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Subject: Playing with four players rss

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Sam Yhanto
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So I figured I'd write up this session report before I forget.

My family and I have started playing board games together lately, but we don't have a lot of games that everyone enjoys. My father and I are, for example, very military-conquest, strategic area control-oriented, and so we enjoy games like my heavily-altered version of RISK (World War 2 being the most popular one so far). My brother is a gamer who's starting to delve into somewhat more serious gaming (my first conversion! ), but his preference lies more in deduction/secret identity-type games, like Alien Invasion USA or Mystery in the Abby. My mother is more of a casual gamer, and too many rules makes her tune out (my heavily altered RISK game was about her limit, I think).

Long story short, we ran out of games that we could play at our last family game session (I won't get into that here).

And then we gave "Pente", which we could play on a simple Go board, just the slightest alteration: play with four players, and suddenly we found a game that everyone could enjoy. Since we were using pieces from one of my RISK games (soldiers, cavalry, cannons), the game had a distinctly war-like theme for the imagination (especially with shifting alliances), was simple enough for my mother to engage in quite well, and mentally challenging enough for my brother. I've listed the rules (assuming it goes through geekmod) in "variants."

Now, with four players, the game gets a massive boost in challenge (see below), fun (I found Pente to be a bit dull before this), and playing time (so far we've seen games that lasted 35-40 minutes). It's a lot more difficult to get that five in a row (but not impossible), since there are three players who take turns before your turn returns, and they can team up to shut you down. So even having 4-in-a-row without any check, you can still see that 4-in-a-row shut down before you can place that fifth piece. You can also bring in alliances, which we used to great effect, and it's really up to the players on how solid and cooperative they want these alliances to be (although, if two players have a solid/cooperative alliance, the other two kind of are forced to have a similar one of their own to survive). I've also found that taking control of corners can give you a lot of power in the 4-player version, especially if all three of the other players are fighting over the center (which inevitably gets initial attention due to the first player's piece being placed there automatically). In each of the games we played, we found that the battle spreads across a wide area. From what I could see it was about 60-70% of the entire Go board.

Perhaps it was because we were using RISK army pieces, but it quickly, in each game, felt like a heated battle, and tension came quite often as frantic negotiations and inevitable captures happened left and right. All in all, this variant was incredibly fun to play. I'll probably never play just normal pente ever again.
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J. Romano
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rukiosu wrote:
It's a lot more difficult to get that five in a row (but not impossible), since there are three players who take turns before your turn returns

According to my rules, in a 3, 4, 5, or 6-player game, the game ends when a player successfully makes a line of four stones (or captures four pairs of stones).

(Of course, you can play with whatever ruleset you want, as long as everybody knows the rules before the game begins.)

rukiosu wrote:
You can also bring in alliances, which we used to great effect, and it's really up to the players on how solid and cooperative they want these alliances to be (although, if two players have a solid/cooperative alliance, the other two kind of are forced to have a similar one of their own to survive).

Interesting. This reminds me of a variant the rules give for playing four-player team Pente (two teams of two): Like a normal two-player game, you win when you (or your partner) form a line of five stones in a row, or when you and your partner capture a combined total of ten stones from your opponents. (You can still capture your partner's stones, but these do not count towards the ten needed to win.)

I read in an older set of rules that discussing strategy with your partner is allowed, provided all conversation is public (that is, not secret). But newer rules state that discussing strategy with your partner is forbidden. (So pick which one you want to play with.)

You might enjoy this variant, as you are essentially working with your partner as a team.

rukiosu wrote:
Perhaps it was because we were using RISK army pieces, but it quickly, in each game, felt like a heated battle, and tension came quite often as frantic negotiations and inevitable captures happened left and right. All in all, this variant was incredibly fun to play. I'll probably never play just normal pente ever again.

Sounds like fun, but doesn't only one person win in the end? Unless alliances share the win, it sounds like there would be some backstabbing involved, as someone realizes that they can go for an immediate win.
 
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