Sunday, May 22, 2011

Overanalyzing Words With Friends

I just woke up having slept approximately 50% of my weekend (am i dying i'm always tired now is this a sign of dying) and I haven't done anything productive so hopefully this will make up for it.

For those who are total shut-ins and don't know, Words With Friends is an app for iOS that allows one to play scrabble over the internets.

I'll be walking through a game of it to point out some tactics I tend to do.  No guarantees that they work but they seem reasonable enough.

Shitty starting letters
Doesn't look like I can get the DW tile.  The Q is completely useless without a U or I and the others don't make any five-letter words.  I could:
  1. Play a four-letter word such as 'toed' to get as many points as possible, opening up the other DW tiles and even the TL tiles in the process.
  2. Place a difficult letter to start/end with on the star to prevent the other person from getting the other DW tiles (but usually still opening up the TL tiles).
  3. Pass and leech off of the DW and TL tiles that open up after the opponent's turn.
 As I don't have any annoying letters (T, H, and O are good starting letters, while D and E are good ending letters), I can't do options 1 or 2, so I'll pass for now.  I can also exchange some letters, but there aren't any that I'm looking for (besides a U for the Q, but I'm unlikely to get that anyways).


Player 2 plays 'SHAGS'.

Which allows me to play 'SHEET' down the center and get the DW tile.

Player 2 plays 'ZETA'.

...Putting them ahead with the Z on the DL tile.

This is a pretty bad scenario but not as bad as one might think.  They've used their power tile (Z with 10 points).  Since they probably don't have another one, I can open up a bunch of tiles pretty safely.  Also, I have my own power tile still (the Q).  Q happens to be the second-worst 10-point tile (behind J which doesn't go with anything ever) and it's especially terrible here because there aren't any U or I letters in sight (with 'I' you can do Qi and make the other guy rage).

At this point I want to open up and use as many tiles as possible to eventually get a U or I and to open up the rest of the board for a potential Q-on-a-TL scenario.

Meanwhile I might as well leech off the Z they placed so I don't lag behind too far.  I play 'ZEN' down from their Z.

Edit: Mr. Mo pointed out a much better move:
After 'ZETA' was played, instead of you playing 'ZEN' for only 15 points, you should've played 'BONED' stretching from the TL-score tile above the 'A' in 'ZETA' to the DW-score tile for 49 points -- it would have been a much different game from there.

(1) Combining multiple power tile +
(2) Creating 2 words that use a power tile twice on a letter like 'B' is even better than just reusing a 'Z'.

Player 2 plays 'SOW'

...Following suit by leeching off of the 'Z' and getting a 'W' on a DL tile in the process.  I'm now behind by 37 points.

However, I finally have an I to pair with my Q.  Also, they've opened up both TW tiles.  Doesn't look like I can get either of them though ('OBOED' isn't a word? :sad: ) so the best I can do is prevent them from getting either of them too.  I could play 'OBOE' to get the TL tile but that would open up 'OBOES' and possibly a second word like 'COWS', giving them the TW tile twice.

I play 'BODE'
Player 2 plays 'DONG'

That wasn't the best idea.


I thought the W would prevent anything like that but it turns out 'WO' is a word.

In an attempt to get some better letters and get rid of all my O's, I play 'NOO' for a measly 5 points.  I considered playing 'MOO' on the left of 'ZEN' (making 'MET', 'ON', and 'MOO' and getting the DW tile) but that opens up 'MOOT' and 'MOOD', landing the other person the TW tile.  Sure enough (playing against myself), they have a T.

Player 2 plays 'TARGE'

'OE' is a word?  Didn't know that.  I'm adding that into my repertoire of cheap 2-letter words.

No good options right now so I'm playing 'FOAM' to get the F on the TL tile.

Player 2 plays 'FORGE'

Excellent, a blank tile.  Also, a possibility for 'FORGED' or 'FORGES' to get the TW tile.  Things are looking up.

I can finally play the Q that I've been holding since the beginning of the game.  I play 'QIS' and 'FORGES', catching up to being only 14 points behind.

Player 2 plays 'VAR'

...Blocking off the other TW.  Unless there's a word like 'SOOVAR' that I'm unaware of.

I play 'YIN' because I'm pretty sure 'YINS' and 'YIND' aren't words.

Player 2 plays 'RID'

Lacking options, I play "ED" to get the DW.

Player 2 swaps 3 tiles.

At this point, there's few options.  No one wants to open up the TW's on the bottom left, so that's a dead zone.  On the top part, there are very few words that end in a V.  The only real place for development is the left-center, ending a word on the H.  Since I'm behind in points, Player 2 will simply try to close the board more.  Reluctantly, I play 'BOTH'; opening up 'OX' and another word on the TL tile to let +49 points, but I hold one X so I'll just hope they don't hold the other.


^ I'm bad at that.

Player 2 plays 'TOM'

...Closing the board a bit more by not leaving any hanging letters.

I play 'TRIM'.

Player 2 plays 'YO'

...Blocking off the TW at the bottom while still netting a decent amount of points.  Note that by 'blocking off', I mean 'blocking out any chance of scoring well with it'.  I can still put down something like 'TON' and 'TO' but that won't net very much.

TIP #5: When you're ahead, block out strong tiles like DW and TW.

And as a general rule, don't leave vowels next to TL tiles.  Something like 'ZA' or 'QI', with the Z and Q on the triple tile, will net 30 points, and if they do a second word, an instant 60.

Stalling some and getting rid of a L and I (which I have doubles of), I play 'LION' for a measly 8 points.

Player 2 plays 'RUT'

...Ending expansion to the top.  (Actually if I had an O I could play 'OR' so that wasn't very well thought out; sadly I don't).

Since it doesn't look like I'll be able to go through the top soon I'm forced to play 'RAX', which puts me ahead by 7 points but can be taken advantage of easily, with words like 'FLAX', netting the TW with the X.

And take advantage he did.

Player 2 plays 'PLEX'

Any attempt to open the left side (besides 'OR') is dead, so time to look elsewhere.  I really should've seen this, but the word in the upper-right doesn't have to end in V.  It just has to have a V in it.  There were plenty of times I could play 'LIVE' or something and expand up there, but I ignored it.


I play 'STRIVE'

Player 2 plays 'JET'

A blunder, because that places the 10-point J next to a DW tile.  I play 'JAILED'.  This closes off the TW tile, but it's actually advantageous to me now, because I'm ahead by 6 points.  In that respect, I need to close off the R on the left in 'RUT' as well as the S in 'STRIVE'

Player 2 plays 'VIE'

...Opening the left side.  'ER' is a word?  Didn't know that.

It's a really close game now, so there are a few things both of us have to look at.
  1. The TW tiles.  If someone gets +30 points with those then it's over.
  2. The TL tiles.  Even though all the power letters are gone (Z, J, Q, and X), a 5-point letter on a TL tile can still be useful.  If two words are made from it, that nets +30 which will tip the balance.
  3. Winning first.  Whoever finishes all of their tiles first not only ends the game (and therefore probably putting them in the lead) but the other person's score is subtracted by the point value of the tiles they still hold.
  4. Loose words everywhere else.  Notably the R in 'RID' on the bottom-right.

I play 'VAN' as a waiting move, letting them open up the TW tiles.

Player 2 plays 'FUN'

This is actually fairly defensive because it's hard to find words that end in F.  It also closes the TW at the top.  However (and this is just really lucky on my part), 'CHEF' becomes a possibility, earning 36 points.  That probably ends the game in my favor.

Player 2 plays 'DAW'

..Taking advantage of the 'RID' to play 'ARID' and evening out the game, 305 to 307 in his favor.

With all influential tiles gone and the TW closed off, it really comes down to whoever can win first.  I'd suggest keeping the blank tile for the last word, because it'll become harder to place anything as the game goes on.  Meanwhile take advantage of any bonus spaces that you can (even the DL ones) because it's close enough to make a difference.

I play 'PULP', netting the P on the TL.

Player 2 plays 'JETS'

Game ends with 'CHIN', netting 38 points.  I didn't realize how useful that TW at the bottom still was, otherwise I'd have played it earlier.  Didn't realize 'LI' counted as a word.


And a final tip: Words With Friends is not a word game.

It's a strategy game.  Big words don't matter.  'STRIVE' net 20 points or so while 'PLEX' net 45.  The only real exception to this is when you can use all of your tiles, earning the bonus 30 points, but that's once in a blue moon.

If you want to play me, my username is ThatSnail.  Goodnight everyone.


  1. After 'ZETA' was played, instead of you playing 'ZEN' for only 15 points, you should've played 'BONED' stretching from the TL-score tile above the 'A' in 'ZETA' to the DW-score tile for 49 points -- it would have been a much different game from there.

    (1) Combining multiple power tile +
    (2) Creating 2 words that use a power tile twice on a letter like 'B' is even better than just reusing a 'Z'.

  2. Aaah, thanks! Added that in, nice find.