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Using the S and the Blank

Introduction

From a points perspective, the Z and the Q are the most valuable tiles in word games. In Scrabble and Words with Friends, they are both worth 10 points. In WWF, the J is also worth 10 points. In Lexulous, the Z and the Q are actually worth 12 points. However, as many players find, they might not be the most valuable tile. The blank is worth 0 points, but is optionality value is tremendous. The S is worth just 1 point, but again, it is extremely useful. Playing a word like IS with the blank as the I and using the S seems like a colossal waste, from many perspectives. So there is the obvious question - when should I play a blank and when should I play an S. This article will look at some considerations.

Playing the S

In Scrabble, the S is quite valuable for two reasons. The first is that it allows for a very easy hook onto and existing word. You can pluralize any noun and make another play. The second is that it makes getting a bingo much easier. All you have to find is a 6 letter noun that will pluralize with the S and then you can hook it onto another word. Having that S in this case can contribute another 50 points to your score in Scrabble. You can clearly see the value of this.

Conventional wisdom is that the S is worth 10 points. This means that you should consider your best play with the S and then your best play without the S. The play with the S should score at least 10 more points in order to be considered. Clearly, there are other considerations, such as if you have more than one S. In this case, the S is not quite as valuable since it is also creating the cost of being a duplicate letter. This rule of thumb was also established for Scrabble. As noted the S is very valuable for forming bingos; however, in WWF, the bingo is only worth 35 points instead of Scrabble's 50 points. From this perspective, a S is less valuable in WWF. Also in WWF, there are five Ss instead of just four. Another point that decreases the value of an S.

What to do if you have too many Ss? This is a strange and unlikely problem to have. However, I recently had a WWF game in which I had 4 Ss. What a nightmare! Having four of the same letter drastically reduces the potential letter combinations on your rack. The it is the S, you feel like you are wasting the letter. One of the easiest plays involves playing off a single S in a notch. You need to find two words that end so there is a single space to extend. In many cases you put the S there and collect the points for those words as well as 2 more points for the S. The following board shows this:


WWF Board

You can see the placement of the green S to form two words: BREADS and SKIPS.

Playing the Blank

The lowest point tile in Scrabble, WWF, and Lexulous is also the most useful. The blank will score zero points so there is no need to scour the board for a triple letter score (TLS) space. However, since the blank can be any letter, it carries immense value. From Scrabble, conventional wisdom suggests the blank should score at least another 25 points. My own rule of thumb was that ideally I would only use the blank to score a bingo.

Given the board alignment that I described in another article, the blank can be very valuable for unlocking high scoring combinations with TWS and TLS. In fact, these plays often score substantially more than bingos without DWS or TWS bonuses. I would consider the blank to be every bit as valuable in WWF as in Scrabble.

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