Why I think Wordle is more luck than skill

Here are 3 reasons why I think the recently-gone viral game is so popular:

  • It has a broad audience, appealing to both logophiles and logicians alike.
  • It has a super high degree of luck involved.
  • It was designed so that most people get most answers in 6 tries.1

I posit that luck is the biggest factor in solving the puzzle in 3 or fewer attempts. My reasoning:

The more letters you get in the first guess, and the more of those letters that are in the right place, gets you exponentially closer, statistically, to the answer.

Granted, logic can be used in deciding which letters you use in that first word, such as choosing letters that appear, statistically, in more words, letters such as R, S, T, N, L, and E. But, there are so many of those words that’s it’s just going to be luck that the word you settle on has letters that are actually in today’s answer and even luckier if any are going to be in the correct position in today’s answer.

Another huge aspect of luck is when you place a letter that you already know is in the answer, but not in the correct position, in a different position to find its correct position or eliminate another wrong position for it, and you try to choose “the most likely” place it would be, often it’s as likely to be in one place as another, so you have to just chose a place. Luck!

And then even when you’ve narrowed it down to 2 or 3 words it could be, you’re just lucky if you choose the right one. For example, here’s where I was today going into my 3rd guess (on which I actually got the correct answer):

At this point, I knew I wanted to try a word with “i” since I knew a, e, and o weren’t in it, and “i” is more likely than “u,” so I chose it.

Also, I wanted to try the “m” in a different spot to narrow down where it actually falls in the word. And then I thought, I think “i” appears before “m” more often than it falls after “m” so I went with “im” instead of “mi.” But the fact that I chose to put the “i” in the middle of the word was arbitrary, and as luck would have it, it was correct.

When deciding to put “im” where I did, I then asked what words fit the pattern “- – i m -“? And looking at the letters left on the keyboard that hadn’t been eliminated, I first saw “chimp” as a possibility, and then crimp, blimp, and primp (that ugly chance that “p” was used twice).

The only logic I used in finalizing this decision was that I think “r” is more frequent that “l”, and “p” is in several of the words I’m considering, so I’m going to go with one of the “-rimp” words. Pure luck! It was just as likely to have been chimp, blimp, or primp.

Or, with the letters available going into that third guess, the answer could just as easily have been milky! But, I just happen to see “chimp” first in those available letters, so I worked with those. Luck, I tell you! So much luck!

1According to Josh Wardle who invented the game: ‘Wordle’ Creator Shares Ingenious Tip For Players—Even If He’s Not Very Good At The Game

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