Do add your comments/additions to all that follows (just put your name by them so we all know who thinks what):
Reflections on basic strategy (Wyon)
1. Beginners often get caught up in being overly concerned with population expansion- you have to attach at least as much importance to connecting (and preventing your opponent from doing so (which is the same thing)).
2. A good way to block your opponent is to have a young piece (ie with a high number), directly in the line most likely to make a connection
3. Initially a sequence MFF is better than MMF, in the former you can move the middle piece and potentially set up two birthing possibilities. With the latter moving the middle peice can only at best set up one birthing possibility (because females can only give birth once each go).
4. Spend at least as much time working out the gender of peices that have just been born as you do about making moves- it is often very important.
5. If you can keep some life reserve aim to have at least two units if possible. This is far more powerful than only one in reserve (as it enables a winning connecting move that does not die out before the connection counts). Dont get too caught up in having some life in reserve however- it is far more important to establish an early advantage.
6. In general (as well as going for connection - already referred to under 1), it is more important to end up with a larger net number of births (ie greater than your opponent) than with a high number. For example: one birth if your opponent has none is usually better than if you both have two.
7. At all times bear in mind where you are in the move sequence. If your move is directly followed by your birthing then that is the time to make moves that would otherwise be blocked by your opponent before you can give birth. Also work out the next move you will make after the birthing sequence- because your opponent will only be making a birth, not a move before you move again. Conversely if your move is followed by your opponents move (and birth) before you can birth then this it the time to be cautious about how you move (so as not to allow your move to be scuppered by your opponent).
Reflections on advanced strategy.. (Wyon)
1. Keep a look out for the comparatively rare situation in which it is better NOT to give birth immediately on a particular square but to wait until a later go when you know that you will still be able to and that the resulting offspring will be able to live longer on account of having been born a go or more later.
2. Another rare situation to look out for is the one in which the player giving birth first sets up a block on one of their opponent's birthing possibilities as a result of their new offspring.
3. With the larger board (10×10) it becomes necessary to build systems that allow for reproduction to occur naturally as a result of death (rather than just as a result of enabling moves or placements- otherwise there probably wont ever be enough momentum to connect- especially if the pieces initially only have 6 life expectancy or in the random variant).
Jesse has pointed out that the structure MMFFMMFF etc works well for this (so as one peice dies there is always a F and a M on either side of it to provide the next generation. This works well provided:
a) no two pieces next to each other have the same life expectancy (otherwise they make a gap too big when they die b) no female has pieces older peices on both sides of it with the same life expectancy (otherwise she cannot mate with both the males that want her when the pieces next to her die) c) attention is given to topping up the pieces at the edge of the row (or column) so that a connection is eventually sustained.
Obviously it is best to make these sequences in the row or column where you are trying to connect (so red needs to prioritise columns and blue rows), and kinks may need to occur (so the rows/columns wont always be able be to perfectly straight or complete).
Greater reproductive capacity can also be enhanced by having a block with this sequence going both horizantally and vertically eg:
M F F M M F F M
M F F M M F F M
F M M F F M M F
F M M F F M M F
M F F M M F F M
-so you end up with a patchwork quilt of alternating genders in square blocks of four
- if this can be done at the edges then it gets around the problem of edge peices being created through moves or placement. In theory - I think- it should therefore be possible to keep a board of any size completely populated (at the end of the birthing phase and in the non-random versions) indefinitely (the corners being fed by moves in a rotating sequence). Of course this is only going to be possible without - uh - an opponent!
I am not suggesting this is a definitive strategy (perhaps just one approach to bear in mind)- note also that with a larger board the pattern can also be made diagonally rather than orthogonally - as the situation demands.
4. Developing point 7 under the basic strategy. Your moves are best thought of in pairs: Move 1 (move immediately before your birthing) and Move 2 (move immediately after the aging process. It helps to think through what you want to do for the pair of moves as a whole. This is made easier by the fact that your opponent does not have a move in the middle- other than a birthing. The two types of move should be handled very differently. a) Move 1 is your chance to take initiative. This is where you can set up birthing possibilities which cannot be challenged by your opponent before the actual birthing. If you have no life reserve left it is also the point at which you can move any pieces in the array with only one or two turns left that are next to your opponent- otherwise they may invade the line when the piece dies in the next phase. b) Move 2 is your chance to make repairs if necessary where any important peices have died. So this is where you can put new pieces in the space where peices have just died before your opponent gets to invade. This is particularly common at the edge but can appear anywhere in the line.
Now here is an interesting bit. When deciding what value to give pieces that you are placing into critical spaces that have become vacant, bear in mind the point in the sequence where they are likely to die. You will normally want to arrange it so that pieces die after the Move 1 phase so that the square is ready to be filled (through a placement or a move) in the Move 2 phase (otherwise if the peice dies after your opponents Move 1 phase they can fill the space (or move into it) in their own move 2 phase!). This means that critical peices that are placed should have an odd value when placed in Move 1 and an even value when placed in Move 2. . Knowledge of this fact alone is often critical to winning.
Reflections on the grim reaper picture (Wyon)
Wyon: I am delighted by the background picture (provided by Keith- many thanks are due). It seems to me very apt— most of the time we all carry on playing the game of life as if death isnt there- despite the fact it is staring us in the face!
Handicapping Grim Reaper (Keith)
At this point this is a theoretical discussion more than anything else.
Grim Reaper is a game that is very easy to handicap. The following game elements can be adjusted: 1. life reserve 2. board dimensions 3. max life
1. Life Reserve - Adjust the starting life reserve of the stronger player downwards. Make an initial guess based on the ability of the two players. Whenever the stronger player wins, reduce the amount of the stronger player’s life reserve in the next game by one. Whenever the stronger player loses, increase the amount of life reserve in the next game by one. Eventually equilibrium will be reached. This is a very good way to handicap a game. The change of one point is a small adjustment while the large range of possible point totals means that even players with a large difference in skill between them can both have a challenging game.
2. Board Dimensions - Change the board dimensions so the weaker player can achieve a connection win with a shorter line. Whenever the stronger player wins, reduce the board dimension by one in favor of the losing player. Whenever the weaker player wins increase the board dimension by one. The upper limit with this approach is the original board dimension. It is also possible to take the reverse approach of increasing the board dimension for the winner rather than reducing it for the loser.
3. Max Life - Change the total life span of only one side’s pieces. When the weaker player loses increase the maximum life by one. When the weaker player loses, scale the maximum life back down. The limit should be the staring maximum value. It is also possible to reduce the maximum life of the stronger player. The limit of this approach is about board dimension minus two. It is possible to change the maximum life value for just one gender. This approach is probably best limited to the stronger player as it throws a player a bit of a curve to have males and females have different maximum life values.
In General - The types of handicaps can be mixed. The smallest change would be one point of life reserve. Board dimensions and maximum life are both substantial adjustments and are interrelated. A maximum life two more than the board dimension that must be spanned makes a connection win much easier. A maximum life two less than the board dimension that must be spanned makes a connection win very difficult.