The ideal nerd evening at some point must involve a ribald game of Scrabble. This, the most quintessential of all the word creation, crossword related games of the world, is one of those experiences that if done correctly always makes you feel smarter than everyone else, a worthwhile endeavor indeed.
And so, when you break it all down and take a good hard look at the mechanics of the game it’s a little disappointing to realize that being the smartest, wordiest player doesn’t mean that you win. In fact it almost always means that you don’t win, because then you over think every letter you get and go for the smartest words instead of the best.
I do just that. But, if you’re that smart, it’s also that easy to put all the pieces together and play the game like a pro.
1. Know your two letter words – Know them all. Here’s a list of them, memorize it. These are the real key to whipping out major points.
2. Multiple words. You have to make the crosswords work for you. Never waste an S if don’t have to. Throw that puppy at the end of a noun and build off of it. And if you have that two letter list memorized, put a word directly next to another word using two letter words to connect them. You get points for every word you create, so it makes sense that if you create four words instead of one, you get more points.
3. Look at the board, not your pieces. You know what you have, now look at the open spaces on the board and see what’s available to use. You could miss something really good if you make a word out of some of your seven letters and then spend your turn trying to find a space to fit that word, instead of vice versa. Of course, if you have a seven letter word or something, take the time to make sure it won’t fit in somewhere.
4. The bonuses. Almost never should you put anything on the board that doesn’t touch a bonus of some kind. If you have a choice between putting down azalea and zoo, where azalea is a smarter sounding word but doesn’t touch any thing, but zoo is on a double word score, don’t miss out on zoo. No one cares that you know bigger words than them. They care that they’re stomping you into the ground with words like house and speedy.
5. Qua– it’s short, it’s easy to put down (A-qua) and it’s the fastest way you’re going to get rid of that damn Q.
6. Don’t hoard the big point letters. When you get later in the game, it’s nearly impossible to get these down, and if the game is close and you have 31 points in letters on your rack, you just gave up 60 points, and probably the game. Use them as quickly as possible, and if there are no good point options, still get rid of them. You’ll get luck sometimes with Quark on a triple score or something, but don’t hold out on it (62 points by the way).
7. It’s never over. If you get a big 50 pointer and then two 8s, but your opponent is putting down solid 20 pointers every turn, you’re still not winning. Look for the big points every round; don’t gloat in your success after one good play. The game is long. Play it through.
8. It’s like chess. Don’t leave open easy spots for your opponent to attack you. You’re throwing the game like that. If you have a halfway decent word that opens an S right beside a triple word score, don’t do it. It’s as good as giving the opponent at least 40 points. Play something weaker and wait for the space to come open to you instead. It’s a mind game in more than way. Try to out think your opponent even as you try to out think yourself and the dictionary.
Scrabble is one of the most popular games of all time because it allows you to display your intellect at the same time as using subtle strategy and attack methods. It’s not one or the other, it’s a hybrid; one which you need to spend the right amount of time thinking of both aspects to properly win the game. Think of it like a crossword puzzle. No one knows all the clues on a crossword puzzle. They use the letters and clues from other spaces to figure out the blanks. It’s strategy more than knowledge. Scrabble is almost exactly the same, but with points.