A Brain Game That Doesn’t Require A Computer

brain game

A typical Virginia license plate consists of three letters and three numbers. As part of my never-ending quest to keep my brain active and my thinking skills sharp, when I’m driving I often play one of the games I created when my school-aged children (and later my grandsons) were with me for long-distance car trips.

One game involves just the letters on a license plate. As your turn arrives, you “get” the next car that passes you. If the car’s tags contain fewer than three letters, it doesn’t count, and you wait for the next car whose tag contains at least three letters. If it contains more than three letters, you get the first three letters.

The goal is to create the longest word you can come up with using the letters in the exact order from the tag.

Your score is tabulated by the total number of letters in your word. And if you use the letters consecutively, you get a three-point bonus. Here are some examples:

The tag reads CMT123. I can spell the word “placement” for a total of nine points.

UGL123 might prompt me to choose “ugly” for four points and the bonus of three points for using the letters UGL consecutively for a total of seven. It might be tempting to jump to the word “ugly,” but an extra moment of thinking leads me instead to the word “unglamorous” for a score of eleven.

You can boost your score by adding an “s” to pluralize nouns or “ed” or “ing” to verbs. Using the UGL example above, I could have added “ly” to change the adjective to an adverb and gain two more points.

If it’s your turn and you are unable to come up with any word, your opponent has the opportunity to steal your turn. I recall being soundly beaten in this game once when my turn presented a license tag with AAA as its letters. When I failed to produce a word, my car partner shouted, “ABRACADABRA!”  So remember that word with not just three As, or four, but five!

Some of the standard Scrabble rules apply: You aren’t allowed to spell proper nouns, abbreviations, hyphenated words, foreign words, or contractions.

This is a “just for fun” game. No official dictionary or online assistance is permitted! Timing can be as flexible or as rigid as you decide to make it. I’d suggest no more than a minute per turn.

The scorekeeper, of course, needs to be someone other than the driver. This is a fun and educational game that helps kids learn how to spell, to think, to be creative, to engage in language skills, and includes a math lesson for the scorekeeper. And it’s free.

So yes, I play this game in my head as I drive. And even though I’m the only player and there’s nothing to win, I still get upset when I get a tag with something like JXQ123. Hey, if you come up with a word using JXQ, be sure to let me know.


Harvard Newsletter on brain games


3 thoughts on “A Brain Game That Doesn’t Require A Computer

  1. Judy Jones says:

    Hi Norma,
    This reminds me of the game we would play at friends homes and at parties when i was little. You were given a pencil and paper and everyone was given the same large word. You had to find words with just the letters in the large word. There was a time limit and the person with the most found words WINS!!!!
    I love scrabble and now i am addicted to Word Brain, a free game.(except when you run out of play money.) At that point you may purchase coins or you can shut the program down and open it the next day and earn coins by watching video advertisements (1 or 2 minutes) and you earn coins. So it is very challenging, addictive and soooooooo much fun!!!!! Albert Einstein’s IQ was 150, each time you win a word puzzle your IQ goes up .03. I’m up to 189. Bet you didn’t know I am so smart!!!!!!
    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!!!!!

  2. Beverly A. Henderson says:

    Norma, REALLY! I think I will stick to scrabble. I can only concentrate on driving the car and what is going on around me – sorry! P.S. I also really enjoy any card games but not in the car.

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