Everybody is familar with Scrabble. it's one of those classic family games of enduring popularity that just about everybody gets to play at some point. Some people find the crossword-style game addictive and become real fans. Scrabble has its own clubs, organized play and tournaments, which puts it in rare company.
Unlike Scrabble, Tuf-Abet is a dice game, not a tile game. Players are allocated 20 dice in five different colors. The red dice have vowels, while the green, blue, orange and yellow dice have vaiorus consonants on their faces. The more uncommon letters such as B or X are on the two orange dice or one yellow. The green and blue dice have the more common consonents such as S and T.
Players throw their dice on the table at the same time and start building words crossword style. When some player is satisfied he's got a decent array he can call "Tuf." At that point a 3-minute sand time is turned and the other players have an opportunity to keep going, trying to use more letters. When one has, "Tuffest" is called and the remaining players, including the "Tuf" caller, can keep building their setups to use still more letters. If they do they can call out "Tuffest" and there's a final one-minute round where players scramble to use more letetrs. The round ends at the end of the one minute or when one player has used all 20 letters.
Scoring is simple. Every block that's used scores one point for every word it's in. Blocks used in words six letters or longer score double.
Tuf-Abet is a game of speed, not cleverness, though. Whoever calls "Tuf" scores an 8-point bonus, whoever is the last caller (or uses all 20 letters) also gets an 8-point bonus.
Given that a a 20-letter play will probably score 25-30 points, an 8-point bonus is a big deal.
Victory is determined after five rounds.
The dynamic of play is very different from Scrabble. There's no double or triple word scores or 50-point use-all-your-letters bonus, so it's hard to make a big scoring play. Instead victory comes incremnetally, but being competitive calling "Tuf" and "Tuffest" is vital to winning. It's unlikely you can accumulate so many points through ordinary play that you can make up for losing out on too many "Tuf" and "Tuffest" bonuses.
There are two special symbols on some of the dice. The orange and yellow dice have smiley faces on one side, which can act as a wild card similar to the Scrabble blank tile. On the yellow die there's also a "bullet" symbol, which must be used as a capital letter in a proper name. (Otherwise the Scrabble rule of no proper names applies). The Bullet dice counts as 3 points when used, 6 points if doubled.
Unlike Scrabble, which proceeds at a fairly deliberate pace, Tuf-Abet is a fast-moving game that rewards quick word formations rather than very clever ones. There's no special bouns for using high-scoring Qs, Zs and Xs. Instead, they're often soemwhat of an obstacle. The key thing is to be the fastest. I'm just not sure the people attracted to word games like doing under a time pressure.
Tuf-Abet is a good family game, not quite as intimidating as Scrabble because an extensive vocabulary isn't as important.