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Subject: Coming from behind rss

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W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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I'd played the other five games in the GIPF series, but this was my first (and Dave's) on the series' initial title. The hexagonal playing area is divided by lines into triangles, and at the end of each line (outside the hexagon) is a large black dot. Each player starts with three pieces on the board. On a turn, you place a piece on a black dot, then slide the piece one space onto an intersection at the edge of the hexagon. You must slide any interfering pieces one space forward to make room. If you can't make room, you can't play in that direction.

If four of your pieces are in a row on the board, you remove them (and any other pieces in that row that aren't separated by gaps), and place them in your reserve (if they're your color) or out of the game (if they're the opponent's color). If you run out of pieces in your reserve, you lose, so the game requires you to make rows and remove your own pieces from the playing field, but ideally you're nicking a piece or two from the opponent at the same time.

We played twice, once with the basic rules, then again with the advanced rules in which your starting pieces are double-deckers. Lose all three of those, and you lose the game, so this adds an additional element to the game. Dave started strong both games, holding a four- or five-piece lead in each game in the number of captured discs, but I managed to recover both times and take the win.

The game has a weird element in that at a certain point you can stop worrying about making rows and simply try to prevent your opponent from making rows, thereby recovering his pieces. If he can't make a row and your reserve is larger, then you're sure to win. Dave didn't seem to notice this, and when combined with one bad play in each game, I was able to take him out quickly both times.

In the advanced game, you face an interesting dilemma each time you complete a row with the double-decker GIPF piece: Take it off the board and add two more pieces to the reserve, or leave it so your presence stays stronger on the board. Often it seemed like you'd want to leave it because it would be near the center of the board, giving you an advance position in terms of building towards rows. You had more leverage in terms of creating threats that the opponent would have to respond to, thus giving you momentum to place additional threats.

As with all other GIPF games, these two plays seem like only the barest of beginnings in a glimpse of strategy. Another great game from Kris Burm!
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