Two to four players play in any game of Super Happy Make Awesome Crossword (SHMAC). The object of SHMAC is to score more points than one's opponents. A player collects points by placing words on the game board. Each letter has a different point value, so the strategy becomes to play words with high scoring letter combinations.
A SHMAC game board is made of up cells in a square grid. The SHMAC board is 15 cells wide by 15 cells high. The SHMAC tiles fit within these cells one to a cell.
SHMAC is played with exactly 125 tiles. 120 of these tiles contain letters on them, while there are 3 blank tiles and 2 red-crossed tiles.
The blank tiles substitute for any letter in the alphabet. Once played, a blank tile retains for the remainder of the game the value of the letter for which it was substituted when first played.
The red-crossed tiles can be placed over any existing tile, removing both tiles from the game. In the same turn a player may place another tile in the vacated position; in any case all words affected by the removed tile must be valid at the end of the turn.
Since there are specific tiles for the digraphs TH, SH, CH, and QU it is not permissible to use the individual letters to spell these out.
Various letters have different point values, depending on the rarity of the letter and the difficulty in playing it. Blank tiles have no point value. A red-crossed tile nullifies the value of the tile played in the vacated position in the same turn that it was played, if any.
Here are the point values for each letter in SHMAC:
Some cells on the SHMAC board represent multipliers. If a tile is placed on such a cell, then the tile's value is multiplied by a factor of either 2× or 3×. Certain tiles multiply the point value of an entire word and not simply the tile on that space.
When a word is played on both letter-multiplier and word-multipler cells, the letter-multipliers take effect before the word-multipliers. Similarly, a word spanning two or more word-multiplier cells has its bonus compounded multiplicatively.
Note that the extra points bonus only applied the first time a tile is placed on that cell. If a player places a tile on one of these cells, then any subsequent time that cell is used to make a word, or a word played over that cell is changed, the point value is not multiplied. This includes cells vacated by red-crossed tiles.
Without looking into the tile bag, each of the SHMAC players takes one tile out of the tile bag. Whichever player has the letter closest to the beginning of the alphabet goes first. A blank tile is considered better than an A, a red-crossed tile is considered worse than Z, and digraphs are ranked alphabetically after their initial letter (for example SH falls between S and T.) In the case of a draw, the players who shared the “best” tiles redraw. After deciding, all the tiles are returned to the bag.
Starting the game, each player begins their turn by drawing seven tiles from the bag.
A player can do one of three things on a turn: place a word, exchange tiles, or pass.
With the exception of the first word, every word must be attached to (i.e. share letters with) existing words. In a single turn a player may only place tiles in a single row or column. Where a single placement adds or alters more than one word, each word's value is calculated independently. Where a cell that contributes to more than one word is a bonus points multiplier, the bonus is applied to all words played over that cell in that turn.
Exchanging tiles allows a player to replace any number of the tiles on eir rack. This is only permitted if at least seven tiles remain in the bag. To exchange tiles, seven tiles are drawn from the bag and placed face-down on the table. The player returns some or all of the tiles from eir rack to the bag, then chooses as many of the face-down tiles as are required to bring ier rack's total back to seven, before returning the remaining tiles to the bag.
A player may pass at any time.
If all players pass twice in a row, or all players make any combination of passes and exchanges three times in a row, the game ends.
A player begins the game by placing a word on the star cell at the centre of the board. This star acts as a Double Word Score. As with all bonus point cells, this extra point bonus is only applied the first time a tile is placed on the cell.
Play continues in a clockwise direction around the SHMAC board.
When a player places tiles on the SHMAC board, e draws new tiles from the tile bag, placing them face-down on the table, until the number of drawn tiles plus the number of tiles in eir rack equals seven. Then e moves the newly-drawn tiles to eir rack.
When a player is able to place all seven tiles from eir tile rack onto the board at the same time, e receives 50 bonus points. In end-game scenarios, when the players hold less than the standard seven tiles, a player does not get the bonus points for using all the tiles eir rack.
When all of the tiles have been drawn from the bag and one player has used all of the tiles on eir rack, the game ends.
Once the game has ended, each player counts the points on the tiles left remaining in eir rack. Each player has that number deducted from their final score. For purposes of tallying end-game scores, red-crossed tiles are considered to have 0 Points.
In normal circumstances, the player who ended the game and who therefore has no more tiles remaining receives an added bonus: the sum of the points of all tiles remaining on the other players' racks is added to eir final score.
The SHMAC player with the highest score after all final scores are tallied wins.
Players may play any word which can be found in a standard English language dictionary; alternatively specific word lists can be agreed upon when starting a game. The distribution and points-values of tiles are derived from the SOWPODS word list.
Words which are abbreviations, prefixes and suffixes, words that require a hyphen or an apostrophe, and proper nouns (i.e. words that are spelled with a capital letter) can not be used.