Review and Strategy Guide: Hanging with Friends

Hanging with Friends Screen Cap

Hanging with Friends player screen

So I meant to write a review of Super 8, but I got distracted by this game that came out on the same day. Anyway, I’ll get to writing about that … soon … ish.

If you’ve ever played Hangman as a kid, you’ll catch on to this game fast. If you’ve ever played Words with Friends, you’ll find some very familiar game concepts here. If you’re not familiar with either of those, click on the links above.

Your main objective of the game is to guess the word puzzle that your opponent makes and to make word puzzles that your opponent cannot guess. If you successfully guess the puzzle, nothing happens to your character. If you fail to solve the puzzle, you lose a balloon. If you lose all of your balloons, you lose the game.

Hanging with Friends Screen Cap

Hanging with Friends scoreboard

To make things interesting, Zynga has put a small twist on the classic hangman game by introducing lifelines to help you solve the puzzles. These lifelines cost you “coins”. You earn coins by scoring points with a Scrabble Words with Friends-like point system. While these lifelines come in handy at times, they will not fill in any blank spot for you. You still need to solve the puzzles using your own skull sweat.

What makes these games so engaging is that you can play against your friends. The game integrates both Facebook and Twitter connections so that you can find other players among your social networks. When i play Words with Friends, I used to have up to 20 games going at once and i never got overwhelmed because these are turn based games. You could put the game aside for a few days and come back to it later without penalty.

There is a free, ad-supported version in the iTunes App Store and an ad-free version for $1.99 that will soon go up to $2.99.

Strategy for building puzzles:
1. You have to construct words from among 12 randomly chosen letters.
2. The game will give your opponent 4 – 8 strikes (i.e. wrong guesses) depending on the length of the word puzzle. Longer words will have fewer strikes than shorter words.
3. The game will always reveal the last vowel of the puzzle for free.

Beginner Word Building Tips:
1. Create words using the least often used letters in the alphabet. Z, Q, X, J, V, K are all great because they have a high point value when you are trying to earn coins to buy lifelines.
2. Avoid using the same letter more than once in any word, it makes the puzzle much easier to solve than any other mistake. But it is often tempting to build the word length and boost your score.
3. Minimize the number of vowels in the word. Everyone will try to guess vowels first in medium to long words and discovering the vowels may be enough to ruin your puzzle.

Advanced Word Building Tips:
1. Short words are much harder to solve despite the fact that you have more strikes for wrong guesses. People will stumble across letters in long words much more often than they will in short words.
2. A short word that has many similar cousins are really tough to guess. For example one puzzle I came across was PUNK. I got the U for free, I stumbled across the N on the 2nd or third try. I got the K after that really easily because there are only a few letters than can end a word with “UN” in the middle. But guessing that first letter was hard. It could just as easily have been BUNK, DUNK, FUNK, GUNK, HUNK, JUNK, or SUNK and I only had 4 strikes left at that point.
3. It may seem like cruel trick to play a word with no vowels just to confuse your opponent, but that trick only works once, if at all. The letter Y is not counted as a vowel and you have to build words of at least 4 letters in length. I played SYNC and CYST and of both my opponents figured them out. It was, however, a ROFL moment to see them try A E I O U on the replay even though they must have known that they should have gotten a vowel for free to start the puzzle.
4. Always add an S on to the end of a word if you can. S may be one of the most commonly guessed letters, but so what. By lengthening the word, the number of strikes is reduced.
5. Remember that the last vowel in the word is given for free. If you can end the word with a vowel, that will give away the least amount of information about your puzzle.
6. Based on the random letters you are given, you will have to choose whether to go for point building words or vocabulary stumping words. If you are trying to gain points rather than create stumpers, look for prefix letter combinations RE or UN or DE or IN within your pool. The same goes for suffixes but those are easy to spot.

Strategy for guessing puzzles:
Beginner Word Guessing Tips:

1. If you are a fan of the Wheel of Fortune game show you know that the most often used consonants in the English language are R S T L & N. While you don’t have to lead off with these guesses, the odds are in your favor.
2. Work the puzzle by guessing the end of the word first. You are given the last vowel of the word for free, you may as well build off of it.
3. Use your lifelines only if you are down to 2 unknown letters or less. The lifelines aren’t cheap and you wouldn’t want to waste a lifeline on a word you don’t have a good chance of solving. The lifelines aren’t that useful anyway. They will either take away a strike, remove 4 letters that are not in the puzzle from your pool of guessable letters, or they will give you a list of “suspect” letters by highlighting 4 letters. One of those highlighted letters is actually in the puzzle, the other 3 are not.

Advanced Word Guessing Tips:

1. Remember that your opponent is also trying to build his or her score to earn more coins. If you see the letter E as the second to last letter in the puzzle, chances are high that the last letter is either a D R or S.
2. Remember that the last vowel is given for free. Everything to the right of the free vowel is a consonant.
3. The English language hardly has any words with 3 or more consonants in a row. If you see 3 blank spaces to the left of the free vowel, you may want to start guessing vowels as soon as you figure out the ending.
4. The letters C H and W are very popular choices for word building due to the fact that they have relatively higher point values and can fit into a wide variety of words. It is still a bit difficult to build words with J Q X or Z with the other random letters you are given. B K and V fall somewhere in between.
5. The letter Y is popular among the crafty players. It isn’t counted as a vowel, it is worth 3 points, and less experienced players don’t expect it for some reason. If you exhaust your vowel choices and still can’t quite solve the MYSTERY, that’s why.
6. I only use the “suspect” lifeline, and only when I have 2 or fewer unknown letters left. The other lifelines are just useless.
7. In reality, if you can guess your way to 2 unknown letters or fewer, you should be able to solve the puzzle. By process of elimination, you can mentally insert every letter that you haven’t guessed yet into the puzzle and then sound out the remaining unknown. Combine this with the focus lifeline above and you should be in good shape.

If you’ve made it this far and would like to start a game with me, my player name is MADMARV.

UPDATE: I’ve posted another strategy guide with even more tips here.

UPDATE2: I’ve posted yet another strategy guide, but this time with subtle insights rather than cookbook tips here.

About madmarv

Civil Engineer, CAD Geek, podcast junkie and amateur photographer.
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5 Responses to Review and Strategy Guide: Hanging with Friends

  1. David C says:

    Nice strategy guide!

  2. Carolyn Billings says:

    I have been playing for only a week with two different friends and really like this game. I appreciate your tips, but you don’t explain how to access and use the lifeline. I can’t figure that out and also don’t understand the number bar and its significance. Help, please!

  3. Carolyn Billings says:


  4. Margie says:

    Thanks Madmarv. This was very helpful. Great game isn’t it!

Comments are closed.