This weekend, 64 Words With Friends wordsmiths will have a battle of wits at Zynga headquarters, for a chance at $25,000. This is quite exciting as the Scrabble community has not seen prize money that high in a long time. Zynga is trying to promote their new game, though, which is basically a very volatile version of Words With Friends, and to do so they are holding an invitational tournament.
Unfortunately, I did not get invited, but our good friend and 2014 National Scrabble champion Conrad Bassett-Bouchard will be there, along with at least two other Scrabblers. We met up with Conrad for dinner last night in Berkeley and wished him good luck.
The tournament has just six games today, with two minutes per side per turn, played on a tablet. The top 4 players will go on to play the semifinals and finals in Burbank in October for a chance at the 25K.
The regular 15×15 Words With Friends plays a lot like Scrabble, the only real differences are in the bonus square distributions, tile distributions and values, and dictionary. The dictionary is very similar to TWL1 (the Scrabble dictionary used in 1998), plus a bunch of extra words.
One of the main factors that has made WWF so popular is that it is much more volatile than Scrabble – a lot of tiles are worth more, the bonus square distribution encourages shorter words, and the bingo bonus is 35 instead of 50 points – so players who don’t spend many hours memorizing the dictionary have more of a chance. The version of WWF used for these championships is even wilder – 11×11 size, just 38 tiles and bonus squares all over the place! We believe our friend Conrad will be the favorite, but it’ll be tough due to the increased luck factor. Conrad is known for his defensive play style, however, and this may suit him well.
We will have more updates for you as the tournament progresses.
–Cesar Del Solar, Aerolith.org