Thursday, February 23, 2006

GIPF for Dummies like me

I really really really like GIPF. However as there is nobody in my household who is willing to play it, or would be much chop if they did, I downloaded GF1 (GIPF for 1) during the week. It's very nice. I have only been playing the basic game so far, and I beat it on level 1 (i.e. I was conscious). However I can't yet beat it on level 2. It goes up to level 9. That means I am not very good at GIPF. It seems to me that this is a game you can get very very good at, and I am just a beginner. I went to the 'geek today to read strategy articles, and there are none. That means that this one that I am about to write is the best I can find :-). Expert that I am!

So the edges of the board are 4 pieces long, the diameter is 7. That means that you cannot capture on the edges, all you can do is weaken your board position. In the second row (length 5) you can capture one piece, in the third row you can capture two, and across the centre you can potentially capture three pieces. If you have a piece on the very centre point, you cannot lose it (while it remains there), so that single point defends all of the longest rows. I think that means the centre point is important. I suspect the points around the centre are nearly as important, so I am guessing that the heart of the game is a struggle for control of the centre.

Consequently, one strategy would be to get your pieces into the centre of the board while denying your opponent that privilege. As you can only place pieces on the outside of the board, and making long chains of pieces reaching into the centre of the board will just get you taken off, you want your opponent to help push you into the middle of the board. I don't know how you coerce him to do that. In any case, you want your opponent to be in the middle of the board with you to prevent you from having rows of 4 when you don't want them.

Having the most pieces on the board seems to be an advantage as well. If you have more pieces, you have more opportunities to capture your opponent. If you can find a move which allows you to force your opponent to remove 4 pieces from the board, do it, as you'll have relatively more pieces to be working with. His will go back to the outside and they might end up pushing you into the centre. I notice that when your opponent captures you, he removes 4 pieces from the board and you lose fewer than that. I wonder if sacrifices might be useful for improving board position?

Hmm, can't think of any more brilliant ideas at the moment. Don't make mistakes. I spent several games smacking myself in the forehead as I made blunder after blunder which allowed the computer to demolish me. The game is more fun if you don't do that (make the blunders). It's really only once you get past that that you can think about how to exert any pressure on the opponent, as you'll have so few pieces on the board you won't be able to attack anyway.

Anyway, the author of GF1 asks for a postcard if you like his work. I think I'll send him one.


Ryan Walberg said...

Dangit, John, you ruined my day. I downloaded GF1 to introduce myself to GIPF and now I'm hooked. I'm not getting anything done. Curse you!

Friendless said...

Cool! When you figure out the strategy let me know! I was careful to not download it at work.

Ryan Walberg said...

I can beat the computer every time on level 1 (Basic). Basically I pick of his pieces 1 or 2 at a time, taking care not to get too many on the board so that I don't run out my reserve. It seems to work pretty well. I'm starting to get into the more tricky plays. I seriously doubt my strategy will take me far, though.

dave said...

Thanks for the pointer. After playing level 2 several times, and only winning once, this now joins Othello as the games at which I totally suck.