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Letterpress Game Strategy Guide

posted at 2:34 pm
on Oct. 27, 2012

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The Letterpress for iPhone and iPad word game is my latest obsession ever since I saw it linked from Daring Fireball. And though I’ve only played a few million games in the past few days, I’m amazed at its simplicity and complexity all at once.

Here are the best strategies I’ve been able to come up with so far—if you disagree with these, play me (NEPSMITH on Game Center) and we’ll see who’s winning strategies are right.

1. Most important: your opponent only has to win by one.  So focus on keeping the score differential large, not just on gaining points.  10-5 is better than 14-9, and blank tiles are not just resources to be plundered, they are also protecting you from losing. BUILD A BASE.

2. Taking a letter from an opponent is ALWAYS twice as good as claiming a blank letter. Math-wise, this means a 6-letter word with one of your opponent’s letters is as good as an 7-letter word with two unclaimed letters. (But take capturing into account here, too.)

3. It’s easiest to capture letters on the edge, so build from the corners and the edges.

4. On levels that have few vowels, capturing one can be tremendously useful.  Ditto, but less so, for unique useful letters (D, S, R), and even less so for unique rare letters. There’s just not much reason to capture a J.

5. Save a really good, really long, word for your final move.

6. Neither of you can use a word that’s been part of a bigger word.  So QUIETED will remove QUIET as an option.  However, words can share the same stem, so always watch for good words from your opponent and reuse them yourself.  -ED, -ISH, -ING(S), -ER(S), -EST, -LY are your friends. (Same for UN-, IN-, RE-, etc, but they’re not as common.)

7. Smack talk your opponent as much as possible. It couldn’t hurt.

8. You can re-arrange the letters you’ve chosen—you don’t just have to send them back to the grid. So play with them a bit. And before you submit a word, check to see if any letters are duplicates with letters in the board that might be better strategically—switch that blank N for one that belongs to your opponent.

9. Scrabble’s short words are pretty useless in this game, except for QI, and a few other Q words that don’t use U. This is one of the things I like about Letterpress—no one has to rely on ZA, JO, XI, etc., and letter value is more closely tied to letter utility. 

10. Remember that the games can be short.  Bust out of the gate with the longest word possible. I got invited to a game that started with DRUMSTICK and never caught up.

11. You can’t check a word’s existence without submitting it. However, there’s no time limit, so don’t rush into a choice. Make a word, stare at it, remove it, try a few others, sigh, then go back to the first word.

12. Words with no letters repeating are often more useful in this game, given the limited letter choices. This is just an observation, not a strategy, unless I phrase it like this: Learn all the words that have no repeating letters.

Other little things:

You can view the more recent word played by each person by clicking on that person’s face.

You can see ALL the words played in that game by clicking on the little three-line icon at the top right of the screen. Then, for fun, you can dismiss the list by just swiping the box down and away. I like that.

Oh, and this isn’t a game strategy, but check the app sometimes even if you don’t get a turn notification because Game Center (Apple’s gaming network) is having problems lately, possibly because of this game, and you might have a turn waiting.

Big thanks to Loren Brichter (which would be a good word in this game), the fellow who made the whole thing, soup to nuts. The game is free, but you can upgrade for $0.99 to be able to play multiple games at once. Which I recommend you do, to support him and so you can play more game. MOAR GAMES.


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