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Words with Friends

Words with Friends is not Scrabble

Zynga's popular Words with Friends game is another play on one of America's favorite word games: Scrabble. Like Lexulous before it, Words with Friends uses the same size board with competitors trying to make words using a combination of letters from their rack and the tiles on the board. The style of play is essentially identical, however, there are some key differences across several dimensions.

Putting more Points into Play

You might have noticed that your scores seem to be higher on WWF. Part of this is that there are more tiles worth more points than in Scrabble. In fact, there are 104 tiles worth a combined 220 points. This compares to Scrabble's 100 tiles that are worth a measely 187 points. Lexulous has even fewer tiles with just 89, but those 89 tiles are worth 206 points. So on a points per tile basis, Lexulous tiles are worth the most on average, while Scrabble tiles are worth the least.

For me personally, scoring over 300 points on Scrabble is good and I can sometimes break even 400. On Lexulous, I would routinely get over 400 and even hit 500 once or twice. However, on WWF, I'm almost always over 400 points and have passed 500 points on several occasions. Two good players on WWF should clear 800 in combined points and even 900. I would not be surprised to see a combined score over 1000. Yes, that would be scoring over 4.5x the points on the tiles.

The following table shows the distribution of tiles for WWF.

Tile Distribution
Letter No. Value Total points
a 9 1 9
b 2 4 8
c 2 4 8
d 5 2 10
e 13 1 13
f 2 4 8
g 3 3 9
h 4 3 12
i 8 1 8
j 1 10 10
k 1 5 5
l 4 2 8
m 2 4 8
n 5 2 10
o 8 1 8
p 2 4 8
q 1 10 10
r 6 1 6
s 5 1 5
t 7 1 7
u 4 2 8
v 2 5 10
w 2 4 8
x 1 8 8
y 2 3 6
z 1 10 10
# 2 0 0
Totals 104 2.1 220

Board Management is Even More Important

Another one of the key differences is the board layout. While it still has the familar double and triple letter score boxes as well as the more lucrative double and triple word score boxes. The arrangement of these spaces is completely different. This is an incredibly important consideration in playing WWF. I think board management is even more important in WWF than in either Scrabble or Lexulous. This is driven by the fact that the spacing of some of the scoring squares is such that very simple words can result in extremely high point totals. Hence it becomes absolutely imperative to play your words in such a way that it limits your opponent's ability to capitalize on these spacings. One the key spacing challenges is the combination of the triple word score box close to the triple letter score boxes. There are several instances of this in WWF. In fact, there are 16 ways to play this combination, two for each of the eight triple word score boxes.

Scrabble did not have this issue. While you could combine a double letter score box with a triple word score box, it was not possible to put the triple letter score box with a triple word score box, let alone have it happen up to eight times in a single game. This creates the potential for enormous scoring since a letter can be scored up to nine times. Imagine playing BREW with the B on the triple letter score box and the R and E on the empty boxes and the W on the triple word score box. The B and W are each worth 4 points and the R and E are worth just a single point each.

However, the B is then multiplied by 3 to give it a value of 12 plus 1 each for R and E plus 4 for W gives the base word score an 18, which is then tripled for the final score of 54. This does not include any points from hooking another existing workd (more on this later). 54 is an incredible score, but the more amazing observation is that the B contributed 36 of those points.

Mark Pincus hates Bingos

I don't know this to be true, but based on the scoring it wouldn't surprise me. The bingo is a special play in these word games that occurs when some one plays every tile on their rack. In Scrabble, playing a bingo gives you another 50 points to whatever your score for the word was. Lexulous, a little different since it played with an eight tile rack gave 50 points for playing eight tiles off and 40 points for playing seven tiles off. It was pretty easy to play seven tiles since you could leave one behind, sometimes it would be the dreaded V. However, in WWF, a bingo is only worth 35 points. I've played four letter words that have been worth way more than a bingo - case in point would be the previous discussion of BREW. Furthermore, the bingo play will drastically open up the board, which is not a good thing in WWF.

While in Scrabble, I would have never passed on playing a bingo - the glory and the points were too much. However, I actually have already passed on bingos in WWF. Whatever.

Word with Friends is a fun game for those who already enjoy Scrabble. However, it is important to recognize that it is not the exact same game and so you will have to adjust your strategy to win.

Copyright 2013 BattleLine Games LLC.