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Subject: Avoiding Common Mistakes rss

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Rob Herman
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I certainly cannot claim to be a master of Ingenious; but it's on my list of favorites, quick-playing, accessible, and I like teaching it. Over time I have seen several of the same mistakes repeated. This list represents a summary of my thoughts on Ingenious strategy: not necessarily how to win (if only I knew!) but a list of dangerous mistakes that can be avoided with knowledge and experience.


Calling Ingenious Just Because You Can

This may not be the most common mistake, but it is the most obvious and tempting. I've seen a lot of players make a move to go from, say, 15 to 18, then make a totally separate move that bolsters the colors that are actually important.

This is a mistake and generally a waste of a move. If that color is going to provide an Ingenious anyway, it should to be saved for a time where you can extract some more benefit from it! Following is a rough list of priorities. Assume Yellow is the potential color for Ingenious, and you have 15 already:

1 Ingenious when you can get useful free points out of it. If you can get 4 yellow, 2 green, then you get those two free green points right away and still get to make an ordinary move. Alternatively, if you are at only 9 Yellow and get the (rare) chance to Ingenious with a single move, do it. You were probably going to need to advance Yellow anyway, and this gives you the chance to do it for free.

2 Ingenious when you can block an opponent's access to an important color. Playing two tiles at once can disrupt your opponents' plans and cost them big.

3 Ingenious to get a useless tile out of your hand. For example: say Red is your weakest color, but there is plenty of opportunity for Red still on the board; but Blue is important and getting blocked off, and you don't have any. You can't flush your hand, but you can get your Yellow Ingenious and get another shot at a Blue-containing replacement. (Extra good if you can play Yellow/Red and then are able to flush your hand!)

4 Ingenious if you are desperate to build a certain color. Near the end of the game, the only way to bolster a blocked color can be to take two moves in a row with an Ingenious--say, use Yellow/Red to Ingenious Yellow and then Red/Red to get two badly-needed Red points. (Of course, watch to make sure your opponents won't benefit more!)

5 Ingenious if you are unlikely to have another chance to do so in that color--if it's nearing the endgame, say, and the color is getting blocked off. Every tile you lay is one your opponents don't get to play, and it doesn't cost you anything.


Misprioritizing Colors and Moves

I will not go into the first-timer mistake of "play wherever scores the most points." After the realization dawns that the lowest score is the one that matters, this problem usually goes away.

A more insidious problem is the natural overreaction: an unhealthy obsession with always bolstering the weakest color. Typically this results in even scores--all of them too low to win. The only times a color needs immediate attention are:

1 A color where you are weak, but everyone else is strong. This is a color that might get blocked off quickly and if it does, will be difficult to build back.

2 Approaching the end of the game (about 60-70% board filling). At this point colors can be blocked suddenly and to maximize the final score, weaknesses must be bolstered.

Aside from that, for most of the game, it is often best to focus on the moves that grant the most raw points. Presumably these points will either be directly useful for score, or will lead to an Ingenious somewhere down the road.


Not Taking Advantage of Flushing

The chance to dump your hand and get new tiles can be very powerful. There are two reasons you might want to:

1 You need points in your weakest color, and you don't have any tiles. This one is pretty obvious.

2 You have no particular need for points in your weakest color, but the tiles you have don't give good scoring opportunities. Typically this means you have a bunch of two-color tiles with no place on the board where both sides can score; or one-color tiles in colors you don't need / nowhere good to put them.

1 Likewise, if you have no tiles in your weakest color but you have good tiles in general, you should wait to flush until you have used them up or the good scoring opportunities have moved on.


Overprioritizing Defense

This does not apply to two-player games, where denying your opponent a point is as good as scoring it yourself.

It does you no good to deny Opponent A 10 points, even if it costs you only 1 yourself, if Opponent B goes on to win. So it is good to deny your opponents opportunities only if one of these conditions holds:

1 It doesn't cost you anything

2 It hurts all of your opponents

3 It hurts all of the opponents that pose a threat


Looking Only At Your Own Score

There are several good reasons to keep an eye on your opponents' scores.

1 Most obviously, you can track your rivals' weaknesses and try to block those colors, keeping their scores down and securing your own victory.


2 More subtle, yet just as important:

Imagine that your worst color is Red; you have only 3, and your other colors are at least 7. However, no other player has more than 2 Red. As long as you have some Red in your hand to play if your opponents start building the color, Red is fine! You should not build it until your opponents start; indeed, if you do, they will probably benefit more than you from the tiles you put down! Play elsewhere; improve your other colors, set up Ingenious opportunities. Either your opponents will play Red (allowing you to score even more points from their Red tiles) or they won't and you will win with a score of 3.

The moral of the story is that your opponent's scores not only represent their strengths and weaknesses; they telegraph what those opponents are going to do and indicate the opportunities you will certainly have later, even if they are not visible right away.
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Chris Ferejohn
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Excellent article!
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M Dornbrook
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This is really helpful. Could you post a tactics article next?
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Rob Herman
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mdornbrook wrote:
This is really helpful. Could you post a tactics article next?


Thank you!

I will devote some thought to tactical considerations and see if I can think of enough to make an article. The more I play Ingenious, the more I think it is won and lost at the strategic level; though there are some interesting tactical subtleties in terms of what order to play your tiles in, etc.

In the meantime, this article (linked to from another Strategy article) is pretty good.
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Paul
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Sitnaltax wrote:

In the meantime, this article (linked to from another Strategy article) is pretty good.



Err, thanks - that one's mine, but unfortunately the site isn't there any more...it involves a number of embedded images which I'd constructed (rather than photographs) so I'm not sure how I can include them directly in a post here to recreate the article. I'll work on it, any advice welcome.

In the meantime, if anyone wants a copy then please feel free to drop me a message.

[UPDATE 16/01/09]

I've now posted the article here: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/372701
 
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Mike James
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This is very helpful. Thanks!

My wife and I are new to Ingenious. We love it! Sometimes the game feels very random. I know it is not, but it's hard to see strategies.

We have both been guilty of more than one of these "don'ts".

We are slowly seeing this game become more complex, but I feel like it's slower than I'd like. This should definitely help!
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