Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

[Icehouse] Shotgunning

  • FromJacob Davenport <jacob@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateWed, 18 Jul 2007 13:05:33 -0400
Timothy Hunt wrote:
I'm also not sure *how* Jake Davenport came up with the shotgunning
strategy, and I would love to know how it came about.
OK. I came up with it after playing the snowball strategy in 1994 and being unsatisfied with it. Really, the strength of the game is overicing, and I don't know if John just added that rule to stop people from just attacking one piece over and over, but it has this really cool consequence.

I played around with the game on my own and figured out I could use overicing, as long as I had a large prisoner, to make all my pieces safe. I have two talents that make Icehouse easier for me, namely very good spacial relationship ability, and quick decision making. I like to restructure attacks, and do it quickly.

But I could only do this if I had enough space around my defenders, so I didn't want them in the snowball. I assumed that other players would imitate this, and thus my attackers were at risk, but not my defenders, so I made three strategy decisions. One, don't attack anything, two, get a prisoner, and three, don't snowball. I played this strategy in 1996. In the first few games, people traded prisoners with me and I was able to get near-perfect scores, wasting lots of people's attackers. People were used to a prisoner just making one attack restructured, but not all of them. As such, in later games, people were afraid to attack me at all.

In 1998, I realized that nobody will give me a prisoner, so I went on a rampage to put someone in the Icehouse, which is a hard way to get prisoners. My favorite game of all time was the one where I put all four players, including myself, into the Icehouse. Whee!

When I teach people how to play better, which seems to happen every year I'm at Origins, I suggest this exercise. First, play eight yellow defenders (four medium and four large) scattered with about four inches between them. Then take a stash of red pieces and quickly ice them all. Ice them without crashing, with the tips nice and close, and minimally (no extra attacker points, you should have a medium left over). This practices moving fast and precisely on an attack, a skill that is always valuable. Then take exactly one large green piece and use it to restructure all the attacks, ending with the green piece successful. This practices restructuring attacks, and assumes that the green player gave you the prisoner on the agreement that you'd not squander it.

Now, how to restructure all those attacks is the fun part. I already knew about the 2-for-1 exchange, the ice trap, tip blocking, and the forced retreat. I use all of these in combination. Regularly I force retreats so that the retreater tip blocks a previous retreater, which sets up a nice ice trap. Retreat the right pieces in the right way, and you can do a 2-for-1 exchange or even better. If you have two large defenders near each other, both iced, you may be able to point all four of the attackers with their attacking lines intersecting at one point, and then just pop one of your small pieces in front of all of them, collecting the three new prisoners in a 4-for-1 deal.

Speaking of which, because of the 2-for-1 exchange, I don't play my small pieces down as defenders until near the end, because they are so important for the 2-for-1 deal. My initial defenders, as in the practice session above, are all mediums and larges. This is another reason to avoid the snowball: people tend to put their small pieces into the snowball, and I would rather save them. Yeah, if you set up a fortress, I might pop mine inside it, but usually it will pay better on the outside.

Of course, the 2-for-1 deal only works if done quickly, because somebody will try to pop their own small piece in front and pick up the prisoners. The best way to do it is to have attackers of several colors. If I'm doing a 2-for-1 with two large pieces, one red and one green, neither the red nor green player will benefit from putting a small in front of those two pieces. I just need to be faster than the blue player.

So all of my restructuring ideas came from extending the strategies I already knew about and practicing them. Icehouse is not as deep as chess, and I'd be surprised if anyone found strategies at this point that were previously unknown. But that would be fun if it happened.