Strategy and Tactics: Hoyle Volume 3 was an article and 'short story' in InterAction Magazine Volume 5, Number 1 (Spring 1992) by Stuart Moulder. In it the author discusses games he had played sitting down with various sierra characters, who offered him advice after he lost to Roger Wilco's evil nemesis, the arch-villain Sludge Vohaul.
Strategy and Tactics: Hoyle Volume 3Edit
I was blown away the first time I sat down to play a game of Checkers in Hoyle Volume 3.
It wasn't the gorgeous graphics or the silky smooth interface that blew me away, however. Nor did the beautiful new tunes or the variety of games and opponents blow me away.
It was Roger Wilco's evil nemesis, that holographic arch-villain Vohaul that did it.
His flickering image sneered and laughed as he methodically destroyed me in three straight games of Checkers. I couldn't stand to let this intergalactic terror get the best of me, so I switched games. Dominoes, I thought, would be his weakness.
But it wasn't so, and Vohaul easily disposed of me. His gloating image and sarcastic remarks drove me to challenge him in every other game: Yacht, Backgammon, Pachisi, and Snakes and Ladders.
Only in Snakes and Ladders did I have any success, but I could hardly congratulate myself on triumphing at a children's game. I was forced to admit that in games of strategy, Vohaul had the upper hand. Not content with this state of affairs, I turned to the other opponents in Hoyle 3, hoping that Sierra's greatest heroes could give me some strategy tips.
The first family of Daventry graciously agreed to watch me play Checkers and give me some tips to improve my play. King Graham didn't need to observe many moves before he drew me aside for some kind words of advice.
"Checkers is simple to learn, and that simplicity can be deceptive. You must have a plan of attack; it is not enough to push pieces forward haphazardly. Look at the board carefully. Notice how your opponent's right flank has a double corner." King Graham waited for me to respond.
"Double corner?" I replied. Then peering at the board, I I saw what he meant. "Ah yes, his back rank has an adjacent square on the side of the board, but only on the right side."
"Exactly! That adjacent square is a vulnerable space. You should focus your attacks towards that area. Conversely, your opponent will be doing the same to you, so be sure to defend that area well. You will need to keep the piece in the far right back square at home to defend that area of the board.
"Right!" Rosella joined in, "And you should also avoid moving the second piece from the left on the back rank. Those two pieces can guard all four back rank squares."
King Graham nodded at his daughter's words, "Rosella is correct. Another important strategy is to control the center of the board. Notice ho pieces in the center four squares have the best opportunities for further movement. This also means you should avoid moving pieces to the side squares. They may feel safer there, but they are ineffective and have little room for future movement.
"Speaking of freedom of movement, you should really move the piece in the back rank on the far left as soon as possible. It's starting position afford it little opportunity for movement and its position does not enhance your defense appreciably."
"Dad's right," Rosella said, "But here's an even more important thought for you to ponder. Checkers is really a game of not making mistakes. Even a one piece advantage can determine the outcome of a game. It is easy to be tricked into an error and very hard to recover from one. Watch out for forced jumps that put you in a position to be double-jumped by your opponent. Of course, you can use this to your advantage. Use forced jumps to gain access to your opponent's back rank. And look for opportunities to trick your opponent into uneven exchanges.
I next turned my thoughts to Backgammon. Backgammon's mix of luck and strategy is addicting, but frustrating for beginners trying to figure out the best way to play the game. An unlikely pair of Sierra characters gave me some sage advice - Mother Goose and Jones.
"Sweety, you need to pay more attention to how you move your pieces," Mother Goose advised, "If you move too many at once, you're bound to leave some unprotected. And you can bet that mean old Vohaul is sure to capture any exposed pieces."
I nodded my head, feeling a bit foolish. Jones piped in, "Yeah, you should focus on creating blocked areas. Try to set up blocks on several points in a row. This will create a barrier that is very hard for your opponent to pass. You know you have your opponent in trouble if they have to pass because you've blocked all their moves."
"Another thing, sweety," Mother Goose added, "You may want to leave those last two pieces of yours alone for a while. They can help you recover some ground if your opponent gets too far ahead. They can always be used to capture an opponent's piece. And they also block one of the points in that last area."
"Here's a tricky thought for you," Jones added, "Sometimes it is unwise to capture your opponent's pieces. For instance, if your pieces are near the goal and not all protected, you may just be providing an opportunity for him to capture one of your pieces. And sometimes you will want to be captured for the same reason - so you have a chance to capture an opponent's piece that is near the goal."
"And don't forget that you should challenge Beginning and Average players first, if you are having a hard time winning," concluded Mother Goose.
Having mastered the basic tactics of Checkers and Backgammon, I felt ready for another challenge - Dominoes.
As with Checkers, I thought Dominoes was a simple game from my childhood. A quick humiliation by Vohaul convinced me that there is more to the game than matching numbers on dominoes. Fortunately, Larry Laffer was more than willing to help.
"Hey baby, you can't just plunk down any old domino that matches. You gotta think about what you're doing," Larry grinned and shook his head at me, "Dominoes is a lot like life, nothing is certain, but you can stack the odds in your favor.
"Here's an easy trick to use," Larry continued, "Try to play a domino so that both ends have matching numbers. This gives your opponent only one choice to use in playing. It may not prevent him from playing, but it will make it harder.
"Try to play on the end your opponent just played on." I looked puzzled, so Larry explained, "See, if you do that, you may be preventing your opponent from playing because he may have been planning on playing on that end himself. Also, sometimes he will play on that end because he couldn't play on the other end. So you have two chances to frustrate your opponent this way."
At my look of understanding, Larry smiled, "Some last thoughts. Remember what numbers your opponent couldn't play on and try to play those. Also, near the end of your hand, try to set up a combination that will let you play out no matter which end your opponent plays on."
King Graham returned to help me with Yacht. He smiled at me, "I see you listened to my advice on Checkers. Very good. Yacht isn't quite so complex, but there are still some tricks to the game.
"First, you should save 'Chance' till later in the game. In the early going, you should attempt to score the high scoring categories. For example, if you roll a "Full House', in the first or second roll, you should probably attempt to get a 'Four of a Kind' or a 'Yacht'. If you fail, you can still score a three of a kind.
"Later in the game, things get to be a bit tougher," King Graham continued, "You may need to score a zero in 'Yacht'. Since "Yachts' are rolled only every few games, chances are that you won't really be losing anything. Also, it can be useful to save the 'One's' category for later in the game. If forced to take a zero in the 'One's' category, you can lose three points (or five in the worst possible case).
With a wink, King Graham passed on one last tip, "Don't try to roll to an inside straight. The odds are little better than they would be if you were playing cards."
'Pachisi is a lot of fun," said my tutor, Princess Rosella. "And like Backgammon, you might think that lucky dice rolls are the key to success. But, of course, that just isn't true! You have to stay on your toes and persevere to succeed at Pachisi. The first tip is to always keep at least two pieces on the board at any one time. This will prevent you from having to pass while your opponents continue to race towards home. To slow them down, use a blockade with two of your own pieces."
"I tried that," I exclaimed. "But when I had to break the blockade, I always got captured!"
"That can happen," Rosella replied, "So you should plan for it. Try setting up your blockades close to your entry space. That way if you get captured, you won't have lost much ground with those pieces."
"Another tip is to try and stay behind your opponent's pieces so that you are in position to capture them," Rosella went on, "Of course, you want to stay far enough ahead of any other opposing pieces that your own pieces can't get captured. And finally, don't end on an opponent's entry square!"
I thanked Rosella and the other Sierra heroes profusely. I knew that with their help and further practice on my part, I would be able to best the evil Vohaul at every game in Hoyle 3.