Rich Brooks from Scarborough, ME, CC BY 2.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Word searches and crossword puzzles are my jam, so give me a word game I can play with a group and I’m in. Quicker than Scrabble, Boggle is a fast-paced word search-style game that adds the element of time to your word hunting quest. The pressure is on!

In Boggle, game play allows for forming words of at least three letters. The rules require the letter cubes to be adjacent in any direction in consecutive order without using the same letter cube twice in one word. Scoring is based on word length, so longer words are worth more points. Words duplicated by other players are not counted. Basic strategy would suggest that you make as many words as possible, the longer the better. But is that the best path to winning?

While at first glance the Boggle board seems to be a completely random jumble, with the right approach, you can spot words instantly. The trick is to learn what methods will help you not only find the most words, but also the highest point words. This means that unique words are more likely to give you points.

Some approaches will yield a great word list, while others will leave you with a dearth of points when the timer runs out. So what are some things you shouldn’t do when playing Boggle?

Boggle Blunders

Boggle requires some strategy and concentration to rack up a winning score. Here are some things you want to avoid in order to come out ahead on a consistent basis:

Watching the other players 

This is a definite no. Boggle is one game where you don’t want to worry about what your opponents are doing. It’s more important to maintain your word searching focus.

Finding only common words

Losing all your points when you only find words in common with other players is discouraging. Your words have to be unique among all the players in order to score points, so finding uncommon words is key.

Missing easy word variations

Realizing that you missed easy word extensions and plurals when the players compare lists is frustrating. Having a system to help you get all the variations on your list will rack up more points for a winning game strategy.

Giving up before time runs out 

Stopping early won’t help you come out ahead. If at first you don’t see many words, relax and give yourself a moment to let your eyes adjust and scan the board. It’s best to find a method to help you find more words in a short period of time. 

Read on to learn some tips and tricks for avoiding these pitfalls and improving your word-finding game.

All letters in the alphabet can be seen in Boggle. Photo by Leo Reynolds on Flickr

General Game Strategies To Use

When it’s time to shake up those letter cubes and get your pencil poised to scratch out your list, you want to have a game plan. Let’s get started with some sound strategies for becoming a Boggle champion.

1. Just breathe

One of the biggest challenges in Boggle is the timer. Watching those grains fall through as your time slips away can be stressful and make it difficult to focus on finding those words. Wikihow suggests taking a deep breath and trying your best to ignore the timer to simply focus on your strategies and methodology to make the most of your time. If you can get into the Boggle Zen zone, you’re set to score some major points.

2. Tune out your inner censor

While it’s tempting to edit your list as you look over the Boggle board, this is not the time to be a perfectionist. Let the words flow onto the page as quickly as possible without worrying about who else may have the word and whether or not your spelling is correct. The objective here is to keep the flow going without the time-sucking interruptions of editing or questioning yourself.

3. Go for the low-hanging fruit

Before you even get going with any of your word-hunting systems, you will likely see some obvious words right out of the starting gate. Write those down immediately before you settle into your systematic groove to score some easy points. What jumps out at you from your angle may not be readily noticeable to your opponents.

Related: Strategies to Win at Jenga

4. Develop a system for scanning the board

There are many ways to go about looking over the letters on the board. Some common systems include scanning from left to right or from top to bottom. You may also choose to divide the board into quadrants and search the letters in groups. Try some different approaches to see which method yields the best results for your game. That being said, don’t be rigid with whatever system you choose. Definitely write down any words you find outside of your system immediately. You may forget about them or run out of time to add them later if you don’t.

5. Write clearly

Even though you’re in a time-crunch situation, penmanship matters. Make sure you can read the words on your list or your opponents may not give you credit even if the word is a legitimate find. 

6. Don’t stop too soon

Keep scanning and writing up until the very last moment. Don’t worry about whether you’ll finish adding the word before time runs out. Again, keep the flow going and you’ll accumulate the maximum amount of words with the least effort.

7. Look for longer and less common words

Longer words are worth more points and more difficult to find. Less common words are not as likely to be on your opponents’ lists, tipping the odds in your favor for keeping it on your list. A lengthy uncommon word is the best of both worlds to maximize your score.

8. Expand your vocabulary

One of the best ways to learn to spot longer and less common words according to levelwinner.com is to work on your vocabulary. Some great ways to do this are to read more frequently and diversely. The more you read, the more likely you are to learn new and more complex words. The type of material you read also matters. Read higher-level books and articles to pick up longer and more unusual words that can give you an edge over your opponents.

9. Ignore your opponents

There’s no strategic advantage to observing your opponents in a game of Boggle. Focus solely on the board and your own list of words to maximize your chances of winning.

Related: Uno Strategies to Claim Victory

Word Formation Strategies

Now that we have the general game approach down, it’s time to find some words for your list. Take note of these approaches to make those words flow right onto your list at warp speed.

1. Choose a Letter

There are a number of ways to go about forming words from the letters on the board. A popular strategy is to choose a letter and exhaust all of the words beginning with that letter before moving methodically around the board. 

2. Palindromes

Palindromes are words that are spelled the same backward and forward. Make sure to include any palindromes in your list and make your word find count double.

3. Plurals

Make those S cubes work for you as the plural of any word counts as a separate (and longer) word. Keep in mind that some plurals may be spelled with letters other than a simple S, but again, they are worth checking for to score some easy extra points.

Related: The Complete Clue Strategy Guide

4. Anagrams

Anagrams are words formed by reordering the letters of another word. An example would be “bread” and “beard”. According to Zack Guido, author of How To Get Better At Boggle – A Strategy Guide, using anagrams is an excellent way to rapidly build your word list. In fact, you don’t always need to be looking at the board to put them on your list. If you are good at memorizing visuals quickly, you may even be able to memorize a portion of the board such as one quadrant and write down all the anagrams within that quadrant without wasting time looking from the board to your list. 

5. Compound Words

Compound words are formed when two or more words are joined together that create a new word with a totally different meaning. This is another great way to build some longer words for extra points. For example, “sunscreen” could be included on your word list as well as “sun” and “screen”. Essentially, you find three words for the effort of one. Keep in mind that you can work this word type in either direction, breaking a longer word into smaller words or connecting two shorter words to form a compound one. 

6. Break Down Longer Words

Not all longer words are necessarily compound words, but the breakdown strategy still applies. Find any shorter words within longer ones to build on your word list with minimal extra effort. 

7. Prefixes and Suffixes

Use common prefixes and suffixes such as “un” and “ing” to build longer words for your list. Memorize a shortlist of these add-ons to stretch your word list and increase your points per word.

8. Look for Patterns

In a similar vein, it’s a solid strategy to look for patterns of letters on the Boggle board. There are many common letter combinations seen in words such as “ch” or “st’ that are not necessarily prefixes or suffixes, but letters often seen in sequence in English words. Learn to pick these out on the board for some word-building power. 

Related: The Ideal Monopoly Trading Strategy

9. Spelling Variations

There are a number of words that can be spelled correctly in more than one way. A good example of this situation is “gray” and “grey”. Both words have the same meaning and both spellings are considered correct, so they could both be included on your word list if the letter cubes are arranged where both spellings can be accomplished. Double the points with a slightly different variation.

10. Verb Tenses

When including verbs on your word list, fun-with-words.com notes that an effective method to find additional words is to consider different verb tenses. Sometimes this is as simple as adding a common suffix, such as “ed”, for the past tense. Regardless of spelling, be on the lookout for all forms of any verb you add to your list.

11. Rhyming Words

If you locate a word that has common rhyming words, this can be a great way to convert your find into multiple additions to your list. Often all you need is to change the first letter of the word and voila, you have a rhyming word that qualifies as a separate entry on your list. A great example would be words rhyming with “light”. If the letters are present, you could possibly add “right”, “sight”, “might”, or even “plight”. 

Strategy Roundup

Now that we’ve discussed a host of tips for a winning Boggle strategy, let’s put them in a condensed list so you can incorporate them into your game plan.

  1. Just Breathe
  2. Ignore Your Inner Censor
  3. Go for the Low Hanging Fruit
  4. Develop a System for Scanning the Board
  5. Write Clearly
  6. Don’t Stop Too Soon
  7. Look for Longer and Less Common Words
  8. Expand Your Vocabulary
  9. Ignore Your Opponents
  10. Choose a Letter
  11. Use Palindromes
  12. Make Plurals
  13. Find Anagrams
  14. Look for Compound Words
  15. Break Down Longer Words
  16. Add Prefixes and Suffixes
  17. Look for Patterns
  18. Consider Spelling Variations
  19. Search for Verb Tenses
  20. Use Rhyming Words

Keep these tips in mind next time you pull out the Boggle board. With a bag of strategies to amp up your game, your increased scores will elevate you to the next Boggle level.

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