25 Oct, 2022

Q spells trouble, but less so in Explo

Alfred Butts was thinking aesthetically when he created his crossword game. 100 tiles form a perfect 10-by-10 square, and the highest letter value – of Q and Z – was set at 10 points. Experienced players usually rejoice at the sight of the Z, since it gives a good score and is manageable, but Q has always spelt trouble – even at a value of 10 points.

Q without vowels in the rack is a disaster. If you can’t get rid of it quickly, especially in the early stages of the game, an exchange is always an option in order to improve the rack. If you ACQUIRE the right tiles, you might CONQUER with a Q-bingo, but Lady Luck is then probably hovering at your side. The most common escape strategy is to play QI, with a face value of 11 points, and then to resume the quest for the bingo.

In Explo’s new tile bag, we give the Q 15 points. We also tested the Q with 10 and 12 points, given our goal of equalizing the average life-time of tiles in the rack in order to increase fluidity in the game. There were a lot of calculations and simulated games, but the result was unambiguous: Q needed 15 points to stay on par with other letters.

A further test showed that a player drawing the Q at 15 points wins 51.1% of games, other factors being equal. But if the Q is 12 or 10 points, the percentage is 48.6.

Q is the worst letter in the bag and should be valued accordingly. Explo therefore rewards the (un)lucky player with 15 points. This change may feel radical, but the numbers show that it is correct and a definite improvement to the dynamics of the game – like other changes in the new Explo bag.

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