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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Xericor's Tactica: Tips and Tricks - Playing one step ahead of your opponent, Part 1 Identifying Options

Heads or Tails?

We are all familiar with the simple coin toss right? It has two outcomes - it can land heads or it can land tails. But what if I told you it has more than two outcomes, that you are missing something, and that you can probably improve your game play if you follow this brief little lesson.

Lets look at this example from a typical hex based game.

When thinking about the movement of X, we can see it has 3 options - move into tile 1, move into tile 2, or move into tile 3.
Like the coin toss though, we are missing something. There is a 4th option.
If the coin has heads and tails, what happens if we drop the coin?
We have added another option that wasn't apparent at first.
Likewise in the hex example, Move to 1, Move to 2, and Move to 3 are all options, but also NO MOVE is an option, and one that we may not have thought of if we are pre-occupied with the question 'Where is X going to move to?'
The first step to playing ahead of your opponent is correctly identifying all their possible moves, including the not so obvious ones!

In some games, no move is not an option - the player must move something, and in many games the number of options may seem vast, but there are rules to all games, and any action must have a result no matter how complicated it may at first seem.

Consider the traditional game of Chess. White moves first, and each player has to move.
Though complicated and very hard to predict the exact move, the point remains that they must move and the number of possible moves are set.

If we think ahead, we can see every move that is available. This number will not change.

The number of moves is limited and set. In this example either of the two knights could move, and any of the pawns could move 1 or 2 places forward, for a total of 20 possible moves.

Even if you blindly gambled on where your opponent was going to move, you would have a 5% chance of being correct.

Now 5% is not a great number to begin to formulate your master plan on, but thankfully many games have obvious points or objectives.

Bellow is a bad example as it really doesn't need any thinking about - our opponent is very highly likely to move to Hex 2 as it will score them +1 point, but it serves as a basis for the lesson of playing one step ahead - we have identified all the possible options, chosen the one our opponent is likely to take, and we are already formulating our response one move ahead of time!

Thanks for reading.
Any comments, suggestions, or general feedback is always appreciated.
Next article we will look at taking this idea a step further.

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