A number of peoples have asked me recently about sword fighting strategies, and specifically, how I (and members of the Black Death crew) am capable of creating big attacks in duels. I told those people that I would make a post on the forum, listing my own strategies and opinions on dueling. Unfortunately I have been abit lazy and only just gotten around to it. A brief disclaimer however; If people aren?t interested in this topic =P instead of posting useless comments please take your flames elsewhere.
In my opinion there are three areas that a person can work on to improve their dueling, those being speed, chaining and having the ability to build with the pieces your opponent sends you. In this first post I would like to concentrate on chaining. When dueling my own game is based around chaining, and firing off quick combinations of chains in succession.
A chain is an arrangement of blocks that fall in such a way as to trigger a sequence of separate breaks. To create chains the idea is to visualize how your pieces will fall, and to try to conserve most of your breakers and place them so that they can be used for later? This is best explained with a screenshot:
In the above screenshot the red breaker is the piece that will trigger the chains. This red breaker will remove the red block in the 3rd left column. That will lead to a yellow breaker falling into yellow blocks, which will then cause two red breakers to hit each other, and finish with 7 green blocks falling into a green breaker. In games I consistently go for triples (3 step) and occasionally bingo (4 step) chains. In my personal opinion anything above a bingo is overkill =) and such a degree of greed will get you killed against any decent opponent who will try to bury your chain.
Many people can do easy chains, where they break a single block with a breaker, however in a duel these chains are almost useless because they send few if any sprinkles. Due do you way blocks are multiplied in Puzzle Pirates, triggering more blocks later in a chain, will result in the blocks receiving a higher multiplier which will send a much bigger attack. If you don?t understand there are numerous other threads, which discuss this point.
To give yourself the best chance of pulling of chains in a duel, the most important thing is to try to preserve your breakers. As most people know breakers are the clear colored pieces that remove blocks of the same color when placed against them. In each game you can preserve breakers by burying them either below or on top of stacks of blocks.
The simplest way of preserving breakers is shown in the above screenshot. In this case the breakers are placed on top of each column. By triggering the greens, a further group of yellows and two red breakers result in a triple chain. Should one or two layers of sprinkles be sent the chain can also be started by removing the red breaker in the third right column. Preserving breakers in this manner is a simple way of chaining, and gives you a better chance of counter attacking an opponent?s swords or sprinkles. One major problem with this method of preserving breakers is that any vertical swords which land in the 3 Right columns will destroy the breakers and with them possibly the chain. This problem is combined with the annoying fact that enemies vertical swords will almost always land in columns that have exposed on top breakers.
In the next screenshot, if you look on the left side, the yellow breaker is buried under a number of green and yellow blocks. In my opinion this is a much safer way of preserving breakers. The only possible way for this breaker to be destroyed is with a horizontal a sword landing in the 3rd and forth row. The reason the yellow is safe, is because horizontal swords occur rarely in duels and are much harder to place. Only extremely good sword fighters (such as Ursela) are capable of consistently destroying breakers with horizontal swords.
Again if you look at the above screen you should notice on the right side that the important green and red breaker are buried under a number blocks. This will protect them for small 1*4 swords, which are most often breaker killers. By adopting simple strategies like this, it is much harder for an opponent to ruin your chain or bury you. You also give yourself multiple ways to trigger a chain, which allows you to adapt in sword fights.
The process I use for building a chain is shown in the above screenshot. Firstly I try place a number of single color blocks in the 2nd and 3rd right column. The reason for this is that these blocks can be placed extremely quickly and will only require brief rotations before you place them. It is slightly faster to place blocks in this column then it would be to place them on the far left column. Also there is a reduced chance of vertical swords landing in these middle columns making it a moderately safe place to build.
I then try to mass a second color on the far left side. In the current screenshot I can mass either green of red in this area, depending on the pieces still to come. One thing to remember is that this rule is not written in stone. Often you will need to break at least one of the stacks in an effort to keep my board clean. An example of this is shown in the screenshot below where the yellows have become bothersome and hard to chain with. Rather then wasting more yellows, it?s much smarter to get rid of these pieces and build up again.
One of the biggest mistakes people make when chaining, is that they build up far to high. The two screenshots below are examples of such cases. The higher you build the easier it is for an opponent to put you away, and the more dependant you become on getting a lucky breaker. Whilst sometimes you may get the lucky breaker more often then not you will end up dying. In the screenshot dirrectly below a lucky breaker comes, where as for the second screenshot there is no lucky breaker, and I end up losing. The most effective size for a chain is for it to cover half the length of the screen. Any chain above 2-3 of the screen is extremely risky and should be avoided.
The final point I wish to talk about is my own chaining strategy. Rather then create one big chain, I find it is more effective to create two chains and to set them off in quick succession. The idea is hit your opponent in a quick combination, before they have time to break the pieces used in your first chain. Again this is best explained with an example:
In this game after having build up half my screen, I now try to attack. Please notice that by placing my yellow piece next to a breaker I set off a three-part chain of yellows, reds and blues. This chain leaves the entire left half of my screen intact, which I will use for my second chain. Had I placed the blue piece of top of the yellow it would have cause a connection between my blues on the left and right side, even though this would have made for a bigger chain it would have ruined my efforts to create a second attack. By chaining this way I preserve the chain on the left of my screen, which I will try to use next.
The second screenshot is taken around 5 pieces after the first. By quickly building up in the 3rd right column, I am ready to trigger off my second chain. This chain will be a three-part chain of green, red and blue. My opponent has had no time to recover and get down from the first chain, but he has already been pushed up even higher and has again been separated from his pieces. This one, two combination frustrates an opponent, and will often trap them at the top of screen, making them easy to put away.
Hopefully this will be of some help to people =). At a future date I?ll try to post some more strategies.