Strategy tips for Pitchfork short game

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Strategy tips for Pitchfork short game

Post by robert44444uk »

Some players have asked to see some strategy hints - I've got some thoughts on strategy for the Pitchfork Short game. Over the coming days I'll post my thoughts for the Classic Short game.

Claiming patches with Welly Boots

There are only 3 Welly Boots in the short game, and because completing patches is the biggest point earner in Pitchfork, Welly Boots are the most valuable game piece – do not strand or lose one!

• The end-game situation where all tiles are played is not a factor in short games, so you should not put a welly boot on a patch if you think you can’t complete it easily. In fact, don’t put a welly boot in a patch that requires more than 3 tiles to complete – there is a good chance it will still be there at the end of the game, stranded.
• Strategically, you should place a welly boot in an uncompleted patch only if you have a tile in your tile stock that will complete the patch this turn or next turn, or if the type of tile that will complete the patch is common, or you see that no opposition player can expand the patch to make it hard for you to complete.
• Be very careful about putting a welly boot on a tile that can be flipped unless your second move in the turn completes a patch. With only 3 boots in the game, an opponent will almost certainly want to flip the tile to remove your boot permanently.
• You should identify any small unclaimed patch that requires only 1 or 2 tiles to complete, and complete them if you can. Small 1 tile patches look like Pac-Men. In Pitchfork small patches can become larger patches with tile flips.
• Look at the 3 tiles in your stock and concentrate on the top left corner – it is either grass or sand? If you have 2 or 3 that are either grass or sand, then you can potentially claim a patch that requires 2 tiles to complete. If your tiles have a spade symbol on them, then they can be counted twice, once as grass and once as sand. You always have 2 of one or the other, so always calculate what you have!
• Then you should look at those patches requiring 2 tiles to complete. The small ones look like green or yellow half circles. Use your 2 tiles in combination to complete the patch and claim it. Make sure you align the tiles to put all the coins and flowers in the patch for extra points.

Laying Pitchforks

With only 5 pitchforks it is wise not to tie up pitchforks on snakes or worms that are hard to complete.

• It is probably not worth putting a pitchfork on a worm or a blue snake unless the beast has a head or tail already, and that completing it will not be too difficult
• It is always better to extend a snake or worm with tiles that expand the playing area, so that extending it further or completing it will not be too difficult.
• Conversely, it is difficult to complete a snake or worm where the next tile to be laid to extend it is hemmed in by other tiles
• In a 3- or 4-player game, claiming a lot of worm or snake ends early in the game gives opponents less chance to start their own worms or snakes. If you follow this strategy, make sure that adding to these worms and snakes is easy.
• Early in the game, claiming the initial blue snake by laying a body segment is a good move. Adding another head to the initial blue snake head is an interesting move but not one I would do. Adding a tail to the initial blue snake is not a good move, as it will only give you 3 points
• You should always finish a blue snake you have claimed if it is more than 2 tiles long as opponents will target it, making it into a freak snake denying you points.
• Early in the game, claiming worm ends and completing them as 2-tile freak worms is good for keeping the score ticking along – 3 points for a freak worm – there are only 6 worm saddles but 27 worm ends
• Unless there is a good reason, don’t add a body length to a worm that has no saddle unless you are sure of putting a pink saddle on it or you are completing it
• Don’t put a pitchfork on a tile with a spade symbol on it unless you are sure or confident that your opponent will not flip it and take your pitchfork out of the game

Clearing snakes and worms

• Unlike Classic, when you complete a worm or snake it clears off the board, and the tiles that are totally cleared of snake and worm segments will become reversible. A good player will always be able to envisage what the table might look like after the snake or worm has been cleared. If there are patches that can be completed with a single flip then the player should not complete the snake with the second of two moves but wait and make the completing on the first move of the next turn.
• There must always be one blue snake head on the board and hence completing a blue snake may not remove it immediately. That means a person with a blue snake head in his tile stock can control when the completed snake is taken off the board. Playing the blue snake head on the first move of a turn gives the player the advantage in flipping newly-cleared tiles for a second move in the same turn.

Flipping tiles and snipping patches

This is the hardest part of the game to get right, but if you do, then you will almost certainly win against someone who doesn’t understand it or can’t get it right. There are quite a lot of spade cards in pitchfork, so flipping is not resource intensive and the rewards are potentially great.

• This game tends to favour the brave. Flipping a tile to claim a patch may lead to a flipping war, but usually the first person to flip ends up with more points in the 2-player game, but is less certain in the 3- or 4-player game
• If you have more spade cards than your opponent, then flipping first to claim a patch makes sense. If your opponent(s) has zero or 1 flip left, then you can flip without worrying too much about retaliation
• In Pitchfork the patches claimed can be quite large. Almost all completed patches will allow a second or a string of flips that also complete large patches. This process is called snipping, and done right, will win the game.
• Be careful how you flip tiles in large completed patches. You have two moves each turn, and if you are going to flip on both moves, make sure you maximise the size of patches you are claiming.
• When completing a big patch, it is critical to calculate how many points your opponent(s) will get if they start to snip the patch. If an opponent(s) can snip to win, and has at least one spade card, then maybe completing the patch is a bad idea, unless it is also clear that an opponent will win in any case before your next go.
• Don’t pass up smaller snipping opportunities – even snipping a three-bulge patch into a 2-bulge and 1-bulge patch will score 6 plus any flowers or coins.
• Some reversible tiles have two bends or straight body segments of worms or orange snakes. When one of these worms or snakes is completed, the tile temporarily loses is ability to be flipped, and gains it when the other snake is completed.
• A tile that has a boot on it does not gain the ability to be flipped after all of the snake and worm elements have been removed. Hence it is always safe to place a boot on a tile that does not have a spade symbol on it.

Blocking and opening up

You can tie opponents up in knots by blocking their ability to complete their already–claimed snakes, worms and by opening up already-claimed patches.
• A patch is usually easiest to frustrate, at least temporarily. Any tile that can be laid on the space the opponent needs to lay to enclose the patch can be laid to make the patch open up. Be careful not to complete the worms and snakes that have body parts on the tile you just laid though. If the tile is cleared of those elements, then the opponent can flip the tile to claim the patch.
• It is usually quite easy to block an opponent’s snakes and worms whose uncompleted ends are inward-facing or sideways-facing, but this blocking should be considered only if the tile lays directly helps your claimed features. It is almost certainly worth blocking a long blue snake or long worm that already has a saddle.
• Don’t use a whole move (two tiles) to block a snake or worm, unless it is clear the opponent will win the game on the next move.

Joining up features

• Joining onto an opponent’s incomplete snakes or worms might make sense if the net gain in points through doing that is 4 or more.
• Think about it. Flipping a tile always joins two patches (sand for example), and snips a patch (grass) into two, and vice versa. Most of the time these will be incomplete patches, but one might be complete already.
• And you can put your boot on the tile you have flipped with ease, on either grass or sand - it can’t be knocked off. Hence if one of the patches you are joining is complete then you can put your tile in this patch and hopefully enclose the patch.
• Joining two unoccupied complete patches by flipping a tile is what Pitchfork is all about! Even joining two small patches scores a minimum of 6 points.
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