Words with Friends (and Scrabble) Strategy Primer

This is a strategy guide for the game Words with Friends. It is based on the basic game, 2-player game, but much of what this contains can be used in 3-4 player games, other variants, or in Scrabble. Keep reading the detailed text version below or view the brief video version that immediately follows this sentence.

The biggest misconception Words with Friends players have is thinking that the best players are the ones who make the biggest words or have the largest vocabulary. That is extremely inaccurate. The most important keys are:

  • Know all the 2 letter words. They are:
    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, NO, ID, IF, IN IS, IT, JO, KA, KI, LA, LI, LO, MA, ME, MI, MM, MO, MU, MY, NA, NE, NO, NU, OF, 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
    (Note that V and C are not included here, which makes them excellent blockers to prevent opponents from playing two letter words in order to stretch over to a Triple Word Score.)
  • Play defensively. This is EQUALLY important as playing offensively. If you say to yourself, “I’ll play here and just hope my opponent doesn’t have a (something),” abort that plan and find another place to play.
  • Recognize prefixes and suffixes. Realizing you have something like “ing” or “tion” is far more important than having a large vocabulary.
  • Understand the value of your play options in a very basic way. See the Playing Words section below.

Playing Tiles

Step One: What are the best spots on the board? In order of average value:

  1. Triple word scores. This is by far the most valuable tile, making even a simple word into a decent score.
  2. Triple/double letters next to vowels. This allows you to play a larger point letter on it perpendicular to the vowel so you can score it twice, along with the double/triple bonus.
  3. Playing on top of or next to a block that will give you multiple words. This is commonly used to get rid of low-point letters, especially vowels. A strong knowledge of three-letter words helps tremendously in this endeavor.
  4. Double word scores. These can add up to serious points, especially in conjunction with a double/triple letter score. Be careful not to leave your opponent with a high-potential place to play when using them though.
  5. Adding a letter on to the end of an existing word. If you can play a word that adds a single letter onto an existing word to make a second new word, you can score a decent number of points from the existing word. Since you do not get bonuses for the existing word, this type of play is not one of the most valuable options, but still better than only getting points for a single word.

Step Two: What will this play leave for my opponent?

The potential point opportunity for your opponent is of almost equal importance as how many points it will get for you, especially when you are playing a WWF player of advanced skill. When deciding on the word to play, take into account both your word score and your opponent’s scoring potential given the state of the board you leave for their turn. Pretty much never leave them with access to a Triple Word Score or a Triple/Double Letter Score next to a vowel.

Tray Management

When you’re looking for words to play, try to identify parts of words that are commonly used. What you want:

  • Things like ing, ed, er, ite, ide, ine, tion, etc. You can string these together to form words that use all 7 tiles or just stretch a long word over to a Triple Word Score. If nothing else, organizing the tiles in your tray so these letter combinations are together help visualize the words you can form.
  • A roughly 35%/65% distribution of vowels/consonants. No one likes to have mostly/all vowels or mostly/all consonants and the naïve WWF player will tell you it’s all luck of the draw. It’s really not. It is worth using a slightly less valuable word to leave yourself with a better balance of consonants and vowels for next turn. For example, leaving yourself with TIAE is way better than leaving yourself with IIAE, even if it means a few less points.
  • Avoid repeating letters. I would MUCH rather have an A and an E left for next turn than two As. It’s not as bad to have OO or EE because they frequently show up together, but II or AA is terrible.

Part of your tray composition is luck, but you are often faced with fairly even scoring word options, where you may be able to lose a point or two in order to have a more favorable combination of letters for your next turn. These really add up throughout a game.

Ending the Game

In a very close game, end game tactics may be the deciding factor. If you can leave your opponent with some high-scoring tiles left when you go out, the point swing can be significant. Simply, you want to go out first, so:

  • Do not take exactly the remaining tiles left in the bag. For example, if there are 4 tiles left in the bag, do not make a 4 letter word. Either leave a couple in the bag so your opponent cannot go out next turn, or make as large a word as possible (hopefully 5+ letters) so you get the advantage in going out first.
  • Also, once you get down to less than 7 tiles left in the bag, start planning out your final few turns so you can go out as quickly as possible.
Advertisements

4 thoughts on “Words with Friends (and Scrabble) Strategy Primer

    1. Hey there Wendy. I think it’s OK because the number of tiles of each that exist in the bag are common knowledge and listed on the side of the board. At any point, you could count up the tiles on the board and the ones in your rack to figure out which ones your opponent has left at the end of the game. Since you can calculate it, they must as well just tell you so you don’t have to waste your time counting. :)

      Like

  1. Why is it when the game will only let me have 5 tiles, I look in the bag and there is still 4 tiles left , one is a blank.. that because the other person return them? I don’t understand why they let tiles remain in the bag. If anyone could help I would appreciate it

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s