So far, all my favourite Wordle variations have kept the same shape of game board as the original: Five letters, each guess appearing as a new row in a grid. You can see what you guessed before, and you can see how many guesses you still have left. Waffle changes the game in interesting ways, and for that, it intrigues me.
How to play Waffle
In Waffle, you’re solving six for words at once, but you don’t have to guess the letters — the letters are already there. You just have to put the letters in the right places. It looks like a crossword, but behaves more like a Rubik’s cube: The only way to play is to swap squares from one place to another.
The green and yellow colour coding works the same way as in Wordle: green means a letter is in the right place, yellow means the letter belongs somewhere else in the word. But thanks to the criss-cross grid, yellows at corners introduce ambiguity. Is the yellow letter in the vertical word or the horizontal word? It could be either, and you won’t know until you make a swap.
Every puzzle can be solved in 10 swaps or fewer, or so the creator promises. You are given a budget of 15 swaps. Your score is the number of budgeted swaps you didn’t use, so if it took you 11 turns, you get four stars. Five stars is the maximum. You’ll also get a nifty grid to share on social media, with green squares for the letters you placed correctly. This way, you still have something to show even if you didn’t fully solve the puzzle before time is up.
How to win at Waffle
Remember, your swaps are limited. In some tile-swapping games, if you make a mistake, it’s often not too much of a hit to your score to switch things back to where they were. If you get a 71 instead of a 70 in I Love Hue, who cares? Here, a bad swap takes you from 15 down to 14. If you choose to swap it back, you’re down to 13. Budget carefully.
Don’t jump to conclusions when you see a yellow letter. Remember, if it’s at a corner, the yellow could be a clue for one word or the other. You’ll probably have a moment where you think “aha, it’s in this horizontal word!” before remembering it might actually be in the vertical word instead.
For this reason, the squares that don’t have any intersections are strategically valuable. If a yellow isn’t in an intersection, you know exactly which word it belongs in. (By contrast, I don’t like to play crosswords that don’t have intersections for every letter; that’s just lazy puzzle-making.)
One twist you’ll realise as you continue playing: After you swap a letter, you no longer have a visual record of where it used to be. I often solve Wordles with a pad of paper at my side, and that definitely helped here. But I also started taking screenshots along the way, so when I find myself thinking “what letter was yellow in that top word a few turns ago?” I check my camera roll to be sure.
Is Waffle harder than Wordle?
All of this complaining is a preface to saying: I failed my first Waffle. By the time I figured out what all the words were, I had two swaps left, and needed three. This left me with a 0/5 score, no stars. My grid was all green except for two black blocks.
On my next try, I was more cautious. I hedged my bets on those corner yellows, and when I wanted to move a tile, I thought very carefully about what I wanted the other side of that swap to look like — not just “let’s get rid of the N so we can put an A here,” but “there are three A’s in the puzzle, let’s make the swap that puts the N in a useful place.”
Officially, this makes Waffle harder than Wordle; I’ve never lost a Wordle. (I’m sure it will happen someday. I’m smug, not cocky.) But I would bet that once you get the hang of it, Waffle is easier in some ways. All the letters are right in front of you, so you’ll never be entirely surprised by a SQUAD or a FUZZY. Waffle is still new, so I’ll need to play it a bunch more to form further opinions. For now, it’s one of my favourite daily word games. Maybe it will be one of yours too.
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