Letterpress Techniques and Strategies to Make You a Winner

It has been available on the App Store for less than two months but Letterpress already has a massive following. If you are a fan of word games, or even a fan of strategy games, then Letterpress could be for you. It’s completely addictive, and I’ve come up with a few strategies to turn Letterpress matches to your advantage.

In my previous article, Letterpress: Perfecting the Perfect Word Game, I talked about how the app itself could be improved in the future. In this article, I discuss ways that you can raise your game and win more often.

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Protect the Tiles

The requirement of winning any Letterpress match is to finish with a greater number of tiles than your opponent. Whether you win 25–0 or 13–12 it doesn’t matter, a win is a win.

You can increase your chances of winning by protecting your letter tiles. A protected tile is shown in darker blue and this happens only when that tile is surrounded (horizontally and vertically) by other blue tiles. Likewise, your opponent’s protected tiles will be shown as darker red and must be surrounded by red tiles in a similar fashion.

Protected tiles (Dark blue) are surrounded by (light) blue tiles. Start from the corners or edges — it's easier.

Protected tiles (Dark blue) are surrounded by (light) blue tiles. Start from the corners or edges — it’s easier.

Protecting tiles makes it harder for your opponent to steal your tiles as they must first successfully steal any adjacent unprotected tiles.

Start at Corners or Edges and Work Across Board

To protect any tile in the centre of the board you must surround it with four tiles that you must claim or steal. This will be the tiles above, below, left and right. To protect a tile on the edge of the board requires three tiles to be claimed or stolen. For example: above, below and to the right to claim a tile on the left hand side of the board. Only two tiles need to be claimed or stolen to protect a tile in a corner of the board. One in the horizontal plane and one in the vertical. It makes sense, therefore, to start protecting tiles preferably on the edges or in the corners. Then work across the board, protecting tiles as you go.

Use the “Samsung Technique”

The “Samsung Technique” is so-called because what you do is take what your competitor created and change it ever so slightly to make it your own (see what we did there?). For example, let’s suppose that the tiles available on the grid allow my competitor to play the word:

MACHINE

I could then look for an S to play the plural.

MACHINES

Of course, when you play a word consider whether your opponent could play the plural. By playing the plural where possible, your opponent will not be able to play the singular.

Look for Common Word Endings

When you are playing Letterpress it is worth considering the possible variants of the words that are played. Look out for letter combinations such as -ing, -ed, -ly etc., that will permit variants of a word to be played.

Play US Words Before UK Words

I’d hazard a guess that there are more Americans playing Letterpress than there are Brits, given that they have around five times the population. Likewise, many people around the world, for whom English may be a second language, may have been educated in American English spellings. This means that your opponent may be familiar with spellings such as

THEATER, METER, FIBER, COLOR etc.,

But they may be completely unfamiliar with the English spellings of

THEATRE, METRE, FIBRE, COLOUR etc.

By playing the US spelling first you have a good chance of being able to play the UK spelling the second time to reclaim any tiles that your opponent steals.

Play Singular and Plurals Tactically

Pay particular attention to words that can be played with different word endings and consider which are possible from the letters available on the board.

Look for possible common word endings so that you can play variations on the word to reclaim tiles.

Look for possible common word endings so that you can play variations on the word to reclaim tiles.

For instance, let us suppose that there are spare S and D letters on the board along with letters to spell:

MACHINE

If you were to play the plural to prevent your opponent playing the singular, they might spot and play:

MACHINED

leaving you unable to reuse a variation of the word. If you, however, play the singular to tempt them into playing the plural then you will be free to come back with

MACHINED

So, the order of play from you to them to you might be:

MACHINE
MACHINES
MACHINED

Be Interested in Other Word Games Such As Scrabble®

There is no doubt that those with larger vocabularies are likely to be at an advantage. Word games, such as Scrabble, are excellent for developing your vocabulary — particularly if you have spent the time playing the board game version with a dictionary or OSW book by your side.

That said, Letterpress allows you to proffer tiles to play a word and, if your word does not exist, change the tiles and play another. Sometimes just sticking tiles into what you think might be words can pay off, and you get to learn new words (but not what they mean) the more you play.

Have an Interest in Etymology

By having an interest in spelling and language — understanding the different spellings possible, the different word endings, peculiarites and the way words are formed — you are likely to be able to spot letter patterns to make words from the tiles available. By having an interest in word games, Scrabble, language and differences, your vocabulary is likely to be larger thus giving you an advantage.

Don’t Forfeit Games; They Are Often Winnable

This is a key point. I have often seen opponents forfeit a match after just two of three rounds. Sometimes after the first round. In fact, well into a match it is still winnable — normally right down to the last round — depending upon the number of unprotected tiles.

Don’t quit. Stick at it. You might still lose, but not by as much as you first thought. You might even win.

No matter how ridiculous it seems, don't forfeit the match. Many matches are only determined on the last round.

No matter how ridiculous it seems, don’t forfeit the match. Many matches are only determined on the last round.

I was recently playing a Letterpress match with “thetungsten” who was beating me good and proper. He had around 12 to 15 tiles and I was, at times, down to two or three. Regardless, I persevered as there were enough unprotected tiles on the board to make a difference. The turning point was when I played the word MOLASSES to get me back into the game. There were many usable letter tiles on the board so we played over the course of three or four days, most of the time the game going his way. In the end I made a comeback and was only just beaten — the smallest of margins. The only reason for his marginal win was that he had learnt a new word when he was beaten by his fiancée in a game of Scrabble just a couple of days beforehand.

On the one hand, I was gutted that a hard-fought game had resulted in the smallest possible win for my opponent. Then again, I am safe in the knowledge that I regularly beat him at Scrabble and his fiancée is a better Scrabble player than us both!

Conculsion

Letterpress is a game that is easy to play but not so easy to master. By applying some of the techniques discussed in this article you will be able to turn Letterpress matches to your advantage and increase your win frequency. By adopting strategies such as these you can become a better Letterpress player, but do realise that you are unlikely to win every match. There are some good players out there!

Follow these techniques and strategies and your Letterpress matches will turn out like this.

Follow these techniques and strategies and your Letterpress matches will turn out like this.

If you have any other strategies that you use, let us know in the comments below. If you fancy a game against me, I’m johnnyw in Game Centre. Hit me up and see if you can beat me? Good luck!


  • http://omarabid.com Abid Omar

    Great review. I’d say the game is much more interesting when you are playing with a professional who takes care that none of these mistakes happen.

    After being an addict player for a few weeks, the game becomes really simple and boils down to one thing: Make on average more points in each turn that your competitor.

  • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

    Thanks for your comments, Abid.

    Yes, playing against someone who is better than you, who gives you a challenge, from whom you can learn is far more interesting. Agreed.

    Your conclusion about making on average more points in each turn than your competitor is not correct, though. In the following example (if the link works) blue wins but has played, on average eight tiles on each turn whereas his opponent (red) plays nine tiles on each turn. Despite playing fewer tiles, blue wins!

    http://replay.letterpress.atebits.com/#6fb5c6654a902f87af3ceda27a1d6126

  • Deborah Green

    What happened to “Whether you win 25–0 or 13–12 it doesn’t matter, a win is a win”? I don’t whether to feel triumphant or foolish for battling you in to win in 726 moves, but I am relieved that game is over. I thought I’d let you know that I read this article when you first wrote it and I don’t play for 25-0 unless someone like you insists on it and I still have a foothold as I did in this game. I’ll go for the 13-12 if I’m in control of the game! This may have cured my Letterpress addiction, though. We’ll see. BTW, if you’d played “frugal” after I played “frug” I think I would have been in trouble again!
    http://replay.letterpress.atebits.com/#09926c0bc1dfce59d9319d9529c9eea9

  • http://about.me/johnwinter Johnny Winter

    What happened to “Whether you win 25–0 or 13–12 it doesn’t matter, a win is a win”?

    Nothing happened to it. It is still valid. The thing about Letterpress is that it is not just a word game, it is a strategy game, too. I was winning 24-0 and was challenging myself to get a clean sweep.

    As it turned out, you wanted to maintain a foothold and you battled long and hard against me to get out of what was a seemingly impossible situation for you …and it paid off. It just goes to show that no matter how the tiles may look, there is always a chance you can turn it around to win the game.

    726 words is my longest game, by far. I really enjoyed it. I’m pleased you posted here as I can now tell you that when we were playing the game I was impressed and had a lot of respect for my opponent who refused to throw in the towel. All credit to you for battling on – it paid off for you in the end.

    Yes, I could have gone for the 13-12 win, or in this case against you, the 24-1 win …but where is the fun in that? It’s not just the words, the win or the strategy, …it’s the fun, too!