Gourmet Club Bowls: the Trophy Guide
The Gourmet Club Bowls game has been around for quite a while now and while there have been a few guides on it, I personally feel that most of them do not offer the information that is necessary to have a chance at getting a high score, let alone a trophy. This guide is here to (hopefully) change that.
First of all, let me start be saying that if you're reading this, you are reading my first game guide ever to be published in the Neopian Times. This is not because I am bad at all other games but more so because I feel you cannot write a good game guide without having a very comprehensive knowledge of what the game is about. My personal standard is that I want to have a gold trophy in a game before I write a guide on it, so for the time being this will be my only guide thus far. Also be advised that this guide will assume you already have a fair amount of experience with the game and have possibly read some of the aforementioned starter guides. I will for example not be telling you HOW to play certain shots (e.g. how far in the red the meter should be, etc.). All I will do is provide new strategies to improve your game with to trophy level; practicing them will be up to you.
Now on to the game itself. First of all, before every game we need to use a secret code to have any chance at all at getting a trophy, as it will double our scores. Why did the Neopets team put this in the game? I have no idea. It doesn't really add anything in my opinion. Anyway, after you load the game, click the main screen once (for some people the click may not be necessary but for me it is), and then type "shepherd" to enable the code. Your game should automatically start (if it doesn't, reload and try again).
Now, Gourmet Club Bowls is a strategy game in every sense of the word. You don't have to have incredible multi-tasking abilities, superhuman reflexes, or uncanny puzzle and math abilities to get a trophy in this game, but you do need a very sound strategic mind and knowledge. This game is also one of the few on Neopets where luck plays almost no factor whatsoever. There are no bowls which give out more points than others, no random time boosts (or time limits for that matter). The only way in which you can get lucky in this game is if your artificially controlled opponent accidentally helps you. Also, you CANNOT have bad luck in this game, something I find extremely appealing about it. If you lose, it's because of a mistake you made; if you win it's because of your skill. However, to get a trophy, it will not be enough simply to defeat your opponents. No, you will have to defeat your opponents giving no more than about 8 points away in the entire tournament. That's roughly what it takes for a bronze trophy at the beginning of the month. To get a gold one, you're going to need a perfect or near perfect score.
Now I myself have only managed a perfect score once so far and it is very, very hard, but hopefully with this guide you'll be able to get closer to it than you did before.
First, let's go through some terminology, some of which is my own and some of which is derived from games such as curling to which this game is actually pretty similar.
I'll begin with some basic terms and strategies now and then go through each opponent introducing more complex strategies as I go along as appropriate to counter each opponent's playing style.
Frame / End : "Frame" is a term from snooker and "end" is a term from curling among other sports. I will be using the term "frame" in this guide because people sometimes find "end" confusing. A frame or end consists of 4 bowls being played by both players. After both players have played 4 bowls, the player whose bowls are closest to the jack will be awarded points equal to the amount of bowls he has that are closer to the jack than the closest bowl of his opponent.
Having the last bowl in a frame is usually an advantage as you will know exactly what type of shot you have to play to score one or hopefully more points.
However, because the player who scored points in the last frame will go first in the next frame, you will usually be going first.
Jack Height: A term used to indicate a bowl's position in relation to the position of the jack. If you draw an imaginary straight vertical line through the jack from the north side to the south side of the field, that line will indicate jack height. Any bowl on the left side of it will be "past jack height". Make sure you understand this concept before continuing as I will be using it a lot.
The Draw: The draw is the most fundamental of shots. It is the shot where you simply try to get your bowl at the spot where you want it. This will usually be close to the jack, but there are other, more strategic types of draws which I will discuss later. A draw is never meant to remove an opponent's stone from the playing field or knock it out of the way, because that would be...
The Take-out: Both draw and take-out are terms I have conveniently borrowed from curling. A take-out is a type of shot where you want to knock your opponent's bowl (or bowls) out of the playing field or at the very least out of the way. As with draws, there are also different kinds of take-outs.
Now make sure you understand these basic terms because I will be using them throughout the rest of the article. If you understand them and feel you're ready to continue, let's move on to the strategy section for each specific opponent. Unfortunately I will not have screenshots at my disposal in this article which makes explaining strategies harder but I'll do my best. Before each opponent I'll write a short summary of which new shots and which new strategies I'll discuss. You can assume that these will be very useful in defeating that particular opponent. So without further ado, here is:
New shots: none
New strategies: Three-side Surround
Your game plan: Sir Hefferton is first and obviously easiest of all opponents and to have any shot at getting a high score, you need to defeat him 7-0. The most reliable way of doing this is through a strategy which I call the Three-side Surround, which involves the following steps:
From what I can tell, when you start the game you will always play the first bowl against Sir Hefferton, so play your first bowl directly in front of the jack as close to it as possible. If you leave it a little short, that's fine, but make sure your bowl and the jack are on the same horizontal line so that Sir Hefferton can no longer play his first bowl immediately in front of the jack but has to play it above or below the jack instead (Sir Hefferton never plays take-outs).
For your next two bowls, play one above and one below the jack so that the jack is now "surrounded" with your bowls. If one of Sir Hefferton's bowls is already on either side, play a straight take-out (also called a nose-hit) on it. That way your bowl stays in play at or close to the spot where Sir Hefferton's bowl was before.
You can play your fourth bowl on either side; just play it as close to the jack as possible and make sure you don't play it too fast. You don't want to accidentally take out one of your own bowls or worse, the jack.
If you execute this strategy properly, Sir Hefferton (seeing how he plays no take-outs) won't have a clue what to do with his fourth bowl and will probably just put it at an insignificant place, giving you three or four points.
Just repeat this strategy each frame to beat him 7-0.
New shots: Spinshot
New strategies: Tipping the Jack
Your game plan: The differences between this level and round one are that Lord Briartree plays better draws and that there's a banana in the middle of the field, opening up a lot more strategic possibilities. Your general game plan, however, will be the same as in round 1, namely to surround the jack with your bowls on 3 sides.
If the jack is not behind the banana, simply repeat the strategy from round 1. Lord Briartree plays fairly precise draws, however, so it may be more difficult to defeat him than Sir Hefferton. If you're having trouble you can try a new strategy which I call "tipping the jack". The idea is to use your first bowl to hit the jack in such a way so that it rolls behind the banana. Since you'll have to hit the jack at a precise angle and speed, this may require some practice but it's well worth it.
The advantage of this is that Lord Briartree (or any of the first 5 opponents for that matter) cannot play spinshots (explained below) which means you'll always have a major edge when the jack is behind an obstacle.
If the jack is behind the banana at the start of the frame, it will be more difficult to play a bowl directly in front of the jack. That's where the Spinshot comes in.
If you read any other Gourmet Club Bowls guides you should already know what this is and be able to use it. By playing a spinshot your bowl will not only travel in a horizontal line but also upwards or downwards depending on the kind of spin you used. If you can't play a proper spinshot, just practice until you can. It's one of the most vital shots in the game and it will make a lot of matches a lot easier (not to mention you're never ever going to beat Mr. Rouge without them).
Anyway, the idea is to use your first bowl to play a spinshot so that your bowl ends up on the same horizontal line as the jack again. If the banana is too close to the jack, play a bowl as close behind the jack as possible instead.
From there proceed by playing bowls above and below the jack the same way as you did against Sir Hefferton. Lord Briartree won't take them out (though he may move them slightly on occasion). You should be able to beat him 7-0 pretty easily this way. However, don't be embarrassed if he steals a point away from you with a surprisingly good last draw; it happens on occasion.
New shots: none
New strategies: quadruple take-out
Your game plan: Exactly the same as against Lord Briartree. There will be two obstacles now, a banana and a hole in the ground, but they'll be a fair distance away from one another, so you only need to concern yourself with the one the jack is behind. Just do exactly what you did against Lord Briartree and you'll be fine, although you may score one or two points less each frame because Lord Grumps does occasionally play slow take-outs.
If this bothers you, you can opt for an alternative faster but MUCH riskier strategy.
Quadruple take-out: This simple but risky strategy only works on the first frame against Doctor Grumps. Contrary to your previous two opponents, Doctor Grumps will play the first bowl when you start playing him. Since he doesn't play spinshots, this means that if you can simply take-out all four of his bowls and keep all four of your inside the field (no matter where), you'll automatically get a 4 point lead on your opponent. Very useful but if you miss one take-out, there's a good chance this strategy is ruined and you may end up scoring only one point or even worse, none.
If properly executed, either strategy will defeat Doctor Grumps 7-0 as he is still not that hard.
New shots: the Defensive Draw
New strategies: conservative play
Your game plan: Mr. Bluster is MUCH harder than Doctor Grumps. His draws are far more precise, he plays regular slow take-outs, and he also occasionally plays shots which bounce from the side to avoid obstacles. He still does not, however, play spinshots.
To defeat Mr. Bluster 7-0 you will still roughly be playing the surround strategy, but much more conservatively this time. Do not try to defeat him in two frames, as this will most likely not work. Instead, focus on scoring one or two points each frame.
I find that, although there will be several obstacles in the field against Mr. Bluster, the jack will often not be behind one at the start. Use this to your advantage and play your first bowl directly in front of the jack like you normally would. Do NOT try to tip the jack unless you are very confident in your spinshot because otherwise Mr. Bluster will probably play a shot that bounces off one of the sides to avoid the obstacle and end up with a bowl directly in front of the jack, which will be very hard to remove.
If you played your bowl properly in front of the jack, Mr. Bluster will either play his above or below it, or use the sidebounce shot described above to try and knock your bowl out of the way. If he succeeds at either option and his bowl is now closer to the jack than yours, you're in for a rough frame as you'll have to either play an even better draw or take-out his bowl before proceeding to the next part of the strategy (and there will be little space to do either).
Once you're in the situation where it is your turn to play and one of your bowls is closest to the jack, it's time to start playing Defensive Draws.
This is a very, very short shot with hardly any power on it which only purpose is to block your opponent's path to where he wants to play (usually to the jack).
Ideally a defensive draw will only end up at about a quarter of the field length making it impossible for your opponent to play around it.
An ideal way for you to keep your opponent from scoring in higher levels is to play your first bowl in front of the jack and then spend the rest of your bowls laying Defensive draws blocking every single path your opponent has to get to the jack. This will even work against high level opponents' spinshots if you know which side they'll be played from.
Why this strategy is called conservative play should be obvious. We're not playing to score 3 or 4 points per frame but instead we play to keep our opponents from scoring and clinch one or maybe two points ourselves. Not very attractive but very efficient and you will most likely need this to defeat Mr. Bluster 7-0. If you don't, don't get mad.
Sometimes Mr. Bluster finds a path you hadn't considered and plays an excellent sidebounce shot on his last move. It's annoying but it happens.
New shots: none
New strategies: none
Your game plan: Believe it or not, Mr. Black is FAR easier than Mr. Bluster. Where Mr. Bluster has a wide variety of shots he can throw, this Grarrl's game is actually very one-dimensional, which is why you will not need to learn any new strategies to defeat him. Simply put:
If the jack is not behind an obstacle, Mr. Black will play a draw if you have no bowls in play or play a (VERY fast) take-out on one of your bowls if you do have bowls in play that he can reach.
If you have bowls in play that Mr. Black can NOT reach, he is completely and utterly helpless as he cannot play spinshots and his sidebounce shots will more often than not be blocked by one of the many bananas/holes on the field.
You will play first, so the key is once again to play your first bowl very close to the jack in the same horizontal line so that if Mr. Black were to play one of his hyperspeed take-outs, he would knock the jack out of play instead (giving you 2 points). Needless to say he will not do that. Instead, he will try to play a draw somewhere and his draws are BAD, mainly because of the large amount of obstacles.
Also, contrary to Mr. Bluster, tipping the jack is an extremely effective strategy against Mr. Black.
If the jack starts out behind an obstacle, it's even easier. Just play a spinshot as close to the jack as possible. Because of the sheer amount of obstacles and Mr. Black's inability to play a spinshot you have a fairly large margin of error here.
Simply continue applying the previous strategies and Mr. Black should not be hard at all. The only way he should be able to score against you is if he gets a lucky banana-hit or plays a very good sidebounce shot (both of which are rare).
New shots: Shot Promotion, Hit-and-Roll
New strategies: none
Your game plan: This is where it gets really hard. Lord Splunch is a rather cranky looking Elephante with access to all shots in the book, including spinshots. The only shot I've never seen him play is the sidebounce shot, probably because he doesn't need it. Also, the many bananas and holes on the field will be placed very sneakily in this level so that often there will be a direct albeit extremely tight path to the jack, something Lord Splunch will take full advantage of by playing immaculate draws in front of the jack that are very hard to remove.
So let's get on with the game plan. First of all, if the jack is definitely behind an obstacle (look closely for this), leave it there. Play a good spinshot and if it's good it will probably stay there (whether the jack will too is a different matter altogether, but I'll get to that later). Lord Splunch will now probably try to play a spinshot as well. If his is closer, you'll need to play a better shot. If yours is still closer, immediately begin laying defensive draws blocking the paths (probably one or two) Lord Splunch can use to spin his bowls through. That should be enough to clinch the frame.
The majority of the time, however, the jack will not be directly behind an obstacle. Just playing a draw on the same horizontal line as the jack will not be enough to win the frame this time, although you should still open with it. Contrary to previous opponents, Lord Splunch will now most likely play a slow semi-takeout on your bowl (with either a straight or a spinshot), pushing both it and especially the jack back a little. Hopefully your bowl will still be closer (it should be if you played a good opening draw) but the jack will now most likely be be somewhere near the bottom of a banana making it impossible to play a bowl directly in front of it without hitting the banana. Simply playing defensive draws won't be enough either most of the time. Instead we have two good options now, both of which are new.
First of all, we can "promote" our own first bowl to move closer to the jack again. This is accomplished by playing a slower version of a take-out hitting our own bowl so that it moves just enough as to become unreachable for Lord Splunch, preferably behind an obstacle. It's sort of like tipping the jack, only now we're tipping our bowl instead. If you practice (you will have to, because hitting bowls at a precise angle and speed is difficult at best), you can get bowls very closely behind obstacles this way, making it impossible for Splunch to remove them and almost guaranteeing you the frame win.
The second option is to instead play a hit-and-roll on Splunch's bowl. The hit-and-roll is a take-out shot, which automatically makes it the riskiest of the two options, but if it works, it's beautiful. Not only will his bowl be safely out of the way so that he can't promote it (yes, Lord Splunch uses that strategy as well), your bowl will be safely behind an obstacle as well.
To play a hit-and-roll, hit your opponent's bowl on either the bottom or the topside, depending on which way you want to roll. Getting the precise speed and angle right is probably one of the hardest things you can do in this game. It is very easy to make your bowl roll too far, not at all or even have it miss entirely. At the moment of writing I myself still only get about 55% of my hit-and-rolls to end up where I want them to. I just mention it because it's so cool when it works. If you execute it properly, your opponent's bowl will be knocked out of the way (though probably not out of the field) and your bowl will "roll" directly behind the jack and the obstacle in front of it, making both nigh untouchable.
Lastly, note that I only recommend this strategy against Lord Splunch. It is too risky to use in earlier rounds (except maybe as a desperate last resort) and not nearly as effective against Mr. Rouge in general because there will seldom be a direct path to the jack in between the obstacles.
One you achieve the situation where both the jack and one of your bowls are safe from Lord Splunch, you can play Defensive Draws to finish or if you're in a more aggressive mood, you can try to get another bowl in. Be careful with that, though. Lord Splunch is an expert in promoting his own bowls or using your bowls to move either your hard-to-reach shots or the jack (so that it rolls closer to his bowl again).
Defeating Lord Splunch 7-0 will usually be very, very hard. However, 7-1 or even 7-2 might not be completely disastrous depending on how many points you let slip against earlier opponents. If you manage to defeat him with good numbers, there is only one last obstacle standing between you and a high score...
New shots: Spinning Take-out
New strategies: Catching the jack
Your game plan: Right, here we are against the big bad boss, a Scorchio with the mysterious name of Mr. Rouge. And he's no pushover either. Nevertheless the strategy and game plan is considerably simpler here than against Lord Splunch for one very simple reason: there will never be a straight path to the jack in this level. There are obstacles littered across the entire mid section, meaning this, simply put, is going to be spinbattle. Whoever spins the most accurate shots will win. I advise spinning across either the very top or the very bottom of the field. You will need to get two or sometimes even three pips on the spin meter to get enough spin on the bowl but at least your bowls won't hit any obstacles that way.
Anyway, to beat Mr. Rouge, ironically the most effective strategy is exactly the same as on the very first level. Surround the jack. Of course this will be far more difficult because Mr. Rouge's draws are ridiculously accurate and he will occasionally even play spinning take-outs, but if you can somehow get bowls above, below and in front of the jack you will have won the frame, so that will be your primary goal each time (if you do manage to get a game winning position, you may also start seeing Mr. Rouge play appallingly bad straight draws all of a sudden as if he no longer knows what to do. If that happens, try getting more bowls in as he will no longer be a threat).
Since his draws are often so accurate, a sound strategy can be to "catch the jack". What I mean by this is using your first bowl to play a draw somewhat behind and preferably a little above or below the jack as well. Ideally that draw will also block either the upper or the lower route to the jack so that Mr. Rouge only has one option remaining. If you play it correctly, frequently he'll go for the blocked side and hit your bowl, pushing it closer to the jack and leaving you free to draw another bowl on the other side of the jack.
However, if he goes for the open side you still have the option remaining of either promoting your existing bowl or "catching the jack". What I mean by that is spinning a bowl from the opposite side as your first one, hitting this jack itself so that it moves towards the other bowl you already had in play, "catching" it so to speak. If executed properly this will also result in a surrounding of the jack.
As a last resort you may opt for a spinning take-out if Mr. Rouge simply hasn't left you with any other options. This may be a single or a double take-out, but either will be extremely difficult. To try it, go to the very top or bottom of the screen, hold a straight line (instead of pointing in the opposite direction of the direction you want to spin in as usual) and get the speed meter in the red (though not to the maximum). Hopefully your bowl will hit at exactly the right angle and knock out Mr. Rouge's bowl, but be advised: this is even more difficult than the hit-and-roll and I only recommend it if there is absolutely no other option left open.
So there we are. Hopefully with this strategic advice you will be able to get a high score or even better a trophy. And make sure to drop me a Neomail if it helped you to do so or if you have any questions. Not being able to use screenshots is a serious barrier for this guide. You really need to play the game to understand and get a feeling for certain situations so that you can play the best shot. Most of all, have fun with the game. This isn't a game people play to rapidly get 3000 neopoints a day. It's rather time consuming and if you're not having fun, you are reducing your chances of getting a high score. In fact, when I got my only perfect score so far, it was also one of the few times I wasn't even playing to get a high score. I just felt like playing. So have fun and remember to clean up those bananas when you're done!