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 please...be gentle :)
DailyKos Face to Face Gamers is a community of kossacks who play (or would like to learn to play) board and party games, card and dice games(non gambling), table top sans computer - role playing games(RPGs), LARPs, and LAWGs.
For definitions, genres, in face to face gaming, and/or additional information, please visit this diary.
Game introduction and explanation (teaching) diaries are published on Thursdays at 6pm.
Diaries about game days, a great game played, gaming conventions, etc. are posted at any time. Please kosmail the group to let admins know there is one there. List of local and national gaming conventions (wikipedia| Upcoming Cons)
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?