So I have two things to introduce here. One is that Holly and I have recently picked up the hit mobile online gaming sensation, Words With Friends. Are we way behind on this bandwagon? Maybe. Well, probably. But as we like mobile gaming and mobile board games especially, this game deserves some consideration.
The other thing I want to introduce is a new recurring segment on the blog, Comparative Opinions. When we asked what people wanted to read more of on the blog, and when we thought about what sets us apart from a lot of other blogs, it was the fact that we are an even-partners writing duo, each creating half the content. But usually, both experiencing the media or culture that we’re writing about. So while it may not make sense for every topic or every post, sometimes we can both talk about a subject, and that’s the idea here.
We’ve done it before – for instance, we both wrote about King of the Nerds, and both wrote about the Damsels in Distress. And we both did a LitFlix for Ender’s Game, giving you a couple of perspectives. So today and tomorrow, you will get my thoughts, and then Holly’s thoughts, on playing Words With Friends. Hope you enjoy, and let us know in the comments if there are other topics you’d like to see us both tackle!
First Experiences – Words With Friends
So I actually downloaded Words With Friends a while ago. People were talking about it, it was free, so I got it and put it on my phone and waited for games to happen. And… never really heard anything about it. Kept it on my phone a long time, thinking maybe someone would say something, would want to play. Got into Ascension and other games in the meantime.
I found out this time, that what I probably missed was actually opening the app and signing in. Funny how that might make a difference, right? Turns out, the matchmaking is pretty good, giving you information about who is out there you know with the game. I signed in with Facebook, so I have my Facebook friends, and have had someone reach out randomly to play a game. So that part works. It’s too bad it doesn’t have Game Center support, or maybe doesn’t anymore… most of my mobile gaming friends are through there, so I don’t have any games going with them.
Meaning I mostly play against Holly. When we first got into it, we tried the Pass and Play. Tried it for a few moments. It’s really not built for it at all – there’s no transition between player turns, so someone is going to likely see the other person’s hand. And we didn’t find options for different profiles or naming players, so it was David versus Player 2. That game is still just sitting there in my list, forgotten.
So Holly very quickly got her own version. She looked up the free version now, looking at comments. Everyone was talking about how ads were added, and they are disruptive and annoying. So I seem to have the old free version, before this all happened, which is now the equivalent of the paid version. Holly paid the $5 for the iOS no-ads version, and we got going.
I will say that online play does update very quickly, and has not been problematic. It allows us to keep our hands secret if we’re playing together, and then of course the asynchronous play over time. There’s not a specific time limit, it seems, though they do give you an option to nudge people who haven’t played in a while. I will often look at my letters and the board, think about it, and come back to it later. And it’s built for that to work just fine.
My Word Games Background
I played Scrabble a bunch as a kid. It was fun – testing your vocabulary, aiming for the points, seeing if you can do better. I played with my family, and it was good. It was my family who finally got me playing Words With Friends, so there you go – we have good memories of doing this.
I had followed up with this a bit by playing Scrabulous on Facebook, a game which got in trouble for being too close to Scrabble. Well, basically for being online Scrabble. It’s really kind of the precursor for Words With Friends, as the idea was there for the asynchronous online play.
However, in playing Scrabulous I found out that my family had been playing Scrabble with one apparent house rule – although I remember reading the rules a lot to it, so maybe it was our version of Scrabble? We would play all the tiles we could in our hand every turn. While this is a subtle difference, it is a huge difference in this game. When I would play a word and find out my turn was over, I was confused. I thought they had it wrong. It changed the game for me.
And it kind of annoyed me. I liked how we had played. You could actually conceivably get the played-all-seven-tiles bonus at least once a game. It probably moved faster. Got you thinking differently. But really, it’s basically a different game. So I think I actually was passively resisting getting into Words With Friends, expecting to be annoyed again by the difference from how I thought the game should be played. Probably why I never opened the app once I downloaded it…
So Words With Friends – My Thoughts
Maybe space and time have gotten me away from the disappointment. Maybe it’s playing Qwirkle, which has similar playing rules (one row). But I am having fun playing Words With Friends. I have entered into this game expecting to play it this way, and with the aim of just playing the best single row and word that I can.
And I find joy in making the words – occasionally sacrificing points for the fun word. Or, when I’m lucky, getting both together. I looked at my profile, and I approve of my top word:
However, and maybe because of this, or just because I don’t actually have a lot of experience playing this way, I am not doing very well. I play games strategically, something I have talked about before. And I have not figured out strategy in this game. Every time I try to set myself up for my next turn, my opponent plays something that blocks it. Intentionally? Who knows. Is there a tendency to play next to the most recent word – as the untouched property on the board? Who knows.
And with the luck-factor of pulling tiles, while I sometimes try to wait and get tiles I need to form some awesome high point word, I usually either don’t get the tiles I need, or get them too late and the real estate is gone. Getting nowhere with this, I think I again end up playing more recklessly and not doing very well because of it.
So in many ways I think I am also still enjoying playing for the challenge: figuring out how to beat Holly. So tomorrow, she gets to talk about Words With Friends from the perspective of the winner, and she’ll have some of her insights and recommendations for you there!