A 60-year-old board game remains surprisingly popular in today's fast-paced electronic world. Kim Austin searches for the words to explain it.
A sign on the wall warns violence and bad language will not be tolerated. Directly beneath it are directions to a first aid kit.
Obviously things can be come a bit tense at the Mt Albert Scrabble Club.
That said, it seems like a pretty chilled crowd here this Friday night. None of the pensioners appears to be packing heat.
Which is not to say they aren't dangerous. I certainly wouldn't want to get in a battle of words with any of them.
Around the room, the soft hair and the gentle click of tiles belie the fierce competition that lurks beneath the surface of this most addictive of pastimes.
Liz Fagerlund is secretary of the NZ Scrabble Players Association and a Mt Albert club regular. She started playing the game as a child and is hooked.
Like many Scrabble junkies, she loves the randomness of the game: "Every game is just so different. You never ever have two games where you get exactly the same letters."
With the largest number of registered Scrabble players in the country, and countless more living room champions, Auckland is a Scrabble kind of town.
There are three official Scrabble clubs throughout the city, as well as many more informal arrangements with people meeting in libraries, cafes and even pubs.
Liz and a bunch of pals play regularly at De Post bar in Mt Eden.
"I probably average about 420," she casually mentions of her score.
To put that in perspective for potential players (hard-core Scrabblers maintain that there is no such thing as a non-player, only those who do and those who have yet to), it's like a rugby player saying, "Yeah, I average around 50 points a game."
At the mention of this, I recoil slightly. Originally, I'd rather fancied having a crack at one of the old dears, but my ego quickly thinks better of it.
Liz warns that at the top level the game isn't necessarily about words at all, it's much more mathematical.
"One of the best players in the world is a New Zealander, Nigel Richards, and he's a maths whiz. For him it's all about learning patterns of letters that go together."
But don't despair. Far from the raw, bracing competition of the Mt Albert clubrooms lies a far gentler world of Scrabble; one where the words themselves still matter and Scrabble is not just a bunch of formulas.
Zoe Colling and Tavish Fraser don't average more than 400 but they do love the game. Self-confessed "word nerds", they are part of a massive worldwide subculture of living-room Scrabble players.
Recently married, the couple play regularly and even keep an "on the go" game so they can still play quick turns if they're too busy for a full game.
Zoe is a librarian and looks it. Neat as a pin and looking like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth she leans conspiratorially forward and sheepishly admits: "Sometimes I throw the board if I'm losing."
It's hard to imagine this loved-up couple squabbling over anything, but Tavish, a computer programmer who does a mean Vanilla Ice impersonation, assures me passions can indeed run high where Scrabble is concerned.
"We've had to abandon games because finding out who wins isn't as important as staying on good terms.
"It's an emotional roller-coaster."
Like many good players, Zoe and Tavish started playing as children. Zoe still plays with her mother and grandmother, and Tavish says the couple's weird-looking board is a reflection of three generations' love for the game.
"We've got a kind of 'Frankenstein' Scrabble set - my dad's board with a lazy susan, wooden letter racks and tiles from Zoe's set and then the letter bag is my nana's old one."
Occasional hissy-fits aside, Zoe says there's no better way to spend long winter nights than tucked up with a hot cuppa and a Scrabble board. And, as with Liz and her mates, the online version just doesn't cut it. "I like the tea breaks and the conversation. And a bit of badgering never goes astray.
"Scrabble is the perfect combo of luck and skill. If you lose you can blame the tiles and if you win it's because you rule. There's just no other game quite like it."
Scrabble is the world's most popular board game with more than 150 million game sets sold in 121 countries. This month marks its 60th anniversary.
There are three official Scrabble clubs in Auckland: Mt Albert, Pakuranga and North Shore.
One of New Zealand's top-ranked players is Blue Thorogood, a dangerous goods transporter who learned how to play in prison. Another Kiwi, Nigel Richards, won the world championships in 2007.
Word Wars, a documentary focusing on some of the top players in the US, is one of the funniest docos ever made. You can borrow it from any public library in Auckland.
For more information about the game and clubs in your area, see: www.scrabble.co.nz