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