Alejandro Magno
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Competitive gamers ultimate enjoyment from games, comes from tournaments and leagues.

I consider myself one and this is my third review, this one and all future reviews are all gonna be from the this PoV.

The reason I do Battle for hill 218 is that i think it´s an unappreciated game.

Battle for hill 218 is a symmetrical, almost abstract, tactical game. But this won´t really give you a strong idea of how the game plays since it´s kind of it´s own beast.
The game plays out with two players each with a deck of cards, that represent military units. The game starts with a hill card between players, and each side of the card, facing each player, is considered the base of that player. If a player is able to play a card on the opponent base, he wins the game. But getting there is not as simple as putting the card there. you must create a chain of units to reach there, starting from your base. And every card has certain conditions on how or where can it be placed, though the common rule is that they can be played non-diagonally adjacent to each other and that they must be placed on the chain that starts on the base.
The trick is that the opponent can destroy your cards by placing their own cards near yours, but the conditions for it depends on each card (for example infantry can destroy a card of yours, by placing it near it, but also another card must be adjacent to it, which is called ¨support unit") Tanks, artillery and air strikes do not need support.

This is not just an open deck, this is an actual game in progress


The game plays very fast and a single mistake may end it all.

The whole thing is about figuring out good trades, and placing the cards in the right place at the right time.

Skills tested:
-Valuation
-Positional tactics

What I like:

-Very fast game, but that feels relevant things happen. This is a really strong point of the game, I feel the amount of time is short, but the amount of decisions and things happening is extremely high.

-Very aggressive game, While playing defensively is possible, and maybe even better, an aggressive strategy can be very rewarding, and even in those games that goes with both players going defensive, it feels like any single moment the game can be decided.

-The whole game is in a deck of cards.

-While the game is quite unintuitive to learn. The amount of basic things to learn is actually very low. and once you get over that unintuitiveness, you can play the game with no problems.

Things I do not like:
- WW2 pictures, make it look like it´s gonna be the most boring experience of your life.The colors, the card design, everything cries that is gonna be the most boring experience of your life.

- I have above 100 hours of gameplay on the game, and i feel the game is getting solved. I do not know if this is true or not at this point, but it feels that it´s a game that doesn´t have an extremely long longevity. Though to many people 100-200 hours of gameplay of a game, is more than what they expect. I appreciate when I feel a game can live 10 thousand hours. Again, I do not have a conclusion yet, but some friends that are at my level of play, feel quite similar.

-Once you learn to play the early game, it becomes quite shallow and redundant. Basically both players throw artillery and air strikes, until one runs out of them, and then the game begins, probably my major grip with the game.

Conclusion:
This game is great to me, I really admire it´s design, and I think several of it´s ideas should be used on more complex tactical games. The ability to put so much tension on a single place, and still have an interesting game, is quite interesting. It feels like you are always a move short of a checkmate, and yet, you are never quite there...until you are finally there .

I strongly suggest this game as 2 player tactical positional game, easy to carry, short time to play filler game. It´s speed, tension and deepness combination is really high, and I think there are other 2 player games with the same characteristics out there that are very good, but I think Battle for hill is my favorite, at least for the first 200 hours.

Score 8/10

After review note:
Maybe some of my "do not like" or my score give the impression that I think it's just a fine game. But that is not so, I really admire Battle for hill 218 for what it is, I would be proud if it would have been of my own design.
I think this a "you must play this game" specially if you are interested in the design of tactical games.
And I think is a must have for any person that like tactical games, I do not guarantee that it will become an eternal classic, but to someone that enjoys tactical games it will give tons of hours of interesting gameplay and fun.
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Paulo Santoro
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How is it "solved"?
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Leonardo Martino
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PauloSantoro wrote:
How is it "solved"?


+1
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David Janik-Jones
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kalevi1999 wrote:
PauloSantoro wrote:
How is it "solved"?


+1

+1.

Maybe he means that I'm unable to beat my 12 year old son (aka "the math whiz") in this game, and that he has somehow solved it?
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Tucker Taylor
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Waterd wrote:
-Once you learn to play the early game, it becomes quite shallow and redundant. Basically both players throw artillery and air strikes, until one runs out of them, and then the game begins, probably my major grip with the game.

Artillery, certainly. But airstrikes? I find them much more useful as a) a threat for occupying the side of the hill to go Airstrike > SF > win, and b) a last-resort play to prevent an instaloss (frequently to condition A).

Quote:
It feels like you are always a move short of a checkmate, and yet, you are never quite there...until you are finally there .

Agreed!
 
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JazzFish wrote:
Waterd wrote:
-Once you learn to play the early game, it becomes quite shallow and redundant. Basically both players throw artillery and air strikes, until one runs out of them, and then the game begins, probably my major grip with the game.

Artillery, certainly. But airstrikes? I find them much more useful as a) a threat for occupying the side of the hill to go Airstrike > SF > win, and b) a last-resort play to prevent an instaloss (frequently to condition A).



Full agreement. 100 Hours to solve it is a long time!
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Alejandro Magno
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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Solved_game
 
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Waterd wrote:

Huh? You're seriously claiming that this game is solved (or is getting solved) in the technical sense (as described in the article you linked) that from any position you can correctly predict who will win? Or the generalized sense for games with randomness, that from any position you can find the move which guarantees the best probabilistically expected outcome?

I honestly thought the Wikipedia link was a debunking comment from someone else rather than being from you, the original poster.
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Waterd wrote:


I haven't asked what "solved" means. I asked how this game is solved.
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Well, if both players somehow manage to spend their whole tanks, artillery and airstrikes in the first turns, their choices will narrow down a lot, and the game could become more "predictable". I suppose, having spent all the most powerful units, whoever got an early advantage will most probably prevail. But the word "solved" has too strong a meaning to properly apply to most (or any) games of Hill 218.

Thanks for the review
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Alejandro Magno
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I think for the first several turns, I already know the best plays possible, my games vs Vivafringe, who i consider for now one of the best players, if not the best, is a long series of moves that we already know kind off what the other guy will do, until several turns in, only then, i start to have to "decide" what to do. Vivafringe feels the same.
But more important, based on the amount of possible options at each time, it feels that the amount of "reasonable" options is really small, and it feels is a matter of time before I discard all reasonable options to have very few or no times where i have an decision.

Chad Ellis showed me that there are "more options" than I initially thought, but i'm unconvinced that there are "that many more"

There are many situations where the play is obvious to me, and I've already discussed and I think I've concluded it's obvious, the amount of times im making decisions at this point is smaller, and it keeps shrinking at a very fast rate. My belief is that is a matter of time before im playing automatically and i find other player that plays the same way and our games are only defined by luck or end in a draw.

I'm not very sure yet this is the case, but is my prediction, I could wait to play another 100 hours before making the claim, but considering that im not playing that much as before, it could take a year before I reach that number, and i decided to make the review now, but still pointing out that possibility. I would feel terrible if I do not point out and someone out there tell me he played and invested a lot of time in the game because of the review and didn't expect a game I praise so much would be solved in just 200 hours of his play (or less if he is better at tactical games than me). I would feel I failed at the goal of my reviews.

So I would say I;m not sure yet how it's gonna be, but that is my prediction.
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I.e., you're using "solved" not at all in the formal way described in the article you linked to.

Being a strong player with a strong feeling/opinion/intuition/experience of the good/best moves in the opening is a far cry from knowing with mathematical certainty what the best move is in all situations...! Solvedness is not determined by a strong player feeling (rightly or wrongly!) that they know the best move in many or even most situations.

(It would be interesting to do an experiment among several strong players presented with many game situations and see how often they all choose the same move for a given situation. Do you believe that you and other strong players would always pick the same move for every situation? Probably not - which suggests the game is not "solved" in any serious way.)

Also: the fact that in some turns the best move is obvious in no way implies that a game is solved. E.g., often in chess or go, there is an effectively obvious forced best move, but that doesn't mean that chess and go are "solved".

PS: I don't mean to imply that you're wrong that Hill 218 might become "solved" in the serious formal sense; I'm just saying that you haven't really presented a convincing case for it. If in fact you're really only trying to make the weaker claim that you feel it's solved in the loose informal sense of "increasingly often, I no longer find the decisions interesting or non-obvious according to my idea of how to play well", well, OK, that's much more subjective and I certainly won't disagree... Lots of people say that about lots of games which are nonetheless clearly not really "solved". (Sometimes they say the game feels "samey" instead of "solved".) But then please don't suggest that you mean the much stronger claim, the formal mathematical sense of "solved", by linking to a game theory article about truly mathematically "solved" games.
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Alejandro Magno
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I´m using solved in that formal way.
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"Solved" is a loaded word. Probably better to just avoid it. I think you've expressed your intended point just fine, though.
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Waterd wrote:
I´m using solved in that formal way.

Am I understanding you correctly? Do you seriously anticipate that soon the best moves in all possible Hill 218 positions will be identified and mathematically proven?
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Nils Hellberg
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Not wanting to hi-jack this thread, but speaking of competitive players I am thinking of arranging a online tourney as soon as the iOS 7 update is live (pending review from Apple).

So what would you think is a good number of games to determine a winner? I was thinking of doing it snooker style with an increased amount for each stage of the tournament starting with best of 5 and going up to best of 15 or even 21.

Regarding the "solved" discussion I think with very strong players you will see the same plays very often, especially early in the game, which means that it is more likely that you lose by not getting the right cards rather than making a mistake. But then again, before the app was released the understanding of those tactics was probably quite a bit different so maybe there are different ways of playing that are even better.
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Alejandro Magno
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Soon is a very ¨loose¨ word. But yes I think good tactical players will reach that point with as little as 200-300 hours of gameplay time. As I said i expect to play that amount in the next one or two years, maybe even more.
My point is that if there is a community of people that play tournaments weekly like in another games, its a matter of a few years before someone has the game basically solved, basically they alredy know the best move to every position. Maybe it would be not completly solved, but almost. (It´s valid to say a game is partially solved and define how solved it is)
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Waterd wrote:
Soon is a very ¨loose¨ word. But yes I think good tactical players will reach that point with as little as 200-300 hours of gameplay time. As I said i expect to play that amount in the next one or two years, maybe even more.

OK, thanks for confirming that's indeed what you mean. When you have it "solved", please post back here. I would be sincerely interested to do an experiment with several strong players (if any others also feel they have "solved" the game) to see if the solvers really do agree on the "best" moves in various positions!
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Alex Chen
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I think it's a big claim to say that in 2 years the game will be literally solved. When the game gets to the endgame and you can figure out the opponent's remaining options, the game is *very* complex.

A more realistic and equally scary claim is that expert players won't be making a difficult decision in the majority of the games they play. And it seems like I've reached that point. For the last 50 games or so, my plays were pretty much automatic. It's very possible that I'm in a strategic rut, and that actual optimal play varies more than I can see. But if such play exists, it will take someone else to find it, because I don't see how I can improve my play in most of the games. The main issue is that most games don't make it to the endgame, where a lot of the remaining mystery lies for me.

That said, a game that keeps me interested for hundreds of games is already well above par. So, like Waterd, even though I don't have as much interest in the game as when I started, I still rate it very highly.
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Chad Ellis
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I think a lot of the disagreement is over the distinction between "mathematically" solved and a more practical sense. We can say, for example, that Connect Four is solved in a way that we will likely never say that Hill 218 is solved because Hill 218's random element makes a total solution much more difficult, if not impossible.

That said, I think Alex is right that there comes a point where the best players aren't making very interesting decisions. I'm actually not there yet -- Alex has a very solid win record against me -- but I'm close enough that a lot of my plays are on autopilot. It's also possible that, as Alex says, we're just at another strategic plateau and that some one will have a breakthrough insight. That's certainly happened before.

My general feeling is that it would be highly surprising if a game like Hill 218 -- with a small number of 'pieces' and ways they can interact -- didn't reach a level of being "mostly solved" for players who are good at this kind of game and invest a lot of time in it. The great majority of players will never reach that point -- hundreds of hours is a LOT of plays considering a game lasts around ten minutes -- and along the way it's a lot of fun.
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Alejandro Magno
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Maybe some of my "do not like" or my score give the impression that I think it's just a fine game. But that is not so, I really admire Battle for hill 218 for what it is, I would be proud if it would have been of my own design.
I think this a "you must play this game" specially if you are interested in the design of tactical games.
And I think is a must have for any person that like tactical games, I do not guarantee that it will become an eternal classic, but to someone that enjoys tactical games it will give tons of hours of interesting gameplay and fun.

Maybe I should add this to the bottom of my review...
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So have you solved it yet?
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Alejandro Magno
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I stopped playing
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Mike Fox
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Great review, and I say that as a devoted fan and player of this delightful little game.

I understand your suspicion that the game may be solved, but I disagree with it (respectfully).

I understand it because there is a strategy you want to take advantage of if your draws and hand make it a possibility. You want to set it up to use an air strike on the enemy's base and then move in with a special forces card. I have a lot of hours racked up on this little gem, and I would say that winning by taking your enemy's base is almost exclusively by this method.

However, I respectively disagree because of the random element of the draw. We find the hardest decision in the game is when to pull the trigger on your airstrikes, as you want to save them for the SF victory scenario, but sometimes you just need to use the airstrikes defensively and to increase your hand size.

I do get the feeling sometimes that the game can be solved, but so far that hasn't happened for my group.

Great thoughts, I enjoyed the review. More than a "solved" game, I think it's just that there is an optimal strategy if the the draw leads that way. And it's worth a mention, a defensive mind can see the SF victory scenario coming and prevent it.

Great stuff, and obviously it's generated some great discussions.
 
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Tony Chen
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Now that the game is on boardgamearena, anyone want to play a match on there? I am on as Drunkenkoala.
 
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