Just before the holidays, I discovered a strategy game called Outwitters (for iPhone/iPad). Not only is it fun, but I’ve learned a lot playing it. (It’s an incredible game, by the way, from the graphics to music to truly complex strategy–and it only takes about 30 seconds to learn the rules. Oh, and did I mention it’s free?)
I know, I know. Some of you are doubtful that playing a game could be a valuable use of time. Hold your judgment for 30 more seconds. 🙂
This game is like chess, if chess had several different maps and the ability to create a new piece each turn–you pick which kind of piece. So there’s more variables than chess. But some of the fundamental ideas are the same. For example, winning the game is hitting the other guy’s base, not taking out all his men (like capturing the king in chess). But you don’t really need to know the rules to understand the lessons I’ve gleaned from the game.
Don’t Forget The Ultimate Goal
A couple of times I’ve marched up to the enemy base and spent my next turn taking out his pieces. I could have won by attacking the base. But I was so distracted with the immediate danger (his pieces hitting me back) that I forgot what I was ultimately trying to accomplish. And, yes, I lost those games.
He Who Attacks First Usually Wins
Waiting for the other guy to move–playing a reactive game–usually means losing. Sure, good players prepare before moving. But once you have enough men, waiting because you don’t know what he’ll do is a bad idea. If you have the capacity to attack (i.e. move forward toward your goal), do so.
Concentrate Your Forces
I’ve lost a lot of games by evenly spreading out my forces, trying to guard against all avenues of attack. But the best players are sending all of their pieces to one spot–where I’ve only got a couple pieces waiting. To win, concentrate on one or two things at a time and make a big impact there.
Play His Next Turn Before You Take Yours
Before I move my pieces, I’ve learned to stop and imagine what my opponent might do in response. When I don’t do this, I’m often surprised by the nasty counterattack I could have seen coming. It’s a discipline that takes extra work. But looking ahead at future consequences often changes my choices.
Play the Man, Not the Map
I’ve been tempted to come up with a great strategy and put my pieces there–and pay no attention to what my opponent is doing. That usually leads to disaster. You’ve got to pay attention to the other people’s plans. A one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t work. Whatever you’re doing, tailor it to the particular people involved.
Don’t Be Afraid To Lose A Piece
There were times when I held back making a move because I know I’ll lose a guy when he counter attacks. That’s usually a mistake. As long as the move I make costs him more than it cost me, I can’t be afraid to make the move. Also, the best players don’t quit after a bad turn. Take a hit on the chin and keep fighting. I’ve won more than a few games by not giving up when I wanted to.
Consider Multiple Options Before Deciding
Often, I quickly come up with a turn I like. But when I exercise the discipline to create other options–even though I like the first one I thought of–a better turn emerges. My first idea may not be my best idea. So I try to come up with at least two–ideally three–ideas for a turn before choosing which one to play.
Don’t Get Caught Up In the Emotions of Almost
Many, many games I’ve seen players get close to hitting the base, but only almost. And then they spend the next several turns making wild rushes at the base–they’re so close! But they waste a lot of pieces, caught up the emotion of almost succeeding. Instead, winning requires pulling back and rebuilding for another credible run at the base.
Oh, and if you do try out the game Outwitters, let me know! I’d love to play a few matches with you. 🙂