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Tongiaki: Journey into the Unknown» Forums » Strategy

Subject: Power Projection (2-player) rss

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Greg Jones
United States
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Don't listen to those touchy-feely people who say this game is about diversity and playing well with others. This game is about power. At least in a two-player game, you win by being able to secure territory no matter what your opponent tries to stop you. This article will be limited to two-player situations, but it is applicable to some extent to games with more players.

In most cases, you can't secure control of a single island by increasing your boats strictly within that island, unless your opponent isn't paying attention. However, there are a few cases where it is possible. I will cover those in another article. This one is about using moves from one island to another to improve your position in the latter.

As far as scoring, the only distinct states for an island are for your opponent to have exclusive presence, for both players to have presence, for the island to be empty, and for you to have exclusive presence. (A king island is, for the purpose of scoring, equivalent to an island with exclusive presence.) These are also the significant factors in how well you will be able to project power from an island. The particular arrangement of boats is less important; given time you can usually adjust that as needed. Obviously you cannot project power from an island where you have no presence. You can sometimes project power from an island where you have a shared presence, but most frequently you will project power from an island where you have exclusive presence. That's because you can freely set up and launch a beach without your opponent interfering.

The other most significant factor is whether the beach you start from is a "big beach". What I mean by that is that the beach has more slots than the island you're going to has beaches. The beach doesn't always have to be that big to be a "big beach". A beach with only three slots can be a big beach if it faces an island with only two beaches. Usually big beaches have four or five slots though.

I will first summarize the typical outcomes for the status of island B for a situation where island A has a beach that leads to island B, distinguishing when significant whether the beach that launches to the route is a "big beach". In bold are the situations that are not stable.

1. A presence, no big beach; B empty -> B presence
2. A presence, big beach; B empty -> B empty
3. A presence, B no presence -> B no presence
4. A presence, B presence -> B presence
5. A presence, B exclusive -> B exclusive
6. A exclusive, B empty -> B exclusive
7. A exclusive, no big beach; B no presence -> B presence (unless king)
8. A exclusive, big beach; B no presence -> B exclusive (unless king)
9. A exclusive, no big beach; B presence -> B presence
10. A exclusive, big beach; B presence -> B exclusive
11. A exclusive, B exclusive -> B exclusive

For 1, 6, 8, and 10, the resulting status for B is the same as the original status for A. The result is you can have a transitive effect and lay claim to a whole string of islands. 1 and 6 are the obvious results that you can repopulate a string of empty islands that are reachable from your current position. 8 and 10 are the interesting result that you can gain exclusivity on a chain of islands reachable from an exclusive island, as long as the paths are all launching from big beaches.

However, sometimes both players can claim overlapping chains of islands according to that logic. If one player's exclusive island is closer to the "root", then they have the stronger claim, barring kinging actions (which might prevent further exploitation of the chain by the player who kings an island as well). However, if there is a cycle, then possibly neither player has the superior claim. Frequently the result is a race. The player who reacts first or can make an advance in fewer turns can increase their territory or even conquer the whole chain. On the other hand sometimes the race comes out a tie or a stalemate, and the position remains stable.

When the cycle is first discovered, you need to analyze whether you are leading, tied, or trailing. If you are leading, take action to maintain and capitalize on your lead. If you are tied, you might need to take action to keep from falling behind. If your opponent doesn't respond, you might be able to continue and end up leading. If you are trailing, ignore the area and try to improve in another region.

I will give some examples of the power relationships that are not completely obvious.

2. A presence, big beach B empty -> B empty

This one is not entirely intuitive. However, a quick example will show why there is a stalemate that prevents both players from reaching the uninhabited island.

If either player adds a boat to the beach facing Hiva Oa, then the other player can launch two of each color boat from the beach. When they land, they can place their opponent's two boats on one of the beaches with two slots, and immediately send them away, resulting in exclusive control of Hiva Oa. The first player to make a move is at a disadvantage, therefore the situation is stable.

There are some exceptions. This example relied on the fact that there was a beach with two slots on Hiva Oa. Not all islands have such a beach. But typically the best result you can hope for is shared presence on island B. In a two player game, that does not gain either player points relative to the other. It's usually not worth the trouble.

3. A presence, B no presence -> B no presence

It seems like you should be able to set the beach up, and your opponent either launches the beach to B and gives you presence, or lets you do so and you gain presence. However, one of a few ways to keep you out is usually available

Suppose green adds a boat to the beach facing Tokelau. There are two things that blue can do to keep green from getting presence on Tokelau:

a) Expand on Hawaii, adding a boat to the small beach, and launch on the other dock, the one that doesn't face Tokelau.

b) Expand on Hawaii, and launch to Tokelau. Then, land the arriving green boat on the small beach on Tokelau, and the blue boat anywhere else. The green boat launches immediately and blue still has exclusive control of Tokelau.

In this case both options are available. In some cases only one will be. In some cases neither is available, and then the rule might not apply. You might be able to establish presence on B.

Of course blue can make B a king island, but that has its drawbacks as explained here.

7. A exclusive, no big beach; B no presence -> B presence (unless king)

It's pretty obvious how to do this, but there is an exception to the rule.

Green can launch from Tahiti and gain presence on Fidschi. However that will immediately give blue the opportunity to launch the big beach and attack Hiva Oa, gaining exclusivity there. Green would make no net gain in number of islands (though in this case a small net gain of 1 point), while blue gains an island. The move is clearly disadvantageous for green.

On the other hand, blue can't make a unilateral attack on Hiva Oa either. If blue tries to expand on the big beach, then green can move from Fidschi, and make the launch of the big beach. Green can immediately evict all the blue boats arriving at Hiva Oa while settling one of its new ones. Green retains exclusive control of Hiva Oa while gaining presence on Fidschi. So blue's expansion on Fidschi was a bad idea. In fact neither player should take action in this region and the structure remains stable.

Two conditions are required for this situation to arise.

a) A sequence of alternating exclusive islands. In some cases, the third island could be the same as the first, if there are paths both ways. Also, it's possible for there to be more than one intervening island if there are possible chain reaction paths. This type of situation comes up frequently in cycles and is the main way for a cycle to stabilize (other than complete domination by one player).

b) Island A's beach facing island B has exactly the same number of slots as island B has beaches. Alternatively, island A's beach might have fewer slots, but one of the beaches on island B would be a bad place to play. For example, it might necessitate a launch to an island that would give blue a strong opportunity.

It's not necessary that island B has a big beach. Although a small beach will not generally result in the possibility of either player gaining exclusivity on island C, it does present the possibility of blue gaining presence on island C. That would typically result in a smaller point swing, which might be a slight advantage for green. The change in the strategic situation might also be a small or large advantage for green. So it is not necessarily a stalemate in that situation, but it is far from a clear advantage for either player.

This is also one of the few situations when the arrangement of boats matters as much as the arrangement of islands and beaches. Consider what happens if the initial conditions have different number of boats. The main factor is the difference between the number of empty slots on the beaches on islands A and B. If on blue's turn the count of remaining slots on island A's beach facing island B and on island B's beach facing island C are respectively:

a) -2 or more A, -1 B

Blue has the advantage; they can move to island C.

b) -1 A, -1 B

Blue has not quite as much of an advantage. They can move to island C, but green can gain presence on island B the next turn.

c) -2 A, -2 B

Blue has the option to proceed to (b), or wait and reach a stalemate such as (d).

d) -1 A, -2 B

Blue should not act on island B, and it plays out as in the original narrative above.

e) -1 A, -3 B

Blue should expand on island B, and again it is a stalemate.

f) -1 A, -4 or more B

Green has the advantage. They can launch to island B without giving blue an opportunity to launch to island C.

-4 is of course impossible if the beach on island B is not a big beach, but the situation can arise if it's green's turn and the island B beach is at -3. For example that might happen if green has just been evicted from island B from a different direction.

g) Any other numbers

Can proceed to one of the above situations by alternating placement by both players.

8. A exclusive, big beach; B no presence -> B exclusive (unless king)

Sometimes you can take over island B with your initial migration to it.

Green has just expanded on Tahiti and set up the big beach. If blue does not react, then green launches and places 2 boats on Hawaii's big beach, one on the 2-space beach, and one on the 3-space beach. The two beaches where blue is are launched, and the remaining beach has only green boats.

Blue can expand, but it doesn't improve their position much. They must add a boat to each beach. The 2-space beach launches, and the remaining configuration is:

Green can do almost the same move, placing 2 boats on the 3-space beach, 1 boat on the big beach, and 1 boat on the 2-space beach. Only the boat on the 2-space beach will remain.

In other cases it's a little harder to take over the island. You can't force blue to expand so that you can launch their beaches. However, you can go to island B and then do the expanding yourself. It takes several turns.

Green launches the big beach. They place one boat on each beach on Hawaii and one extra on the 5-space beach.

Now green has presence, and the situation is

10. A exclusive, big beach; B presence -> B exclusive

Any blue expansion would be futile. If they add a boat to the big beach and launch one of the others, then green can launch the big beach and the other small beach and quickly have exclusive control on Hawaii. If blue launches both small beaches, then green can expand adding a boat to the big beach and the 3-space beach. Then blue has no defense to being evicted on green's next turn.

On the other hand green expansion doesn't get the job done either. The small beaches would launch and the big beach would have one space left. Blue could launch it, leaving Hawaii empty, but that might be considered a win for green since green can repopulate it later. Instead blue could put a boat on the 3-space beach. Green expansion would necessarily launch the big beach, then blue could simply expand and be the first back on the big beach.

So I will assume neither player takes any action on Hawaii. Meanwhile you begin to restock Tahiti. You can build it back up to this configuration over a few turns:

Now, you don't really want to launch immediately from Tahiti, because you would fill all of Hawaii's beaches and leave it empty. You could come back later, but it would take a lot more turns. Better to first do an expansion on Hawaii. You launch the two smaller beaches.

Again blue can launch and leave the island empty, but in that case green can reoccupy it immediately. In this case the blue defense of placing a boat on the 3-space beach is not viable.

You can launch from Tahiti and place a boat on each beach, filling the big beach. Then you place your extra boat on the 3-space beach and launch that too. Hawaii is left with one green boat on the 2-space beach.

Some of the details are specific to this example. It won't always be the case that all moves for blue on island B are self-detrimental, but in general neither player can evict the other from island B without outside influence. Blue might be able to shift boats around so that your original invasion plan doesn't work, but usually you can do a different plan. In some cases the best you can do might be to clear island B, and then build up again to repopulate it.
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