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Subject: A Strategy Review: Dice Wars rss

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Andrew Hodkinson
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This game is very simple: a Risk-like game of thirty territories with up to eight competing colours. The number of dice on a territory are rolled against an opposing territory's dice and the highest roll wins.
And yet, I do not think that a person could win every game that is presented. Clearly if the computer players combine, they could crush you, but the programming does not work that way.

You can choose which set-up you think is best and I have played games in which you lose before you even get a turn. Looking at an offered board, you have to determine whether you could win and if you are a certain type of person, like me, it is hard to shake the feeling that you should be able to win every scenario if you just had an unbeatable strategy. This idea is a mirage, but unfortunately one that does not keep me from trying. And there are ways to maximize your chances of winning. Here are some simple strategies I have discovered while playing this game hundreds of times.



1. The Power of Eight: Since the defender wins ties and the maximum number of dice per territory is eight, if you keep each of your territories at eight you will have an advantage. If you control most of the map, the game is mostly over. Even if you control one-third of the map, given that the AI does not balance its attacks to keep a top-up of eight dice per territory, winning is just a matter of time.

2. Defensible Position: Finding a place on the map that can be fenced off is not easy. The ideal is to have a long peninsula of single territories and your strongest armies towards the mainland. Of course, good defence also means weaker offence and if you become blocked in on a spit of land, a single AI colour can dominate the rest of the island. If a single AI achieves two-thirds to three-quarters of the territories, you have almost definitely lost. So really, the ideal defensible area is not important. What is better is to have a semi-defensible area so that you can build up and when the time is ripe, you can strike out and expand.

3. Joined States: As there is no way to choose which reinforcement dice will go in the territory you want to defend, having more that one area weakens any strategy. The early goal is to join your territories together, not only for defence but since income is based on the number of joined territories, it is clearly a key to winning.

4. Split States: Conversely, splitting an enemy territory, weakens its control considerably. If an enemy stays evenly split for more than two rounds, that enemy should be eliminated in the next two to four rounds since the AI does not compensate for loss of contiguous territory and keeps attacking. At the start of the game, it is wise to decide which single area on the board you make your base. Any other territories or dice outside this area are worthless.

5. Delay can be Deadly: Early on, the decision to pass each turn and gain dice is a losing strategy. You receive one die for each joined territory, so if you have only one or two territories, you will only receive an income of one or two dice. While there are times when attacking is foolish anyway, so passing then is advised, if a single colour gains ascendancy, you will be too far behind to compete. Many games come down to choosing a time before the other colours have settled into positions too strong to be overcome.

6. Opportunity: One of the clear advantages is to calculate when an enemy is so weak that you can capture a territory with little danger of counterattack. If you can wipe out a territory and all the enemy's surrounding territories contain only one or two dice, the move should almost always be taken. The only danger is if another enemy colour is poised to make a sweeping invasion.

7. Enemy Balance is Key: Winning against the maximum seven opponents is easier than winning against six. However if you choose to start the game with only two opponents that is even easier still. The main dynamic is that you want two or three colours to be fighting for supremacy since every battle they fight against each other is a battle won for you, no matter what the outcome. Once a single colour is getting ahead, that is when you are doomed. To that end, you have to consider attacking the leading colour if that will restore a balance. With them fighting each other, you can always attack a weaker colour to gain territory for yourself.

8. Becoming the Territory Leader: The computer tends to attack the colour which has the most territory as listed at the bottom of the screen. Once that becomes you, expect the other colours to build up dice and exclusively attack you. This is one of the computer's weaknesses as it will sometimes compound one or two losses with more and more attacks, which if unsuccessful, leaves that colour open to be exterminated. But you must be patient for such an outcome. Never attack territories by this point unless you can fill every territory with eight dice at the end of your turn.

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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Sometimes I like to play a two player game against the AI, refresh the browser until I am the second player to go and try to win with a distinct disadvantage. Given the enemy AI isn't very strategic it is possible, but still pretty tough.
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Looking at these stars suddenly dwarfed my own troubles and all the gravities of terrestrial life. I thought of their unfathomable distance, and the slow inevitable drift of their movements out of the unknown past into the unknown future. H.G. Wells
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Andrew did I really good job laying out the objectives in the game. I have only a few minor points I would like to add.

Edges.

Having territory against the outside border of the map is extremely valuable. This is for two reasons. The most obvious is that you have to defend it from fewer potential attackers. The more subtle reason is that once you have a territory with eight die on it, no more die can be added. Given that new die are added randomly to your existing territory at the end of a round. Thus having positions with eight die is useful as those new die are more likely to be added to your front, and not to the positions with eight. You still can't control where the die wind up, but you can push the percentages in your favor if you choose your territory acquisition wisely.

For this reason I will sometimes choose not to attack a vulnerable position adjacent to my territory. That way my die won't be as spread thin.
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Jan
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This does seem fun, I will probably try it out.
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I assumed I knew nothing about browser games, and yet I recognise this one- must have played it at some point! Nice review! arrrh
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Just a reminder, you can enter the Monthly review competition! Video Game Geek Review Contest - May 2015
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Andrew Hodkinson
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Thanks Barad. I did forget again and just entered it.
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Bob Rodes

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Very nice review. I like to see if I can "run the table", going from 8 to 2 without a loss (feeling free to refuse any position that I don't think I can win). I find that the toughest win is with one opponent, if I go last. (The easiest is with one opponent if I go first.) I look for positions where the AI won't be able to connect all its territories on the first turn, typically positions with two or three chokepoints, all of which I control.

I use most of your strategies pretty much as you have laid them out, but deviate here and there.

"The power of eight" is certainly important. If you have a space advantage, you can pretty much always win by keeping 8-blocks on all of your "squares", letting your enemies spread themselves too thin, and only picking up as many squares as you can while still "filling up full." But I also find that you can often win more quickly with a material advantage by providing the AI with a "lane of attack." Meaning, you use one or two of your 8-blocks to go deep into enemy territory, finishing up next to an enemy 8-block and leaving a corridor of weakly-garrisoned territories for the AI to attack back on. This works very well as a way of splitting an enemy, too; most of the time an enemy will spend an 8-block running right back down the same corridor, leaving you with a nice line of weak territories to attack. You can then cut him off, leaving several of his territories behind your lines.

As for defensible positions, these are often chokepoints in the board layout. You can get into those boring hour-long equal endgames, fighting back and forth over one or two territories, that come down to the luck of the roll. If you anticipate those, you can make sure that you have enough territory to let the enemy take over the chokepoint and expand a ways beyond it without giving up so much territory that you can't recover. If you do this successfully, you can then retake the chokepoint and again have the enemy split behind your lines.

For me, the absolutely most critical winning strategy is your points 3 and 4. Keep yourself connected, and keep all of your enemies split. One of the things that helps to do this is that an enemy (usually) will only attack the side with the most territories, unless he has the most himself--in that case he will attack anyone. You can use this, along with the corridor technique, to get enemies to split each other. So long as you are the one with the most territories, they won't attack each other and won't be able to connect.

If you're in trouble (typically, in last place in a field of three), the best thing to do is find an edge between the two sides and hunker down, making sure that both the other sides have plenty of opportunity to attach each other. The enemy who is on the turn will then be in second place--so won't attack you--and will spend resources attacking the other enemy while you build yours. At the right moment, you can often knock out one of the enemies and have enough "troops" built up to pull even.

Delay can indeed be deadly. It's critical to join all your territories as quickly as possible, without being wiped out in the process. To this end, it's helpful to take your outliers (territories that you're not going to be able to connect) and attack neighboring strong points with the expectation of losing. If you weaken your outliers, your chances of having them taken over are increased. You don't want them sucking up resources, so you want them to be eliminated as quickly as possible.

It's also important tactically to consider the amount of risk involved in a given attack. Three factors contribute to risk: how likely you are to win the attack, how bad will it be if you lose, and how bad will it be if you don't attack. In the early game, losing can be fatal, so I generally restrict my attacks to ones with above 90% success rate (any matchup with a >=3 advantage, any matchup with a >=2 advantage when the opponent has 3 or fewer "men"). Anything less than that, you're usually better off letting the AI attack and spread itself too thin, especially if he's split.
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Andrew Hodkinson
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I just finished a game of this a few minutes ago!

robtrodes wrote:
If you have a space advantage, you can pretty much always win by keeping 8-blocks on all of your "squares", letting your enemies spread themselves too thin, and only picking up as many squares as you can while still "filling up full." But I also find that you can often win more quickly with a material advantage by providing the AI with a "lane of attack." Meaning, you use one or two of your 8-blocks to go deep into enemy territory, finishing up next to an enemy 8-block and leaving a corridor of weakly-garrisoned territories for the AI to attack back on. This works very well as a way of splitting an enemy, too; most of the time an enemy will spend an 8-block running right back down the same corridor, leaving you with a nice line of weak territories to attack. You can then cut him off, leaving several of his territories behind your lines.


That's very good. I will try this!

Quote:
If you anticipate those, you can make sure that you have enough territory to let the enemy take over the chokepoint and expand a ways beyond it without giving up so much territory that you can't recover. If you do this successfully, you can then retake the chokepoint and again have the enemy split behind your lines.


I like this idea too.

Quote:
One of the things that helps to do this is that an enemy (usually) will only attack the side with the most territories, unless he has the most himself--in that case he will attack anyone. You can use this, along with the corridor technique, to get enemies to split each other. So long as you are the one with the most territories, they won't attack each other and won't be able to connect.


I've been using this one more and more, although I will try it with the corridor technique.


Quote:
it's helpful to take your outliers (territories that you're not going to be able to connect) and attack neighboring strong points with the expectation of losing. If you weaken your outliers, your chances of having them taken over are increased. You don't want them sucking up resources, so you want them to be eliminated as quickly as possible.


That a great idea -- unless you're unlucky to have your reinforcements go on the weakened spot.

Quote:
I generally restrict my attacks to ones with above 90% success rate (any matchup with a >=3 advantage, any matchup with a >=2 advantage when the opponent has 3 or fewer "men"). Anything less than that, you're usually better off letting the AI attack and spread itself too thin, especially if he's split.


That's a good rule of thumb, although there are moments when I risk a 1 or 2 advantage to take out a dominant colour's strong point.


These are excellent points; thanks for adding them. I'm not sure why this game is so addictive.
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