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Subject: The Barasona Opening rss

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Jeff Barasona
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I've been playing this game for about a year now and I've only lost twice and none since using this opening. Now, I'm not going to say that it's the best opening, I think it's very effective in achieving 2 things at the same time: stretching towards the center, and making it difficult for your opponent(s) to penetrate your corner line. The Barasona Opening (hey, I thought of it, might as well name it after me, right? ) involves 4 pieces in order:

1. First, play the "Cat" piece (the one that looks like the "Plus" piece, just with one of the branches slid over... you know which piece I'm talking about, right?) in your corner.
2. Then, play the "Plus" piece so that its branches touches the "ears" of the Cat piece.
3. Then, play the "W" piece (I call it the "Batman") so that the bottom of the W touches the 2 free branches of the Plus.
4. Lastly, use the 5-block piece that looks like... like... ok I don't have a name for this one, (but it looks like the 2-block and the straight 3-block pieces on top of each other, but staggered) but use the 2 "tips" of this piece to touch 2 of the 3 tips on the top of the W and have its branch stretch either left or right depending on your strategy.

So, whaddya think? I think it's a pretty good opening. It stretches to the center, it's flexible at the end, and if they want to try to break through this pattern, they have to use their "Onesy". Any more than 4 pieces is kinda too inflexable in this game.
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Brett Myers
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Can you submit/post a picture? I'm having trouble visualizing..
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Jeff Luck
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I can't get my mind around this one either. I just put together this: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/92034 - hope it helps. Feel free to use my dice trick to explain, if that works.
 
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J C Lawrence
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texaswashington wrote:
So, whaddya think? I think it's a pretty good opening. It stretches to the center, it's flexible at the end, and if they want to try to break through this pattern, they have to use their "Onesy". Any more than 4 pieces is kinda too inflexable in this game.


This gets you to the center in four vs three moves while also reducing your total count of exposed corners (conservation of corners). That effectively moves the center of the board several squares in your direction, significantly reduces your influence on the player opposite you, and reduces your own ability for lateral offence/defence.

I have a similar win rate to yours (I've won the last 30-40 games), but I don't have a set opening. I race for the center using a selection of pieces based on where I'm sitting in the turn order and how aggressive the players to either side of me have been or are likely to be, all while attempting to preserve the piece(s) that seem likely to be the ones that will give me 4-directional control of the center. Keeping track of every piece that each player has played in the game, and thus what their potentials are along with insight into how they see patterns is central. The W, the 5-straight, the 4-long L, the 3/2 step, etc are all commonly used in various orders.
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David desJardins
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texaswashington wrote:
So, whaddya think? I think it's a pretty good opening. It stretches to the center, it's flexible at the end, and if they want to try to break through this pattern, they have to use their "Onesy". Any more than 4 pieces is kinda too inflexable in this game.


Usually I don't care much how difficult it is for other players to move through my starting line from one side to the other. That mostly affects the two players on either side relative to each other, and not relative to me. But I think it's an interesting idea, nevertheless.

P.S. I also think if you're winning so much the best thing to do would be to find better opponents. Or maybe educate your existing opponents a bit.
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J C Lawrence
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DaviddesJ wrote:
Usually I don't care much how difficult it is for other players to move through my starting line from one side to the other. That mostly affects the two players on either side relative to each other, and not relative to me. But I think it's an interesting idea, nevertheless.


Yep. Penetration is not that important. Control of areas via ability to place pieces is the key. With rare exception it is more valuable to be able to place a piece yourself than to prevent another player from being able to place a piece. There are often opportunities in Blokus games wherein you may setup other players to play specific pieces to get through your (or another's) line to access another area, and thereby cement placement control for yourself in the area they played the piece in. Craft this pattern well, especially in sympathy with your opposite player and you can lock up guaranteed placement of several pieces for yourself, freeing your attention to contest for other areas and pieces.

Quote:
P.S. I also think if you're winning so much the best thing to do would be to find better opponents. Or maybe educate your existing opponents a bit.


As long as I have to work harder for each victory, none come easily, and I learn something in the process of each, I'm happy. It tells me that I've had to fight to retain initiative, that I'm not actually that much better than they, but that I yet have the capacity to force myself to grow faster when push comes to shove. I like that affirmation.
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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Puuuuuhlease. If you win this game that much, it's because your opponents are weak, plain and simple. Either you're convincing them to attack other players when they should be attacking you, or they simply aren't aggressive enough. Your performance in this game is due mostly to people making non-aggressive moves against you. If your three opponents decide that you're not gonna win a game of Blokus ever again, I can guarantee you'll never win...
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J C Lawrence
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derk wrote:
If your three opponents decide that you're not gonna win a game of Blokus ever again, I can guarantee you'll never win...


If they do that, then they almost certainly aren't playing to win themselves. That's a pre-requisite for playing games (here) in the first place.
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David desJardins
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clearclaw wrote:
If they do that, then they almost certainly aren't playing to win themselves.


It seems to me that, given the facts as presented, all three of your "opponents" would in fact increase their chances of winning if they all play against you at every conceivable opportunity. 1/3 is a lot higher than zero.

But it's hard to really know since I really can't imagine how anyone could play 30 games of Blokus and lose them all. Much less that three different people could do that.
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Dan Dolan
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My strategy consists of utilizing my 5 pieces to get into the center and then I try to give myself access to areas of the board that my opponents try to cordon off.

I think once the race to the center is completed it becomes the prime objective to give yourself as much flexibility as possible. You want to continue to try to place your 5 pieces as soon as possible giving yourself access into opponents "safe" areas. In games I've played it usually comes down to who gets stuck with the least 5 square pieces in the end.

Anybody who wins 30 straight games of this is playing against the mentally retarded and they're going to hell for not letting them win every now and then. God will take care of them later on.
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Jeff Barasona
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Ok, three points:

1. For those still trying to visualize the opening, using Lemming's piece names (thanks!), it's the "f", then the "X", then the "W", and then the "rifle" or the "bird". That uses 4 5'ers. (And I call it the "Utah" piece, too.)

2. I never said how much I played, though the people that I've played with have all had the same experience as I have because I only play with the same co-workers at our lunchtime games session.

3. I didn't post on here to get dogged on. I posted just to share an idea that I thought was interesting. I've been a lurker on BGG for years and have always touted the great tool and community here to friends and family and I don't appreciate the surprising unrelated attacks on ability or unwarrented namecalling. If ragging on other people's posts is what you do for fun, grow up and get a life.
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A Derk appears from the mists...
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Jeff,

The severity of my response was not directed toward your post, and I apologize for the misunderstanding.
 
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Mike Compton
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To texaswashington:

It's interesting that I happened upon your posting here because I had concluded that the four piece opening you proposed is the best and I came to that conclusion independently of reading your post. In fact, my opening happens to be exactly the same as yours and I do it for the same reason: it provides deterence to the other players who are seeking to expand in my direction. It also provides me with lots of points from which I can offshoot in my original "homebase" of the board once others do try to expand into my space.

I guess great minds do think alike........or perhaps fools seldom differ .
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Jeff Barasona
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Compman,

When you use the opening, on your fourth move, do you use the "bird" piece or the "rifle" piece? I have usually used the bird because it provides me with 2 forward points to use. However, I have tinkered with using the rifle because although it only provides one forward point, that point is one square further towards the center and sometimes that allows me to deter opponents quicker. I guess it would all depend on what the other players do, eh?
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Mike Compton
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Well, it does depend on how quickly my other opponents are moving towards the center but I would say that usually I place the "rifle" piece fourth.
 
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Steve Bernhardt
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derk wrote:
Puuuuuhlease. If you win this game that much, it's because your opponents are weak, plain and simple. Either you're convincing them to attack other players when they should be attacking you, or they simply aren't aggressive enough. Your performance in this game is due mostly to people making non-aggressive moves against you. If your three opponents decide that you're not gonna win a game of Blokus ever again, I can guarantee you'll never win...


Derk's comment was off-putting to you, but it was the truth. As a general rule, an excellent player might win 50% in a four player game. Go above that it means excellent player + weak opponents. 100% wins in Blokus means that 1) you are a blokus super-genius or 2) see Derk's comments above. Its normal for people to think that their winning streaks are due to themselves, but winning all the time should be a red flag.
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John Farrell
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I think this is what Jeff means:



Blue and yellow demonstrate the classical Barasona, whereas red and green are Barasona variants with the bird instead of the rifle. Note that in all cases, when playing on the top of the W, there are 2 positions you can place the 4th piece, and 2 orientations as well. The strength of the opening is that your opponent must use his 1 piece to get through.
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John Farrell
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I was going to post follow up strategy thoughts, but my picture got rejected so I put the article on my own blog.

http://sologamer.blogspot.com/2006/02/blokus-picture-boardga...
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David desJardins
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I tried this in a game this week, against some reasonably experienced Blokus players, and everyone found it quite interesting. And I did win, with a score of 0 (which is unusual), although I can't attribute that directly to the opening. I definitely think it's an interesting idea. I think it's most damaging to the player opposite you: what happens is that each of your neighbors has less incentive to play toward your position (because the space between you is "protected"), and more incentive to play toward their other neighbor, both to protect their own space and to try to break into the opposite corner. I could definitely see a dynamic developing where, if one player plays this way, the others adopt it too, for fear of being hurt otherwise.
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Mike Compton
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My one regret with this strategy is that someone else had the same idea I did, posted it before I did, and got to name it first .

Seriously though, that picture of the different openings posted above is right on with how this opening works for me. It gets rid of the same predictably difficult pieces consistently at the beginning of each game and creates a natural deterent for building towards my starting point.

However, other concepts that also need to be considered in conjunction with this opening are the ideas of what can be called "energy" and "life force" in the game. ("Life force" meaning the desire on the part of the pieces to progress and survive as a group and "energy" meaning the forward motion those pieces make as they try to ensure their survival through expansion.) If I close off someone's forward progress or "energy" in a given direction, then their pieces' "life force" or their drive to ensure survival through further piece placement will dictate that they will expand or reroute their "energy" in a different direction.

There are times when it may seem helpful to really hurt someone else by closing off their options in a given area with an aggressive piece placement. However, one must keep in mind that the opponent's pieces will still want to "live" and, thus, will seek another outlet for expanding. If that other outlet happens to be directed in a different part of the board in such a manner that it starts to impede some of my forward "energy" in that same area then what I've potentially done is hurt myself more so than if I had let the other player continue expanding without getting in their way and without them getting in mine.

If I start to try impeding another player's forward "energy", I usually look at their set-up and try to predict where their energy will re-direct its self. If the most likely path of redirection doesn't hurt me then great. If it would, then I may try to negotiate a different solution that is less aggressive but does more to ensure that my pieces still have the means to direct their energy unimpeded - thus doing more to ensure their "survival".

Taking these concepts into account, consistently providing deterence in one area of the board (such as with the type of opening we are discussing) will also tend to bring with it consistent "energy conflicts" with other players in other areas of the board that might not have been as intense had a different opening been used.

Nevertheless, I still use this opening we're discussing and I like it very much.
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Josh
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at least the first guy to post and name the opening has a pretty name.

as a few others have stated, I came to this strategy independently (with my girlfrend).

she tends to start with a piece to extend the barasona and I've come to prefer that opening as well. it leaves one gap, sure, but the barasona part leaves many friendly corners in the vicinity to block from. I think it also reaches the center quicker.

"extended barasona"
 
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Jeff Barasona
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Hi all again!

It's been 4 years since I started this thread, and I gotta say I had stopped reading the thread around Jan. 5, 2006 for one reason or another (started ramping up playing poker and planning for my wedding that year!) and missed some fun posts!

It's now 2009 (still married and now have a 7 month old son! Hope he likes board games!) and upon deciding to join BGG's Secret Santa fun, I started fleshing out my profile and lo' and behold, I wrote something on this ol'site about Blokus! Figured I should reply to the new(ish) posts, eh?

-Steve B. (Jan. 9, 2006): Well, I'd like to think it's (1.) so then I could put that on my resume ("You're a Blokus Super-Genius? Hmm, maybe we have a spot in Accounting open for you..."), but it's probably (2.). My regular opponents are my wife and her enormous extended family and I have to say that there isn't normally an aggressive boardgamer among them (most are the Monopoly/Pictionary/Pinocle type. Cranium is their idea of a fancy board game). If we play just one game of Blokus, I always win with between 0-9 blocks remaining using the Barasona. If we play 2+ games, by the third game, at least one other player also uses the Barasona and that person usually gets second. I think the Barasona isn't a guaranteed win, but combo that with inexperienced players who only look at their very next move, and it's hard not to win... maybe that's why I haven't played this in a while lol. By late-midgame, I've usually already secured spots for all my remaining pieces and then it just becomes simple to just drop in the pieces once it's my turn. I usually follow that up with a "Why, I only have 3 blocks left! You have 22? Wow, I must be really lucky" look and then try to get some other game going. Don't get me wrong, I don't think my winning streak is due to myself, it's totally just due to me playing with non-boardgamers. And I'd think winning all the time should be a checkered flag... or one of those giant-sized flags they wave at college football games when their team scores a touchdown.

-John Farrell (Jan. 20, 2006): Nice pic, that is exactly what I mean! Seeing the opening hopefully makes more sense than my confusing rambling!. Thanks for the assist!

-John Farrell (Feb. 4, 2006): I like the dissection that you provided on your blog and I agree with it all. In you last post, you said the Barasona is too compact... I tend to think of that as a strength rather than a weakness. Being stretched would leave at least one point where another player could pass through without using the onesy piece. The fact that the Barasona piece forces others to prepare to use the onesy to cross the formation slightly manipulates them just enough to give you an edge if they had not used a similar restricting opening formation. The Barasona is the best opening formation combining both opponent-restriction and center-reaching. You could use other openings focusing on emphasizing one aspect, but then you would weaken the other.

-David desJardins (Feb. 4, 2006): I agree, once opponents realize that it's going to take a little doing to bisect the formation, naturally they would veer towards areas of less obstruction and leave my area to tackle last. That then leaves me to expand with a greater ease since they unknowingly leave me with slightly more space to maneuver and in Blokus, even one extra square of space is advantageous. Once others adopt the same Barasona-stye opening formation, I think it boils down to who can plan ahead better, readying spots for their remaining pieces to either block and expand and to simply fill in space within opponents' territory. The fact that everything is in view, including what pieces opponents have in front of them, makes the planning easier, that's for sure!

-Mike Compton (Mar. 20, 2006): Imagine my elation when I re-discovered this thread to read others talking about the "Barasona"! I knew I'd never find a new species of frog or an undiscovered dino skeleton to call my own, and I was going to try to write the Great American Novel to leave behind for the world to remember me by when I die (or at least give myself the gift of naming a star after myself in the Star Registry like they always advertise on TV laugh ) but I'm satisfied with having a Blokus opening! I agree that the Barasona does consistently provide deterence to expansion towards my area in the beginning of the game. Nevertheless, they will have to venture eventually towards my area, and by that time, hopefully I've successfully strengthened my pieces' "life force" and woven my pieces enough within their own more-open areas that their opposing "energy" doesn't constrict my pieces. Of course, there might be hiccups when opponents do something unexpected, but usually the Barasona opening gives one enough of a slight edge that hopefully you're always at least one piece or one square ahead of your opponents. And I'm glad you like the opening! :-)

-Josh (Oct. 24, 2009): Thanks for the nice comment! I used to not like my last name since growing up teachers and classmates could never pronounce it ("Jeff... Bahr-sawn? Barasung? Barcelona? Barracuda? Um, Jeff B.?" Apparently, reading it phonetically - Ba/Ra/So/Na - as it looks was too difficult in the '80's). I like the "extended Barasona" idea, it mixes it up a bit. I'll have to dust off my copy of Blokus for Thanksgiving and try it out! Say thanks to your girlfriend for making me rediscover Blokus!


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David desJardins
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I have found that if everyone plays a "Barasona-type opening", the game becomes less stable. If the four players are A, B, C, and D, you can divide the board roughly into four sectors AB, BC, CD, and DA. Where AB is the triangle with vertices at A's corner, B's corner, and the center. And so on.

Each player starts out with access to two sectors, and you usually need to get into a third sector (at least) to have a decent chance to win. Before we started playing with Barasona-style openings, there would be a race to the center with long pieces. One (or more) players would lose this race, so they wouldn't break through in the center to the other side, but then they would go around and through one of their neighbor's chains to get access---their opponents wouldn't generally spend tempo to stop them because they were exploiting their own opportunities.

With the Barasona-style openings, at least one player typically gets blocked from breaking through in the center (unpredictable who it is---it can happen to anyone depending on how the other players maneuver), and that player is often totally hosed, they can't really get through by circling around either. So they often finish way behind, with scores in the 20s or even 30s.
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Jeff Barasona
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DaviddesJ wrote:

With the Barasona-style openings, at least one player typically gets blocked from breaking through in the center (unpredictable who it is---it can happen to anyone depending on how the other players maneuver), and that player is often totally hosed, they can't really get through by circling around either. So they often finish way behind, with scores in the 20s or even 30s.


I agree with that since usually, at least in my games where everyone uses a Barasona, the player to go fourth is the one most likely to be hosed since they'll be last to get to the center and thus get blocked. Scores in the 20's to 30's is the norm for that fourth placer unless they had both excellent planning and an opponent(s) making less-than-optimum placements. It's very chess-like, capitalizing on little mistakes... probably why I like it!
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David desJardins
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texaswashington wrote:
I agree with that since usually, at least in my games where everyone uses a Barasona, the player to go fourth is the one most likely to be hosed since they'll be last to get to the center and thus get blocked.


I forgot to mention that we always play with "First player can only play a 4-tile piece on his first turn." This helps equalize the first-player advantage and last-player disadvantage. With that rule in effect, it seems to me that pretty much anyone can get the bad start.
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