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UPDATE – August 17, 2017
This post was originally published in October of 2016. The original text is down below the line. Words With Friends’ rollout of its coins feature has been a long, confusing ordeal which has left many players searching for answers. I’ll try to answer those questions here as best as I can. As of this date, the new features are still being rolled out. Even if you have the latest version of the app, you still may not have them. The determination of who gets these features first seems quite arbitrary.
Players are accumulating coins by completing little challenges within the game. And these coins can also be purchased. Players can trade in these coins for “Power Ups.” The first Power Up is called Hindsight. It shows you a good move on the board that you could’ve played on your previous turn. While that seems quite harmless, it can and often does reveal a place on the board where a player can move on his/her next turn. So there’s definitely some advantage in that.
Word Radar is a Power Up which highlights all the squares on the board where you can potentially play a word. In other words, if you’re wondering if you can reach a TW with the letters on your rack, the Word Radar will definitively tell you whether or not it’s possible. The highlights are a little darker in squares where a stronger word can be played. Although the Word Radar doesn’t tell you which words can be played in that spot (as cheating apps do), there is certainly a big advantage in knowing where words can and cannot be placed.
Lastly, and most controversially, is the Swap+ feature which enables you to swap tiles for new ones, but without losing your turn. I wrote the post below when this feature was only a rumor. Well now it’s clearly a reality as several players in our word game community currently have it. I personally think it fundamentally changes the dynamic of the game. That’s the basis of the following post.
If Words With Friends begins to allow players to swap out their letters without losing their turn, there’s no telling what kind of insanity will follow;
– You can eat ice cream without getting fat.
– You can drink whiskey all night and feel great the next morning.
– You can jump off buildings and fly.
In other words, there are no consequences anymore! Until now, swapping tiles (exchanging your current letters for new ones) has been a heavy decision to make during a Words With Friends match. The plus side is that it refreshes your tile rack with new letters, which is helpful in those moments when your rack looks like this:
But the downside of a swap is that it has always resulted in the loss of your turn. So let’s put that into perspective: Your tile rack sucks. You’re either loaded with vowels or with consonants, Also, at this point of the game you’re likely being crushed by your opponent and the swap is a last-ditch effort to turn your luck around.
In boxing, this would be the equivalent of giving your opponent a clean shot to your face in the hope that…after his punch, you’ll be in position to uppercut his jaw. It’s a desperate move but it just might work. Zynga, the company behind Words With Friends, apparently wants all the punches thrown in their game to be uppercuts.
In some versions of the game, Zynga is slowly rolling out a feature in which players can use coins to swap out tiles and not lose their turn. Coins are earned by playing games with Smart Match and other regular games.
Luck, Risk & Fairness
I’m not sure what I think about this feature. But I do know that it certainly changes some key dynamics of the game, namely luck, risk and fairness. Instead of working with the letters you’re given, creating your own luck and dare I say it…learning new words, you simply swap your unwanted letters with no consequences.
And if your opponent has no coins, defeating him will be like shooting fish in a barrel. It brings up the same issue from a few years back when some players were using the Word Meter (because they paid for the coins to use it) against opponents who were not using it. That’s what we call an unfair advantage.
Change is good and Zynga has certainly made some good changes, especially the free Word Meter, the Tile Bag and the Fast Play version. And let’s not forget that Words With Friends itself was a drastic change for all us former Scrabble players. We were tired of dominating the few friends who were still willing to play us on a physical board. Words With Friends came along and enabled us to play at any time with people all over the world.
But when will Zynga stop trying so hard to make their game so easy to play? At what point do they back off and say “THIS is our game. You gotta be a little smart to play it. Learn it or leave it.” It already allows you to try invalid words, test the strength of your word and see what’s left in the tile bag. Try any of these in a Scrabble tournament and see what happens.
And now you can swap tiles willy-nilly without losing your turn. At this rate…we can expect Zynga to roll out the following features in the next few years
– LETTER REQUEST – “Just tell us what letters you want and we’ll give them to you.”
– ANAGRAM MAGIC – “See a list of all the words you can play…and where you should play them.”
– COIN CONVERTER – “For every 10 coins you buy, we’ll add 100 points to your score!!”
– SKIP THE GAME – “It’s no longer even necessary to play the game! Buy our coins and we’ll just give you the win.”
I probably need to cut Zynga some slack. They created a game that we all love to play. They’re fully entitled to monetize it and make it appeal to a big audience. Just imagine how difficult it is nowadays to market a word game to the younger generations. I saw a group of teens the other day…all on their phones, not talking to each other. I don’t know what they were looking at, but I doubt it was improving their vocabularies.
As it pertains to us, we’ll continue organizing WWF tournaments that are frequent, fair and fun. We’ll keep an eye on this new WWF feature and we’ll update this post with anything we learn about it.
We love our word game community and we want to hear your thoughts about it. Please comment below.