Part I – Basic Tactics – Words With Friends

Target audience:

  • Casual player with 5 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys making words and chatting with friends
  • Wants a decent score but isn’t highly focused on having the highest score
  • Has played few games and understands the basic mechanics of the game

Tactics

Avoid placing a vowel beside or below a DL, TL, DW, or TW (as much as possible).

Avoid Vowels under TL Avoid Vowels over TW Avoid Vowels next to DL

Know the big scoring letters, and use them well:  J, Q, X and Z
  • Don’t hold these for long as they take up space on your rack.
  • It’s imperative to know the two letter combinations for these letters because it’s a likely placement.
JO QI XI XU ZA
Word placement is often more important than the word itself.
  • Rookie mistake:  A big word isn’t always a big scorer, especially if it allows the competition to take advantage of a DW or TW.

Tile Misplacement - 1

Know the math.
  • Making two words from a DL or TL doubles the DL/TL.

Poor use of math Good use of math\

Know the specialty rules!
  • Bingo – 35 point bonus for using all 7 of your tiles in one play
    • In almost all cases, it pays to play a bingo regardless of the resulting defensive stance.
    • Bingos are much more common in the first half of the game due to the amount of open tiles.
  • End of game scoring
    • Most close games are determined by who empties their rack first.
    • The player to go out first receives points equal to the opposing player’s remaining rack, while the opposing player loses the same amount of point. (i.e. The opposing player’s tiles are worth 2X to you.)
    • Get rid of any J, Q, X, or Z when 15 or fewer letters remain.

Other Posts

Introduction
Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play
Part III – Advanced Strategy
Part IV – Hard Core Tactics

Introduction – Words With Friends

Using the V

Words with Friends (WWF) is an exceptional game, allowing just about any age to play, and while a good vocabulary will help any player, there’s much more to the game than just words. After playing for a couple years and encountering a wide variety of skill levels, I began to look for some tips on improving my game. What seemed to be missing is a process allowing any player to slowly build from a beginner level and/or improve their game from an intermediate level. This WWF series of blog entries intends to do exactly that. Admittedly, this set of suggestions isn’t likely to advance your average to 450 per game, but 400+ isn’t out of the question. On the other hand, the information is setup in a way to allow a more casual player to improve in a stepwise manner, picking up new tips after mastering others.

Before jumping into the deeper content, it seems appropriate to address other semi-controversial points which often arise when discussing WWF: (a) the differences between Scrabble (the board game) and WWF, (b) expert levels of play, and (c) the use of outside help. While admitting some personal bias, I’ll briefly address each of these topics so readers can determine whether our value systems are in alignment and the suggestions worthy of continued reading.

Scrabble versus WWF

It seems hard to debate playing either game will help the vast majority of people improve in both games; however, these really are quite different games. The most notable difference is a player’s ability in WWF to try and fail without penalty, and hardcore Scrabble players often scoff at WWF because of this. On the other hand, Scrabble players are not typically playing 5-20 games simultaneously, yet they have the luxury of continuous brain power directed towards one game in one setting. Playing multiple WWF games and maximizing context switching is one of the key goals of the strategies listed in this blog. By the way, while players often have a couple of weeks to make one WWF play before being auto-forfeited, a reasonable protocol amongst players appears to be one play (or more) per board every 24 hours, which means a player should decrease play duration or number of games to strike a reasonable balance.

Expert levels of play

A keen eye will notice these strategies suggest the potential to elevate a WWF player to an “advanced” level. For those wanting to become real experts, you’ll need to start practicing what the pro Scrabble players do: memorize the entire word list (~170,000 words), analyze previous games, work with a game coach, etc. But, who has the time for all of that nonsense?! As in chess, which I’ll reference often, naturals at WWF are those with above average pattern matching and discipline, and these strategies attempt to improve your WWF skills in a steady, progressive manner regardless of your inherent natural abilities.

Use of outside help

It seems opinions vary widely on this topic, ranging from what constitutes outside help to whether outside help actually aids against an experienced player. In my opinion, using outside help is real downer, and doing so only strengthens your opponent’s skill set while the cheater gets really good at using a word finder! (OK, I said it.) We all know how easy it is to Google a word or use one of the many WWF cheat sites and/or apps, but the game’s best outcomes are a friendly result of you versus your opponent. BTW, there are few ways to determine if someone is flagrantly using outside help, but assuming your opponent is honest is the wisest route due to a lot of sharp players with a sizeable word set. Sufficed to say, avoiding cheaters provides a much more enjoyable playing experience, but you should know the really good players are regularly scoring 400-450+ per game, so don’t be too quick to accuse!

Live, Learn, Improve, Repeat…

Having built this compilation of strategies and tactics over the course of several months, I decided to publish even though the entire series was not fleshed out; however, providing content earlier and receiving feedback sooner is a much better approach in almost all situations. (hat tip for my Agile friends) In other words, once the skeleton series is published, improvements will be made to the existing entries without notice.

Other Posts

Introduction
Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play
Part III – Advanced Strategy
Part IV – Hard Core Tactics

8 Lessons Learned in 2013

  1. Signs that life is short are all around us.  Last Tuesday morning at 3:37 AM (Central), while standing on a step ladder, I pulled out the smoke alarm battery and squinted out my own handwriting: “6-24-11”. I could pass a lie detector test swearing I change these every 6 months – always between the hours of midnight and dawn.Vancouver, BC - Feb 2013
  2. The Apple handcuffs have finally been broken.  Since moving to Spotify eight months ago, I haven’t purchased a single iTunes song.  (…and yes, you can access your playlists without being online.)
  3. No more passwords!  Our “secret” password notebook has been rendered useless since moving to LastPass (for a whopping $12/year!). Between the time savings and security, this is beyond a no-brainer.
  4. Shopping online is mainstream (duh!).  I bought EVERY single holiday gift online this year. Again, Amazon Prime rocks, even though I had to use a couple other sites to ensure there were a few surprises (for the snoopy co-member of the account).
    St. Kitts - April 2013
  5. Google Drive (Docs) is truly the best and getting better every week.  For the everyday low price of nothing, 99% of all Word/Excel tasks can be done with Google, and by the way, you also get real-time collaboration, instantaneous backup, and secure sharing as an additional free bonus.
  6. Social media can be fun again.  After some introspection into why I had all but stopped interacting on the public Interwebs, I decided to introduce some discipline and am enjoying the benefits with several blog posts, tweets, and pics in store for 2014.
  7. Paperless is now a reality.  Thanks to the Samsung Galaxy 10.1 (2014 edition), notebooks (both kinds) are becoming a thing of the past. Admittedly, the paperless option is going to lie in the early adopter phase for most at this point in time, but the writing apps are becoming quite good.
  8. Bye bye little boxes.  In the words of Malvina Reynolds (via Jenji Kohan):  “Little boxes on the hillside, little boxes all the same…” To avoid sounding rantish and/or brash, we’ll simply summarize by saying those rules, ruts and rituals can all be broken. Bold changes and crazy adventures have served the Lunt’s well in 2013, and we’re planning on even more healthy disruption in 2014!

Puerto Rico - April 2013

Kate in sample of 2013 holiday pics

Kate - holiday pics 2013

Social media charter

Over the past couple of months, I’ve been doing a bit of social media housecleaning and really trying to answer the question of what to post and where to post it.  Through the course of investigating best practices in combination with defining some new objectives, the following outlines the latest game plan.

Willemstad, Curaçao

Twitter

  • Work and industry related, specifically around software and IT
  • Colleague connections and conversations
  • Postings from blogs, if relevant to above

LinkedIn

  • Work and industry related, specifically around software and IT
  • Career related
  • Colleague connections
  • Postings from blogs, if relevant to above

Google+

  • Still in flux as it’s the grey area between friends, family, work, and career
  • General topics such as tech, career, odd current/local events, etc…
  • Postings from blogs
  • Public photos on topics listed above

Facebook

  • Family & close(r) friends
  • Non-public photos and comments
  • Targeted life postings based on audience
  • Postings from blogs
  • Non-techie subjects

WordPress

  • As the title suggests, improvement ideas, suggestions, things that really helped us, etc…
  • Landing/launching point for other social media outlets

Retrofitting existing networks may cause some unintended ruffling, but hopefully, this blog post explains the reasoning well enough.  Honestly, why anyone peruses my content is baffling to me, but having this cheat sheet should provide some consistency and revive my previous zeal to post more.

Simplifying our travel experience

After having someone walk off with our luggage a second time in 2 years (both times by accident), we decided to add luggage tags to all of our suitcases.  Originally, we tried the store-bought tags, but they often fell apart after a few trips, and the customized online tags seemed like a poor ROI, as we wanted to place two tags on every bag and not have to add/remove the tags every trip.

The solution was to have business cards printed on colored paper – double-sided.  This can be done with a MS Word template, or you can actually have business cards created via several methods.  FedEx Office (previously Kinko’s) will laminate the cards and provide the plastic loops for ~$2/each.  In fact, you can walk into any FedEx Office and ask them how to do the entire project if you want to avoid the smallest amount of cognitive discomfort.  We’ve been using these for about 8 years, and only one has broken in all that time.

No Parking

Pros:

  • The total time to complete the project was less than an hour.
  • The tags were completely unique and high quality, unlike the store-bought items.
  • The solution is cheap enough to have extras made for new bags and broken tags.
  • Since implementing, no airline has ever lost our bags, and no one has ever taken our bags.
  • With two on each bag, we can always see our bags on the conveyor from a distance. (i.e. No more checking bags that look like yours.)
  • With these, there is no more scrambling to fill out the airline-specific tags while impatient passengers wait on you at the check-in counter.

Read more of this post

Printed Grocery List

About 5 years ago, we decided to streamline the repetitive nature of our weekly shopping trips. (…and by we, I have to confess I’m not the key grocery shopper in the family.) After several renditions, the list has evolved into much more than an alphabetized ordering of our most used items, here’s an example of our most recent version.

A couple of mentions about the subtle metadata within the list:

1) Red text allows for blue/black ink or pencil to be visible.
2) Organization is by department within the store, including the typical route through our neighborhood store.
3) Yellow indicates a “staple”, which is something that is needed almost every trip, whether marked or not.

Typically, we print 5-6 off at a time and update the sheet as our habits change. At first we tried to do this with an online version but found there was no substitute for the quick checkoff via pen/pencil. Keeping this in Google Docs allows for editing to be done anywhere, but for those preferring a retro approach, Excel will work fine.

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