Part III – Intermediate Play (cont) – Words With Friends

Target audience:

  • Semi-competitive player with 10 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys winning slightly more than making clever words
  • Wants to limit playing time but still win 60% or more of the games
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part II – Intermediate Play

Tactics

Learn word creation via tile mapping.
      1. Find the most valuable tiles on the board.
        • Access to a DW or TW.
        • DL, TL, DW, TW with a vowel next to it where two words can be made with same tile.
        • Extending an existing word with J, Q, X, or Z.

        Find valuable tiles. (1) Key starting points - 1 Key starting points - 1

      2. Match most valuable letters to those locations.  Add any other letters from your rack which appear to form common syllables or letter combinations.

        High value tile on high value square. (1) High value tile on high value square. (2)

      3. Use this as the starting point for creating words.

        High value tile on high value square with word. (1) High value tile on high value square with word. (2)

Know and use the vowel and consonant only words.
  • These are very valuable when your rack is full of either vowels or consonants.
  • If nothing can be created, see tile swapping section below.
Vowel Only AA AE AI EAU OE OI
Consonant Only (no Y) BRR BRRR CRWTH CRWTHS CWM CWMS
HM HMM MM NTH PFFT PHPHT PHT
PSST PST SH SHH TSK TSKS TSKTSK
TSKTSKS ZZZ
Master the tile swap.
  • Use this tactic sparingly, but consider using in these situations:
    • Rack contains 3-5 of the same letters.
    • Rack contains all vowels or all consonants.  (See all vowel and consonant only section above.)
    • Opponent is really far ahead, and you need a Hail Mary to even have a chance.
  • Keep these letters when swapping:  A, D, E, R, S, T
  • Swapping 4 or fewer letters is preferred to avoid consecutive bad racks.

Other Posts

Introduction
Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics
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Part II – Intermediate Play – Words With Friends

Target audience:

  • Semi-competitive player with 10 or fewer simultaneous games
  • Enjoys winning slightly more than making clever words
  • Wants to limit playing time but still win 60% or more of the games
  • Has mastered all the skills listed in Part I – Basic Tactics

Tactics

20 point minimum.  Strive for this minimum score in all cases.
  • Use this as a guideline to get your score above 350.
  • This rule-of-thumb helps balance time management with a decent score. (i.e. Find a 20 point word with decent defensive stance and move to next game.)
 30+ point word.  Play whenever and wherever.
  • With this many points, it’s OK to let down your defensive stance.
  • Often, the worst case is your opponent will respond with a similar score, but it’s worth the gamble and keeps you in control of the board.
2-letter words.  You must know these to be speedy and see the pairings naturally.
  • For Blackjack players, this is no different than memorizing simple strategy.
  • This is big time booster and prevents unnecessary trial-and-error.
  • See the following table for a list of these:
AA AB AD AE AG AH AI AL AM AN
AR AS AT AW AX AY BA BE BI BO
BY DA DE DI DO ED EF EH EL EM
EN ER ES ET EX FA FE FI GI GO
HA HE HI HM HO ID IF IN IS IT
JO KA KI LA LI LO MA ME MI MM
MO MU MY NA NE NO NU OD OE OF
OH OI OM ON OP OR OS OW OX OY
PA PE PI QI RE SH SI SO TA TI
TO UH UM UN UP US UT WE WO XI
XU YA YE YO ZA
Defensive letters:  V, C & K (to some extent)
  • Use these letters to play words to prevent your opponent from connecting to your word.
  • These letters can be used to render a TW or DW unusable for the rest of the game.

Using the V to block Using the C to block Using the V to block - 2

Other Posts

Introduction
Part I – Basic Tactics
Part II – Intermediate Play 
Part III – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

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 – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – 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 – Intermediate Play (cont)
Part IV – Advanced Strategy
Part V – Hard Core Tactics

Electronic Catch Phrase – Supplemental Instructions

Introduced to me about 3 years ago by Jim, Electronic Catch Phrase is an easy-to-learn and entertaining party game for small to large groups. Game play often involves two teams sitting every other one with each team alternating the phrase guessing as the time counts down. The electronic version is shaped like a small disk and essentially becomes a “hot potato” as each team tries to guess the phrase and pass the disc before the buzzer sounds. Having played hours and hours, we have added a few additional instructions to aid game play and reduce debates for more competitive players.

 

 

Electronic Catch Phrase - Second Edition

Supplemental rules:

1)     Rhymes. Phrase owner cannot use rhymes that match the phrase or specific words within the phrase.   Example:
Phrase: snake
Restricted: “Animal that rhymes with bake.”
Allowed: “Animal that rhymes with a reptile that slithers on the ground.”

2)  Foreign languages. Two options: (a) Phrase owner cannot use non-English languages. (b) Phrase owner cannot use non-English words that have direct matches to the phrase. (Option “a” is my preference.)  Example:
Phrase: water
Restricted: “agua”
Allowed: “H20”

3) Adverbs & filler words. Phrase owner cannot use adverbs within phrase prior to guessers having said them first. Words such as “the”, “an”, etc.. NOTE: This is a controversial rule and should be discussed prior to playing. After many discussions, this rule is deemed to be fair because so few phrases contain these words, and since these words are easy to guess, discussing this rule in advance of game play will eliminate arguments.  Example:
Phrase: Catcher in the Rye
Restricted: “in”, “the”
Allowed: “Second word: opposite of ‘out'”, “Third word: in blank beginning”

Tips, notes, and general etiquette:

BUZZER NOTE: The buzzer sound does not necessarily mean the point has been lost. The guessing team must hit the Next button and cause the word to change before the opposing team loses a point.

ETIQUETTE: A team must provide at least one clue before passing to the opposing team. This situation commonly occurs when the disc is being passed as the buzzer is sounding. The phrase changed, but the next person did not have time to say anything even though they are holding the disc.

GUESSING TIP: Phrase owners should use “contains n words” earlier in the turn, assuming the phrase does not contain “contain”, “word”, and/or the number.  (See Rule 3 above.)

STRATEGY TIP: Many clever beginners will delay the disc handoff in an attempt to shorten the time for the opposing team. Most experienced players realize this is a futile effort. Beyond being unsportsmanlike, this strategy often backfires because the next phrase may be quickly guessed by the opposing team leaving the perpetrating team with less time.