Hex is an awesome abstract strategy board game. It’s rules are simple: on your turn, place a stone of your color any where on the board. First player to connect her two sides by an unbroken chain of stones wins. No draws are possible!
So very simple, so very deep. First time players will get crushed if they don’t know a few basics—and when people get crushed they generally sour off on the whole game. The goal of this post is to learn you some basics, son, so you won’t go storming off when I beat you in five moves.
Look at that beautiful picture! We are having fun already. So, black and blue have taken five turns each and by golly it looks like blue has won this game already. (Black is trying to connect the top and bottom edges, Blue is connecting the white edges—left and right). You may be able to tell why blue is so set here, but if not, let me didactically show you:
Blue’s pieces are as good as connected because if black plays in any of those orange dots to try to block, blue can respond by playing in the accompanying orange dot. These connections for blue are known as bridge connections. They allow blue’s pieces to be as good as connected yet cover more territory.
You can see black trying to block and blue having an answer every time. Way to go blue!
Now on to some quick defensive basics. Again, black is marching toward her edge and this time blue tries to stop the advance.
Ha ha! says blue, take that!
Black replies, um, ok? lol.
What? Wait! No, come back here! says blue
CUL8r says black.
The lesson here should be clear, don’t try to block with an adjacent piece, your sneaky snakelike opponent’s advancement will not generally be stopped by this line of play. Now, to confuse you, let’s go up instead of down.
Ok, says blue, I’ve learned a lesson here. I will place my stone where you most certainly would like to! (Notice how Black has created a bridge between her two pieces).
This is a good start, just don’t do the following:
I promise I’ve done this a few dozen times. Doesn’t stop black’s advancement. However, a bridge-block plus an adjacent block can stymie black:
Blue has created a bottleneck for black, here. If black tries to squeeze through, Blue forces a ladder.
Followed by this which is probably not the position blue wants to be in:
So, what is a better option? I’m glad you’ve asked, intrepid reader, and I’m glad you’ve made it this far! The general response to an advancement by your opponent is something known as the classic defense. And it requires playing at a little bit further distance than the straight up bridge:
You can see that if black tries to expand her bridge, blue can block accordingly:
If black tries to skirt around the block, blue also has an answer to that as well!
Who’s the fool NOW? says blue. If black tries to go back the other way…
She has just put blue in a very strong position in deed. This picture is also useful as it shows how defense = offense = defense. Since there are no draws possible in this game, if your opponent has no possible way to connect her sides you have by definition won the game. Congratulations, you.
There is certainly much more to this game, but knowing bridges and the classic defense should give you enough to at least make things interesting. Come back later when I demonstrate some edge templates. Ooo templates!