Four people engage in three consecutive games of Blokus
I am visiting a friend and his wife. They have not been gamers yet are eager to see my offerings at a rate of about four times a year. The fourth player is a mutual friend who has shown more frequent interest in play since I introduced him.
In a prior gathering of the four of us, the hosts first played Blokus twice in one evening. The other opponent has a longer history with Blokus, having purchased his own copy shortly after being introduced by me. He and I now have an ongoing two-player competition at his initiation. Although I have brought other selections tonight they aren’t even identified once he displays his copy.
My host is to my right, his wife is to my left. It strikes me as a good balance to have my more experienced friend diagonally across from me, thus alternating knowledge levels.
Very early in the first game my host is quite active in cutting off my options. I must concentrate on recovering and pay little attention to the other events on the board. His wife seems less certain of how to play. She is out early with the worst score in part because she has played two long pieces at a right angle, leaving an open square into which she cannot connect. It is wasted space right near her own origin and we discuss its impact later. At game end my host plainly announces that his approach was to treat me as the biggest threat. We are joint winners, but at the same time he was attacking me he had been effectively attacked on his other side by my diagonal friend, who scored very close to us. Thus the host also remarks that he now sees things differently.
In the second game my own line reaches the center portion of the board before others arrive. I consciously play a piece that forks my line in hopes of having more numerous options next move. Immediately the wife on my left cuts off much of one fork. She is already playing better this time. In his turn, the host on my right cuts off the other one. Once my turn comes again, the two forks I purposely established are already impeded. Rarely have I put so much effort in a four-player game as these two so far. Not much further along I am out but so are two others. My diagonal friend still has several moves after all the rest of us are finished and scores especially low
I evaluate my status as nothing special so I begin the third game with something unexpected just for entertainment. On my first few moves rather than reaching for the center I simply extend a series of long, straight pieces beside the border directly to my right. Both my host and his wife are positioning pieces very purposely toward my diagonal friend. Nothing is stated but clearly he has become a mark after his previous performance. It looks strange to see how large an area of the board near me is completely open. Their joint efforts successfully push my diagonal friend out of the game with a very unfavorable score. All that earlier open space is an advantage I share with the wife on my left. She wins but I am not far behind.
Tonight’s scores around the board:
Me Left Diagonal Right
Game 1 12 31 15 12
Game 2 18 18 4 29
Game 3 8 5 34 13
Totals 38 54 53 54
I readily understand that my cumulative advantage came from the two hosts thwarting my diagonal friend rather than my own skill. Such imbalance is not usual in my realm. That friend and I hold a serious 2-player series (in which his win ratio is actually declining), but this has been an uncommonly forceful 4-player set. The lesser experienced opponents found aggression quickly. When I have introduced this game elsewhere there has been much frivolity and quickness of moves. Tonight all are happy at the breaks but noticeably focused while the game is in progress
A couple days later my diagonal friend offered an observation. He was reinforced in watching the play of one neighbor to whom he introduced the game the same weekend and felt a conclusion there also fit the session I am now reporting. He thought that the new players did more to concentrate on blocking than on assuring placement of the maximum number of their own pieces, and he judged it misguided.