How Quiddler Works

By: Kate Kershner  | 
cards from QUIDDLER® word game
The calligraphy on the cards was inspired by Celtic works like "The Book of Kells," so you could say the monks were Quiddlers.
Cards and game © 1998 Cannei, LLC. All rights reserved. QUIDDLER® and all associated logos and taglines are registered trademarks of Cannei, LLC. Used with permission from Set Enterprises, Inc.

You're probably wondering: What in the world is a Quiddler? According to some definitions, it's a seldom-used term for someone who wastes time doing silly things, or a dawdler (although dawdling certainly isn't encouraged in the game) [source: Webster's].) The game's Web site, on the other hand, defines a Quiddler as a person who "spends a great deal of time on very small details" [source: SETGAME]. This definition makes a lot more sense, given how sophisticated a word game it can be.

QUIDDLER® is a cross between Scrabble and the card game gin rummy. Using a deck of cards marked with single letters (and a few two-letter combos, like QU and ER), players are tasked with creating words from the letters in their hand. (Each card has a point value, and the person with the highest number of points wins.)


We'll get more into the rules of the game in the next few pages, but suffice it to say that QUIDDLER is a game of both word savvy and strategy. Don't be fooled: The person with the largest vocabulary isn't always going to win. The game is even billed as a "short word game," and it's those small words that can curry a lot of points. In fact, the game is cited time and again as a great family game, where both kids and adults have a shot at winning.

Speaking of winning, QUIDDLER has nabbed its fair share of awards and accolades: the Mensa Select award, an Educational Clearinghouse A+ award and a Toy Directory Monthly Classic Game award, among others.

And here's a curious fact: A newspaper search for the word "Quiddler" turns up in a fairly surprising number of obituaries. No, these aren't people who suffered mortal injuries after a particularly raucous game -- rather, it's mentioned quite often as a game people were passionate about in life.

Now who can deny that advertisement? Let's play our hand on the next page and find out a little more about how this game is played.

QUIDDLER Rules and Instructions

QUIDDLER® Deluxe game tin and components
The Deluxe version of the game comes with a few additional items.
Cards and game © 1998 Cannei, LLC. All rights reserved. QUIDDLER® and all associated logos and taglines are registered trademarks of Cannei, LLC. Used with permission from Set Enterprises, Inc.

QUIDDLER® incorporates the wordplay of Scrabble with the strategy and "runs" of the card game gin rummy. It also has the addictive quality of a narcotic, so be prepared: Once you learn the ropes, you might want to play obsessively, convinced the very next card will present you with the letter to rule all words.

First, let's check what we've got: 118 cards, each of which has a letter (a few have two letters) and a point value. The game is eight hands long, and during each hand, one more card is dealt. The first hand is three cards, the next four cards and so on. The overall point of the game is to create words with two or more cards in your hand. So each hand, you'll attempt to put together as many words as you can -- or as many point-heavy words as possible.


Let's play a round to get the idea (up to eight people can play). First, the dealer will deal three cards (first hand, remember). The rest of the cards are placed face-down in the middle. Flip one card over, leaving it next to the face-down pile. Looking at your cards, now decide if you want the flipped-up card or if you want to take your chances and choose one from the face-down deck. After you make your selection, discard a card; you can only have as many cards as the hand initially deals.

Now, see if you can form a word. If you can, great! If you can't, hold tight. And if you can make a word with all your cards, congrats. But don't get too smug; after you use all your cards, each player gets another turn to take the top or the face-down card. After everyone has gone, all the players must lay down all the words they can muster and tally their points. Unused cards (those not able to make it into a word) count against your point total. There are a couple of bonuses: the longest word and the most words will get you 10 points per hand, respectively. (Note that the longest word is the most letters, not cards.)

And so play continues on to the next hand, where four cards will now be dealt. At the end of the eighth hand, the player with the most points wins.

Even cooler? You can play a solitaire version. Deal eight stacks of five cards face-down, followed by a face-up card on each stack. Make a word from the eight cards, removing it to reveal another face-up card. (When a stack is used up, move another card there so there are always eight stacks.) If you can use all the cards to make words, you're a winner!

QUIDDLER Appeal and Strategy

screenshot of Quiddler free online puzzle
The online puzzle is another addictive (and free!) way to try out QUIDDLER®.
Screenshot by

The inventor of QUIDDLER®, Marsha Falco, isn't your run-of-the-mill game entrepreneur. Consider that Falco, a population geneticist, invented her first game (SET) in Cambridge, England, as she studied epilepsy in German Shepherds.

For that reason, perhaps, QUIDDLER is often touted as more than just a silly game. In fact, some see it as a very sophisticated way of engaging both the left and right brain. The inventors claim that you're doing just that: While you're recognizing words (what we think of as a right-brain, or creative-minded, endeavor), you're also counting points and strategizing best outcomes (where the logical left brain works) [source: Falco].


Naturally, QUIDDLER is also a great literacy resource for kids and adults alike. It builds vocabulary and strengthens familiarity with words, and it also allows players to suss out how phonemes -- the tiniest sounds in units of language -- work together [source: Mayer, Harris].

As we said before, this isn't just a game for brainiacs or those with a photographic memory for words. In fact, trying to cultivate a long word with many points can prove to be a mistake if you're ignoring all the small words. That being said, attempting to win the bonuses on each round is an excellent strategy. It's easy enough to go out early your first round with the longest word (after all, it'll only be three cards at most) but in subsequent hands, it may be best to stay in longer.

Why? Well, consider that as everyone goes out, you know that the longest word is four letters. Now perhaps you have a four-letter noun in one hand and a two-letter word in another-- as or is, for example. If you add "s" to the four-letter word (making it plural) instead of using both words, you get yourself an extra 10 points. Another tip? Just like in crosswords and Scrabble, it's the short words that make the difference. Learn some two- or three-letter words, and your game will thank you.

If you need some practice to keep that strategy sharp, never fear. The QUIDDLER Web site has a free online game that you can access easily. If you're a student, you might want to convince your teacher to enter the QUIDDLER school competition. It's a kind of national contest for grades K-12 that takes place in the classroom. The winning class receives an assortment of games.

Quiddled enough? Head to the next page posthaste, where you'll find more fascinating facts about this and other brainy games.

Author's Note

As someone who likes words -- you know, speaking them, writing them, reading them -- I thought I had a pretty good shot at being a QUIDDLER® champ. Turns out that not liking strategy or keeping track of points proved to be just as important. But really, it's what makes the game fun. Your English professor uncle may be stymied by your eight-year-old niece, who's a lot better at knowing when to put down her three, two-letter-words than to try desperately to find the m in "quorum" through a lucky draw. So study those two- or three-letter words and show your uncle that it doesn't take a thesis on "The Sound and the Fury" to be a word champion.

Related Articles


  • Comfortably Domestic. "Games We Love: Quiddler." Jan. 11, 2012. (May 10, 2012)
  • Falco, Bob. "The Role of Board/Card Games in Building School Communities." Set Enterprises, Inc. March 2001. (May 10, 2012)
  • Falco, Bob. "Why Play Games?" Set Enterprises, Inc. March 2001. (May 10, 2012)
  • Felt, Susan. "Geneticist's visual aids morph into lucrative game." The Arizona Republic. May 21, 2005. (May 10, 2012)
  • Gifted Child Today. "Explore the Quiddler word quest." Spring 2005. (May 10, 2012)
  • Learning Abilities Books. "Teaching Tips and Definitions." (May 10, 2012)
  • Mayer, Brian and Christopher Harris. "Libraries Got Game: Aligned Learning Through Modern Board Games." ALA Editions. 2009.
  • Mustang Mobile. "About us." (May 10, 2012)
  • Set Enterprises, Inc. "Quiddler." 2011. (May 10, 2012)
  • The Lone Tree Reporter. "Obituaries." Jan. 23, 2008. (May 10, 2012),2947668&dq=quiddler&hl=en
  • Webster's Online Dictionary. "Quiddle." (May 10, 2012)