Video Games > Hanging With Friends Primer

Hanging With Friends Primer

By GREG MAFFETT
Published: July 5, 2011

"So who is the bigger cheater?"

That was my daughter's boyfriend inquiring into our depths of the depravity my daughter and I have slipped into while playing this game. My daughter may have hit bottom today when she let the 1 year old she is watching pick the 'I' in 'Mickey'.

We're shameless. And you can be too! But at the moment you need an iPhone as this is not yet out on the Droid. I think this has only been for about 6 weeks on the iPhone, and in truth, it has been a buggy start. But it is becoming more stable.

The game is a handheld version of hangman put out by Zynga. Bugs aside, it is a well designed game. You start off with 16 tiles and have to make a word between 4 and 8 letters in length for your opponent to solve. The tiles have the same letter value as in scrabble and you amass coins for getting more points when you create a word. They also have the random tile that can double or triple a letter or a word. Hitting that tile is the key to racking up coins. Racking up coins is the key to long term survival in the game as I see it.

So I will tell you one sometimes exploitable bug (or feature). When you start your play the multiplier tile shows somewhere on your rack. If you don't like it, you can pop out and pop back into the game and it will re-roll the bonus tile. It's odd, but useful when it works.

When you try to solve a word, there are three hints you can use inside the game, the icons show "handcuffs" "fire hydrant" and a "band aid". The handcuffs show you 4 letters, one of which is in the puzzle. You have to pick one of the four on your next play. if you guess right, you know the other three are not in the puzzle. I suggest you write these down or put them in solver program. The fire hydrant "extinguishes" 4 letters. You now play with a 22 letter alphabet vice 26, very handy. Then the band aid erases a mistake. Simple enough.

I normally use two of the three free hints in my first two plays. You can only use one hint per word, so I normally do the hydrant then the cuffs on the first two and try to build a lead. The first person to miss 5 words loses the game. When the game it looks like this. And you can opt for a rematch in the event you would like another chance.

So those are the basics of the game-play. I do like the coin aspect as you can build up a war chest over time to bail you out should you get in trouble in a game. In my 6 weeks of playing I've come close to losing two or three times and the coin bank bailed me out every time. But use it judiciously, a win is a win. Winning 1 balloon to zero is just as good as 5 to zero.

The key to my success so far has been this site

http://nmichaels.org/hangsolve.py

Nathan Michaels runs the site. Here is a screen-shot of the solver

Pretty handy. He just updated the interface today to add blocks around the letters. I had missed a few words because I had an extra dash in the solver and couldn't see it on the iPhone sized screen. The site is much more user friendly now.

It works like this. You get say

??e?? as your start in the game. You type - - e - - in the solver and it will guess the letters. if you use the extinguish hint, type those four letters in the lower box before guessing (I always use extinguish before the first guess when I use that hint, it fixes the odds earlier in the game.) If I use the cuffs hint, I guess the letters in the hint until I hit the right letter, then load the unused letters into the bottom. Sometimes I hold off on the cuffs hint until late in a game. Say i have

- a t e

as my word with 4 strikes to go. There are at least a dozen words that end with "ate" so I want to limit it to no more than the strikes I have left and in those cases I'll often buy this hint. Otherwise, I use before the first play.

Anyway, one last word on the solver that Nathan offers. He does have a feedback option on his site and responds quickly to suggestions of words that are missing from his dictionary. It is a good tool and it is improving daily.

The game does become intuitive after a while. Once you know that the person you are playing is also using the solver, you will know what kinds of words the solver misses. And also when you play the same person a few times, you get an idea what words are in thier vocabulary, so that will also give you an edge.

Using the silicon valley definition of success (you aren't a success there unless you have failed 2 or 3 times) I'm still not a success at this game. But I'm sure it is only a matter of time until I lose a game. Then I'll be on the verge of success and can write a little more about how to play this game..



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