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15 Ways to Upgrade your Tabletop Games

International Tabletop Day (April 30) is just around the corner—and what better way to celebrate a love of games than by giving your favorites a little upgrade? Toss the cardboard tiles and plastic tokens and add a little extra realism to your game night with these 15 options.

1. PANDEMIC

Epicycle Designs via Etsy

In Pandemic, players race across the world, attempting to cure different diseases that are represented by little colored cubes. Many players opt to enhance the realism of those dire situations by purchasing real petri dishes to contain the unused cubes. You can also buy pieces that resemble the game's characters (for example: scientist, researcher, medic), or make your research stations a bit more substantial.

2. SPLENDOR

Splendor turns players into gem merchants—so why not make the stakes seem a little higher by replacing the fake gem tokens with more realistic glass or plastic jewels? Another option: follow this fan's lead and add gold coins.

3. TICKET TO RIDE

You'll have no problem claiming routes with the trains that come with Ticket to Ride, but these wooden alternatives (with coordinating meeples) make for an even smoother ride. And perhaps they’re substantial enough to prevent players from pulling an Anne Wheaton.

4. LOVE LETTER

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You have to win a certain number of rounds to be the overall victor in the game Love Letter, so the winner of each round receives a little red square to help keep track of victories. However, with a name like Love Letter, there’s no shortage of interesting alternatives to the squares. You can opt to purchase glass heart tokens, pieces that resemble blobs of sealing wax, or tiny polymer clay roses.

5. HIVE

Mix chess and entomology and you've got Hive, a game where each type of piece moves differently to help you claim the other player's queen bee. For a delicious upgrade, press the original tiles into silicon to create molds for the pieces. Then, pour chocolate into the molds to make an edible version.

6. CARCASSONNE

A modern-day classic, Carcassonne is a tile-laying game that encourages players to build roads, cities, and fields. These 3D-printed tiles might be a little harder to pack into a box than the flat tiles that come with the game, but they're helpful when it comes to visualizing your empire.

7. AGRICOLA

To compete, Agricola players have to plow fields, collect wood, buy animals, and feed their families, among other things. Players can really immerse themselves in those tasks by swapping the included colored disks for these tiny shapes that actually resemble the items.

8. LORDS OF WATERDEEP

Epicycle Designs via Etsy

Set in the Dungeons and Dragons universe, this popular game requires a number of meeples to be placed around the game board in order to complete quests, collect money, and take other various actions. Swap the meeples for these little polymer clay versions to make the Lords of Waterdeep characters really come to life.

9. POWER GRID

In Power Grid, the players, who represent companies, purchase power plants and other resources with the hope of suppling electricity to cities. You can customize your version by trading the standard components for buildings that are more specific to the game. Or, if you’re really into Power Grid, you can add some sizzle by wiring your board to light up.

10. FORBIDDEN ISLAND

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Made by the creator of Pandemic, Forbidden Island requires players to work together in order to find treasures on an island before it sinks. The tiles representing different parts of the island have to be arranged in a specific manner each time—so why not keep them tidy with a wooden frame?

11. BANG! THE DICE GAME

Bang! The Dice Game pits player against player in an Old West setting—but your enemy depends on what character you are. Players lose life points when they get "shot" by arrows and bullets, represented by little cardboard tokens. Up the ante with these more realistic depictions.

12. CASTLE PANIC

PiecesofGame via Etsy

In Castle Panic, players have to protect the castle in the center of the board from attacks from monsters like orcs, trolls, and goblins. This 3D-printed castle is perhaps a little more inspiring to defend than the cardboard pieces that come with the game.

13. PATCHWORK

Somewhat similar to Tetris, Patchwork comes with little cardboard buttons that players use to buy patches and help complete their quilts. Real buttons are relatively inexpensive, however, so many Patchwork enthusiasts have upgraded their game with the real things.

14. SETTLERS OF CATAN

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Settlers of Catan, a game where players build settlements, cities, and roads, is a mainstay in many households. It's easy to make your copy stand out, though—a number of Etsy shops sell Catan upgrades, from game frames to wooden hex tiles.

15. KING OF TOKYO

King of Tokyo is Yahtzee's more destructive cousin, a dice game where monsters try to defeat each other and rule the capital city. The cardboard characters included with the game gets the job done, but these versions—polymer clay, of course—feel like they could wreak some real havoc.

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'Puggle,' 'Emoji,' and 298 Other New Words Added to Scrabble Dictionary
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Scrabble aficionados and wordsmiths around the world will soon have some new reading material to bone up on. In celebration of National Scrabble Day today, the makers of the classic word game announced that 300 new words will be added to Scrabble’s official dictionary.

The new words will be published in the sixth edition of Merriam-Webster’s The Official Scrabble Player’s Dictionary, which will be released this fall, according to Mashable.

Here are just a few of the new additions:

Emoji (noun): A small computer symbol used to express emotion
Ew (interjection): Used to express disgust
Facepalm (verb): To cover the face with the hand
Macaron (noun): A cookie with filling in the middle
Puggle (noun): A kind of dog
Sriracha (noun): A spicy pepper sauce

Some players of the 70-year-old game may be surprised to learn that “ew” isn’t already a word, especially considering that Scrabble recognizes more than 100 two-letter words, including “hm” (another expression), “ai” (a three-toed sloth), and “za” (slang for pizza). If played strategically and placed on a triple word square, “ew” can land you 15 points—not bad for two measly letters.

New Scrabble words must meet a few criteria before they’re added to the official dictionary. They must be two to eight letters long and already in a standard dictionary. Abbreviations, capitalized words, and words with hyphens or apostrophes are immediately ruled out.

Peter Sokolowski, editor at large at Merriam-Webster, told Entertainment Weekly, “For a living language, the only constant is change. New dictionary entries reflect our language and our culture, including rich sources of new words such as communication technology and food terms from foreign languages.”

The last edition of the Scrabble dictionary came out in 2014 and included 5000 new words, such as "selfie," "hashtag," "geocache," and "quinzhee."

[h/t Mashable]

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25 Double-Letter Scrabble Words to Have in Your Back Pocket
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The best Scrabble players are the strategic ones who keep adding words to their player vocabulary. Once you've mastered a number of two-letter words and the high-scoring ones (that are admittedly very difficult to play), start looking to double-letter words to take advantage of the multiples on your tile rack.

1. AGLOO

seal on snow
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Don't have an I for IGLOO? Use an A for AGLOO, meaning an air hole through the ice made by a seal.

2. ALLEE

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Instead of an ALLEY, use this double-double-lettered word meaning a tree-lined walkway.

3. BETTA

betta fish
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Rather than BETA, use that extra T to mean the freshwater fish.

4. BRATTICE

Coal mine
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A BRATTICE now means a heavy curtain or barrier in a mine to help direct air flow, though the medieval meaning was simply a temporary partition along a wall.

5. DRESSAGE

Dressage
Adam Ihse, AFP/Getty Images

The fanciest of all horse training and equestrian events, DRESSAGE is the obedience and discipline riding competition, rather than the racing.

6. FUGGY

man holding his nose because of terrible smell
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To FUG is to make something stuffy or odorous, but its adjective form (FUGGY) and past and present participles (FUGGED, FUGGING) will take care of any extra Gs on the board.

7. GHYLL

two people looking into a ravine
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Not only will GHYLL, which is a deep ravine, utilize a double-letter, but it will help if your tile bar is sorely lacking in vowels.

8. GRAAL

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GRAAL is an older form of the word GRAIL, but it's also a technique used in glassblowing.

9. HEELER

Shoemaker holding high heels
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Don't have an A for HEALER? A HEELER is a person who puts heels on shoes (as well as an Australian cattle dog).

10. HELLUVA

cursing key on keyboard
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If you're having a HELLUVA time getting rid of a few letters, this nonstandard combination word is actually Scrabble-approved.

11. INNAGE

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INNAGE is the quantity of goods remaining in a container when received after shipment.

12. LARRUP

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To decisively defeat someone or trounce them is to LARRUP.

13. MAMMEE

tropical island
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Another double-double-letter word, a MAMMEE is species of tropical tree with large red fruit.

14. MOGGY

cats
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A MOGGY or MOGGIES (plural) is the cat equivalent of a mutt.

15. OLLA

Salad in glass jars
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A quick word to tack onto some common board letters, an OLLA is a wide-mouthed pot or jar.

16. OUTTELL

woman with megaphone mural
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OUTTELL, OUTTELLS, and OUTTELLING all refer to speaking out or declaring something openly.

17. PERRON

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A PERRON can refer to both large outdoor stairways or the stone platforms of certain columns and edifices.

18. PIGGERY

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You're surely prepared with PIGGY, PIGGIE, and PIGGISH, but a PIGGERY is a pigpen.

19. QUASSIA

Quassia amara
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Score extra points with a well-place Q. A QUASSIA is another tropical tree whose bitter bark is sometimes used as a digestive aid or an insecticide.

20. SCABBLE

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No, not Scrabble. SCABBLE means to shape roughly.

21. TIPPET

tippet
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

A TIPPET is a covering for the shoulders, or a ceremonial scarf worn by clergy.

22. TYPP

balls of yarn
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A TYPP (or TYPPS, plural) is a unit of yarn size. It's an acronym for thousand yards per pound.

23. VALLUM

Vallum at Hadrian's Wall
Optimist on the run, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0

The VALLUM was part of the defensive wall of earth and stone surrounding Roman camps.

24. WEEPIE

man and woman crying in movie theater
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While WEEPY is an adjective for tending to weep, a WEEPIE is a very maudlin movie.

25. WELLY

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According to the official Scrabble dictionary, WELLY is an acceptable form of WELLIE, the British rainboots.

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