New Game: Liar’s Boggle

This game works best with three to five players. Here are the rules.

At the start of the game, randomly deal Boggle letter dice to each player. (The standard Boggle set has sixteen dice; if you don’t have four players, discard a die so that each player has the same number.)

Starting Bid

At the start of each round, all players roll their dice secretly, looking only at their own letters. The first player then bids a word.

When you bid a word, you claim that it’s possible to spell that word using all of the letters on the table, including the letters that you can’t see.

For example, in a four-player game, you’ll have four dice. If you have the letters H W L A you might bid the word “whale.” You’re not claiming that you can spell the word “whale” on your own—you only have four dice. You’re claiming that with all of the letters everyone rolled, you can spell “whale.” (In this case, you’re assuming that someone else rolled the letter E, a fairly safe assumption.)

After the first player bids, the next player clockwise must either raise the bid or call.

Raising

When you raise, you must bid another word. The word must either be longer than the current bid (more letters), or it must be the same number of letters and later in the dictionary.

For example, if the current bid is “whale,” you could raise the bid to “abacus,” because “abacus” is six letters long. Any word with six or more letters is a valid raise from “whale,” including “whales.” Or, you could instead raise the bid to “whole,” “wryly,” or “yummy,” because those words are five letters long and appear later in the dictionary than “whale.” You can’t raise with a shorter word, like “yurt,” even if it appears later in the dictionary.

After a raise, the next player clockwise must either raise or call. Eventually, someone will call.

Calling

When you call, all players reveal their dice, and check whether you can spell the current bid word using everyone’s letters. If you can spell the word, then the caller discards a die; if not, the bidder discards a die.

For example, suppose Alice bid the word “whale,” and Bob calls. Everyone shows their dice. If Alice can spell “whale” with everyone’s letters put together, Bob loses a die. If Alice can’t spell “whale,” then Alice loses a die.

The caller may also challenge the word, even if the letters on the table can spell the word. The bidder discards a die if they bid an invalid word. Use the Scrabble dictionary to resolve challenges.

When you’re out of dice, you’re out of the game. The winner is the last player standing.

After a call, someone will lose a die, and the round ends. Then you play another round. Each player rerolls their dice. The new first player is the player who most recently lost a die. If the player who most recently lost a die was eliminated, start with the player with the fewest dice. If there’s a tie for who has the fewest dice, break the tie by going clockwise from the player who lost.

Clarifications

  • Talking at the table is strongly encouraged. Tell other players whether you think they should raise or call, and why.
  • You are permitted to say (but not show) which letters you have rolled. More importantly, you are permitted to lie about your letters until someone calls. You can even lie about how many dice you have, or which words are valid dictionary words. But beware, the truth will out. All lying must stop when someone calls. (You are not allowed to lie about the current bid, but feel free to lie about previous bids.)
  • One Boggle die has a side with “Qu” on it; there are no other dice with the letter Q. The Qu counts as one letter, so “Qu I T” is three letters, not four. (Note that the Qu counts as two letters in regular Boggle!)
  • You must play the Qu as “Qu.” Thus you cannot spell “suq,” “qi,” “qat,” or “qoph,” even though they’re valid Scrabble words.
  • When you discard a die, you choose which die to discard. Choose carefully, because each die is unique.
  • Discarded dice are out of the game. Don’t roll them; don’t use them when bidding.
  • Only the the caller and the most recent bidder can lose a die on a call. If you raise when you should have called, you’re taking on all of the risk.
  • The caller takes on no additional risk by challenging a word, so it’s legal to challenge every time you call. But this behavior is annoying, so don’t do it.
  • There’s no time limit on turns; it’s common to need a couple of minutes to think about a turn. (If a player takes too long, consider instituting a time limit.)
  • Remember what the other players bid. When someone bids, they’re probably revealing something about the letters they rolled. (It’s very risky not to.)
  • You can raise with an anagram of the previous bid, if it appears later in the dictionary. If someone bids “holes,” you may bid “shole.”
  • If someone accidentally reveals some of their letters, restart the round. (It’s against the rules to reveal your letters intentionally before the call.)
  • Bid confidently! Avoid letting anyone know that your bid isn’t 100% safe.

Alternate Rules

You may choose to play with these rule variants, if all players agree beforehand.

  • The game is best played with standard sixteen-die Boggle, but you can also play with “Big Boggle,” which is often easier to find at retail stores. I don’t recommend playing Liar’s Boggle with all twenty-five dice unless you want to play for hours; discard nine or ten dice at the start of the game. (I especially recommend discarding the “Qu” die.)
  • Between rounds, you may allow players to trade one or more of their dice with other discarded dice, as long as they do it publicly. (I recommend allowing trading when playing with “Big Boggle,” where some dice have all consonants or all vowels.)
  • You may institute a time limit for turns. I recommend using the Boggle three-minute sand timer, but don’t use it on every turn; start the timer when someone chooses to start it. Once the sand timer is started, you can’t start it again until it finishes. Thus a player may have slightly more than three minutes if the sand timer is still running when their turn begins.
  • You may allow friendly word challenges, without consequences. After a bid/raise, but before the next player raises or calls, any player may challenge the bid word. If the word is invalid, the bidder may either choose another word or change their mind and call. (After the next player raises or calls, it’s too late to challenge; just move on.)
  • You can give some players an advantage by giving them more dice to start. Going first is also a small advantage, so you may decide to allow a less experienced player to start the first round.
  • You may treat the Qu die as two letters. This gives an advantage to the lucky player who receives the “Qu” die.
  • You may allow the Qu die to be played as a “Q.” The bidder decides how to interpret the Qu if you adopt this variation. (To spell “suq” you would need three dice: S, U, and Qu.)
  • Your table may choose another dictionary before playing, as long as you follow the Scrabble rules. “All words labeled as a part of speech (including those listed of foreign origin, and as archaic, obsolete, colloquial, slang, etc.) are permitted with the exception of the following: words always capitalized, abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes standing alone, words requiring a hyphen or an apostrophe.”
  • You may allow players to vote for word validity, if your dictionary omits a valid word. Don’t let the the bidder or the caller vote; feel free to enfranchise eliminated players. Vote honestly. If the word isn’t in your chosen dictionary and the vote is a tie, the word is invalid.

“Boggle” and “Scrabble” are registered trademarks of Hasbro, Inc. Please buy a copy of Boggle if you enjoy playing Liar’s Boggle.

Boggle dice. Image used under CC 2.0 courtesy of Andrew Malone.

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Dan Fabulich is a Principal Engineer at Redfin. We’re hiring! https://www.redfin.com/jobs

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Dan Fabulich

Dan Fabulich

Dan Fabulich is a Principal Engineer at Redfin. We’re hiring! https://www.redfin.com/jobs

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