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Tony Chen
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...LACONIC REVIEWER
Punct is a perfect information game played by 2 players. Games last around 30 minutes. It is the sixth and last game of the project gipf series.



...LICENSED LAWYER
Punct is played on a hexagonal board, where the players' objective is to use their pieces to connect any two opposite sides. Each piece is 3 dots in size, with one of the dots being colored and called the "punct" of the piece.

On a player's turn, he can either place or move one of his pieces. When placing a piece, it must lie on the "ground" level (not stacking on any other pieces). It also cannot lie, either partially or completely, within the center area of the board (marked by a darker shade of gray).

When moving a piece, the punct of that piece must move along a straight line on the board, and the piece can rotate freely with its punct as the axis. The punct must land either on the board, or directly on top of another of your own piece (this means that only non-punct dots can cover up opponent pieces). If the piece is on top of other piece/s, all the dots must be resting on the same level (the piece remains horizontal). Furthermore, when stacking on top of other piece/s, none of its dots can be overhanging. That is, unless you form a "bridge", all dots must directly rest on top of another piece.

There is no limit to how many levels there are or which levels you can jump to (any level can jump to any level). A piece that is covered by another piece cannot be moved. When looking for connections, the topmost piece counts for the color in that dot/space.

when one player runs out of pieces to place
Whoever has the most occupied dots in the center area wins.

...AVID GAMER
Compared to other connection games of its sort (hex, gomoku, etc), Punct is not as simple in rules, not as elegant in gameplay, and not quite as deep in strategy. Now, those are not necessarily bad things; all it means is that Punct has a distinct quality that sets it apart from other connection games. Certainly not everyone minds more complicated rules, or care much for the type of "elegance" found in games like Go. And as far as strategy goes, lets just say that unless you are planning on studying this game to death, it has more strategy than you would care to explore in your life time.

Now on to what, in my opinion, single handedly makes this an unique connection game: the stacking. Instead of straight and up front connecting and blocking, pieces can stack on top of each other, thus "killing" the opponent piece it is covering. This is not dissimilar to capturing an opponent piece in chess: my knight captures your pawn, your bishop captures my knight, and lastly my queen captures your bishop to mantain ownership of that space on the board. In Punct, players also strive to perform the last "capture" in a vital area on the board (usually where the two opponents' connections intersect), so that their color/piece will end up on top of the stack. To do so, a player places his pieces such that they can move into stacking positions in the vital area/s. This is akin to moving your chess pieces into positions to attack certain positions on the board. This lends a Chess-like, tactile feel to the game. Note that I am a piss-poor Chess player so take my analogy at its worth.

So if you are looking for a simple and elegant, pure connection game, look elsewhere (read, hex). However, if you are looking for a pseudo connection game with a capturing twist to it (strange thing to look for I'll admit), Punct is very well done. In fact, given its premise, it's about as well as it can possibly be done. For those who dislike traditional connection games, they might find punct to be the best connection game out there, because shortly into the match it morphs from a simple connection game into a very different beast.

...MATH PROFESSOR
placing to set up stacking attacks
Now, as mentioned above, the stacking tactic is important. Try to come out on top in important areas. The pieces that are more useful for stacking are the lines and elbows with the punct at their tips. So use these to stack. Use the other pieces as (potential) foundations for your stacking pieces.

What happens is that you'll usually want to move pieces from the edge to stack on pieces in the middle. So, play the stacking pieces connecting on the side, and have their puncts line up with your (potential) foundation pieces near the middle area, or whatever area that seems important and is being contested. Again, these areas of dispute are usually where the black and white connections intersect.

So, when a player places his pieces, he must try to have it do two things. 1)Form an effective connection in its initial placement. 2)Be lined up to "attack" possible area/s of dispute.

managing your reserve
Try to spread out in your uses of pieces. Try not to run out of a particular type of pieces, especially the useful stacking ones.

the center area
I don't have a convincing explanation for this, but I feel that it's not worth it to occupy the center area. I just try to work my way around on the edge of it. Even though it is a longer connection, it actually takes fewer turns to complete.

player advantage
White, the first player to go, has a distinct advantage. Therefore as black, your goal from the start of the game is to defend and cut white off.

...COFFEE TABLE DECORATOR
I don't own a copy, but judging from my copy of Yinsh and the pictures online, Punct seems to be of decent quality.

...QUIRKY MARSUPIAL
The alternate winning condition when one player empties his reserve definitely feels artifical and lame to me. I would say just keep playing, or provide a larger reserve pool of pieces. But these solutions may have some problems which require some fiddly rules to fix as well. I still think they were cheap for not providing more pieces. By the way, I think they should've also given us more discs in Yinsh, and more rings in Zertz.

Personally, I love the simplicty, elegance and depth of connection games such as Go, hex and gomoku. In fact, hex is my favorite game of all time. However, I also enjoy Punct for what it is, which is to say that I enjoy it for different reasons that I enjoy these other connection games.
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j preen
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generalpf wrote:

Quite often, the winner is a foregone conclusion once one player starts moving instead of placing.


Indeed, I would agree with this, but it is all a matter of having placed your supporting pieces appropriately to both attack and defend when the first jump happens. There is a lot of depth here...

With evenly matched players it is a very interesting game, but hard to balance it out otherwise. I have tried allowing new players to play in the central hexagon, but it only delays the inevitable, it seems!
 
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Brandon Richards
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Quote:
Punct is a perfect information game played by 2 players. Games last around 30 minutes. It is the sixth and last game of the project gipf series.


Just a side-note. PUNCT is the fifth (not sixth) game in the GIPF series, even though it was the final game to be completed in the series.
 
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Tony Chen
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generalpf wrote:
Great review.

After quite a few games of PÜNCT against many different players, I'd argue against your assertion that stacking is that important. Rather, it seems that your primary concern when placing a piece is keeping paths open to connect. It seems that the first player who has to move a piece rather than place one will forever doing so while the other player continues to place new pieces, mounting an even greater threat. The skill in PÜNCT is to force the other player to be the first to move a piece rather than place a new one. Quite often, the winner is a foregone conclusion once one player starts moving instead of placing.


Well our different experiences just goes to show the depth this game has to offer. I'd say both aspects are important and a good player will need to take both into consideration. Even if you don't end up stacking, the threat to do so may be just as important. I think you need to be making good connections and in the meantime also making good stacking threats. I focused on the latter aspect because for me, it's what really made punct feel different from the other connection games.

Quote:
Just a side-note. PUNCT is the fifth (not sixth) game in the GIPF series, even though it was the final game to be completed in the series.


Yeah, I knew it was the "fifth" game but I didn't want to get into that cuz it can be kind of confusing. Any one know why Kris Burm decided that this is the fifth game? Does it have more connection to the fourth game (Dvonn) than Yinsh does?

edit:
I guess I can see why Yinsh is more related to gipf than punct is (5 in a row). And punct with dvonn? The stacking I guess.
 
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Brad Oliver
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filovirus wrote:
Just a side-note. PUNCT is the fifth (not sixth) game in the GIPF series, even though it was the final game to be completed in the series.


I'd like to see an authoritative statement on this. Going to the official project GIPF web page, I see that originally YINSH was slated to be the last in the series, but when PUNCT was completed, Kris Burm says that he finds it is suitable enough to close out the project instead. I think that's about as definitive as it gets.
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