Being Resourceful, Part II

Posted on Jan 12 2013 by pomomojo in Backgammon, Board Games

In a previous blog post I discussed the idea that one way of learning a new game or improving your understanding of a game’s strategy is to figure out what resources are at work in the game and how you can manipulate them. In a game like Monopoly or Poker the main resource is clearly money and the goal is to figure out how to maximize your profits, so to speak. In many other games, however, the main resource might be something that only has value in the game system itself.

For example, consider Scrabble. In this game there is nothing to buy or sell like in Monopoly, nor can you take money away from your opponents like in Poker. Yet, there is clearly a resource that you need to learn how to manipulate. In this case the resource is the tiles. Obviously becoming a good Scrabble player involves expanding your vocabulary and learning unusual words, but that is not the end of the strategy. As this blog points out, Scrabble is a game about spatial positioning and planning ahead. Unless you are making a killer move, leaving yourself without vowels is probably not a good play. Vowels are necessary in most words and thus a valuable resource. Likewise, rare letters like X and Q have a value. Look for ways to double or triple the value of such letters by placing them on bonus spaces.

In other words, give two different players the same tiles and the better player will find ways to use that resource to maximize points even if the words he creates aren’t as long or impressive.

Another game with its own unique resource is backgammon. In backgammon your main resource is the pips on the dice. Unlike Scrabble or Poker there’s no direct way you can increase your resources (other than being lucky enough to roll doubles) but you can make sure you don’t waste any resources you are given and that your opponent does. If you form a wall along several points with your checkers it makes it more likely that your opponent will roll numbers he can’t use. Likewise, you want to watch when your opponent tries to do the same to you. Rolling well always helps in backgammon, but rolling a six you can’t use is worse than rolling a one you can use.

As you can see in these games there is a resource other than money, but one which clearly dictates the strategy for the game.  Just as a beginning Monopoly player must recognize that connected properties are worth more than unconnected ones, the beginning Scrabble player should notice which letters are worth more than others and the beginning backgammon player notes that they want to get their checkers home as quickly as possible. The next step in strategy is finding ways to increase the value of your resources (triple word spaces) or decrease the value of your opponent’s (blocking several spaces in a row with your checkers). In either case it’s about identifying the most valuable resource and what the game allows you do with it.

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