As a big fan and frequent competitor in Zynga’s Words with Friends, I’ve encountered some players who cheat using apps, websites and other methods. Words with Friends is free social game app available on Facebook, Droid and Apple devices such as the iPhone and iPad. The interface resembles Scrabble, but the feeling of the game presents a more informal, social attitude for those who might be intimidated by the board game.
When I started playing the game, I noticed that some of my friends performed impossibly well, using words that sounded made up on almost every other turn. While I never directly accused anyone of cheating, I soon learned that some of my friends were using apps and websites to aid them on their turns.
Over time, I’ve developed methods for winning or holding my own against those using cheats.
Helper apps and websites
I consider helper apps cheating. They’re created for the sole purpose of automatically finding words and placements with the most points. Some of the helper apps suggest impressive words, but don’t consider tile placement. To beat friends using this app, I let them play impressive, open words on the board. I use two letter words like ZA and QI, taking advantage of double and triple-word and letter tiles to amass more points.
Playing in tight spaces against this sort of opponent is the best path to victory.
By nature, Words with Friends is a social game. When I get a Words with Friends notification while I’m hanging out with a friend who is also a word nerd, I want to show my friend the board in play. This sometimes leads to the friend suggesting a play.
This has happened to me a few times, but now I ask my friends to refrain from making suggestions. At a real Scrabble board, it’s against the rules to allow a friend to look at your letters and help you.
I find that this most often happens with couples and roommates. If I suspect a smart girlfriend or roommate making suggestions, I simply challenge the helper to a separate game and learn her weaknesses. This makes it easy to formulate a strategy against my original opponent.
How to improve without cheating
One of my friends excels at the game because he has a photographic memory. Use of that natural ability can hardly be called cheating. However, there are alternate methods to memorizing words between games. Looking up words between Words with Friends sessions isn’t illegal. To remember strategic words such as the two-letter word list , use:
- Rewriting the words
- Mnemonic devices
In a regular Scrabble game, opponents usually face each other. If my opponent is consulting a dictionary or friend, I can obviously tell if he’s cheating. The lack of face-to-face play and ability to enforce cheating allows it to become rampant.
To solve this problem, Zynga could allow a ‘learning’ setting, during which players agree to use a dictionary as they play for the purpose of learning new words.
People debate over whether some of these things are ‘cheating.’ One friend even referenced the Kobayashi Maru of “Star Trek” fame, insisting that reprogramming a scenario is a fair victory. The most satisfying victory, however, is one earned against someone admittedly cheating.