As a young child, Karis Tompkins learned how to compete -- not that she had much of a choice in the matter. Growing up outside of Pittsburgh with her parents and an older brother, Tompkins had to learn to fend for herself when she went up against the rest of her clan. "We are very competitive in our family when it comes to games," says Tompkins, who is now the chief development officer at Passage Home, a North Carolina-based nonprofit community development corporation.

But while other family members were willing to take a run at her in games like "Dictionary" -- also known as Balderdash -- there was one game in which she went unchallenged. "No one in my family would play me in Boggle, because I would always win," she says.

Tompkins ended up looking beyond her family circle for worthy opponents. In the process, she earned the right to represent her grade school in Boggle tournaments that matched her up against other school champions. Even outside her home, Tompkins was tough to beat, winning local Pennsylvania Boggle tournaments three years in a row.

Boggle has been a platform for competition of all sorts since its invention in the 1970s. The game, which is made by Hasbro, is about one thing: finding as many words as possible from a jumble of 16 letters in just 3 minutes [source: Trani]. (As of this writing, Hasbro planned to rename the game Scrabble Boggle in 2012, as it becomes part of the Scrabble family of word games.)

For Tompkins, who was a devoted player in her youth, the skills Boggle helped her acquire have been helpful throughout her life. It was especially beneficial, she says, in preparing her for timed tests, a staple of any curriculum. "Boggle helped with thinking on my feet, time management and making quick decisions," she says.

Of course, before you can reap the positive benefits of Boggle, you've got to learn the rules.