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Tony Chen
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...LACONIC REVIEWER
Hex is a perfect information game played by 2 players. A good game lasts around 40 minutes, but it could end a lot earlier if the players are unevenly matched.

Hex was invented independently by Piet Hein and John Nash.



...LICENSED LAWYER
The board consists of hexagonal tiles arranged into the shape of a parallelogram. The standard board size is 11x11, but it can be whatever you want (9x9, 15x15, etc). One pair of opposite sides belongs to black, and the other pair of opposite sides belongs to white.

Players take turns placing one stone at a time Go-style. Black goes first.

The player to connect his two sides wins.

pie rule
The first player plays a black stone, and the second player chooses which color he wants to play.

...AVID GAMER
Hex is one of those simple-yet-deep games. Simplicity, beauty, elegance--if these are the words you would use to describe Go, or even Gomoku, you will probably love Hex. If, however, you´ve played Go and didn´t particularly enjoy it, you probably won´t like Hex either. Despite its hexagonal (as opposed to Go´s orthogonal) grid, Hex´s gameplay has a striking resemblance to that of Go´s.

In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the strategic depth of Hex on a 19x19 board rivals that of Go. I believe hundreds of years from, Hex will achieve the status Go has today: a classic with countless literature written on it. The best Hex players today will be only moderately decent then, when dedicated professional players will have hundreds of years of study to build their upon.

To a novice, the choices of where to play can seem either completely pointless and random, or evidently obvious and trivial. However, what appears to be the ¨obvious choice¨ may in fact be a very poor move, and what appears to be a ¨random¨ move can be a great move with lots of design and purpose. I am probably making it sound a lot more inscrutable and enigmatic than it really is. Perhaps the best way to understand this is through experience, preferably by playing against decent players; or you can read my session report to get a flavor of the game.

Between two decent players, there is action going back and forth on every turn, nonstop. Gameplay is intense and exciting, every move is important, every stone has a purpose, and victory is not clearly decided until the very end. In fact, it´s common to have many twists and turns in the prospects and outlook during the course of a game. An evenly matched game of Hex is full of drama.

One poor move in hex can throw the game away. Some consider it to be a flaw, but it can be argued otherwise. One can take it as an indication of just how vital and meaningful every single move is, which I believe is a sign of the game's clarity.

...MATH PROFESSOR
I will only touch on the very basic strategy here. Some are so basic that many probably use it without even ever thinking about it.

strong connection: when stones are actually touching each other.

weak connection: when stones are placed so that they share 2 common liberties. Despite its name, weak connections are usually ¨better¨ because it spans a larger area.

strong block: place where an opponent could have made a strong connection.

weak block: place where an opponent could have made a weak connection.

defense is offense
It is proven that the game can never end in a tie. If you fill up the board, there will always be one and only one player who connects his sides. Think about the implication of this: you cannot completely block your opponent without winning! and you cannot win without completely blocking your opponent! In other words, offense and defense are one and the same thing in hex.

Allow me to generalize and say this: at any given time, there is always one, and only one, live ¨chain¨ on the board. First, you must recognize which chain is the one that´s alive. If it is yours, try to extend it. If it is your opponent´s, try to block and kill it. The neat thing is that, at the same time that you kill his chain, you´ve also created a live chain of your own.

how to recognize the live chain
Consider a game with one white and one black stone on the board. Although they are each only one stone long, we can consider them as ¨chains¨. Which chain kills which? Map out the fastest path of each chain to its side by using weak connections. The two chains must intersect at some point. The chain that reaches this point first kills the other one.

how to kill the live chain
Once you realize that the live chain is the opponent´s, you must strive to kill it. Sometimes, you can do this by placing one stone. Other times, you need to implement a weak block followed by a strong block, such that if he wants to continue his chain, he has to snug a stone in between these last 2 stones you played. React to this with another weak block.

A stone that is only 3 spaces away from the side cannot be blocked from reaching that side.

threaten with two chains
Place a stone that will help two chains survive if he doesn´t kill them immediately. On his next turn, he can only kill one, so you extend the other one. A common example of this tactic is what I believe they call ¨ladder escapes¨. I think this concept is just like ¨sente¨ in Go.

player advantage
It is proven that without the pie rule, the first player (black) has the winning solution. Therefore, the second player must have the winning solution with the pie rule. The first player must try to divide the pie as evenly as possible on his first turn. I do this by playing the first black stone on the 3rd space from my edge, touching the white edge, in one of the acute corners. Basically, try to make this move as shitty as possible.

...COFFEE TABLE DECORATOR
Depends on what version you have. For myself, I play at ludoteka.com and boardspace.net. Verdict: not available.

...QUIRKY MARSUPIAL
I usually play with the 11x11 board. If I were to play with a different sized board, I´d rather have it be larger than smaller (15x15 or 19x19). 11x11 is pretty much the smallest it can be and still be interesting.

Oh, and hex is my favorite game, so this review is biased.

for more insight on the feel of a hex game, read my session report
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Virginia Milne
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Do you play at littlegolem.net as well ?
 
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Tony Chen
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No. Is little golem real time? I don't like to play by mail.
 
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Patrick Schultz
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drunkenKOALA wrote:

Despite its hexagonal (as opposed to Go´s orthogonal) grid, Hex´s gameplay has a striking resemblance to that of Go´s.

Hex and Go are two of my favorite games as well, but I don't see much similarity beyond equipment. It's true connection is an important concept in Go, but it feels completely different, both because of the different tactics and because there is so much else to consider in Go besides connection.

drunkenKOALA wrote:

Allow me to generalize and say this: at any given time, there is always one, and only one, live ¨chain¨ on the board. First, you must recognize which chain is the one that´s alive. If it is yours, try to extend it. If it is your opponent´s, try to block and kill it. The neat thing is that, at the same time that you kill his chain, you´ve also created a live chain of your own.

I don't understand your 'live chain' concept. Hex is all about forks. What you call a weak connection is the simplest example. If you are playing well (and your opponent is putting up a proper defense) you won't have any one 'live' chain, with the rest of your pieces being worthless. Your pieces will be creating a web of forks covering the board, such that if your opponent blocks one branch of a fork, you can take the other. (Of course it's not even that simple, but it's a good way to begin analyzing a given board situation.)

drunkenKOALA wrote:

A stone that is only 3 spaces away from the side cannot be blocked from reaching that side.

Obviously only assuming there are no opposing pieces nearby. Not so obvious is that a piece on the third row, with opposing pieces on either side of it also on the third row, and none on the second or first rows, can be blocked (unless there is a ladder escape).

drunkenKOALA wrote:

A common example of this tactic is what I believe they call ¨ladder escapes¨. I think this concept is just like ¨sente¨ in Go.

There is something called a ladder in Go, along with ladder escapes, so that would be the closest analogy, though they behave quite differently. More generally this is the concept called 'miai', which is any situation where you have two equally good possible moves or directions of play, such that if your opponent obstructs one you can take the other. Sente would be like a forcing move in Hex, where you make a move which forces your opponent to make a certain response, leaving you the freedom to choose your next move, not having to respond to any threat made by your opponent.

Thank you for posting this review. I agree this is a game which deserves to be more widely known.
 
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Tony Chen
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I am only a beginner in Go. There are differences but relatively speaking, they are more similar to each other than they are to, say...othello or chess, or any other game that I can think of. Plus the audiences for both are probably very highly correlated to each other.

Yes the live chain concept is very basic. That part was aimed at complete beginners. I play at ludoteka.com and you'd be surprised at how often I can win by just using one unimpeded chain of weak connections. The game ends after 11-15 moves by me on a 11x11 hex board. And I touched on the fork concept later in the "threatening with two chains" part.

Quote:
Obviously only assuming there are no opposing pieces nearby.
Yes that was the assumption. By 3 spaces I meant the 4th row instead of the 3rd. But thanks for clarifying to the readers.

By "ladder escape" I was refering to the ladder escape in hex, not in Go.

What I meant with sente is that, when I place a stone threatening to create a live chain (usually by intruding on one of his weak connections), he will be "forced" to reconnect his weak chain. I then extend another chain that would otherwise be blocked, but it has a ladder escape because of that stone I placed. But of course the opponent can realize this and play elsewhere instead.

You seem really good. Want to play on ludoteka.com or boardspace.net sometimes? Maybe you can teach me more advanced concepts.
 
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Virginia Milne
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It is turn based. You are prompted by email, but you play your moves on the server. If both players happened to be there at the same time you can play in real time.
 
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Nick Bentley
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drunkenKOALA wrote:

One poor move in hex can throw the game away. Some consider it to be a flaw, but it can be argued otherwise. One can take it as an indication of just how vital and meaningful every single move is.

Also, it seems that the larger the board one plays on, the easier to recover from bad moves. You can adjust the game to your liking by adjusting board size.

I personally like the do-or-die nature of 11x11 though. Very intense. Occasionally somebody on BGG cites Hex as an example of "dryness", which is weird, because it's one of the wettest abstracts. I mean, it's "a knife-fight in a phone booth", right? Just imagine how wet that would be. Accusations of dryness must come from people who haven't played, or at least tried to play well.
 
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