How to Play Scrabble Like a Pro
Few basic tips and strategies for scrabble players.
Scrabble is a fun way to spend time with friends, like chess or any other beloved tabletop game. So what if there's also the occasional championship?
Yes, some people take their tabletop "gaming" seriously enough to organize tournaments. They invest significant amounts of their time learning a game's intricacies, coming up with new and original solutions, trying to outsmart their opponents.
Any game stops being one when you stop treating it trivially. So, are you ready to take your Scrabble game to the next level? Here is how.
Small Steps to Victory
Ideally, with Scrabble, you want to start with a stride, scoring one or two large words from the get-go to establish your position on the board. However, as the game progresses, stop holding onto high-scoring letters. Hoping you will be able to keep pulling large words out of your hat might not be the most viable strategy, and you would also be betting on luck.
So, right when you see it, grasp the opportunity to throw smaller words with "merely" two or three letters on the board. They might not look like a significant boost to your total score, but overall, they do add up.
Plus, if you are cunning with their placement on the board, you can also eliminate your opponent's potential for expansion. Do you see a way to expand a word for extra bonuses but lack the letters to do so? Be sure your opponent's seen it, too. If you cannot take advantage of it, ensure they will not, either.
Placing new words on the board seems like the whole point of Scrabble, but thinking strategically about that placement is the recipe for success. That is the reason there's a score, after all. For even if you place fewer words on the board than your opponent, you can still be victorious. Scrabble is another case where your words placement matters just as much as, well... their length.
It is infuriatingly (for your opponent) gratifying (for you) placing a single letter in front of the longest word on the board, claiming it as your own while also doubling its score. After all, it is part of Scrabble's rules: you can build on existing words and grab their score.
The easiest way to do it is by using "S" to "mutate", "pluralize", and "verbify" words.
- Apple + S = Apples
- S + Top = Stop
- Play + S = Plays
Mighty Morphin' Power Words
With a limited number of letters available in Scrabble, adding an "S" before or after words can only take you so far. Still, you can employ the same strategy, using the rest of the tiles in your hand to build on the existing words on the board.
Yes, we are talking about prefixes and suffixes. However, you will need some particular tiles to pull off the feat successfully.
- Check the existing words and see if you can stick before them prefixes like "EX", "MIS", "PRE", "RE", "UN", etc. You could turn "FIRE" into "MISFIRE" and "COGNITION" into "RECOGNITION" or, for fans of Minority Report and even more points, "PRECOGNITION".
- Add a suffix like "ER", "ING", "LY", etc., to turn "CLEAN" to "CLEANER", "ENTER" to "ENTERING", or "ABRUPT" to "ABRUPTLY".
Your tiles define your potential next moves, but that does not mean you should place them on the board randomly. Try to take advantage of the bonus squares that can multiply your score, bringing you closer to victory.
Usually, in most official variations of Scrabble, they are:
- DL gives you double a letter's value.
- TL boosts a letter's value by three.
- DW is even better since it doubles the whole word's value.
- TW is the best, for you get three times the word's value.
Manage Your Portfolio
Our title isn't about stocks, but you should treat your tile "portfolio" the same way: diversification increases versatility. In other words, try to have a nice mix of vowels and consonants. Having a versatile collection of letters makes it easier to construct new words or expand existing ones.
Yes, it is quite possible to save face even if you are stuck with only one or the other (consonants or vowels): you can always "PSST" or "AI" your way out of a tight corner. We have to admit that such a move is usually worth the look on your opponent's face. However, it is also a waste of tiles that you could use in higher-scoring words.
Thus, try to diversify. Keep this approach only as a last resort.
Bet on Q and Z
Q and Z may seem like your sworn enemies in Scrabble. It feels like we are not using many words with Q and Z in our daily vocabulary. So, it is tough coming up with ways to use them in Scrabble. Is it, though?
As you would realize while chatting through Zoom with a friend who works at a zoo taking care of zany zebras, you do not have to zigzag your way through the Zodiac signs like a zombie to come up with a zillion words that begin with "Z".
The previous sentence had eight of those pesky "Z"s. See your opponent despair by expanding their wizard of "OZ" to "ZARDOZ". If they can use a fictional character's name, you too can borrow from Sean Connery's epic cinematic failure. Plus, you do not have to begin words with Z. Or Q. "TRANQ" is acceptable according to Scrabble's official rules (at least, according to the official rules of its UK and International variations). You could then expand it to its full glory of "TRANQUALIZER" and score even more points.
Don't Fish for Letters
Getting a new letter might seem like a lifesaver but may prove worthless. Avoid swapping tiles unless you feel it is the only viable choice. You are basically gambling, with a 50% chance of landing on a somewhat better position. But there is also "the other 50%".
As we mentioned in our first tip, if you can form relatively low-scoring two or three-letter words, go for it. Do not exchange one of your usable tiles for a potentially unusable one.
Don't Hang on Your High-Scorers
You should use high-value letters as soon as possible or, at the very least, before you feel the end of the game approaches.
According to the official rules, the winner also grabs the score of the loser's remaining letters. So, don't hold on to your high-value letters. Using them can quickly build your score and rob your opponent of the pleasure of grabbing your remaining letter bank at the endgame.
Check the Scrabble Word Builder
Are you in the mood for some training? Spend five minutes of your daily time with the Scrabble Word Finder, and see what it can come up with from the letters you throw at it.
It might feel as if this does not help, but believe us, it does. The very act of searching for groups of letters and seeing them rearranged into words seems to help with their retention subconsciously.
Soon you will find your vocabulary expanding, actively using words you were ignoring before. Apart from making you a better speaker and boosting your communicative chops, this will also work as a nice bonus whenever you find yourself over a Scrabble board.
Memorize Some Word Lists
Have you decided to take Scrabble seriously enough to turn competitive? Start by memorizing some 2-letter, 3-letter, and U-less "Q" words and other word lists. You will probably need more than a single evening for that. Still, it is worth it if you want an advantage over your friends. Except, of course, if they are as invested as you.
As for why have a "u-less Q words" list, but not about other letters? That is because "Q" statistically, as far as the English language goes, usually precedes "U" in words. Thus, with Scrabble's limited number of tiles, it is good to have alternatives for when a high-scoring "Q" is in your hand, but no "U"s.
Boost Your Memory
Luck and skill can help, but having a rich vocabulary is the best asset for winning Scrabble. Still, if you cannot readily recall words, you will be back at square one. Thus, it would help if you also worked on your mnemonic skills. Wouldn't it be nice if there was a magical way to boost them? Well, there is: welcome to the Memory Palace.
The Memory Palace is a popular recollection technique that takes advantage of how our brains find it easier to recall information "encoded visually". Instead of getting into the boring details, here is the easy way to use the method:
- You visualize a familiar place, like your own home - that is your palace.
- You imagine placing items related to what you want to recall to spots of your palace - those are the memories that give it its name.
- Do you want to remember something that you "placed in your memory palace"? Visualize yourself entering it and looking at the spot where you placed that memory-related item.
- How can this help in the case of Scrabble? Place, for example, in your memory palace, flowers, a fridge, or Facebook's logo, next to your fireplace. You have just created a corner where you can dump items that begin with "F".
Become a Word Master
As we saw, Scrabble does not have to be (and is not) a simple game where you are randomly placing words on a board. Like all true classics, it is straightforward to learn but challenging to master. Approach it strategically and use the methods we saw, and you will gain a significant advantage over most of your opponents.
Well, except if they have read this article, too. :-)