Guest Contribution: The Most Important Pieces and the Problem with the Z5 (according to Mike_Yosuke)

By | November 30, 2013



When playing Blokus, it’s important to have a sense of the value and importance of the pieces. Some pieces are better for attacking moves, others for defending, some are great for cut-moves, others usually just for kiss moves. If you are able to balance which pieces you use by considering which pieces you will need later as well as the single best piece in a given spot, you will be able to get the maximum value from each of your pieces, not just the ones you use earlier in the game. The following is the list of the 4 most important pieces, in order, according to Mike_Yosuke. All of these pieces are flexible, and can serve multiple purposes when using them, though they have different qualities which make them so important.

4. The N5. This piece has great reach, and the ability to quickly move around an opponent’s corners, often blocking their most advanced corner in the process. At it’s best it quickly circles around the front edge of an opponent’s piece, pushing them back and completely changes the control of of one area of the board. Its length also makes it a great piece for connecting (or the threat of connecting). The N5 can also make great blocks, and has the potential to set up a 1-hole and 2-hole in sequence to defend your space really well. And unlike the L5, the only other piece with the same reach and connection capabilities, the N5 doesn’t have many natural leaks, and can often be played in such a way that it doesn’t leave any leaks at all.

3. The F5. This piece is all about defence, it is the block-master. It contains all of the L4, Z4, and T4 shapes, making it at useful block in many situations, and it is often the perfect piece to set up the blocks (almost always at least 2 blocks in one piece) you need to keep the pressure on your opponent. Even when this piece is used in attacking, its strength comes from being able to prevent counter-attacks at the same time. Add to all this that it has tons of corners and no natural leaks, and it’s clear why this piece makes the top 4.

2. The W5. This piece is the master of flexibility. It has the stairs shape built into it, allowing you to set up un-passable positions quickly, or to create a series of 1-holes in the same move. It also protects you from being forked, and can often end an opponent’s attack in a single play. On the other hand, the W5 is great when attacking as well, being a piece with maximum length, that allows you a quick, strong attack while preventing counter-attacks with ease. Again, this piece has no natural leaks, and creates tons of corners for you. In fact, the strength of the W can easily be missed because it is often used early in the game, but it gets used so often on the first 3 turns precisely because of how strong it is, and when you still have it after that, you can almost always find a great use for it.

1. The Y5. Of the top 4 pieces, this one actually has the biggest natural leak, but in practise that leak is almost never exposed, and the Y is completely safe. Also, it can set up great blocks, has lots of corners and is very powerful in connecting because it can connect while defending itself at the same time. But it’s true power is it’s speed when circling. It can be used as a cut move which can’t be cut-back, or a kiss move which has nearly as much power as a cut because of the easily defend-able corners. At it’s best it can command an entire side of the board by itself. And it is often the best piece for forking an opponent. When you’re using your Y5, you almost always get a great move out of it, but be careful to make sure that you’re really getting maximum value, because you’ve only got one of these per colour!


The problem with the Z5:

Many people might have wanted to put the Z5 on the above list as well, seeing that it has full length, no natural leaks, and seems like it can often set up a series of 2-holes, which can be just as effective as a series of 1-holes. But the problem with the Z5 is that as soon as you use it, the piece you want most is another Z5. It sets up perfect i2 holes on both sides, but the best piece to close them off is already gone – itself! If you’ve played a lot of games, pictures like the ones below probably seem familiar to you, and you may have spent a lot of time thinking about how strong the Z5 can be, and worrying that you just don’t know how to handle it properly. Well, good news, the problem is the Z5, not you!


This Blue player probably wants another Z5 to go right where the Green one is…




and this Yellow player could sure go for another Z5 where the Red one is…


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