WordTactics: Developer’s Strategy Guide

This is the official strategy guide by the developer of WordTactics.

 

How To Play

The game screen is composed of three primary elements:

  • Input tray
  • Grid
  • Output tray

The input tray is the tray of letters in the top-right corner of the game screen. This is where new letters appear as letters are dropped into the grid. The player is able to drag letters from the input tray into the top empty row of a column in the grid to form words. The selection of which letters to place in the grid and the columns to drop them into are an important strategic part of the gameplay.

The grid is the large area on the (lower) left side of the screen. This is where the player places letters taken from the input tray so that they can be selected to form words. Letters dropped into the grid “fall” onto the top of the first empty letter slot in that column. When letters are selected (clicked on) they appear in the output tray to be scored as a word. When letters are scored in a word, they are removed from the grid and the letters above them fall downwards to replace the letters that were removed. Letters in the grid may be selected to form words if they are adjacent to (touches) the previously selected letter. You can spell words in vertical columns, mostly horizontal rows, and any other arbitrary pattern you choose. There are multiple strategic elements associated with choosing the best column to place letters from the input tray.

The output tray is located in the lower right corner of the screen and is where letters are displayed when they are selected in the grid to form words. Letters must be placed in the output tray to score a word, which is the goal of WordTactics gameplay. You can click on a letter in the output tray to deselect it and all letters after it in the grid. This is sometimes more convenient than locating the matching tile in the grid. While the output tray appears to be limited to six letters, it will in fact accept any number of letters spelling the beginning of a valid English word. The output tray will not allow you to add letters that are not the start of a valid word.

Game Modes

There are five game modes:

  • Short
  • Medium
  • Long
  • Infinite
  • Survival

The first three modes are intended to provide different lengths of game play, although the actual times will vary based on several factors including the skill of the player and the randomly selected letters. Each game mode is primarily defined by the size of the grid and the number of scored letters required to advance to the next level.

The short game mode is intended to take between 30 and 60 minutes to play to completion. In practice this means that the grid is smaller than in other modes, having only 5 columns, and 5/4 rows for a total of 23 letters in the grid. Twelve letters must be scored to advance to the next level.

The medium game mode is intended to take between 45 and 75 minutes to play to completion. The grid in this game mode is larger, with 6 columns and 6/5 rows, for a total of 33 letters in the grid. Nineteen letters must be scored to advance to the next level.

The long game mode is intended to take between 60 and 90 minutes to play to completion. The grid in this game mode is even larger, with 7 columns and 6/5 rows, for a total of 39 letters in the grid. Nineteen letters must be scored to advance to the next level.

The infinite game mode is for players that don’t want to be as heavily constrained by the end-game that inevitably enforces the time-limited game play of the shorter modes. The stone tiles that are guaranteed to eventually fill the grid have been removed from the game, potentially allowing the player to play indefinitely so long as they make careful use of the destructive tiles. The grid is the large (7×6) grid, and the number of tiles required to advance a level has been increased to 50. This game mode can continue for hours, and possibly indefinitely. It may be an appropriate choice for just messing around, or for going after specific achievements.

The survival game mode is in many ways the opposite of the infinite game mode in that it emphasizes the end-game constraints. While also played on a large (7×6) grid, and with the medium game mode requirement of 19 letters to advance a level, the big change in this game mode is that level one uses the same letter and special tile distributions as level 14 in the other game modes. Thus the player is thrown immediately into the high-pressure chaos of poor letter distributions and high-value special tiles. This game mode is probably not a good choice for first-time players, and may require reaching level 15 in a “normal” game mode to unlock it in a future release. This game tends to be relatively short, and can be particularly effective at producing high word scores because of the immediately available special tiles.

When designing the game, my intention was to provide an easy approximately time-limited way to decide in advance how long you wanted to play.

Strategies

This section provides some of my thoughts on strategies for higher game and word scores, which is the primary goal of WordTactics. It is my sincere hope that this list is not complete and that other players will develop, document, and discuss new strategies of their own.

One of the first challenges a player faces is how to place their letter tiles in the grid. I think it becomes clear very quickly that the cognitive burden of reasoning through how tiles fall downward when words are scored makes forming words in mostly horizontal rows much more difficult than forming them in vertical columns.

Having said that, there are several important issues to consider when piling letters up in a column to form a word. The first is that particularly in the short game mode, the small grid height can prevent large words from being created in a single column. Players should think carefully about whether the word is longer than the column height (or could be in the future, see advice below). For longer words, it often makes more sense to use a zig-zag pattern in a pair of columns. In some cases, the up one column, and down the adjacent column is the appropriate strategy, especially when the player is waiting on a letter that goes in the middle of the word.

A common mistake is to pile up letters for a word in one column with an expectation that the final letters will shortly be placed at the top of an adjacent column only to find that before the required letters were obtained the adjacent column was scored, and the original word is now a “tower” with no neighboring support to place the final letters when they arrive.

Particularly when placing letters for words that are speculative (you don’t have all of the required letters yet to complete the word) it can be very important to think about whether spelling the word top-down, or bottom-up will be more beneficial. For example, if you have an M, an L, and a T, you’re well on your way to spelling one of malt, melt, milt, or molt, which provides great flexibility for the next vowel that arrives (Grr, when it’s a U!). Do you drop the T with the L on top of it, holding the M in the input tray? This is a good choice when your goal is primarily to remove tiles from the input tray and get new letters, as you often need to late in the game. But if it’s early in the game and there’s plenty of space in the grid, there are no words that begin with “TL” in the dictionary, meaning that you’ve already decided that your word will end with LT. There are many more words beginning with an M, a vowel, and then an L, and a T leaving you greater flexibility for a big word score later without much additional risk. This concern can be addressed by carefully placing the T in a location with an empty adjacent column that will allow extending the word after the L and the T.

One of the most important things you can do to get higher scores is to spell bigger words! The word length is a multiplicative bonus that grows with the length of the word. Growing a word by a couple of letters can literally double the score! If you’re able to spell “TALK”, do so with the T on the bottom of the grid going upwards, and do not score the word until your grid is to crowded to form other words. Perhaps an E & D will come along and more than double your score, or even an I, an N, and a G. Look for opportunities to grow words beyond the obvious suffixes as well, turning “meat” into “permeate” for example. There’s rarely a reason to score a word unless you need additional space in your grid, you’re confident that the word cannot be grown, or you’re worried that you’ll accidentally score letters out of the word.

Late in the game, it’s often a shortage of vowels that is the primary problem. I concentrate on keeping my vowel to consonant ratio as high as possible when this happens. Spelling “cat” is pretty awful, and “coat” is even worse. A word like “cart” is much better, and may even be preferable to “trace”, which is higher scoring. Clearing consonants from the grid given a limited number of vowels is critical to prolonging the game.

Another strategy I use frequently in the late game is to create multiple possible words from the same letters, if you have an M, and R, and T, you’ll probably prepare for “mart” or “mort”. If you’re careful about the placement of nearby letters a nearby “C” can create an alternative word for an A (cart), and create a new use for a U (curt). Adding a G on the other side ensures that an if you receive an I next, you can still spell a four-letter word with one vowel. The primary problem with this strategy is that the leftover letters can become difficult to manage, but I usually employ this strategy when there are few other good choices anyway.

Obviously, the careful use of destructive (exploding and acid) tiles is very important for eliminating wooden tiles from the grid. Building short words with an exploding (burning) tile and leaving it until you’ve piled up wooden tiles all around it is the most obvious strategy. Whenever possible acid tiles should be dropped on wooden tiles. Often when I have no other idea about the correct move to make, I’ll presume that dropping an acid tile on a wooden tile is a reasonable move.

When there are no wooden tiles in the grid, and there are too many acid tiles in the input tray, it can be a problem. One approach is to drop the acid tiles on stone tiles if you want the acid letters or to drop the acid tile on a tile with the same letter if you do not. When you need the acid letter to spell a word, I usually pick a sacrificial letter from the input tray, such as an unwieldy rare letter, to take the place where the acid letter should go. Just be careful not to place the sacrificial letter at the top of a column!

Try not to mix your wooden tiles and your stone tiles in the grid. The former can be destroyed and the latter cannot, so nothing good comes from mixing them in my experience. If they get mixed, you’ll often end up with wooden tiles that can never be destroyed because they’re covered by a layer of indestructible stone tiles. A wooden tile at the top of a column cannot be destroyed by an acid tile and is nearly as bad as a stone tile.

Another common mistake is to allow the grid to be divided into two halves by a wall of stone or wooden tiles. This can be very limiting when it happens, and in general stone and wooden tiles should often be piled at one side or the other of the grid. I generally find that having one empty narrow column at the end of the game to be very limiting, and an empty horizontal row is nearly as bad. Whenever possible fill your grid with stone and wood tiles to keep the grid as roughly swaure as possible.

This list is just the beginning, and I intend to add more strategy guidance as I have time.

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Post Author: Robins Chew

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