I’ve been playing Words with Friends with family, both near and far, for the past year or so. It’s similar to Scrabble but the scoring and rules are different enough I wanted to try good old fashioned Scrabble. I discovered that Hasbro and Electronic Arts collaborated to create a mobile version of Scrabble where the gameplay is similar to Words with Friends.
What’s Wrong with WWF?
The Words with Friends rules favor frequent players, which can be unfair. For example, it has short 5-move games you can play with its AI, and doing this earns you credits you can use to buy swaps and other advantages when playing other people. Also, WWF is generally easier than Scrabble encouraging crazy big plays. For example, every time you prepare a move it shows a bargraph showing how good that move is compared to the best available, so you know whether there’s a bigger scoring move, how much bigger it is, and whether it’s worth taking more time before submitting your play. Finally, the Scrabble app uses the official built-in Scrabble dictionary, where WWF has its own dictionary that is frustratingly inconsistent.
Scrabble is available on iOS and Android and it has the same rules & scoring as the good old board game you remember. And the familiar consistent dictionary. Once you get it set up and you log in, it works quite well. But getting there is much more difficult than it needs to be.
Where Are My Friends?
Installing is easy enough. But once installed, if you want to play with your friends, you all need to create accounts. Scrabble offers Facebook, but since I don’t have a FB account, I used the alternative option to create an Electronic Arts (EA) account.
I did this for both Michelle and myself. Then in the app I clicked “New Game”, then “Play with Friends”. The list of friends was empty, as expected since this was my first time. I tapped the “Find player” searchbox to enter her username but the phone’s keyboard didn’t appear, so I couldn’t enter anything. This was confusing: what is the point of a “Find player” search box, if it doesn’t let you type in anything to search for? I tried this on Michelle’s phone too, same behavior.
Then I googled the problem. Apparently, lots of people encounter this problem. With further reading and experimenting, here is the workaround that I cobbled together:
- There is a site called Origin, owned by Electronic Arts.
- When you create an EA account, it is also an Origin account.
- In Scrabble, you can only play with people you have befriended on Origin.
- Origin is both a web site, and a fat client application on Windows and Mac.
- Finding and befriending other players can only be done in the application, not on the web site.
- Point your browser at EA create a user account.
- Point your browser at Origin and download the fat client (Windows or Mac).
- Since I run Linux, I used my Windows 10 VM running on VirtualBox.
- Install the client app, run it, and log in as your EA user.
- In the app, use the “find friends” feature to find your friend(s).
- You need to know their username or email.
- For each one, click on them and send a friend request.
- Your friends must follow the above steps, then accept your friend request.
After the above is complete, run Scrabble on your device. Pick “Create New Game”, then “Play With Friends”. Your friends should now appear in the list. Pick one and play!
Why Can’t I Submit my Move?
I’m in a game with Michelle and I submit a move. The submit button transforms to say “waiting”… and the app just hangs. A few minutes goes by, nothing. I close the app, open it again, and my move is gone as if I had never made it. I make the same move again, and submit it. Same behavior.
Long story short, the app had logged me out. But it didn’t tell me. And it just stopped working without any error message or indication why. Poking around, I went to settings and happened to see that I wasn’t logged in anymore. I logged in again. Then the app started working.
So, the app occasionally logs you out without telling you, and misbehaves for no apparent reason. Keep that in mind. If the app every acts strangely, go to settings and double-check your login status.
What’s really frustrating about this process is how obscure it is. The average person:
- Won’t know why the app “Find player” search box doesn’t work.
- Won’t know that EA is associated with Origin.
- Won’t know that they can only find friends on Origin.
- Won’t know that this feature only works in the Origin app, not the web site.
- Won’t know that the app occasionally logs them out.
None of this is explained in the app or in help that I could find online. The first part is a one-time setup thing so that’s no a problem if you know to do it. The second part you just need to know about. But once you get past these, the app is pretty good. It’s fun to play old-fashioned Scrabble without any player aids which is more balanced and fair.