Tradishon v Tradition: Why playing Words with Friends will never quite live up to Scrabble

The title spells it out. Words with Friends (WWF) and Scrabble may be games where you put out words on a board crossword style and aim to make the highest score, but the similarity ends pretty much there.

Do not get me wrong – I love WWF for the reasons I am about to share. However recently I played a game of traditional Scrabble – with a board, bag, pen and paper – (pause while you imagine the scene…) and I must admit I was freaked out how used to the WWF version I had become.

Personal Statistics

WWF has been around since 2009 and is now available on various platforms including Android, IOS, Kindle Fire and Windows. Up to thirty games can be played simultaneously and there is also a chat feature which has proved pretty productive for a number of random couples who met over WWF and chose to tie the knot a few years later. You can also check your playing stats: I know that as I write, the longest word I have played is VALIDATES and my best scoring word is SLACKED for 129; if you were to lay out my played tiles they would run to 57789 feet and my highest game score is 514. I certainly can’t recall those stats for my Scrabble play.


WWF has plenty of added features that the traditional Scrabble game does not feature. For starters you can randomly place any letters down and if it doesn’t make a word you are not penalised but politely informed that it is an invalid word, and you get to try again. Not in Scrabble. You have to know your stuff and if your opponent challenges you and the word is invalid then your go is forfeited. It also has a list of the tiles left in the bag, a word strength indicator and a dictionary definition page where it will tell you the rarity of your word and the definition. The hilarious/annoying thing about WWF is that sometimes it cannot give a definition (I’m assuming because it hasn’t a clue what your random invented word actually means) but says, “It is a valid word with WWF”!

But at least you can play multiple games at a time. So if your opponent is taking a long time to come up with a word across the Scrabble board, you can get on and play someone else. If you only have time to play one go before dashing off to work or a lecture then you can return to your board at a later date.  And as mentioned, you can find a random player who is not in your list of friends. I answered a random request a few years ago and was teamed up with a wise, funny interesting lady in Australia who I play regularly with and have a good laugh together in the process. We have grown to know quite a bit about each other and are pretty well matched. She has even become a Kettle Mag reader… (Which has to be a cue for a shout out: Hello Pat 😉 )

On the rack

So there I was across the traditional board yesterday, no dictionary allowed and tiles sitting firmly on the tile rack. I was keeping score. Did I wish that the board would automatically add it all up for me? Yes. (Apparently there is a ‘Math with Mates’ game available as an App. I wouldn’t even wish it on my worst enemy never mind my ‘mates’. Not that I’ve tried it, I just don’t do numbers!) Did I keep having the urge to press a button so they would shuffle themselves? Yes. Did I keep wanting to check if HELLUVA is allowed, because I bet in the realms of WWF it is. Obviously. But I couldn’t do these things and after the twitch died down, I was rather pleased.

For there is something peaceful about a traditional game of Scrabble. You have to shut all else out – including leaving your phone alone. I wouldn’t want to be accused of looking words up in my online dictionary as that is a big no no in the world of Scrabble. You get to use your brain power as opposed to relying on a computer to work out legitimate words for you – and you have to weigh up the element of risk.

Sometimes in this world of computerised games we forget the social importance of playing opposite someone that we can fully interact with and the fun it can bring. Although most recently that was caused by my daughter asking if she could look up words that she knew were allowed on WWF!