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March 28, 2022

How to play Words With Friends: Beginner’s Guide

On its surface, Words with Friends seems like such a simple game. You use your tiles to form words, then play those words on the board for points; whoever has the most points at the end of the game wins, right? Well, yes, that’s the jist of it, but there are tips and tricks you can learn which can increase your chances of being the high scorer at the end of the game!

Basic Rules of the Game

If you’re preparing for your first ever game of Words with Friends, it will help to familiarize yourself with the rules. You start the game with a rack of 7 letters, and it is your task to form a word with those letters. The player who goes first will be randomly determined. The first player will place their word on the board, which must touch the center square. Each letter has a point value assigned to it, with more common letters being worth less, and more difficult to use letters being worth more.

Once the first player has played, they will get points equal to the point values of their tiles, and then draw as many tiles as they played, so that their rack again has seven tiles on it. Both the scorekeeping, as well as the drawing of tiles will be done automatically for you on Words with Friends.

Then the next player has to find a word to play on the board. Whatever word they play has to connect to a previously played word. This can happen either by overlapping, where one letter of your word overlaps with a previously existing letter, or by playing alongside, when you lay your word parallel to an existing word. If you play parallel, all the places you’ve connected to the previous word, or words, must form new, legal words.

If you ever get stuck during game play and need some help, Words with Friends provides Power Ups to help you out!
Then, you will get your points for the word you played, as well as all new words formed, draw more tiles, and it proceeds to the next player’s turn.

Bonus Spaces

Not all spaces on the Words with Friends Board are created equal. You’ll notice that some spaces have bonuses written on them:

  • Double Letter
  • Triple Letter
  • Double Word
  • or Triple Word.

If you play a word that lands a letter on a Double or Triple Letter square, the value of that letter gets doubled or tripled for that turn. (ONLY for that turn, if you make a later word which uses a previously placed letter on a bonus tile, you only get the value of the tile.)
If you play a word which crosses a Double or Triple Word space, the value of your entire WORD gets doubled or tripled for that turn.
Now that you’ve learned the basics of gameplay, as well as the layout of the board, let’s learn some tips and tricks to take your Words with Friends game to the next level!

Beginner’s Strategy

Learn your Words

One of the most important tips for playing Words with Friends is to increase your vocabulary. The more words you know, the more words you’ll be able to form from your rack. This is useful not only to find higher scoring plays, but also plays which connect better to the board. The way that your plays connect to the board is a tip which we will touch on later in this article.

Words with Obscure Letters

We’ve all been there, drawing a J in our opening rack and not finding a way to play it all game. Or getting toward the end of the game and being stuck with a Q. You can make these difficult situations easier by studying lists of words which use those tricky letters. This blog has already covered words with X, and words with Y. You can find lists like these all over, and it is useful to study them to help get out of tricky situations.

Two- and Three-Letter Words

Another common situation for Words with Friends players is having an amazing word on your rack, but not finding anywhere to play it on the board. Studying lists of two and three letter words will help you find more places to connect your word onto the board. (This is, in this writer’s opinion, the most important Words with Friends pro tip. I saw a drastic spike in my performance after memorizing a list of legal two-letter words.)
Did you know that X can form a two letter word with every vowel? AX, EX, XI, OX, XU, are all legal plays, and very useful to get that pesky X out of your hand!

Learn the Board

When figuring out where to play your words, keep in mind the Double and Triple Letter, as well as Double and Triple Word spaces. Sometimes it’s tempting to play a long word, which you’re proud to have discovered. But, if that word only fits in on spaces with no bonuses, it may be wise to look elsewhere. Very often a 4-letter word which touches a Double Word space will be worth more than a 6-letter word which is on nothing. Be cognizant of these bonuses as you make your plays.

Play Defense

This is one of the tips which takes new players the longest to grasp. How can you play defense in a game of Words with Friends? You make your play, then your opponent makes these, and so on. But, keeping in mind the strategy of bonus tiles you learned above, a defensive strategy appears.
If your play is going to leave your opponent a clear shot at a Double or Triple Word tile, it may be worth considering a different play. It can be worth leaving points on the board to avoid setting your opponent up for a big play.

Find Good Competition

Finding well matched opponents is a key factor to improving your Words with Friends skill! While it may feel nice to keep playing against a family member, or a far-away friend who you can always beat; those games likely aren’t doing much to increase your skill. The same goes for playing against players who are much better than you; you likely resign yourself to losing, and don’t take a chance to improve. You need matches against people near your skill level, so that small improvements can lead to noticeable gains (hopefully wins!). Words with Friends provides matchmaking against strangers who are near your skill level, so if you don’t have any friends who fit the bill, check that out.

Rack Leave

When you make your plays, it pays to be cognizant of the tiles remaining on your rack. If you’re making a play which leaves you with all consonants, or all vowels, you may want to reconsider your play. Having a rack of all of one type of letter may make it difficult to make productive plays in turns down the road.

High Value Tiles

The two most versatile tiles in a game of Words with Friends are S and Blank. An S can be placed at the end of almost any Noun on the board, then used to start a new word, while a Blank can be, well, anything. Because of this versatility, having either an S or a Blank on your rack greatly increases your possible output. With this in mind, be careful not to waste either of these tiles on situations where they aren’t being useful. If you are playing the word ‘DOG’, it is not worth using your S to make ‘DOGS’ for only one point more. Save that S for a better play later!

Play!

But, most importantly, you need to play the game! No matter how long you spend studying all these tips and tricks, it’s more important to get into the game and play. The more games you play, the better a feel you’ll get for the game, and the tiles, and the board. You’ll learn by doing, and you’ll have some fun in the process. So open up that app, and start playing!

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