How to Beat Your Friends at Skribbl.io
Skribbl.io is a notoriously funny online game where you earn points by either guessing what others draw, or having people guess what you draw. Naturally, drawing with a mouse or track-pad leads to terrible, convoluted drawings, so if you’re playing with friends and you’re all in a call together, lots of fun can be had. Although the emphasis of playing skribbl is having fun, playing well and besting your friends is a very rewarding experience. Here are my tips and strategies to do just that. In each section, I have some general principles, followed by specific techniques.
Table of contents:
At the start of your drawing turn, you’re given 3 words to choose from. Since the drawing turn is a round where heaps of points can be accumulated, this choice is very important. Here are the questions you should be asking when picking a word:
How easy is your word to guess?
The first instinct is to choose the word that is easiest to draw. This is usually the most important consideration, but it’s also important to imagine how you’ll draw a word and how well the players will interpret your drawing. Usually, how easy something is to draw is related to how well it will be interpreted, but there are some situations where that isn’t the case. For example: a dandelion might be easy to draw, but the length of the word and the ambiguity of a simple yellow or white flower might make it harder to guess. Words that are easy to draw and also easy to guess are the ideal words. Of course, much of the “easy to guess” portion depends on your drawing skills, but your life is made easier by good word choice.
How long is the word?
As demonstrated by the dandelion example, the length of the word you choose is important. Picking a three letter word can be advantageous because doing so narrows down the pool of words that can be guessed dramatically. Picking a three letter word also increases the chances that a person guessing random three letter words might get a “___ is close” message, at which point they might tip off other players by guessing similar words. Longer words have more nuance in their difficulty. I’d like to see a graph of guess times vs word length. At a certain length (I’d say around 7 letters), players will stop counting how many letters they need to fill and just guess words that might fit.
How many ways can the word be drawn?
If you’re stuck with 3 hard words, consider different ways to draw each of them. For example, I recently picked “fountain” and drew a drinking water fountain very unsuccessfully, when I could have drawn the type of fountain you might find in a plaza. Additionally, compound words might be easier to imagine drawing separately rather than together (e.g. drawing a sword + fish instead of an ambiguous swordfish). Thinking outside the box is necessary to escape bad situations.
Who are you drawing for?
Finally, the group must be considered when picking a word (this can generally only be done if you’re playing with friends). If you pick a word that only one person in the group will figure out quickly, that leaves everyone else with a shortened amount of time to guess the word, meaning you’ll lose out on points. This can be used to your advantage too; if someone you’re competing with doesn’t watch a show or know an inside joke, you could exclude them with your word choice.
Here are some less common techniques, sorted from least to most despicable.
- Don’t pick words that people always guess at the start of each round, since you’ll have less time to draw a convincing picture
- Pick a colour as your word and fill the screen with that colour
- Pick words that have already been drawn
Drawing is often the hardest aspect for most people, myself included. However, assuming no one has a drawing tablet, everyone is going to have some amount of trouble drawing with a mouse. Here are a few tips for drawing:
Use the tools provided
You are allowed to use a fill bucket, various brush sizes, and different colours. All of these contribute to the successful guessing of your word. If you’re drawing Shrek or Bart Simpson, using green and yellow is all it takes to make your drawings instantly more recognizable. If you want to draw an ocean quickly, simply draw a blue line and use the fill bucket. Drawing quickly is important, but it can’t be at the cost of clarity. Using tools can spare you the time you need to flesh out the finer details.
Synecdoche in literature is where a part of an object is used to represent a whole. A classic example is saying “all hands on deck” when what is implied is “all crew members on deck”, and not just their hands. This technique can be used in skribbl: I have seen people drawing Pikachu when the word was Pokemon, and a magnifying glass with a question mark when the word was detective. In these cases, the goal is to make the guessers think of a broader topic, stereotype, or relationship that will lead them to the correct answer. This might take longer to guess than drawing the word directly, but an otherwise difficult word to draw might be salvaged.
Drawing size and elaboration
Drawing too big or small is disadvantageous. When a drawing is too small, small drawing mistakes become a prominent proportion of the drawing. When a drawing is too big, there is little room to elaborate for the people who are stuck. Drawing multiple meanings of the same word with an “or” in between is another technique that requires efficient use of space.
Here are some less common techniques for drawing, sorted from least to most despicable.
- Lower your dpi/mouse sensitivity to give yourself greater precision when drawing
- Practice drawing with a mouse using Google Quickdraw
- You can draw something that is spelled similarly to the word you need to draw. For example, drawing a banana when your word is bandana. When people guess banana, they’ll find out that their guess is close and they might guess bandana correctly
- If someone makes a typo guessing the correct word, you can draw an arrow pointing it out in the chat
- Using words in your drawing
- Using MANY words in your drawing
Guessing other people’s drawings is where most of your points will come from in a game of skribbl. As such, it is crucial that you excel at guessing drawings correctly if you want to win. Here are the top strategies I keep in mind:
Take in all information
You have access to the same amount of information as everyone else playing, but if you take advantage and process all of the information, you’ll be more likely to win. The information I’m talking about is the length of the word, the drawing itself, the letters revealed, and the chat. The first three are fairly self explanatory: the number of letters, the drawing, and the periodically revealed letters are the traditional cues used to guess the word. The chat, however, is less utilized. Has someone made a typo of the correct answer? Has someone gotten the correct answer while following a trend of guesses? Did someone who guesses the same word at the start of every round get the answer correct? A lot of knowledge can be gleaned from the chat. Looking at everything at once is a challenge, but as with most strategy games, quick decision making and high actions per minute can give you the edge.
If you’re a fast typist, you have a leg up on your competitors. While learning to type fast is a valuable skill, it’s probably not something you can improve in the time frame of a skribbl game. Instead, there are some other considerations you can employ while typing. They are:
- Don’t waste time typing answers that don’t fit the number of letters
- Don’t waste time typing answers other people have tried
- If the answer comes to you while you’re typing something else, hit Ctrl + Backspace on Windows, Option + Delete on Mac to delete everything
- Avoid giving away the answer by making a typo
Dedicate your brainpower
As soon as the drawing starts, the time is ticking. At this point, it’s not time to think of past rounds or look at the scoreboard. Depending on how hard you want to try, you’re already guessing based on the word length and the colour that was chosen by the drawer. If you haven’t gotten the drawing after others have, change your perspective. Take a quick look at the other guesses. Imagine all the techniques that you as a drawer might use, and look for a reflection of those techniques in the drawing that you’re looking at.
Finally, here are some less common techniques for guessing, sorted from least to most despicable.
- Guess a word that fits the length at the beginning of the round. If you get it right before the person has had a chance to draw, you’ve gained a huge lead
- Keep a word in your copy/paste clipboard for easy pasting. I always forget how to spell Pinocchio in a pinch, so I keep him ready on paste
- Pretend that you’ve found a “close” word by guessing things that rhyme in succession
- Review a list of the words in the skribbl.io word list
With that, I hope you’ve found a new strategy to employ when playing skribbl. The reality is that as far as strategy can take you, the game comes down to your image recognition skill, which is best improved by playing. This article was written during COVID-19, and what I really appreciate about skribbl is that the game exercises your fluid intelligence, while also bringing all your friends together for a good laugh. In the end, if you can’t beat your friends at skribbl, endeavor to have fun with them.