Word Play, Math, Cheating, and Having a Tail (or Not)

In tournament SCRABBLE, playing a phony word isn’t considered cheating, because your opponent has the opportunity to challenge your word. I’ve heard of people playing a phony word, say FAULTER (not valid, but plausible), that goes unchallenged and then challenging when their opponents try to extend the word (e.g, FAULTERS). It may be a little nasty, but it’s not cheating.

In mobile SCRABBLE (and in other similar games like Words with Friends and Word Feud), it’s impossible to bluff like this, because the games won’t allow you to play invalid words.  Likewise, while in the non-mobile world, you can lose your turn if your opponent catches you playing a phony, in the mobile world, you can keep laying down phonies until something goes through. And while some would consider this cheating, I would find it very difficult to have the opportunity to play a word like FAULTER, not knowing if it was a word or not, and not trying it. What one of my Words with Friends friends/opponents calls those wow-it-went-through moments are some of the most fun moments of these games.

Unlike SCRABBLE, Words with Friends, and Word Feud, Word Skill includes a timer. So every time you try a word like FAULTER that fails to go through, you eat up some of your time to find a real word. I’ve often spent too much time seeking the bingo and ended up either missing my turn or playing a 5-point word at the last second.

Additionally in Word Skill, for a coin, you can find out the highest potential score you can make in that move. This adds a math component to the game. For example, if the highest potential score is 57 (or any odd number), you know the best word cannot hit a double word score as any number doubled makes an even number. In some case, the score is such that you can know (or think you know) precisely where a word must fall.  For example, look at the word ACAUDATE in the screenshot below:


This word began as CAUDATE, and when I played it, I confess I didn’t know it was a word and I would never have risked playing it in a tournament SCRABBLE game. But I’d used my coin before the turn to find out that the highest potential score was 97 and that there was a bingo on the board (JEAN had yet to be played). So, knowing there was a bingo, I shuffled the letters like crazy trying to find it, and the most plausible combination I could come up with was CAUDATE, so I gave it a shot and when I lay it out and saw that it was worth 97 points, I thought “woohoo!” and tapped PLAY and – euphoria! – it went through. Is this cheating? Some might say so, but I think it makes the game more fun. It’s not like using an anagram tool. You have to think. If you just try random combinations of letters in random spots, you’ll run out of time more often than not. And many times, like in the case, the new words stick with me. I almost always use our Word Learner app to look up the word (caudate means having a tail) and try to use some memory trick to remember the word (e.g, COW DATE).

Cow Date

So, I learn something, which is also fun.

I also almost always use the “Show Top 20 Best Words” feature in Word Skill to check out at least a few of the words that I could have played. This helps me learn new words and also shows me where I might be able to place future words in the game. That’s how I learned that ACAUDATE is also a word. It means tailless. And as it turns out ECAUDATE is also word, meaning the same thing.

If you like math and you like learning new words, I recommend giving this strategy a try. It’s fun (and educational too)!

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