So you get the basics: Don’t leave open huge bonus square combinations, play towards the center of the board, and don’t leave parallel plays with high scoring tiles. But you want to learn more! Here are some basic themes important to understanding the Words with Friends board:
Creating multiple openings
Especially when behind, there are times when you need to create multiple openings to overtake a deficit. Creating multiple openings ensure that you have at least one opening after your opponent scores well, potentially allowing you to make a comeback. This is especially powerful when you have a leave with good scoring potential.
In this position, your best scoring options are in column n. There are two good options: FUDGE (retaining VA) and VAGUE (retaining DF). While DF is typically a better leave, in this case AV is actually a better leave since it allows you to block the board. Since you have a leave, the V has transformed from a weak tile into a strong tile.
In this position, you should sacrifice 10 points and play GROWS (instead of ORZOS) keeping the valuable Z. The Z is even more valuable than usual because of the various spots the Z can score, such as ZA 9a, ZOUK g5, or plays hooking AD-Z at 12k.
The best scoring spot with this rack is 2c. Normally, you’d keep the best leave possible and play FAVA, keeping EIZ. However, in this case, EIZ is not the best leave: playing FAVE (keeping AIZ) is better. This is because of the pool: there is only one A remaining, while there are many, many Es remaining. The A is useful, especially for the 11l spot.
Making plays that give you a head start towards a high point play next turn is one of the most important themes in Words with Friends. Here are some examples:
While there are higher scoring options such as PUCK or PUCKA, you are better off scoring a few less points by playing LUCK, hoping to play P-LUCK next turn on the TL/TW alley for a bunch of points.
CUTIE g5 might only score 21 points, but it also sets up XI for 52 next turn: an opening that is unlikely to be blocked by your opponent, especially since it is not obvious that you have XI in your rack.
Often setups are combined with fishing plays: you will need an extra tile or two to make your setup worthwhile, such as when you set up your S for a potential bingo. Here, instead of playing FLASHY for 40, we’re better off playing JELLY for 22, setting up a possible JELLYFISH for 99 next turn with an I draw. It is unlikely that your opponent will block, and blocking plays are destined to score quite poorly.
In a game like Words with Friends, sometimes there is a silver lining to creating openings: they will allow you to score after your opponent uses a specific opening. It’s like a prized fighter who allows their opponent to get in their shots in hopes of retaliating with a knockout blow. While somewhat rare, looking for these opportunities is important.
Normally, you would never want to make a play such as ZONER 12d (38), as it opens an easy 40 point play for your opponent: you’d much rather play ZAG instead. However, in this case, any play using the Z in ZONE will offer you good letters to potentially score 60+ points next turn with your blank and S, making ZONER much more attractive.
In this case, you can play IVY 3h. This allows your opponent to use a likely T hook and maybe even form a DW/DW combination. However, with a leave of AEFZ, you will score even more next turn since almost any opponent’s play will allow you to use the Z on the TW alley in row 1, scoring over 40 points.
In most cases, players should be hesitant to play AZO g8, setting up their J because of the strong likelihood that your opponent will use or block that spot. However, here there is an added benefit: if your opponent blocks the J-OY hook, they will often play a 5 letter word down to the DW square, allowing you to hook your S and play JOSH for over 60 points. This likely possibility makes AZO much better than any other option.