You know one of my all-time favorite games is Scrabble. I've been playing since I was old enough to spell, on one of the turn-table deluxe versions with the grooves for the tiles.
|My highest play ever. I'm still ridiculously proud of it.|
When I play anyone now, even past, present, or future students, I don't let them win. But I do hopefully teach some strategy.
So here's my definitive "How to beat me at Scrabble" (or Words with Friends) strategy list.
#1. LEARN ALL THE TWO-LETTER WORDS.
This is not optional if you want to win. You cannot stack words if you haven't familiarized yourself with this list. Keep it handy while you're new and pretty soon you'll know it forwards and backwards.
It still irritates me that they don't accept "ew" as a word. C'mon. Everyone knows that ew means.
|This is a good example of what "stacking" words looks like. |
"BOOTY," worth 11 points at face value, is now worth 41 points.
- C and V have no two-letter counterparts, so they can block a section of the board pretty easily.
- Q on has QI, Z only has ZA, and J only has JO. These are high-pointers though, so look to use them on a double- or triple-letter in both directions.
- X is my favorite letter because it works with every vowel- AX, EX, XI, OX, XU.
- The two-letter words that don't require a vowel are SH, HM, MM, BY, MY.
#2. SOMETIMES YOU LOOK FOR A GOOD WORD; SOMETIMES YOU LOOK FOR A GOOD SPOT.
Unless my rack looks like there's a 7-letter word in there somewhere, I look for a good spot first. I'm going to use the same game and show you what I mean.
When I look at this board, the first thing I see is the double word in the lower right-hand corner by "ORE." Add a B, C, F, G, L, M, P, S, W, Y.... I think that's all the possible combinations. You get the point. Now I don't have much left in my rack, but I was watching the spot for awhile. A and T have plenty of two-letter combinations that I could stack a word right next to "GOAT" and have a high value play. For instance, "PLAY" would work and I would also get "PORE," "LA," and "AT." Whereas "PLAY" is just worth 9 points, or 18 with the double word score. But put it all together, and it's worth 34 points.
The only time I try to find a good word is if I'm loaded with the magic combination of letters that looks like it'll net me a 7-letter word (worth 50 bonus points!), which brings me to my next tip.
#3. I DON'T JUST SHUFFLE. I LOOK FOR MAGIC LETTER COMBINATIONS.
These are magic letter combos:
SH- OR -SH
CH- OR -CH
If you have any of these combos, put those letters together and see what you have left. You might find a word that would have eluded you otherwise.
#4. THERE ARE SOME HANDY WORDS TO KEEP IN YOUR BACK POCKET.
|"ZAX" is one of my favorite words. I have no idea what it means.|
These are some of the words that veteran Scrabble players will use to their advantage (not including the two-letter list above).
The Q is one of my favorite letters, but you have to know how to use it wisely. Don't obsess about having a U. I bet "QI" is the most common Q word I play!
J is another good letter to abuse:
JIN, JINN, or JINS
ADZ or ADZE
CZAR or TZAR
This is by no means a definitive list, but they are some of my favorite tricky words that can net a lot of points.
#5. DON'T EVER WASTE AN S OR I WILL DISOWN YOU.
An S is a treasure to be held until just the right moment. If you found a hundred dollar bill on the ground, you wouldn't just hand it to the next person you see, would you? No, you save it until an opportune time.
In this game, I have an S in my rack. There are no words on the board right now that can end in S, so it'll sit there unless it gives me some advantage. What would be a good reason to use an S that isn't adding it to the end of another word? I'm glad you asked.
Look at the first word played, "AWAITS." This looks like a wasted S, right? Wrong. I'm not sure who played the first word here, but the S was used to move the W from a plain square to a double letter, meaning instead of four points doubled, now it's eight points doubled. From four to 16 points, just like that. Boo-yah.
Unless you have a good excuse, use that S to tack onto another word and rack up those points.
#6. IF YOU LEAVE A TRIPLE-WORD OPEN, I WILL USE IT.
Consider yourself warned.
#7. PLEASE DON'T CHEAT.
Yes, I am aware that there are a million Scrabble and WWF cheats out there. I know which of my friends use them and which don't. But I play for fun, not to win. It's not fun if you're cheating. And you'll feel much better about yourself when you beat me for real.