Tash Kalar

Mastery of the board game Tash Kalar has not come easily to me.

In fact, to be honest, it has not yet come at all.

I play against my sister a lot online, and she picked the game up really quickly, and has become a very good player. I, however, after about twenty games, still regularly found myself losing to novices; so it was at that point that I decided to start researching the game properly. I went through all the websites and forums that I could find, looking for tips from people who claim that they understood the game. Information was hard to come by, and very spread out. But I did find some eventually. Some forum posts by an American called Alison Mandible were particularly useful, but there were others.

I tested out the strategies suggested, playing mostly online, and kept the ones I agreed with, dropping the ones that I could not make work. I even added a few of my own!

This page is a summary of what I have discovered works for me.

GENERAL TIPS FOR HIGH FORM:

  • Flares are very important. Be very wary of destroying an opponent’s pieces if it means they will be able to use a flare. Do not go more than 3 pieces or 2 upgraded pieces ahead unless you have a very good reason for doing so. It is usually best to be 2 or 3 pieces ahead, but it can be advantageous to allow yourself to fall behind (perhaps even destroying your own pieces) if it means you will be able to use a flare. Always play a flare if you can – there is no reason not to.
  • Keep your pieces together. If they are too spread out, you won’t be able to make the patterns you need. Furthermore, isolated pieces still count against you when it comes to flares, and they leave you vulnerable on certain tasks like… er… Isolation.
  • When choosing your first move, look at the tasks. The red and green squares are not evenly distributed across the board, so if the tasks include one of these, choose an area of the board that will make that easier. Alternatively, if the tasks are based around the centre, you might want to focus there. However, your opponent might do likewise, so ask yourself first if you think you can win a battle for the centre. Have you drawn cards that can be played quickly and can destroy your opponent’s pieces? If not, perhaps aim for a different task.
  • Look for synergies in the tasks. Sometimes if you complete one task you are half way to completing another task. For example, Red Summoning and Red Dominance, Line Dominance and Side Chain, Central Dominance and Centre Cross. These tasks should be top priority.
  • Control of the centre is often important. A lot of points are scored using the centre.
  • It is also a good idea to maintain a presence on red and green squares, even if the objective cards do not need them, because those will be worth some points sooner or later.
  • Work on the assumption that, most of the time, your opponent will slightly mess up your plans. Occasionally (maybe two or three times a game) they will not mess it up at all, and occasionally they will completely devastate your setup – however, when it comes to planning your next turn, you should work on the assumption that something will go slightly wrong before then, and have a contingency plan.
  • If your opponent does mess up your plan, avoid just ploughing ahead with the same strategy in the next turn – your opponent is likely to notice what you are trying to do and will try to stop you again. They are likely to be able to do this, because they are in a stronger position than you, having just had a successful move.
  • Don’t be afraid to use combat moves to move into empty spaces – don’t destroy a piece just because you can. If you are going to destroy a piece though:
  1. It is often best to remove the piece placed most recently by your opponent. They probably placed it there for a reason.
  2. Target their pieces in the middle, and on red and green squares
  3. Try to break up patterns and leave pieces isolated
  • Don’t forget about the option to discard. Sometimes it is the best thing to do if your cards are not good. It can also be a tactical decision to avoid placing a piece that might give your opponent a chance to use a flare.
  • Always be aware of all three tasks – do not focus on just one. Work towards whichever tasks you think you can get, and block your opponent if you can see what they are working towards. Many players focus on the three active tasks, but overlook the fourth one. Being poised to steal that fourth task as soon as it becomes active can be worth points.
  • Always claim a task if you can. Well, almost always – see the next bullet point. Also, I guess, there could be circumstances where there might be a strategic advantage in delaying a turn, but these are rare, and you run the risk of missing out on the opportunity to score points completely.
  • This final tip is a bit too long for the bullet-point format that I have selected, but I am committed to it now so I am going to stick with it. The tip is this – try to be the person who triggers the end of the game, because that person gets an extra turn.At the end of the game, when there are (usually) lots of pieces on the board, that extra turn can usually be converted into two or three (or maybe even four) points. Sometimes it is better to pass up the opportunity to score some points if it means depriving an opponent of the opportunity of getting to 9 first. For example, suppose the score is 6-6, and you can claim a 2 point task if you want to, but if you do, then a 3-pointer will come into play that your opponent will probably be able to claim. In this situation, it might be better not to claim the task – maybe try to summon a legend instead, let your opponent claim a two point task, then you can be the first to 9 in the following turn. Of course, this could backfire if your opponent summons a legend and scores 2 points, so you need to consider that too.

    There are a couple of other tricks I sometimes use to be the one who triggers the end, if I cannot do it in the obvious way:

  1. If it looks like my opponent is going to trigger the end of the game in the next turn, I will consider summoning a legend and destroying an opponent’s legend at the same time. This would give me +1 and my opponent -1, which is the same net result as claiming a +2 task, but in some circumstances it could leave my opponent unable to reach 9 after all.
  2. In defensive games, the cards can run out before anyone reaches 9 points. When it becomes apparent that this is could be the case, I pay attention to the number of cards each player has left. When the time comes, if I think it is to my advantage, I will consider playing a sub-optimal summoning (or even a discard action) to ensure that I am the one who draws the final card.    

 

COMMENTS ON INDIVIDUAL FACTIONS:

The Empires

According to the game’s creator:

Imperial

Some other tips I picked up:

  • Some of the patterns are awkward and require advance planning.
  • Do a little damage each turn to slow your opponent down.
  • Consider bluffing. Place the pattern for a hypnotist or a bomb in order to draw your opponent’s attention away from your main strategy.

 

Highland

According to the game’s creator:

Highland

Here are some further observations of my own:

  • Highland uses a lot of zig-zags
  • …but also a lot of cards need a row of three.
  • Highland has a lot of combat moves, which should sometimes be used to move pieces not just to destroy .
  • Highland is the only faction that specifically requires the use of red and green squares.
  • Try to set up patterns for certain cards in advance,  e.g. Werewolf and Ritual Master.
  • Highland’s sparse formations can easily be broken by an opponent who has flares, so do not get too far ahead.
  • In fact, Highland does not need as many pieces on the board as other factions, so Highland players can sometimes allow themselves to fall behind in order to use flares.
  • Highland has a lot of cards that can do combat leaps, multiple combat moves, or straight-out destroy an opponent’s pieces from a distance.

Sylvan

  • Place pieces as close as possible to your opponent, as you have the shortest attack range of the four factions.
  • Try to keep your pieces in one big mass with orthogonal adjacency.
  • Once your base is established, later in the game you should be able to summon Legends to wreak havoc on your opponent.

 

Expansion Factions

I have not played these.

 

RESULT:

So has all this research helped me?

Sort of.

I easily beat a newbie online yesterday. However, I am playing my sister again in a one-move-per day game, and she is still Tashing my Kalar!