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Subject: Word game bootcamp? rss

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David C
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Without joining a scrabble league or practicing all the time, some people seem to be incredibly good at word games. How does one get good at scrabble, upwords, boggle, etc?
 
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Greg
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I think that there are probably practiced skills in there that have been transferred from other things, people who watch lots of countdown or who solve crosswords might be good at anagrams and transfer those skills to their first ever game. People might look like they get good without practicing, but I bet that in most cases they'll be practicing the relevant skills.

With word games there's also a factor in that some people have larger vocabularies than others, which is related to a whole host of background and lifestyle factors. As an academic I tend towards verbose, so my obscure vocabulary is hard to play onto the board, but worth a lot of points when I manage it
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Zeke
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Get something like Words with Friends on your phone, then play games over and over until you've developed the skills. You can challenge both your friends and strangers, so get a least a few going simultaneously. Eventually you will be good at word games, or sick of them.
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Jennifer Derrick
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Playing over and over is really the best way. And when you're playing, watch what words others are playing for big points and try to file them away in your memory for later. You may not know what the words mean, but if you can remember them, you can play them for points next time.

Also, if the game is electronic, see if at the end you get the option to see what words could have been played. I know the Boggle app shows you all the words that could have been made and the point values for each at the end of the game. You can study that list and see where you might have scored more.

Also, as another person said, success is related to a whole host of other factors like lifestyle, education, do you read a lot, do you do other word activities, etc. Some of it may just be innate, or related to personal preference.

For example, I suck at any game that has a heavy math component or heavy analysis. These just are not my things. I wasn't great at them in school and I'm still not great at them. I like to play those games, but I know going in that I'm probably going to get trounced. With word games, however, I almost always win because it's "my thing." I love to read and write, loved English in school, etc. Why I'm that way, I don't know. But I am.

But I think it can be learned. You just have to practice and make it a point to learn the words that will score. Watch others, get a Scrabble dictionary and study it, etc.
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Sue Hemberger

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I think that there are two models -- game-specific practice and large vocabulary/good retrieval skills. I'm in the latter camp and am pretty sure that game-specific practice would take the fun out of word games for me. I actually like thinking about words and what game-specific practice seems to do is create downloadable mental files with big chunks of high-scoring information. To me, it's pattern recognition rather than word play at that point. I also particularly enjoy word games when a theme develops among players or when people play aesthetically or cleverly. And I like learning new words, but only ones I might actually use (or that reveal a hidden side of a playmate). So I guess my take is that the challenge is to keep/find the play in word games rather than to develop mad skillz.

Some games facilitate/require this kind of play more than others. I like to mix word games up and to play ones people haven't played to death. It's interesting to realize that while you may be really good at finding words based on initial or final letters, you may have really bad instincts re what's a versatile 3rd letter in a five letter word. And that trying to find words that must contain a few specific letters -- subject to the constraint that they must not also include on other letter -- can be tricky.

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Jennifer Derrick
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smithhemb wrote:
I think that there are two models -- game-specific practice and large vocabulary/good retrieval skills. I'm in the latter camp and am pretty sure that game-specific practice would take the fun out of word games for me. I actually like thinking about words and what game-specific practice seems to do is create downloadable mental files with big chunks of high-scoring information. To me, it's pattern recognition rather than word play at that point. I also particularly enjoy word games when a theme develops among players or when people play aesthetically or cleverly. And I like learning new words, but only ones I might actually use (or that reveal a hidden side of a playmate). So I guess my take is that the challenge is to keep/find the play in word games rather than to develop mad skillz.



Exactly. I prefer it this way, too. But the OP didn't specify why he/she wanted to get good at word games. If it's only to win (because they are in a group where they are constantly getting creamed by better players), then practice and memorization is the way to go. If it's to get better with words overall, with winning games as a side benefit of that, then a more organic method of learning like you describe is the way to go.

Depends on why you want to get good at word games. Just to win, or to enlarge your vocabulary and gain some actual knowledge.
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David C
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OxfordRow wrote:

Exactly. I prefer it this way, too. But the OP didn't specify why he/she wanted to get good at word games.


Chicks dig scrabble players.

It's a combination of things:
1.) I hate being so lost---relative to everyone else. Now, let me be clear...I'm great with losing. I'm fine coming in last. It's just that I hate having 7 letters---all good ones at that, and only being able to spell 'mom'.

...which would be fine, but usually I'm the only one at the table with this problem. The frustration sets-in and digs deep. I start taking forever on my turns. I'm not much of a challenge. I'm not playing against the other players.... I'm just trying to do anything at all.

2.) There is an interesting phenomena with word games that baffles me all its own. Certain people aren't just good, they're freaking amazing---every time.

So it's a combination of being so bad, and seeing people so good, that makes me think there has to be something I can do for myself. Even if I don't compete, if I can at least enjoy my turns a little more---that would be good.

Going two consecutive games without losing so bad that the wife asks to see my letters...
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Justin Case
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bippi wrote:
Chicks dig scrabble players.


This is so totally true, I can't even count the times I've watched the gals trying to casually disengage from the rich and handsome fellows in the room in order to get closer to me, after they spot the Scrabble tile keychain fob that I bought from a crafter on eBay.

cool


Seriously, every word game has two sides, and the players that you have noted as being "amazing" are going to excel in both parts of the game.

The most obvious part of a word game is, of course, the words. The primary thing here is to be able to juggle letters in your head and sort them into words. This is a skill that can be learned and improved with practice by doing anagrams, word jumbles, Scrabble exercises, anything like that. Heck, you could even get a set of Word Yahtzee dice and simply roll them out over and over, trying to make the longest word possible on each roll.

The important thing to realize in the "word" portion of the game is that fancy words are rarely necessary. Your writing shows that you have a fine vocabulary and immaculate spelling -- you already know all the words you'll ever need to be a strong Scrabble player. But you have to be able to recognize those words and pull them out of a jumble of letters; being able to to that is far more important than the words themselves. Oh sure, it's nice to know eye catching words like QUIXOTIC, but in several decades of serious Scrabble play, I've never seen that on the board or had the chance to play it. On the other hand, I've rung up untold tens of thousands of points by playing simple words like STRAINED and scoring the 50-point bonus over and over again.

The other part of a word game, the "non-word" part, will vary from game to game because it is tied into the mechanics and the scoring of any particular game. If the "word" portion of the game is primarily a skill that can be learned and improved, the "non-word" portion of the game is primarily knowledge that can also be learned and improved. In Scrabble specifically, that knowledge has to do with principles such as rack management, attack and defense of key squares, the true value of "S" tiles and blanks, and the vitally important nature of the 50-point bonus. You can pick up the basics of this knowledge from any good Scrabble book, and then it just takes practice to develop judgment that will enable you to best apply what you know.

Best of luck in your word game endeavors!
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