How to Win at Words with Friends–UPDATE

The other day, Words with Friends ate two of my games. At the time I didn’t realize the problem was almost certainly a bug introduced when the addicting mobile Scrabble-esque app became available as a facebook game, so I tried to fix the problem on my own. I deleted Words with Friends and reinstalled it, but what I found on my app store search disturbed me.

There are literally several apps dedicated to helping people cheat at Words with Friends. Friends? Really? Look, if you want to win at Words with Friends, I’ll tell you how. If you want to lose friends, there are more entertaining ways to do that than buying an app and screwing them over in a word game.

So here are some surefire ways to win at Words with Friends without losing at life.

A. Stop caring if you win. Seriously. No one else cares if you win. Maybe your opponent does, but that’s it. Vegas isn’t taking bets on your performance. No one is drafting you to their fantasy Words with Friends league. It’s nice to win, sure, but the point of wasting all your time playing games is to have fun. If you really care about accomplishing something, it really shouldn’t involve virtual letter tiles. If you have fun, you’re already a winner.

B. Don’t cheat. Set aside any talk about integrity and treating your friends with kindness. You should avoid cheating because it’s just too much work. If you are trying so hard that you actually need a program to tell you what words you can play, you’re no longer playing a game. You’re doing a job you aren’t even getting paid for. Shit, if you’re going to work, you might as well do your actual job. Does it really need to come to that? There are probably some apps that do all the work for you, in which case you’ve become too lazy even to play a game. That’s way too lazy.

Okay, let’s get to the actual game strategies, shall we?

C. Avoid playing one word at a time. There are times when bonus squares will change your strategy, but most of the time you can increase your scoring power by playing new words both horizontally and vertically. In some cases you may be able to play four, five, or even more words in one turn by playing your new word parallel to existing tiles. This is a great way to rack up points even when you don’t have high-scoring letters of your own.

Three tiles worth five combined points on their own create 4 words and 29 points.
Three tiles worth five combined points on their own create 4 words and 29 points.

D. Double your bonus. Whenever possible, capitalize on bonus squares adjacent to existing words. When a newly placed tile is used in two words, the bonus counts both times. So if you play, for example, an M on a triple-letter space to form two new words, you turn just that one 4-point letter into a 24-point play even before you’ve tallied the other tiles.

Double double Z = 40 points from one tile. Not too zzhabby.
Double double Z = 40 points from one tile. Not too zzhabby.

E. Be patient with your mega-tiles. If you have one of the biggies–a J, Q, X, or Z–don’t be in a rush to get rid of it. If you can’t find a way to at least double the value of that tile, don’t play it. These are your high-potential ammunition. Use them to inflict maximum damage.

F. Learn the 2-letter words. I’m not going to link to the pages that just tell you all of them, but I will explain what some of the more obscure ones are. Let’s start at the very beginning (a very good place to start). Some of the easiest 2-letter words to remember just happen to be: do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti (and do again). The Greek alphabet is also a very good source of short and/or obscure words. Pi. Mu. Lambda. Actually, all the letters in the alphabet appear in at least one two-letter word accepted in Words with Friends, except C and V. This is important for the next tip.

G. Block when necessary. Since there are no 2-letter words containing C or V, playing a word with C or V in it can create effective road blocks if you’re trying to protect a big lead. Or just be a jerk and gum up the WWF board. Either way, it can help. (Conversely, you may want to avoid this practice if you’re behind and need to keep your scoring options open.) Sometimes it also pays to waste a triple word space on a low-scoring word just to prevent your opponent from playing their hefty tiles.

H. Don’t set your opponent up for success. You know the danger zones, right? The triple letter space just three spots over from the triple word space? Yeah, that one. If you play a nice long word that runs between those two spaces and provides ample room on either side, chances are your opponent is going to be able to score and score big. Don’t make it easy on them. (Sometimes when you’re desperate to make a comeback, you might need to risk setting up these spots, but the odds won’t be in your favor.)

I. Control your vowels. At some point in playing Words with Friends, you’ve probably found yourself in the unfortunate dilemma of having all consonants or all vowels. While you can work around this with some fancy exceptions (aa, ae, ai, oe, hm, sh, and pfft, to name a few) it’s best not to get into this position at all. If you find yourself with only a couple of vowels (or consonants) try to avoid playing all that you have unless the point value such a play delivers is obviously worth it. The same goes for avoiding stockpiling too many of one letter (this seems to happen with I’s and U’s all the time, but maybe that’s just me).

So . . . don’t play all your vowels. Don’t play all your consonants. Doing so almost never works out well.

J. Know a lot of words. Yeah, believe me, this helps. You can learn good Words with Friends words by playing crossword puzzles. Shocking, I know. But those are also fun. You should try it if you want to improve your WWF skills.

K. Play funny words. Seriously, if you have the opportunity to play fart and you pass it up, you’re missing out. The point of the game is to have fun. If you find yourself laughing, or you make someone else do the same, you’ve won. And you might just be in a better mood, which might just unclog your creative juices, which might just help you win for realsies.

Okay, that’s enough reading. I hate to take away from your play time. Good luck!

UPDATE: I forgot one other thing: don’t try too hard to save up for specific words. If you’re one letter away from a monster score, go ahead and wait it out, but not for more than a turn or two. Usually waiting for just the right letter just digs you into a hole of depression and defeat.

UPDATE II: Because of their versatility and usefulness in applying various point-multiplying strategies, S’s and blank tiles should be used with care. If it doesn’t add at least 10 points to the word you’re playing, using an S or a blank is a wasted move.

UPDATE III: Don’t spend too long on any one word. You might find a better option, but if you reach the point where you’re actually feeling stress about which word you’re playing, you’ve probably crossed over into a bad place.

UPDATE IV: Experiment! This isn’t like Scrabble where playing QIXZJ is going to get your move challenged and your integrity questioned. If you’re not sure if te is a word, go ahead and try it. And with its latest update, Words with Friends will actually tell you which of the multiple words you’ve attempted are nonwords. That’s a huge development that can clue you in on which of your made-up guesses the WWF dictionary actually believes are words.

4 Replies to “How to Win at Words with Friends–UPDATE”

  1. This makes me want to start playing again! I haven’t been in the mood. So I am curious- by cheating do you mean how to “fix” the game or more like, enter the tiles you have and it will tell you what to play? I had no idea you could cheat. Dumb.


    1. Oh, it won’t let you fix the game (no making sure you get good tiles and your opponent gets only U’s), but yeah, here are my letters, give me the best word. At least, that’s what I assume they do.

      But even if they tell you what words you can play, it still doesn’t help with strategy. Sometimes playing the highest scoring word possible still sets your opponent up for success, so the cheaters will still lose many times. Serves them right. 😉

  2. I love words and I love to increase my vocabulary. To me using a cheat site leads to learning new words and the history of those words. While waiting for an opponent to play, I’ve spent a lot of time researching the words that show up the in the cheat site. The words have nothing to do with strategy. I enjoyed your tips. I am new to WWF and found myself naturally using some of the strategies. The one I will have to try is to not use as many tiles as possible and see if I can set myself up better. Thanks for the tips, they help make it a more a thinking game and an opportunity to research and follow interesting threads on the Net.

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