Are you a scrabble player

Sheep or Turtle - Which Scrabble Type Are You?

The Hawaiian scrabbler Kanji Matsumoto has written several books on tactics and strategy for English tournament scrabble. In his advanced book, "Scrabble solved", which is only available as a pdf directly from him, he describes six different animal types of the Scrabble players and gives valuable tactical tips in the game against these Scrabble types. Let's take a look at them ... But before we start, a few preliminary considerations.

Why focus on the opponent?

Far too many people consider Scrabble a form of solitaire. After all, you cannot see the opponent's letters and you can only influence the opponent's game to a certain extent. So why not focus on your own game? Some say: "In the long run it is not worth exploiting the weaknesses of the opponent and distracts from the actual task" or "A move depending on the other player is a suboptimal move"

Tendencies and habits

However, this setting does not take into account the human side of Scrabble. Players have tendencies and habits that you should take into account. It can be very worthwhile to adapt your strategy to the opponent. Many players play very well within their comfort zone, on a board that plays to their strengths, in situations where they know what to do. However, if you present them with a problem that he or she has never seen, they will often overlook moves that they would normally find.

Some people will criticize this approach. Indeed, taking advantage of the weaknesses of others is an uncomfortable subject for many. Nobody wants to see other players as variables that we manipulate and exploit. Our opponents are our friends who enrich our scrabble fun. There are numerous friendships and relationships among scrabblers, often extending beyond the game into everyday life.

Scrabble as a game

Nevertheless, they are our opponents and competitors with whom we measure ourselves. As much as we value their company, we want to beat them. It takes more than just analyzing the facts on the board. It also means assessing the opponent's views and decisions.

These considerations can be difficult and sensitive. It is not nice to judge other people, and it is not nice when others judge us. Nobody wants to be viewed as cannon fodder for tougher opponents, so many do not like to look at others that way. However, these considerations will help us win more games.

First impressions of the other person through a conversation

The assessment of the opponent needs your empathy and the recording of first impressions in order to quickly make decisions about this opponent. Capturing first impressions quickly is an essential skill to be successful in real life, whether you're on a job interview or on a date.

Before you can use your strategies, you should have some conversation with your opponent. This not only helps to get to know him or her on a personal level. It also gives you information that you can use during the game.

To assess your opponent, you look for all the information you can get. Younger urban players who use Scrabble-specific terminology often focus on strategy and are often Scrabble cracks.

Talkative extroverted gamers tend to have weaker word knowledge. Whereas introverted, silent players tend to prefer closed boards. Sometimes your opponents reveal their style of play through the stories they tell.

The six Scrabble types after Kenji

Based on these first impressions, you can divide your opponents into types. These guys are not descriptions of the people you play with, they describe their style of play.

Kenji differentiates between six different types of players and has assigned animals to these types:

  • Weak players - deer
  • Players with poor word knowledge - sheep
  • Scrabbler afraid of open boards - turtles
  • Players who cannot play on a defensive board - rabbits
  • Aggressive players - bulls
  • Players with a superiority - roosters

Over time, you will correct your first impressions as you get to know your fellow players better. You will certainly not know everything about them, but you will get a picture of their thought patterns and their game ideology when you see them play. There are of course mixed types and players who change their style of play by working on their weaknesses.

I would like to emphasize once again that this subdivision is used to judge playing styles and not to offend people. The aim of the article is not to criticize or ridicule players, but rather to provide tips on how to customize the game. We can adapt our game to the mistakes made by the opponent, but we can also check our own game for these mistakes.

Deer - Weak Scrabble players

Deer in nature: They are fearful and peaceful beings. Their behavior is rather passive, they are happy to graze with it. They frolic around and get along with most animals, but are also easy prey for predators and hunters.

In Scrabble: Deer in Scrabble are passive players who make both strategic and vocabulary mistakes. Your mistakes have no pattern. They can excel at times, but are unable to consistently find the best moves.

Identifying the deer: They can be identified by their relaxed posture. Deer don't worry about game positions or take much time to think about their moves. They spend their time finding moves rather than strategic considerations or comparing options.

Why there are deer: Deer play Scrabble for fun and society. You view Scrabble as a hobby or enjoyable pastime and don't want to invest the time and energy into becoming serious gamer. Most could become good players if they had the desire and diligence to play Scrabble at a high level.

Taking advantage of the deer: You can take advantage of these players by using your word knowledge. Play a mix of phones and obscure words. Complicate the game by blocking hotspots, using challenging board dynamics and preventing simple bingo lines. Sacrificing a few points to make the position more complex is worth it on future moves as your opponent is more likely to make mistakes.

You should avoid:

  • If possible, do not leave any spaces open where your opponent can play EX, IX, EY, MY, NY, NÖ, ÖD or QI across corners on a bonus field. These moves are easy to find and can earn you a lot of points.
  • Don't open the board recklessly. Even if the deer overlook some things, they are capable of finding bingos and can lap you, especially if they are lucky to pull. An open board is not to be equated with a complex board.

Sheep - players with poor word knowledge

Sheep in nature: They are passive, naive animals that can be easily fenced in and controlled. They are harmless grazers that predators can do little to counteract.

In Scrabble: Sheep are players with little word knowledge. Although they often have good strategic skills, they simply don't know enough words to compete against other players with a larger vocabulary.

Identifying the sheep: They are difficult to spot as many players think of themselves as sheep in the sense that if they learned more words they would think they would be great players. You can usually recognize sheep by their inquisitive and prudent character, despite their lack of word knowledge. They often know a few words from smaller groupings, such as some of AEINRST's anagrams, and they can play words from word lists they have studied.

Why there are sheep: They exist for a variety of reasons. Some players do not want to invest the time in learning words. Others are beginners. Others do not have the ability to remember words they have already learned.

Exploiting the sheep: Sheep should be exploited by opening the board and scoring points with your superior word knowledge by playing both obscure words and telephones, and pushing the opponent to lose doubts and accept telephones. Sheep are ideal candidates for a residual bank estimate because they are usually aware of good residual banks and often play standard moves.

You should avoid:

  • Don't play obvious "desperation" phoneys against sheep. They will doubt if they suspect a phoney game due to weak alternatives, and they will doubt high-point phones.
  • Don't stick to the regular move evaluation too strictly. An open board is more important than maximizing points or evaluating the remaining bank. You should be willing to sacrifice ten or more points to make the board the way you want in the game against sheep.

Turtles are afraid of open boards

Turtles in nature: They are slow, cautious creatures that hide in their shells when they sense danger. Turtles are considered to be particularly clever, but are often endangered in nature due to their insufficient speed.

In Scrabble: Turtles are players who prefer to play on defensively built boards, where they use their knowledge of board dynamics and tactics to outmaneuver their opponents.

Identifying turtles: Such players tend to play up their experience and history with the game. Turtles tend to be reserved and contemplative. They enjoy the strategic game more than finding moves on an open board. They feel like they understand everything there is to know about Scrabble.

Why there are turtles: Turtles are afraid of playing on open boards because they feel that open board Scrabble is just a bingo battle where strategy is unimportant. They think that they know fewer words than their opponent and that they have more control when there are fewer options.

Exploiting the turtles: You should be taken advantage of by opening the board. Turtles sacrifice significant points or residual bank values ​​in order to block the board and prevent a bingo exchange of blows. Turtles are not good at handling aggressiveness. With fishing, setups and high-point moves you can defeat the turtle.

Fishing means placing only one or two stones for insignificant moves on suspicious bingo letters on the bank, if the board does not offer any points of contact, or if bingo is not possible despite good letters, in the hope of being able to play a bingo on the next move.
Targeted fishing can be tactically smart, as with a good remaining bank you save the chance of a future bingo.

You should avoid:
  • Do not try to force an opening of the board once it is installed. Turtles are skillful on built-in boards and will close any opening you offer them. You should only attempt openings when you have a good chance of opening the playing field.
  • Don't use anti-turtle tactics as an excuse to avoid closed boards against everyone. Some players use these tactics in order not to have to deal with the strategy on built-in boards. However, if you use these tactics too often, you can be ousted by other players who use anti-rabbit tactics.

Rabbits - problems with closed boards

Bunnies in nature: They are active and aggressive animals that hobble around, destroying gardens, fences and fields, wreaking havoc and overrunning everything in their path. Bunnies move efficiently but recklessly and do harm without thinking about it.

In Scrabble: They are very good on wide open fields, but have problems on closed boards. Bunnies can reliably find bingos and high-point moves, but struggle with the tactical and strategic facets of Scrabble. They hope that they will find carrots in the form of bingos and ignore decision-making processes that lead to lower endowed trains.

Identifying rabbits: Rabbits are especially enthusiastic about words and high-score games. They study a lot of words and play very aggressively. They rate players based on their ability to score and find bingos rather than their strategic ability.

Why there are rabbits: They are mostly players who like to anagram and have a greater weakness for the linguistic side of Scrabble than for strategy. Bunnies prefer to play on "exciting" open boards that are more fun and don't think deeply about Scrabble strategy, beyond scoring and drawing bingo.

Harvesting the hares: The best way to win against rabbits is to play like a turtle. The rabbits get confused on closed playing fields. You try to play bingos in constellations where bingos are very unlikely. For this they will dare useless openings where you can score and block at the same time.

You should avoid:

  • Don't block unlikely bingo lines. Your goal in rabbits is to challenge as many weak-scoring moves as possible before playing a bingo. Lots of rabbits will fish bad bingo lines with sub-par letters, that's something you should encourage.

The aggressive bulls

Bulls in nature: Taurus are known for their aggressiveness. They are stubborn and rush ahead, challenging anyone who gets in their way. People like to provoke and deceive the bulls like in a bullfight.

In Scrabble: They are players who try every opportunity to maximize entropy. You like moves with extremely high scores and like to take risks: You love the thrill of Scrabble.

What is entropy in Scrabble

Entropy means playing with volatility. For example, a move to the edge of the field increases entropy and volatility by a factor of three or even nine. The risk and the possible point gain increase equally. The opponent can score high, but I also have the opportunity to score high. The basic rule of entropy is to increase the entropy if there is a point deficit and to reduce the entropy if there is a lead by installing the board, scoring consistently well and limiting the possibilities for bingos.


Identifying bulls: In Scrabble, bulls are the ultimate risk player. They always act like they have nothing to lose. Taurus are usually relaxed, extroverted, and ready to take risks. They appear very assertive and usually play very quickly.

Why there are bulls: For Taurus, Scrabble is all about the ultimate game, the bingos, the high-scoring moves with Q, Y, X and they focus on these, at the expense of high-scoring moves. Taurus ignore the significance of several moves of 30 points each and prefer to bet everything on the superbingo.

Exploiting bulls: Against bulls, you should reduce the field entropy by blocking good places where they can score or get rid of ugly banks. Taurus rely on good spots for their bad banks, so you should take these options away from them.


  • While closing the field sometimes helps, Taurus will always try to open bingo lines whether the field is closed or not. Therefore strategies to close individual quadrants will often not work. Exploiting bulls requires little adjustment as they mostly harm themselves.

Big ego player - The Roosters

Roosters in nature: Roosters are arrogant animals that are known to get their way over other animals. The stereotypical rooster is proud and has a distinctive gait and scream.

In Scrabble: Roosters are gamblers who try to reduce entropy whenever possible. You try to outplay your opponent at every opportunity. They don't like to let their opponents make good technical moves. They try to beat other players by making unreasonable moves to provoke mistakes.

Identifying taps: They consider themselves to be top players and often have a large ego. While many great players act like roosters, there are also many roosters who overestimate their skills.

Why there are cocks: In some ways, being a rooster is even good, as it is important to exploit your weaker opponents. If you resist rooster tactics, you won't win as often as possible. Roosters can have a hard time correctly identifying their opponents. You will sometimes mistake good players for weaker players.

Using the taps: You will do better against roosters if you increase the entropy, even if it costs a few points. Since roosters abhor entropy, they will sacrifice too many points and good remaining banks to close the field. You should also look for ways to trap the rooster by piling up your skills, fooling him over your remaining bank, and using the rooster 's habits against him.

You should avoid:

  • Don't let a rooster know that you are a capable, thoughtful player. You are better off if you are underestimated, then you can find patterns in the rooster game that you can take advantage of.
  • Don't give a rooster information about your weaknesses. Good roosters can read between the lines and spot your potential deficits.

What scrabble type are you

What do you think of this subdivision? Do you find yourself or your fellow players in one of these categories? Or do you have completely different observations?

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Image sources
Cover picture - collage picture 1, 3, 4 and 6 with scahfen and bull via getstencil for 1337 UGC GmbH
1st picture - Deer in the rapeseed field - Hedwig von Ebbel Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons,
2nd picture - Sheep with lambs - Lene, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons,
3rd picture - turtle - Gary M. Stolz / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons,
4th picture - Bunny in the grass, - James, William R. - Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons,
5th picture - Fighting bulls on meadow - Juan Pablo Zumel Arranz, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons,
6th picture - Hahn - Muhammad Mahdi Karim, GFDL via Wikimedia Commons,