I have discovered online Words with Friends. This is a Scrabble-type game that I can play with any of my Facebook friends. I am now in the middle of eight games. It is a great deal of fun, except for one small thing. I lose almost all of them.
On the face of it, this should not be the case. After all, I have two advanced degrees in English, am an avid reader, and work in a library for a living. So what’s going on? The answer is that I use almost no strategy. I love when I can see a space for a nice, long word, and I immediately fill in my squares. So I get seven points. Meanwhile, my opponent uses an “o.” But it’s an “o” in the middle of a block of letters that completes the words “mod,” “bod,” “worse,” and “covet.” And he gets triple word score to boot. So it’s my 7 to his 45. It’s not a pretty sight.
In fact, Librarian Emily, one of my opponents, actually gave me one strategic tip out of pity: “Don’t use your “S” at the end of a word. Use it the next time to start a new word and get more points.” You know you’re in trouble when your opponents want you to improve your game.
Still, I am slowly improving, taking time to study the board to see what my best option is and look for various ways to score points. Perhaps soon, my opponents will be beating me by less than a hundred points.
My “Words” losses have reminded me that having a strength in an area is not always enough. I could probably out-spell many of my opponents, but that’s not what wins at Scrabble. It’s strategy.
Sure, it’s good to play your strengths. But it’s also wise to have a plan in place when those strengths are not enough.