona Fenwick developed an updated description of Klingon letter frequency statistics based upon four substantive pieces of writing: Agnieszka Solska's Tao Te Ching, Cheesbro's ghIlghameS, Stewart's nuq bop bom, and eighty chapters of her own translation then in progress of The Man in the Panther Skin. This set of statistics has since been used to manufacture a number of unofficial Klingon-language Scrabble sets. Like the original, Klingon Scrabble uses 100 tiles, of which 2 are blanks, and the total point count is 200. The point distributions developed from these updated statistics are:

  • 0 points each: blank (2 tiles)
  • 1 point each: ' a (10 tiles), e I (8 tiles), o u (6 tiles), H (5 tiles)
  • 2 points each: j m (5 tiles), D v (4 tiles)
  • 3 points each: l (3 tiles), b ch gh n q S (2 tiles)
  • 4 points each: p t (2 tiles)
  • 5 points each: w y (2 tiles)
  • 6 points each: Q r (1 tile)
  • 8 points each: tlh (1 tile)
  • 10 points each: ng (1 tile)

The short length of most root words (➞ Phonology) means that the beginning of a Klingon Scrabble game may occasionally be slow-paced, but as new tiles are drawn and the rich possibilities of prefixation and suffixation begin to come into play, the game quickly achieves a complexity not usually possible with the English version.

The highest-scoring legal first move in Klingon Scrabble is tlhorghqang (134 points), closely followed by ngotlhlaw', tlhonglaw', and tlhInganoy (all 128).

Relevant Klingon terminology

The Klingon word for playing tile is teSra' (2), the word for playing board is Quj 'echlet (3).


1 : Voinov, Vitaly. 2010 Words should be fun: Scrabble as a tool for language preservation in Tuvan and other local languages. Language Documentation & Conservation 4, pp. 213-230. University of Hawai'i Press.

2 : revealed at qepHom Saarbrücken in 2018

3 : Klingon Monopoly, 2011

External Links

Category: General    Latest edit: 29 Jan 2019, ChuDu    Created: 16 Jun 2015 by QeS
History: r12 < r11 < r10 < r9 - View wiki text
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