Too much knifing

Forum rules
Please DO NOT POST BUGS on this forum. Please report (and vote) bugs on : https://boardgamearena.com/bugs
Post Reply
biwebof
Posts: 23
Joined: 04 July 2023, 22:27

Too much knifing

Post by biwebof »

The game was good for the first several plays, but now it seems like high level play, especially in big boards just involve knifing, and setting it up by making virtual connections (2s a diagonal apart with 1s between is ideal, as you are immune to even double attacks!)

Fundamentally:
- Only the largest group matters. 1 more stone in the biggest group is worth more than a tiebreak group of 20 stones.
- In a hex board, there's no cross cutting. That means, every player always wins one exchange. A consequence the two player's biggest groups are just two parallel knives, and although this is a bit reductionist, the knife with more stuff in it.

Let's look at the strategy guide.
There's the knife.
Then there's the wrap/t-bone. But as you can see, white has foiled black's knife, so now black has to inefficiently develop perpendicularly because he has to make a knife anyways to have territory. So you can see there's just two parallel knives, and white has a curved one that has more in it.
The sandwich is novel, (three parallel knives!) but I haven't been able to make it work. The scoring favour one territory, not two, and hex boards have a lot of connectivity so it's very hard to cut a knife off. Besides, making two enclosures is more work than making one knife.
Anyways, a "sandwich" happens sometimes in some normal games where the second group is just an tiny enclosure around a corner in someone else's territory to kill the hexes in it. The so called sandwich is only the extreme case where your groups score inefficiently.
Winning in a tiebreak is overrated, it translates to 0.5 stones, and your scoring is hurt more than that.

Strands was fun when I played a lot of 3s and 5s in scattered locations, and then connected them later (kind of like go where you put a stone in a nice location, but good play is light, aka you can let stones die.) Now, it's all virtual connections with a focus on knifing, and even the 3s are often placed next to a 4 and 5 with the idea of a virtual connection to the edge of the board. It's become less interesting to me.

One solution to this problem would be to make virtual connections breakable if you're willing to pay enough. Eg. For a 15-point penalty, you can make two moves in a row. Probably not happening because I know the designer likes their rules simple.

I'm aware that miai are a thing in go. But it's acceptable in go because it takes substantial effort to make a bamboo joint (more stones than a solid connection, even!)

Another idea may be to make small groups and sacrifices better. In go, a successful invasion can destroy a lot of territory, and things on the other side of a knife in strands simply lack that destructive potential. (Only a sandwich to kill territory is there, but this is hard, can likely only kill a small amount of territory, and thus overall still compares poorly compared to go.)

I would like to point out that to the extent that stones are "sacrificed" in strands, they tend to be sacrificed when you have a knife without them. (A large virtual connection of sorts, when you have one big group stretching from the center to the edge of the board, and two small groups on the edge. Either way, you can connect your big group with one, and thus form a knife.)

So again, another reason why knives are strong, and the balance between connectivity and territory is too much on connectivity imo. If any other strong players have their own opinions on this, I'd love to hear them but for now I do not think I will be playing more games.
JoelFox
Posts: 2
Joined: 03 October 2015, 22:06

Re: Too much knifing

Post by JoelFox »

Knives are very powerful, but in high level play they primarily come up as threats rather than completed formations. When you talk about high level play, are you referring to games you've looked at? Among my recent games it's rare to find a successful knife, or if it was successful it was due to a complicated and satisfying combination. If you want a Go analogy, it's like a ladder or capturing a large group of stones - you'll clearly be at a huge advantage if you accomplish that, but the game doesn't revolve around actually doing it.
biwebof
Posts: 23
Joined: 04 July 2023, 22:27

Re: Too much knifing

Post by biwebof »

I argue that proves that the game involves entirely around it. (Or stopping it, in this case.)

As for Go, some people would argue that keeping stones alive is important. (Urgent moves are big; don't go fishing when your house is on fire are go proverbs.)
User avatar
El Poopo
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 June 2011, 21:59

Re: Too much knifing

Post by El Poopo »

One nice thing about the game is that too much knifing can be fixed either by putting larger numbers around the outer rings, or by reducing number variety around the outer rings (or by doing the reverse of those things on the inner rings). However, my experience is like Joel's (Joel is the #1 player) - I haven't experienced it the way you do. I'm quite open to being wrong though, and I think if I am, my first impulse would be to reduce the number of 5's on the outer ring to create more wrapping-potential involving 4's.

But one question to Joel: do you think the numbers should be changed further in any way, on either hexhex6 or hexhex7
User avatar
El Poopo
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 June 2011, 21:59

Re: Too much knifing

Post by El Poopo »

Here's a recent, close game between the two highest-ranked players. There's a fairly strong wrap-ishness to the winner's pattern.

One thing I'd still like to see more of however, is a touch more early use of the outer ring at the highest level play. That could suggest the outer ring needs more adjustment.
JoelFox
Posts: 2
Joined: 03 October 2015, 22:06

Re: Too much knifing

Post by JoelFox »

I haven't had enough time yet to evaluate the current boards. They certainly move in the direction of making the outer ring stronger to play on (compared to when it had 4, 5, and 6 on the outer ring), but it might not be viable in the early game. I'll report back when I get more experience.
User avatar
El Poopo
Posts: 16
Joined: 22 June 2011, 21:59

Re: Too much knifing

Post by El Poopo »

Thanks Joel. Another thing worth considering for the future is to break up the Ring of Threes a little, by adding either twos or fours or both. Then, if the outer ring is made strong enough, the difference between wrapping strategies and knifing strategies could be made more dramatic, possibly. Not sure.
Post Reply

Return to “Strands”