Duo to the Death

Blokus has taken over my life

Archive for the ‘blokus’ Category

Oldmanc (backstepped) F, close-X line 1

Posted by nand on April 1, 2010

Here’s a line I’ve used a lot lately with a fair amount of success.  I think it’s probably flawed but because the flaw comes in the midgame not early on it takes a very shrewd or lucky violet player to see the problems here.

If violet blocks on the bottom this is an easy win for orange–play N on the top (F12rrur) & violet’s defence crumbles. The tricky part comes if violet instead blocks with V5(H12uurr) or T5(H12uur), because the blocking in orange’s area is really awful–you basically end up giving away at least a 4-piece &/or being forced to use the I1. That said, I think this line is worth exploring further. Orange’s continuation on the bottom is of course Z5 or T5–I think Z5 is better but have not conclusively proven this.

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Duo Freestyle

Posted by nand on March 11, 2010

I talked to pentti today & he (uh, assume it’s a “he”, pentti…? :)) tells me that with modifications the freestyle idea is feasible for duo also. Player A picks pieces for both colours (violet and orange); Player B decides whether to play violet or orange.  (I suspect that one should further refine this by permitting specification of exact positions for pieces if Player A wishes–this would be key for X and F openings.) Worth trying out. The best thing about this is that it would open up a lot of mirrorable first moves, as Player A can specify a non-mirror reply.

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Blokus variants

Posted by nand on March 5, 2010

Because blokus in its various forms is (1) deterministic (no random or hidden element in play) and (2) weighted towards one player (the one who moves first), there have been various efforts at devising variants that would compensate for those characteristics.

There are many possible trivial changes–e.g. moving the starting locations of pieces–which don’t seem to me very interesting.  But there are 3 major ones that are of serious interest.

1) Freestyle

This was devised, I’m told, by Bernard Tavitian himself (creator of blokus). Though in principle it could be used for any Blokus variant, I’ve rarely encountered it with Duo; it has however become the standard means of play among top-level C2 players. (I can’t vouch for Trigon as I never play or watch it.)

The idea is that there’s a preliminary round before actual play begins. Player A names two starting pieces for blue and red to play. Player B then has the option of either (1) taking blue & red & being required to use those pieces on his first move with each colour; or (2) ceding first-move advantage to Player A; Player A then is required to play the pieces he/she named.

The beauty of this variant is that it gets away from predictable openings without totally changing game play. Player A will not name a standard, powerful opening (e.g. L5/N), because then this is just handing that advantageous opening to Player B. But neither will Player A name something absurdly weak (e.g. I1/O4) as then Player B will surely decline it & Player A will be stuck playing that absurdly weak opening as blue/red. So Player A will name something that’s neither overpoweringly good nor obviously wrong.

Though this solution could be used for Duo, I think it tends to be disfavoured because the game has so little margin for error or less-than-optimal play. Nonetheless, I think it would be worth experimenting with. So if anyone wants to give it a whirl with me….. I think this would probably require some further refinement, since whereas with C2 placement of the first pieces has little scope for choice (since two sides of each starting corner are blocked off), with Duo’s mid-board starting points you could play an optimal piece in less-than-optimal conditions. (For instance, Player A would be foolish to call out “X”. But he could certainly call out “X with centre on the dot” & that would be a good call: neither a terrible opening nor a totally strong one.)

2) Glofus

Not sure who thought of this one, or who thought up the name. It’s the most obvious but least interesting variant: whoever gets fewest rather than most points wins.  One big disadvantage of this one is that it can only be played in Training, since the software won’t recognize this variant & will thus dock points from the “winner” rather than the “loser” of a game of Glofus. — Experience shows that orange can usually win this one without much trouble, as you’d expect; possibly if people worked harder on strategy then it would be easier to devise ways to win as violet, but I don’t think this variant is interesting enough that anyone will put the necessary time in to do this. It’s more of a stunt or a pass-the-time amusement.

3) Forza

This one is devised by a player called pentti79. I’ve encountered it with Duo, but there’s no reason it couldn’t be used in C2 or Trigon too. The rules are simple: you are only allowed to play a piece named by your opponent, but you can play it wherever you like. In addition (to avoid running down your opponent’s clock unfairly), you must place the piece AFTER you name the piece your opponent must play on the next turn. (Thus this game is not amenable to very short clock times–like 5 minutes–as you need to allow for time to type piece-names; this is especially crucial in endgames as there is only one clock running then, & the endgame is of course dictated by the player who runs out of pieces first.)

This sounds awkward and silly, but it’s actually a fascinating twist to the game and deserves to become a more widespread variant. The amount of pretzel-logic required to see ahead even two moves is quite formidable, and while I imagine that eventually the opening and midgame strategy will be mapped out in more detail for the moment even basic strategy is not well-known. From the few games of it I played the other night with iwk, it appears that (1) the temptation (bad or good, I don’t know) is to call out the small pieces first, of course; (2) calling out very awkward pieces like I5, O4 or V5 at the right time is the real building-block of strategy.

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FW solution: more pieces to the puzzle

Posted by nand on January 8, 2010

OK, here’s a few more installments in my continuing battle against this opening. In my view Z5 is probably the strongest 3rd move for violet (now that I think I’ve dealt with Y-kiss). So here’s some lines that I think should do it for orange.

1. F – X / 2. W – N / 3. Z5 – F / 4. I5 – W / 5. X – Y / 6. U – L5.

…. 4. N – L5 / 5. X – Y / 6. U – P.

This is the trickiest line as orange has no combined block+attack on bottom. Here’s one possible line. I won’t spell out the moves as they follow the same pattern as above.

This is where I get uncertain. Suppose violet ignores orange F? What is orange’s best move on top? (If orange blocks the N with e.g. T4 then this is about a 4-point loss for orange IMO.) The game becomes very open, with orange having the smaller area but two leaks into violet’s area; violet has only one leak into orange’s. I THINK that this orange Y is probably the best move but would have to work it out in more detail. (The other obvious moves: turn the knob on the Y the other way; use Z4(G12rdr) for an unblockable move in anticipation of blocking on bottom right on the next turn. Probably others too.)

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