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


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.

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

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

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