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I don't have good sources handy, but apparently some forbid the Shabas playing of games in which one usually writes, even if playing without writing: Scrabble, in which one writes scores, is sometimes given as an example.

Does this depend on what that person usually does, or on what people usually do?

For example, Uno is a game that (at least in some versions) is played in rounds: the scores are subtotaled and written after each round. I know a family that would not have played it on Shabas because of the restriction on playing games that use writing. To allow themselves to play it on Shabas, they developed an alternate scoring system: instead of writing scores, they kept scores by placing bookmarks in books. (If a player's score was 127, he placed his bookmark between pages 126 and 127, facing page 127.) They used this method during the week also, so that the game became, for them, one in which writing was not utilized, and they could play it on Shabas. Is this valid?

Of course, I'm not asking for an halachic ruling here: everyone should consult his own rabbi. I'm asking, rather, for arguments and sources pro and con.

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We use an abacus to keep score for games like that on Shabbat, it has the added benefit of teaching our kids how to use an abacus and practice their adding skills. –  morah hochman Nov 28 '11 at 18:02
    
I've heard of the bookmark-scoring system from people in several communities, but I've never asked about sources. –  Monica Cellio Nov 29 '11 at 13:44
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@morahhochman Seriously? That's amazing. –  Double AA Feb 23 '12 at 4:47

2 Answers 2

Maybe the answer to your question would be in the same line as the Issur of buying, selling, and renting on Shabbos which are a Gezaira lest one comes to write -see Shulchan Aruch Horav 306:4. (In other words, what if I never write when I sell anything, am I exempt from this Issur? -I don't think so.) There is also another problem with certain games on Shabbos: Shtorei Hedyotos (see Shulchan Aruch Orach Chayim Siman 307) which is a Gzeiro lest one come to erase (see Shulchan Aruch Horav 307:22). In either case they would not include chess, checkers, Chamisha Avonim (jacks), othello... You may want to see Shulchan Aruch Horav 338:6 concerning games.

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Scrabble is a bit of a gray area, as if you use loose tiles there are some who don't say putting the tiles together as a word counts as 'writing' (though I'd imagine they are in the minority); still, because you are forming words, even though it's of a temporary nature, it would be rabinically forbidden (in the same way that writing your name on some frost on your window would be rabinically forbidden, even though it's temporary).

Games like Uno, on the other hand, don't involve writing. Keeping score by putting a card in the page of a book is a novel way of keeping score. I don't have any idea if that would be considered a problem. However, I can imagine that some people would still object, as there is the very real possibility of losing the score you had if the card falls out of the book, and you then might either write your score down or make some alteration to the page (giving a little tear on a page, for example) to mark your score.

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The difference between Scrabble and the frost on the window is that in the latter case you're actually forming the letters. In Scrabble, the letters are already there, you're just putting them next to each other. It does seem to be the subject of a machlokes (see Playing Scrabble on Shabbos), but it's not really correct to say that everyone would agree that it's rabbinically forbidden - some posekim allow it (except, as he goes on to say, in the case of Travel Scrabble, where the pieces fit into grooves on the board). –  Alex Nov 29 '11 at 14:20
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-1. Thanks for your efforts, but this really doesn't address my question, which was whose writing (an individual player's or the typical player's) must be usual for writing to be considered usual. –  msh210 Nov 29 '11 at 15:43

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