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Subject: I'm terrible at YINSH, but I love YINSH rss

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Brian McCormick
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My dad has confessed since I was a kid that he has horrible "spacial awareness" in games. The way he puts it, it means that he struggles when you have to judge how pieces fit together and how the distance between pieces affects the gameplay. Tetris is his nightmare. I'm pretty good at various games that require spacial awareness, but whatever the term might be, my brain has the hardest time visualizing where rings should go, where they should jump, and how to set up rows in YINSH. On the very rarest of occasions, I might be able to plan 1 move ahead. Planning 2 or 3 moves ahead? Forget about it.


courtesy samoan_jo

If you look at the box art, there is a tiny white token falling through the air. That image always cracks me up because it reminds me of myself trying to play this game, shouting I don't get it.... as I plummet through layers of clouds until my opponent defeats me.

Not long ago, my wife and I began a journey into the world of abstracts. We just had our first child (a baby boy), so in order to still fit in time for boargames, we sought games that were easily learned, had few rules, and played in a short amount of time. ZÈRTZ was our first game in the Gipf series and we fell in love with it instantly. Since then, we've tried to play other games in the Gipf Project series to see if we like them, too. YINSH is the #2 abstract game, and it is the highest-rated Gipf game in the overall rankings. Also, it is the only Gipf game in the Top 100.

The gameplay of Yinsh is a unique combination of the "connect x" genre and Checkers. I've noticed that most of the Gipf games have some sort of Checkers-ish jumping mechanic. To win, you must connect three groups of five tokens of your color (not all at once, necessarily). When you connect five, you remove one of your rings from the board. Unlike most games, you don't simply slap down your token. You have to move your rings along the lines of the board and this action leaves behind a token of your color. You can move your ring as short or as far as you want along a straight line. If you run into another ring, you stop short. If you run into a token, you can stop short or jump it, which flips the color. You can also jump rows of tokens and flip all of the colors in the row, as long as there isn't a ring at the end of the row blocking you.

Because tokens are placed and altered using the rings, and because you remove your rings as you get closer to victory, there's a built-in balance that ensures no one will be the runaway leader unless their strategy is vastly superior. I guess the idea was that as a player gets closer to winning, they will have fewer rings with which to win, and that will allow the losing player to possibly upset the balance and catch back up. At least, that's the theory.


courtesy Alderon

However, I can't wrap my mind around the concept. Don't misunderstand: I grasp the nuts-and-bolts rules of the game. I understand the notion that you're supposed to use your rings to block when necessary, jump when necessary, and fighting for a strong position on the board, but I still lose at this game. After about 20 plays, I have yet to win. I try to avoid strategy threads if I can help it, so I have tried playing against the "dumb-bot" on Boardspace.net to practice. Even the "dumb-bot" beats me.

Despite my lack of skill at the game, I still love it. The swingy-ness of the game is perfectly balanced, and there is plenty to do each turn. Some abstracts slowly box you in as the game progresses, but YINSH feels open and full of possibilities at all points of the session. That's the problem: with too many possibilities, it's hard for me to formulate any sort of strategy. I more or less flounder on the board, dropping random tokens, jumping random tokens, blocking random lines, hoping that sooner or later my opponent will make a mistake and afford me a line of my own to capture.


courtesy terraliptar

If nothing else, I have to compliment the components of YINSH. We have here the same type of heavy plastic pieces found in other Gipf games. The tokens with the black and white side feel good in your hand, and the rings feel good, too.

I enjoy the concept of YINSH. Leaving a token behind is a nifty concept and it forces you to keep a close watch on where your own rings are but also where your opponent's rings are, because while you could create a long line of tokens in your color, your opponent could capture it or at the very least jump across it to disrupt the line. The board gets quite conjested and sooner or later someone will leave an opening which allows for a 5-in-a-row.

I love this game. I just wish I could understand it.
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s m t
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I like my town with a little drop of poison Nobody knows, they're lining up to go insane.
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Thanks for the nice review.

Aurendrosl wrote:
my brain has the hardest time visualizing where rings should go, where they should jump, and how to set up rows in YINSH.

I hear ya. For me this has gotten easier the more I have played. And the more I play Yinsh the more I enjoy it.
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EGG Head
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Yinsh and DVONN are my current favorites. They are plenty of abstracts which I like but I am horrible at playing. Keep trying!
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Andy Andersen
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I don't see spatially either, but my wife sure does and pounds me in this game. One of the most fun games we play.

Thanks for the review.
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Francis K. Lalumiere
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Brossard
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I feel your pain.
Although I'm getting pretty good at YINSH (I placed fourth in the last world championship!), I'm absolutely rotten at ZÈRTZ (almost as much as I am at PÜNCT).
I don't even remember how far down the list I was for those two. And it's probably better that way.
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Russ Williams
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Indeed the strategies are non-obvious in this one! I remember playing online with some strong players and having serious "aha" surprises at the different approaches.

One specific comment: the comparison to Checkers seems far more appropriate for ZÈRTZ, with ZÈRTZ's similar forced jump mechanism. YINSH reminds me much more of Othello than Checkers, with its mechanism of your newly placed disk causing a line of disks from the new disk to flip over. If you've not played Othello but enjoy the flipping line of disks mechanism, you might check it out. We enjoy both.
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Brian McCormick
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russ wrote:
Indeed the strategies are non-obvious in this one! I remember playing online with some strong players and having serious "aha" surprises at the different approaches.

One specific comment: the comparison to Checkers seems far more appropriate for ZÈRTZ, with ZÈRTZ's similar forced jump mechanism. YINSH reminds me much more of Othello than Checkers, with its mechanism of your newly placed disk causing a line of disks from the new disk to flip over. If you've not played Othello but enjoy the flipping line of disks mechanism, you might check it out. We enjoy both.

I've not played Othello before, but the core mechanic sounds hella neat! I'll definitely check it out. Thanks for the thoughtful recommendation. thumbsup
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George Leach
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I find Othello far more unintuitive than YINSH though. I like YINSH but don't feel I'm making much breakthrough in terms of strategies.
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Isabell and Soohyun
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It's just funny that it's always my opponent who sees that I have just made a row of five..! Then I go, "How did that happen?!"

I love this game..!
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John Furness
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On our second play, my wife noticed the similarity to Othello and starting lining one edge of the board with her color. Didn't quite work the same, but not a half bad strategy as she ended up winning.
 
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