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I have played Blokus enough times to get a feel for the game and one thing that always bugs me is how to play the first few moves. There seem to be a couple of competing aims:

  1. Get rid of big, awkwardly shaped pieces;
  2. Create plenty of corners to leave lots of future moves open.

Assuming this is the case, which pieces are the 'most awkward', and does playing these achieve the goal of creating lots of corners?

Also, how many moves can you have before you have to start worrying about what other players are doing?

To help with answering this question here's a link to a picture showing a Blokus naming convention.

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1, 2, 3, short I, I... O_o not a great convention. –  Lohoris Nov 24 '10 at 9:44
    
The names for the pentominoes are fairly standard (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentomino). The names for the tetrominoes are almost standard (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tetromino) (the 'O' is referred to as square above). The other four tiles are mainly distinguished by size, I guess the convention could have used the tromino naming convention for consistency (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tromino). –  tttppp Nov 24 '10 at 13:35
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8 Answers

up vote 18 down vote accepted

Ever since I learned about "the Barasona opening", I've had a hard time not starting all my Blokus games with it.

The basic idea is that your first four pieces leave no possibility for an opponent to move "through" your corner, without the use of his one-piece.

The pieces you use are F, X, W, and then N or Y. You can see a picture of the Barasona in action here: http://boardgamegeek.com/image/112251/blokus.

Of course, the problem with the Barasona is that, while it provides a disincentive for other players to move towards your unprofitable corner, the moment the other players realize this they will probably all start using the Barasona themselves, and you're back to square one. Blokus is an arms race!

Hope this helps!

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I don't think the escalation you have proposed is certain. Against three Barasona's a single "farthest reach" opening will get access to all four quarters of the board without having to cross any of the Barasona lines. –  Sparr Nov 24 '10 at 4:05
    
+1 Thank you for this detailed answer! I wasn't expecting the openings to have names :-) –  tttppp Nov 25 '10 at 20:12
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I always try to use the largest farthest reaching pieces at the beginning to reach the center, and then go to stake out space. If everyone is doing a similar thing, I don't worry about them until we meet.

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My preferred opening is V W Z or V Z W. This gets you to the center of the board as quickly as possible, giving you potential access to the entire board. Any opening that concentrates on defense in the early game will be forfeiting access to at least 1/4 of the board.

The weakness of this opening is a very low ratio of corners to dead squares in your home corner, leaving you vulnerable to being walled in during the midgame if you have concentrated on the far side of the board.

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I'm guessing that you mean V, W and Z played in the orientations to get towards the middle of the board? While searching for an answer I saw somewhere that someone was suggesting starting with V then W in a heart shape, which seemed counter-intuitive to me. –  tttppp Nov 25 '10 at 18:18
    
Yes, this is the way I always try to play: use the pieces that touch diagonally opposite corners of a 3x3 square to get to the centre as fast as possible. I'll occasionally slow myself down slightly by including the X as 2nd or 3rd piece (not allowed to place it 1st) because I find that one particularly hard to shift later. –  AlexC Nov 30 '10 at 9:26
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In the - admittedly few - games of blokus I've played so far I found it to be easier in the long term to be confrontational: i.e seeking to wall in at least one opponent.

As a consequence to that strategy I try to get to the middle as fast as possible and then head towards one of my neighbors.

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I frequently get all my pieces down (4 of my last 5 games I think) by playing the I along the side of the board, then work Barasona style to the middle (though I'd not heard that term 'til reading this thread)

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+1 Thank you for the suggestion - I will have to try this opening. –  tttppp Nov 25 '10 at 18:21
    
Be sure to take the strength of your neighbors into consideration when placing the I –  Sparr Nov 26 '10 at 9:06
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My experience with Blokus is that it pays to not be confrontational. If the board splits into two 1v1 games, and players A and B are being confrontational and denying each other access wherever possible, and players C and D are being semi-cooperative and leaving gaps to work around each other, then players C and D will naturally get more of their pieces onto the board. If there's a region you've trapped all the other players out of, then you'll only be able to take advantage of about half the space. Whereas a region twice the size, shared between two players, can let both those players get twice as many of their pieces down, if they leave space for them.

So while I've encountered people using the Barasona opening, I don't use it myself. I find it pays far better to have fingers in as many pies (areas of the board) as possible, and not care who has fingers in my pies.

To this end, I try to run straight for the centre, and then extend tendrils towards any zones that are looking particularly contested. Specifically I'll start with (in some order) Z, V, W; sometimes amended to insert the X, which I often find hard to shift later on.

I also aim to have my first 12 plays be the 12 pentominoes. This often isn't possible - I'll want to get a finger into an area that needs me to use the 4-square line or some such - but when I do manage it, it leaves me very well set up for the late game.

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If you can take advantage of 50% of the space in an area walled off by your own pieces, you're a VERY efficient blokus player. –  Sparr Dec 19 '10 at 22:07
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The opening you use is different if you are referring to playing a 4-player game, or a 2-player game (not duo, but the 2-player version on the full board). I don't have much to say about the 4-player game, but if you're playing the classic-2 player version (C2), then this Barasona opening is actually very weak. In a 2-player game, you should try to get both of your colours to the middle of the board as quickly as possible, and have them "connect" with each other, so they can cross over and share space with each other.

Even in the 4-player (which I admit I am not very experienced with) the Barasona opening actually seems really weak. While you create a difficult situation for your opponents in your one corner, you don't expand much. Generally expansion is better than defense. Try starting with L, Z, W (all moving to the middle of the board as much as possible, never leaving a "v3 hole" in your pieces.

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+1 Thanks for this answer. I was actually interested in the four player game, but will definitely have to try playing with two at some point! –  tttppp Dec 19 '11 at 8:39
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I've found a particularly effective 3 move opening in Blokus is to play two of the most linear pieces first, head straight for the center of the board, then on your third move play the big cross piece as near to the center of the board as you can. Then radiate out in all directions. Using this tactic ive observed that by the end of most games i dont generally dominate any one region of the board, but my pieces have infiltrated all my opponents territories like a virus across the whole board.

john m

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