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Subject: A Minute To Learn... A Lifetime To Master rss

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Ed Collins
United States
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Othello is an updated spin on the late 19th century game Reversi. 'Invented' in the early 1970s by Goro Hasegawa, it quickly became very popular throughout the world. Dozens of Othello Federations from many countries exist and regional, national, and world championship tournaments have been and are still being held regularly. High praise indeed, for any game.

Othello is one of the many 'a minute to learn but a lifetime to master' type of games. In fact, that's the exact slogan used on the game box. And although many other games can certainly lay claim to this statement too, it can't be argued that Othello is also a part of that group.

Othello is an abstract, two-player strategy game played on an 8x8, 64-square board. 64 discs are used, one side being completely white in color, the other side being completely black. Each player chooses one color to use throughout the game. Players take turns placing their own color discs face up on the board. A move consists of 'outflanking' any number of your opponent's discs and then finishing your turn by flipping these discs, thus turning them into 'your' discs. The object of Othello is to end the game with more discs of your own color face up. Draws are possible but in practice, don't occur too often.

Most Othello games usually last less than 30 minutes, although many time I've spent twice that amount of time contemplating a single move! (Much to the chagrin of my opponents.)

Othello is a FAR more complex game than most players realize... even those players you already KNOW Othello is a complex game! It can be both frustrating and rewarding at the same time. Frustrating, because many moves are counter-intuitive and because of this the player trying to improve his game has a difficult task ahead. (A lifetime to master, remember?) Yet it also can be very rewarding because as you DO study and play the game, you begin to see the game in an entirely new way. Much like a chess, the expert player who understands the strategies and principles involved can easily defeat the novice.

The first Othello misconception is that on each turn you should flip the greatest number of discs you can, since that is the ultimate goal. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, the win will be child's play for the expert against the player who attempts this. Secondly, although controlling and occupying the four corner squares are important, the player who sets THIS as his/her only goal, thinking the win will then be automatic, is also sadly mistaken!

Control, mobility, sacrifices, tactics, tempo... are all a part of Othello. Sounds like I'm talking about chess again, doesn't it? I'm not. These are all important elements of Othello too.

To further demonstrate how deep Othello is, one book on Othello, widely distributed in the United States, is, unfortunately, to be avoided at all costs! It's been said, 'this book will do serious harm to your Othello game.' Obviously, even some players who THINK they understand the game do not!

Thanks to the Internet, articles, puzzles, game analysis, and bulletin board discussions on the game are now all readily available, something that wasn't possible just a few years ago. It's not surprising that dozens of different game-playing sites have Othello, or a clone, available as a game to play.

If you enjoy two-player abstract strategy games and if Othello isn't a part of your gaming library, then you don't HAVE a gaming library!

Othello is member of GAMES Magazines's Hall of Fame.
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Todd Walker
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Great write up, and I agree . . . if you aren't thinking 3 or 4 moves out, or more, for every turn in Othello, then you are not really playing Othello. I have yet to see the bottom of this game.

Why it gets a game weight rating of less than 2 on the Geek is one of those Geek mysteries.
 
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Geo
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A good Reversi shareware program can be found here:

http://www.blochweb.com/reversi.htm
 
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Geo
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Onceler wrote:
Why it gets a game weight rating of less than 2 on the Geek is one of those Geek mysteries.


Because it takes more than a couple of games to realize that turning the most stones to your color during your turn is not a good way to play.

With further games you understand that the edge and corners are important.

You will win a couple of games if you focus on corners/edges but until you understand what "good positioning" is and that you have to make sacrifices, you will lose to better players.
 
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Philip Thomas
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Nice Review, I haven't progressed beyond the 'edges' stage yet...

One carp- I think it can be argued that Othello is part of the group of games that take a minute to learn, a lifetime to master. In fact, you yourself are arguing it
 
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Michael Willoughby
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I enjoy playing this game but saying it is deep is kind of a stretch. The game is pure look-ahead, and if you don't set some kind of time limit on turns you end up with analysis-paralysis. Don't get me wrong this game can be light fun. However, a simple computer program could be written for this game that could beat a human player every time, and unlike chess it wouldn't need Big Blue to run it just any old 486 would do.

O_O
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Beppi Menozzi
Italy
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Good comment by Ed Collins.
Unfortunately, as other comments clearly declare, this game is instead underrated and completely unknown.

If compared with other classic boardgames, this is far more strategic and less tactic, but the balance between strategy and tactic changes from the beginning to the end of the game, when the board becomes more and more crowdy: strategic at the beginning, tactic at the end.

All the midgame anyway is very strategic, compared for example with chess and checkers, and this gives the opportunity to play well even without studying long sequences of moves.

Reguarding complexity of the game, calculated by the average number of allowed moves per turn, it is less then go and chess but more then checkers.

Reguarding programs, yes: there are many programs, but they are not simply "brute force" to calculate the number of discs. No computer has calculated the perfect game yet, although there are many indication that lead to that idea that it ends with a draw. Obviously programs are stronger than humans, but this doesn't take anything away from the beauty of this game.

There are regular world othello championships all over the world, where you can find the best players ever: you can find a list of them at http://www.worldothellochampionships.com (nice domain, eh?)

You can look for online gaming in dozens of places, but you can start from http://www.kurnik.org for online playing and http://www.littlegolem.net for turn playing, there are good players there.

For information on tournaments or anything else, you can start from one of the many good sites, for example the Italian Federation: http://www.fngo.it
There is also a very good tutorial here: http://www.claudiosignorini.it/othello/corso

If you look for programs, try WZebra http://www.radagast.se/othello/download.html or my own-made Happy End http://www.fngo.it/happyend.asp .

All the links I wrote here, please note, are completely FREE.

It's a pity to see Othello with such a low score here on BGG. It is the best game of the world. It's really fantastic. Please play it.
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