Words with Friends used to be more like Scrabble, where everyone got a fair game directly in the app with the unofficial honor system in place. Cheaters could always use third-party word checkers, but Zynga has made that less of an issue with its selection of "powerups" in Words with Friends. To adapt to the new game style, you need to stock up on powerups, so others don't have an unfair advantage.
There are three types of powerups in Words with Friends, no matter which version you're playing on Android or iOS. Each in-game superpower can spell win or loss for your record. At this point, most players are using them, so why not you? If you don't use powerups like everyone else, your opponents will have a leg up on you. However, you can always go back to the honor system and chat with your game mates to request both parties play without powerups.
Activated after your last move, Hindsight will show you the best turn you could have made with your rack of letters. While it doesn't help you find words to play or get new letters, it does help train you into knowing how best to use your tiles and where.
By using it regularly, you can hopefully get more and more points each turn, since you'll have a better idea of placement. It also trains you on how to look for long words, hooks (where you add a letter to a word while spelling a word the opposite direction), parallels (where you can play two or more words at the same time), and bonus squares (which increase letter and word scores).
If you play the best word possible, Hindsight will be grayed out. That's good because there's no reason to waste one if it's not going to show you anything beneficial. However, if you play one of the next most highest-scoring words, it may also still be unavailable with a note saying "No hindsight words available."
Play a Word Radar when it's your turn — before you make your move — to light up every square on the board in which you can play words. Words with Friends knows all of the words you can play with your current rack, and Word Radar will help you find the best one. It's most beneficial to less-experienced players who have a hard time with placement on the board, as pro-level opponents may already know how to play the board offensively and defensively.
While the Word Strength feature that everyone can access is a good enough indicator of high-scoring plays, if you can't max out the Word Strength meter and you're looking for the most points you can get, Word Radar can help fill the gap.
Anyone in almost any game format in Words with Friends can swap out letters when they have a rack that makes a good move impossible. However, doing so means losing a turn, and that means letting your opponent move farther and farther ahead of you. Swapping and skipping a turn is okay if you're in the lead by a decent margin, but Swap+ helps you if you're currently on the losing end.
When it's your turn and your letters, well, suck, tap on the Swap+ icon to open up the swap station. Get rid of all the tiles you don't want, whether that means an entirely new rack or just a letter or two in hopes of getting that letter you need for a high-scoring play. It's just like Swap & Pass, only after you make the swap, it's still your turn. It's definitely alongside Word Radar, maybe even more so, when it comes to controversial features in a Scrabble-like word game.
There are plenty of ways to earn or get powerups in Words with Friends, and I'll show you each below. I suggest you hop on Words with Friends 2 (Android | iPhone) if you haven't yet because things work more smoothly in it. As for Words with Friends (Android | iPhone) or Words with Friends Classic (Android | iPhone), powerups can be buggy and may not have rolled out to everyone yet.
First, you can get one possibly by claiming the daily reward. To claim your Daily Bonus, go to the "Games" tab, then tap on "Rewards & Challenges" at the top. In the drop-down drawer, tap on "Claim" by today's date in the Daily Calendar section.
Many bonuses are coins only, but you can earn a Hindsight, Word Radar, and Swap+ on certain days of the month. Also, every so often there will be a Mystery Box. In those cases, tap on the box to reveal your bonus items for the day. Mostly, you get more coins, but occasionally, you'll get a Hindsight, Word Radar, or Swap+, as well as other items.
You may also be able to earn powerups by playing the Solo Challenge. You can find this option in the carousel at the top of the "Games" tab. If you're currently playing a Solo Challenge, the next WordMaster in the challenge will show up under Your Move with the rest of the games you have turns in.
After completing rungs in the current Solo Challenge available, you will earn a Mystery Box filled with coins and powerups that could include a Hindsight, Word Radar, or Swap+. You can open your Mystery Box from the "Games" tab in the "Rewards & Challenges" drawer.
In the "Rewards & Challenges" drawer in the "Games" tab, you'll see a section called Daily Goals. There are three total goals, and those goals will change based on your regular gameplay. If you play a lot, they may be hard, but if you only play occasionally, they may be pretty simple. After completing the goals, Mystery Boxes will show up in the drawer to collect, and some of them may have powerups.
Additionally, aside from Dailly Goals, there are Weekly Challenges. You can view the current week's challenge under the Your Move section in the "Games" tab. These challenges will typically be things like "Score 333 points in Classic games," and you'll get that week's badge if successful, as well as a Mystery Box you can open from the "Rewards & Challenges" drawer. Powerups may be in these boxes, which you can access from the drawer in the "Games" tab.
It's worth mentioning that Words with Friends had a "Live" gameshow at some point similar to HQ, but it was only for testing with a select number of users. In Words with Friends Live, you could earn Mystery Boxes that could contain powerups, but Live is not currently going on for anyone, and Zynga has not stated if it will make a return in the future. However, there may be a "Season 2" coming up soon.
Lastly, you can buy powerups using coins in the "Store" tab or from the coins link inside any game. You can get free coins by claiming the Daily Bonus and watching optional video advertisements, and you can earn them by completing matches, Daily Challenges, Weekly Challenges, and Solo Challenges, as well as inviting new friends to play Words with Friends.
Alternatively, you can also purchase coins with real money if you can't wait. The cheapest coin package is $0.99, which will give you enough coins to get eight Hindsight, two Word Radars, or two Swap+ powerups. If you play regularly, you shouldn't ever have to spend real cash on coins.
This article was produced during Gadget Hacks' special coverage on mobile gaming. Check out the whole Gaming series.