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I got asked to do an introduction along with a teach and learn for a board game that I hold very fond memories of playing, strong enough that it keeps me playing it to this day. Even if it is a simple flash version I find on addictinggames while I wait for a meeting at work.

Its a wonderfully simple game with very simple rules, but the depth of play and the intricate nature at work during the game are amazing. Place down a white piece and lets flip that orange row below for more.

This is my first foray into group contribution, so gentle :)

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Most people know this game as Othello. Marketed by Pressman Toy group the game is pretty old. Originally known as Reversi its origins almost to some degree match its play. The game was 'officially' invented in 1883 by one of two English men,  Lewis Waterman or John W. Mollett. The birth of the game matches its play because each of the men until their death bed called each other frauds, each one claiming to be the original creator. Chances are high however that the game was invented elsewhere with markers pointing to a game called 'Fan Mian' that originates from China and Lewis or John....or both for that matter found the game and introduced it to the general public.

The game found amazing popularity in the late part of the 19th century and was a featured item in many articles of the newspapers of the day. Its popularity began to wane as war approached and dissipated to nothing during the 40's to the late 60's.

The game as we know it, Othello with its current rule set, was technically created by Japanese game enthusiast Goro Hasegawa in 1971. It was introduced to the Japanese public at large by 1973 and very shortly after that, thanks to the trade fueled economy between us and Japan, it was picked up by Pressman and marketed to the American public as Othello. From there its popularity picked up and peaked in the late 80's. A variation even made its way into the digital world on the game systems of the day (NES, Sega, etc...) as Cool Spot

But enough about the history, what is Othello. Instead of reinventing the wheel I'll let wiki spell it out.

Othello starts with the center 4 squares of the board occupied with 2 black and 2 white pieces arranged diagonally. True Reversi (that according to the game's original rules) starts with the board empty and the first 2 moves by each player are played into the middle 4 squares with no disk flips. Thus Reversi can start with either a parallel or diagonal layout of the first 4 pieces. Typically computer versions start as per Othello, but the name Othello (along with certain meaningless features of board design) is trademarked so that use of the name Reversi is necessary to avoid legal problems. Play with the 'Reversi' opening, wherein disks of one color line up parallel to those of the other in the center 4 squares, may still be found among enthusiasts in some places. When the game is played according to the original rules, either player may force play into this Reversi opening.


And this amazingly simple video explaining everything in short detail

And those very simple rules?

Essentially each player takes turns placing the markers down so that there is a horizontal line between the new piece and an existing one. All markers between the two markers are flipped to the corresponding piece. We will start with the opening position and move through a few moves to give an idea.


Here we see the opening placements.


X has placed a marker on the opposite side of the O here and because of this the board would then look like this after said move


O could do the following move


Which would turn the board like this


So you can see how easy this game is to pick up. Play continues like this until either neither player can take a valid move or if all the space on the 8x8 play field is taken. The player with the majority of markers is declared the winner.

Like I said..simple. But as Pressman marketed the game, it does take a lifetime to master. The game is very deceptively simple, but the strategies to win are deeply rooted in things like forward move planning, deception, and mathematics.

Lets start with some simple strategies. Because the goal of the game is to end with the most amount of markers, beginning players tend to go with the go big and go larger strategy of always attempting to flip the most amount of pieces at once. This is a flawed strategy because mathematically speaking for every piece that is yours, you have now exponentially increased the amount of markers possible for your opponent and at the same time reduced the amount of play space available for you to strategically plan in.

As you play, you want to move your hold or your grasp as close to the edge of the board as possible. These are called stable markers, by their very nature of being at the edge of the board, their chances of being flipped are reduced because they have one less side to have a marker placed next to them. The most coveted places on an Othello board are the corners, control those corners and chances are high you will or already have won the game.

As stated, Othello is deceptively deep. The play lends for players to try and capture as many markers as possible. This is where experienced players differ from new comers to the game. In short because you want to control the corners and sides, the idea of your play should be to try and goad your opponent into giving you small strategic strongholds, meaning short rows of two and three in the center, while you move play to the sides of the play field. In this way you are given a strategic edge as you have placeholder markers in the center for which to capture and control the walls built by your opponent. Very often in a game, winning the original placement markers, that center 4x4, means you have already won the game no matter what your opponent does.

This strategy described is called disc minimization by Othello enthusiasts and professional players. Essentially by playing small, you minimize the amount of moves your opponent has available to them. Boiling it down to a simple syrup that most new comers can grasp and then use, before even placing a piece down you should look at the play field. Looking at the play field and first count the number of moves available to your opponent. Now count the number of plays available to you. Your ultimate goal during a minimization strategy should be to minimize the number of moves available to your opponent. What I mean is that while capturing markers the more you prevent your opponent from being able to play, the more you can direct the game to locations favorable to you.

Here is an excellent video demonstrating the minimization strategy

Doing so you will find yourself perhaps playing a game where yes your opponent has 20 markers to your 8, but on further examination the board might be laid out in a way that you have 14 moves available to you while your opponent might only have 2. The board could even be laid out so that one move later by you, now sets your opponent down to only one choice. Getting into play like this you will find that often your opponent will be ahead for much of the game, until play gets to the edge of the field and very quickly you start to come out ahead as you take those stable positions along the edges and corners.

With that in mind, as stated earlier you want to not only to try and control the corners but also keep that center 4x4 in mind. Sometimes you may find yourself biding your time against your opponent, taking only one or two pieces at a time in an attempt to find that center capture. This video here really lays that strategy all out.

I encourage you to watch the rest of those strategy videos too, A LOT of good information contained there in. Why reinvent the wheel and all that... :)

Even then, with these strategies in mind, you often will find yourself loosing. Othello is like that, a cruel and harsh mistress because its very very very hard, to work out every move due to the statistical numbers involved. I once played online a fellow from Northwestern who would beat me literally every single time. The man played reversi like a machine. I had to ask him what his strategy was and his reply? "I don't know, I just play"

Probably helped that the guy was a mathematics student.

But I digress, the point of the diary is to point out the amazing amount of fun face to face games can be. Games of Othello can take anywhere from 10 minutes to hours depending on the players involved. Casual players can expect a game to progress for 15 minutes or so while play between experienced players can last for an hour or more. It's also pretty inexpensive, available at most big boxes, game shops, hobby stores, and yes even toy stores for around 15 to 20 dollars. It makes a great time passer and the hoots and hollers when you get rolled over can be priceless at times. Especially when you think you have your opponent penned into a corner only to realize you forgot to calculate out your moves a little farther and find the board looking like a sea of your opponents markers.

I encourage you to give a try, if anything it makes a great go to game when the power cuts out and you need something to do by the candle light while you wait for the power to be restored.

Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 6:40 AM PT: Thanks for the spotlight, I queue failed as this was to be republished to our face to face gamer group as well. We'll get it fixed one way or the other. I'll be responding in comments, as I got nothing to do today.

I'd love to hear others about their favorite face to face games, from the common to the esoteric I think face to face gaming though while maybe fallen out of favor in recent years, has an important place in our culture and should be kept and treasured.

I'd also love to hear everyone's stories too, what vivid memories of board games do you have?

Originally posted to Hoosier Progressive on Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 06:20 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (28+ / 0-)

    --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

    by idbecrazyif on Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 06:20:09 PM PDT

  •  Sounds a lot like Go (15+ / 0-)

    When I lived for a year in Japan, I hung out with a rather international bunch who had formed a Go club. There were several Japanese, including a couple of famous master players, some Taiwanese, a couple of Germans, a couple of Koreans and two of us Americans, me, a California kid at the time, and a guy who grew up in Harlem and had settled permanently in Japan.

    I mainly hung out with them just for a social group. Did an overnight trip with them to a Ryokan that was really fun. Really had fun and they very much encouraged me to keep playing when I left Japan. My problem was I had good instincts but not the patience to trace through the moves far ahead. The always would say "Oohhh, good move!" but eventually figured out it was all instinct, not real strategy. So they started saying, "Oohhh, good move! But you don't know why, do you?" Which was true.

    I didn't keep it up but it is an impressive game. Insanely simple to learn, but hugely complex in strategy. Sounds similar.

    FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

    by mole333 on Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 06:36:01 PM PDT

    •  Its actually VERY close to GO (11+ / 0-)

      In fact if you compare the rules to the original reversi introduced in Europe vs the Othello rules you see really heavy leanings towards GO.

      No one knows really, but personally I think GO is the earliest form of the game and links back to something that has been lost to history.

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 06:55:11 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Sounds about right (7+ / 0-)

        Though I guess there are differences: where you place the pieces (squares vs. vertices), what you do with the opponent's pieces (convert to your color or simply remove), etc. But the basics seem the same to me.

        FREEDOM ISN'T FREE: That's why we pay taxes. I Had A Thought

        by mole333 on Thu Oct 04, 2012 at 08:29:01 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I love Go, or "weichi/weiqi" as it is known (7+ / 0-)

          in China where the game originated more than two millennia ago. Japanese masters have dominated the game for much of the past 300 years (shown in the fact that the common Go terms are Japanese words), though now Korea and China are surging powers and arguably the leading forces.

          As said, it is drop-dead simple to learn the rules, but play is exceedingly subtle. I was a fairly decent chess player (club-level), but I'm awful at Go, which I admittedly play rarely. When Chess and Go are compared (as often happens--my own comment, to wit), it is often pointed out that an ordinary desktop computer can run software that crushes the best chess players in the world. This is far from the truth in Go, where even a specialized computer has trouble against amateur players, and has no hope against a professional.

          This chess player thinks that this game is unmatched for its simplicity and subtlety, and that it's the most beautiful game in the world.

          Oh, and the game was also a subject of a beautiful novella, The Master of Go, by Yasunari Kawabata.

          I highly recommend both the game and the book.

          We must use what we have
          to build what we need. -Adrienne Rich

          by Xapulin on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 08:54:55 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Not as true anymore (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:

            Within the last year, computers have started to close the gap.  In March, one program beat a top level pro (9p) in back-to-back games, albeit with a 5- and 4- stone handicap.

            Those who support banning cocaine are no better than those who support banning cheeseburgers

            by EthrDemon on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 10:56:53 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  Well, of course it changes (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              idbecrazyif, Matt Z, KenBee

              all the time. But again, that was a specialized cluster, running on multiple cores and with the benefit of a handicap.

              If Kasparov had lost one game to Deep Blue in 1997 with a knight handicap then no one would have cared. Instead, K gave no odds, and lost an entire match, not a single game.

              Go programs have benefitted from more than 15 years of Moore's observation (Law, to some) but still don't have a comparable performance against the very best humans. No one thinks that it will last forever, but the point is that the game presents a much higher level of difficulty than chess for software programmers.

              We must use what we have
              to build what we need. -Adrienne Rich

              by Xapulin on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 01:02:12 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

    •  My oldest son and I play go a few times a week. (8+ / 0-)

      I move instinctively... he moves with strategy. He wins more often but not so often that he feels like he can give me a break. I've started to study the moves so that I can be a better player which, in turn, makes him a better player. It's a wonderful game!

  •  Love this game. (5+ / 0-)

    I may have to dig it out of the attic this week.  

  •  Perhaps? (4+ / 0-)

    Maybe Obama is employing the minimization strategy?

    Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out. --Robert Collier

    by revm3up on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 01:47:41 AM PDT

  •  although I barely remember it now, I played GO (6+ / 0-)

    a lot back in jr. high. And I still have a set waiting for the grand-babies to get big enough not to eat the pieces. That kind of board game was sort of 'out' when my daughter grew up (during the 90s) but I have saved all kinds of games for the future.
         I also work at a library and we have a big case full of games to play along with cards etc., and wooden toys. Unfortunately it seems like none of the kids really know the rules anymore, for Othello, or for other more familiar ones like Monopoly, Chess or even Cribbage. It makes me sad to see them sit around and play with the pieces but never actually accomplish a real game, but they don't seem to want any help...


    "Had we gone the invasion route, the US could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land." -- George H. W. Bush, "A World Transformed," 1998 memoir (explaining why the US did not occupy Iraq in the 1991 "Desert Storm" war)

    by nuclear winter solstice on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 03:55:03 AM PDT

    •  Face to face gaming has taken a hit recently (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      old wobbly, Matt Z, ladybug53, KenBee

      It seems its fallen out of favor dramatically and many kids never learn the fun that can be 4 or more people sitting around a table and jeering each other while you play a game.

      Or the intensity of one on one play.

      I mean, I play online games as well. I own an xbox, heck I was even online last night playing cooperatively with three other people. And even though we had voice chat, it still doesn't come close to the camaraderie aspect that a face to face game has.

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:26:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I liked it until it mad me made (5+ / 0-)

    Like chess, I could breeze through the beginner stage, see the deep structure, love the intermediate settings, and then get my butt handed to me every time on the advanced settings and, as a notorious depressive, quit. I didn't have a supply of beginners to prey upon, and I accept a world that regularly administers a whipping. This was just one more.

    If money is the root of all evil, then what is Mitt Romney?

    by The Geogre on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 05:57:59 AM PDT

  •  Love Othello! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    idbecrazyif, Matt Z, ladybug53, KenBee

    I'm no expert or anything, but when I teach someone new, I try to use the socratic method to get them to understand the importance of the edges and corners.  Once thye get that, usually within 2 or 3 games, they quickly become a challenge to play against.

    "Give to every other human being every right that you claim for yourself." - Robert G. Ingersoll

    by Apost8 on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:05:11 AM PDT

    •  I loved Othello because it introduced me to (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Apost8, Matt Z, ladybug53, KenBee

      more critical thinking and strategic games at a very young age. I played it often with friends in grade school.

      I should recount how my family ever year during our family reunion would play a massive game of Risk that invariably through the course of alcohol and luck would end up as a battle to the death as two people stared each other down.

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 07:28:39 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  It's a great game (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Apost8, Matt Z, ladybug53, KenBee, idbecrazyif

      It can be hard to find others to play against, though.  (Oh, and I can so kick yer tailfeathers in Connect Four!!)

    •  niece reading big books, winning at Scrabble (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      funny how that works. Age 11

      As an ADHD kid she has a fixed strategie in checkers which is basically to move all as a line. Very annoying THAT is. And as far as I remember she thought it up herself about age 6.

      Chinese checkers with the marbles? she had to agree nbot to do that if we were to play, but of course it wouldn't work anyway with the expanding field.

      This machine kills Fascists.

      by KenBee on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:32:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  love othello/reversi (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Matt Z, ladybug53, KenBee, idbecrazyif

    less is more. you let the goober on the other side take and take and take until you have all the moves and his only move gives you a corner.

    noone would ever play with me, and finally when the internet age began, i found plenty of victims, and was occasionally beaten soundly myself. that moment in othello time, when the other person is gobbling up tiles and you can FEEL them thinking "god, what a dumbass..." and then they suddenly realize they've been had. there's this .... empty stunned virtual silence. it's great lol. and then half the time they'd just leave the game without finishing.

    heh.  kinda reminds me of the debate results.

    •  Thats what I miss the MS Games version so much (0+ / 0-)

      That was so awesome to have those moments, where someone would drop out

      --Enlighten the people, generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like spirits at the dawn of day. - Thomas Jefferson--

      by idbecrazyif on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 08:01:32 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I need the rules as the videos..nah, I'm doomed (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    can't focus that long, the videos help but leave more questions, like they show white around black that are not is that about.

    reading, meh!

    looks cool tho, will try to learn with the niece, she will show me everything before I can learn it I bet.

    A race between brain dysfunctions :>

    This machine kills Fascists.

    by KenBee on Fri Oct 05, 2012 at 06:37:17 PM PDT

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