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The Battle for Hill 218» Forums » Sessions

Subject: Chad vs. the dread AI. First in a series, collect them all! rss

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Chad Ellis
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(edited to fix notation)

A number of people have said that they can’t beat Andrew’s Hill 218 program, even on the easy level. I have a bit of an edge, having played a couple hundred games of Hill 218 over the course of the past few years, so I decided to run a series of annotated games against the computer. I’m going to do the annotations live and will probably play around five games. If I lose, I lose…and given my recent record against the computer I’d put the odds of winning all five games at around 50%. ☺

Hill 218 doesn’t have an official notation system for games, so I’m making an unofficial one for this article. (I’ll talk it over with the rest of the gang to see about making something official, but this is good enough for now.) The rectangles will be defined by a letter and a number, with the Hill 218 card being H5, the Blue base (which is at the bottom of the screen) being H4, the space to the left of the Blue base being G4, etc.

Since going first represents a slight disadvantage, I’m going to go first in each game and will take Blue each time (for the sake of simplicity).

Game 1:
Opening hand: 3x Paratroopers, 2x Infantry

Oh, boy. This is how I’m going to show people how to win? Well, I’m going to start with one of my basic rules for Hill 218 and then immediately violate it, so at least you’re getting my secrets!

Once upon a time, Darwin and I thought that it was bad not to have an Infantry unit available for your first play. The reason was that most of our games were being decided by number of units remaining in play rather than by either of us taking the other player’s base. Eventually we realized that it was important to be highly aggressive and to seize the initiative; now we end perhaps 80-90% of our games by taking the enemy base – in which case we don’t see the cards we mulligan to the bottom of the deck. This leads to rule one:

Rule one: Always mulligan away Infantry.

Now I’m going to violate this rule because with three Paratroopers I’m almost certain to lay one as Infantry and I’ll still have two left for dropping-in attacks. Meanwhile, I’m almost certainly going to have to play defensively at first, which increases the odds of going through the deck. Since Paratroopers are good when you’re playing for the “units in play” win condition, I’m happy to have one waiting for me.

Mulligain: 1x Paratroopers, 1x Infantry

Turn one: Draw Heavy Weapons, play Infantry H4

It’s very nice to have Heavy Weapons in your base, but it’s pretty bad to lead off with one because your opponent will probably just blow it up. This leads to rule two:

Rule two: Never play premium units (Artillery and Tank) and rarely play Heavy Weapons without killing an enemy unit.

Computer: Paratroopers H6 (base), Artillery G6 – destroy H4

Turn two: Draw Artillery, Heavy Weapons, play Artillery H4 and Air Strike, destroying both enemy units.

Rule three: Hill 218 is all about Initiative. Blowing up the opponent’s base unit makes it hard for him (or her, or it) to seize the initiative because he has to replace the base unit. Taking out the other unit helps as well, and this brings us to rule three.

Rule three: Giving up one Air Strike isn’t a big deal.

Air Strikes serve two important tactical functions – they can clear out enemy units that you can’t otherwise deal with and they can blow up the enemy base unit for the win. Having one Air Strike keeps these possibilities in play; having two is nice, but isn’t nearly as important. Using up an Air Strike increases your hand size by one as well, which is good if you’re short on plays you’re happy to make.

If I had an Infantry unit in hand I probably would have played it instead of the Air Strike, but with only Paratroopers and Heavy Weapons in hand I preferred the Air Strike play.

Computer: Infantry H6, Air Strike H4

Not much left in play – in a way it’s almost like the Computer is starting a new game and going first!

Turn three: Draw 2x Infantry, Paratroopers G6 and I6

I have basically three reasonable choices here. I can do what I did, which will probably lead to him killing both units with a Tank and anything-other-than-infantry. I can play Heavy Weapons in my base (violating rule 2 in the name of making it harder for him to seize the initiative) or I can play an Infantry to my base and play my second Air Strike.

Why not just play two Infantry to H4 and G4? That would leave me open to one of the strongest common attacks in the game: Special Forces to G5 and Heavy Weapons to F5. Lacking any Tanks in my hand, this would be a very awkward attack for me to meet.

Computer: Tank H6 and Paratroopers G5, killing both my guys.

This is an interesting play. He could have put the Paratrooper in a less useful but les exposed spot (either F6 or G7) but instead he gives me a chance to kill a unit. Normally I prefer the aggressive play, but in this case I’m in no position to try to take the initiative so all he’s doing is enabling me to play a Heavy Weapons into my base without forfeiting a kill. I can’t imagine two cards I would draw here that would prevent me from playing Heavy Weapons to H4 and Infantry to G4.

Turn four: Draw Heavy Weapons and Special Forces, play Heavy Weapons H4 and Infantry to G4, destroying G5.

I’m feeling pretty good at this point. The Heavy Weapons in my base (and the fact that he has only one unit in play) mean that the only dangerous attack he could make would be Special Forces to I5 and Tank to I4. If he doesn’t make that play, I may be in good shape to start counter-attacking and I still have more premium units left than he does, even though they aren’t in my hand.

Computer: Infantry to G6 and I6

The Computer’s play is basically “pass” because it doesn’t see a good attack. I suspect (impossible to know for sure without knowing its hand) that it would have been better to play just one Infantry to G6 and to take out my Heavy Weapons with an Air Strike, Giving up the last Air Strike is worse than giving up the first, as mentioned earlier, but as played I can launch a powerful attack with almost any reasonable two cards.

Turn five: Draw Special Forces and Tank, Infantry G5 and Heavy Weapons to F5, killing G6.

This is the basic attack I mentioned above, but now I’m making it. I have the initiative. The only dangerous counter-attack possible would be something like Heavy Weapons I5 and Infantry I4 (or Infantry I5 and Tank I4), but if I draw Artillery I just win on the spot so that’s a very dangerous play.

Computer: Tanks to G6 and F6

This gets him out of the attack but at the cost of two premium units, which is fine for me.

Turn six: Draw Artillery and Heavy Weapons, play Special Forces I5 and Heavy Weapons J5, killing I6.

Same attack, other side. It isn’t quite as good without a unit next to my base because if he disrupts the attack without killing my Heavy Weapons I need another Special Forces to get maximum value but I have one so woohoo.

Computer: Infantry I6, Paratroopers I4, killing I5.

In case I made any notation errors, the board at this point, this is what the board looks like:



My hand (before drawing) is Heavy Weapons, Special Forces, Tank and Artillery

Turn seven: Draw Tank and Infantry. Ponder.

There are still plenty of cards left, so I’m not shifting into a defensive posture at all. Instead what I want to do is to put maximum pressure on my opponent while taking advantage of the fact that he’s used up one of his premium unit types – tanks.

The “normal” play here would be something like Special Forces to I5 (killing I4) followed by Infantry to J6, killing I6. That kills two units with two non-premium units and leaves him under a ton of pressure while leaving me with two Tanks and one Artillery. Is there anything else that’s even better? The obvious candidate is Special Forces I5, killing I4, and then Tank G5, killing G6. That leaves me occupying both spots adjacent to Hill 218, which is quite dangerous considering he doesn’t have any Tanks.

Unfortunately, he does have answers. He hasn’t played a single unit of Heavy Weapons all game, so he’s bound to have one for J6 and he can take out G5 with an Air Strike or an Artillery, at which point I haven’t really made any progress on that flank. The normal play is best – I’m killing his units very efficiently, putting him on the defensive and he may still have to use a premium unit or his last Air Strike to get out of danger.

Special Forces I5, Infantry to J6, killing I4 and I6.

Computer: Infantry F7 and Artillery to H7, killing I5.

When the computer doesn’t feel it has a good move it will sometimes put a unit out of harm’s way. It’s a weakness and we worked it out of most situations, but in this case I think the computer would be better off with the Infantry at I7 (played after the Artillery, of course) where it would keep an eye on I6 in case I launch and attack with a Tank to take out his base unit.

At this point I’ve clearly taken the initiative, but unless I draw one of my remaining Special Forces units I don’t have any incredibly obvious attacks. My goal will be to keep some pressure on while setting myself up for next turn.

Turn eight: Draw Infantry and Heavy Weapons, play Tank G5 (killing G6) and Infantry I4.

This isn’t an exciting play but it takes advantage of his awkward unit situation. He has all his Heavy Weapons but none of my units are in a good position for Heavy Weapons to attack them.

Computer: Artillery G6 (killing H4), Special Forces F5 (killing G5) Let’s have another screen shot:



This stunts my offensive pretty well, but now the computer is out of both premium units (Tanks and Artillery). He’s “ahead” by one unit on the board but I have one more card left in my deck, so there’s no way he can win the long game. Around now I have to think about which approach I’m going to take to try to win. I can stay on an all-out offensive, trying to capture his base without regard to the number of units destroyed. I can abandon the idea of taking his base and simply use my superior units to win by attrition. I can take a middle-ground, trying to maintain some threats that he has to respond to but not taking any risks.

It’s likely that any of the three paths would be good enough, but I’ve decided to shift gears and take the safest path, going for most units in play, especially since doing so still leaves some pretty potent threats on the board.

Turn nine: Draw Tank and Special Forces, play Artillery H4 (killing H6) and Tank to F4 (killing F5).

Computer: Heavy Weapons to H6 and G7.

It’s doubtful that there’s anything good enough, but playing something to I7 to keep an eye on I6 would be better, at least preventing my next play. In that case I probably would have continued playing just for efficient kills.

Turn ten: Draw Artillery and Infantry, Heavy Weapons to I5 and Infantry to I6, killing H6.

With a Heavy Weapons in the base this is arguably my best play for attacking his base OR for long-term attrition. He simply has no good response, since he needs to kill two of my units to stall my attack. He can Air Strike one, but it takes two of his units to kill one which means there’s no way he can kill two.

Computer: Heavy Weapons to H6, Infantry to I7, killing I6.

I can now win in any number of ways, since even an Infantry to I6 empties his base. I have a fondness for occupying my opponent’s base with an Artillery unit, so:

Turn eleven: Draw Paratroopers and Infantry, Infantry to I6 (killing G6) and Artillery to H6, winning.





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Lee Massey
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That's a good report! I didn't know that there was a computer version of Hill 218! Write more reports!
 
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Dan Rivera
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JackFlash wrote:
That's a good report! I didn't know that there was a computer version of Hill 218! Write more reports!

Heres the link:
http://www.yourmovegames.com/pages/hill218.html.

Good luck, you will need it.
 
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Chad_Ellis wrote:
Hill 218 doesn’t have an official notation system for games, so I’m making an unofficial one for this article. (I’ll talk it over with the rest of the gang to see about making something official, but this is good enough for now.) The rectangles will be defined by a letter and a number, with the Hill 218 card being H4, the Blue base (which is at the bottom of the screen) being H3, the space to the left of the Blue base being G3, etc.


I think, if I'm reading this correctly, that you were actually using H4 to represent the blue base, correct? If not, then I'm lost. Still, excellent report, and very helpful - I'm sick of losing to that damn AI!
 
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Lee Massey
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Thanks for the link! That is awesome! I got beat twice but I'm going to try again tomorrow!wow
 
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That's Karl on the left. Eternity on the right.
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I love Melissa, but don't tell her. It's a secret if she can find this. Shhhhh....
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Cool, I've been eyeing this game for a while... I never knew there was a try before you buy application.
 
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Chad Ellis
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ScottB wrote:
Chad_Ellis wrote:
Hill 218 doesn’t have an official notation system for games, so I’m making an unofficial one for this article. (I’ll talk it over with the rest of the gang to see about making something official, but this is good enough for now.) The rectangles will be defined by a letter and a number, with the Hill 218 card being H4, the Blue base (which is at the bottom of the screen) being H3, the space to the left of the Blue base being G3, etc.


I think, if I'm reading this correctly, that you were actually using H4 to represent the blue base, correct? If not, then I'm lost. Still, excellent report, and very helpful - I'm sick of losing to that damn AI!


This is what I get for doing this late at night. I checked my moves as carefully as possible, but didn't confirm the original notation with what I remembered during play. You're right...as I was actually playing the game I thought that H5 was the hill, H4 the blue base, etc. I'll edit to correct.
 
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Sean McCormick
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Very entertaining read. Thanks for the write-up.
 
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