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Blocking Vex: A Guide to Cellblock


by sicillan_killer

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Introduction:

After the Specter of Lord Darigan was defeated for good and peace returning to Meridell, Neopians and their pets alike everywhere are enjoying the well deserved peace. Well, almost everyone. Master Vex, the warden of Darigan Citadel, has been a hardened warrior for a lifetime, and with the sudden peace, he was nearly put out of a job.

Currently working as the warden of the Darigan prison, his incredible boredom led him to the game Cellbock. Due to his new found generosity inspired by sheer boredom, he is currently offering a chance for any Neopian to challenge him in it for a hefty sum of neopoints, as well as a shiny new trophy for their display case. In this guide, I will attempt to explain how the game of Cellblock is played, various strategies, and most importantly, the correct mindset when approaching it.

Objective:

The primary objective of the game is to place 5 of your pieces adjacent to each other vertically, horizontally, or diagonally before your opponent accomplishes the same. With that said, the outcome of the game is determined when either of the players accomplishes the objective said above, or when there are no more spaces left on the 10X10 game board to place additional pieces, in which case your opponent automatically wins by default. Simple enough, right? Not so much; if it was, I wouldn’t be writing this guide now, would I? :-P

Strategy- Tournaments 1-10:

There are several important strategic concepts that one must understand in order to be successful at Cellblock.

1. It's not 5, it's 4: the most basic way of winning a game of Cellblock is to put 4 pieces together open ended, meaning that an enemy piece (or the edge of the game board) is not blocking either of the end pieces. In such a scenario, victory is guaranteed as by the time your opponent blocks one of the ends of your line, you can place a piece on the other end to complete 5.

2. 3 and 3: the next most common way of winning is by completing 2 rows of 3 in a lines with one single piece, or in other words, two lines of 3s perpendicular to each other. In this case, you opponent can only block one of your lines of 3, which gives you the chance to complete the open ended 4, and thus winning the game.

3. Closed 4: So you had an open ended 3 and you opponent blocked one end of it when you put down the 3rd piece in the line, and now what do you do? In this extremely common scenario, resist the urge to put down a 4th piece in a row because it will most certainly be blocked before you can complete the 5. Instead, leave the 3 as it is and try to use the pieces to form lines in another direction. When you do this, it puts you on the offense and your opponent on the defense, and eventually, with a little bit of luck, you will be able to complete 2 closed 4s with one single piece. In this case, realize that you have won the game because even though both of your 4s are blocked on end, your opponent will only get one turn to block you, which leaves you free to complete the other line.

4. Place your pieces in the same general proximity of each other. It is completely pointless to place a piece far away from most of your other pieces in attempt to start a new line elsewhere; it will most certainly be blocked long before it connects 5. Instead, look closely at the cluster of both yours and your opponent’s pieces for any holes, and pick the most strategic one either in the middle or near the outskirts. This allows you to create more than one line at a time with a single piece, and thus giving you opponent a much harder time defending.

Strategy- Tournaments 11 and Beyond:

After tournament 10, the game undergoes a radical change in the sense that instead of starting with a clean board with four pieces forming an X square in the middle, the board becomes filled with several pieces of rocks and carries no pieces from either player by default. The general strategy for tournaments 11 and beyond is the same as those of the previous 10 tournaments, but with some minor adjustments.

1. Get away from the rocks if you can! The rocks appear in random and often unfortunate spots on the board. Due to the fact that if the board is filled up with no clear winner, the opponent will win by default, the rocks are a much bigger inconvenience to the player than to the opponent.

2. This generally tends to tip the game in favor of the opponent, and thus a speedy victory is even more crucial.

3. Be aware of the rocks and their effects on your strategy. Rocks can really in a sense be viewed as opponent pieces, because although the opponent cannot use them to connect 5, they certainly limit your own possibilities in the same ways as an opponent’s piece.

4. Since there are no pieces for either player at the beginning of the game, locate the area on the map furthest away from clusters of rocks that will most likely provide the player the best chance for a speedy victory. However, it is unwise to start at an area too close to the edge of the board, as the rocks are much easier to avoid in comparison.

Mindset:

Although understanding strategies and knowing what to look for generally offers an advantage in Cellblock, the most important part of the game plan is having the correct attitude towards the game. Cellblock is not a game that can be successfully played passively, one will find the most success by constantly being on the offense, such as consistently forming open ended 3s, for example. By doing so, you put the opponent on defense, and since they must waste their turns constantly blocking you, their likelihood of forming any of the situations listed in the Strategy section decreases drastically as their pieces will more often than not be far away from each other. Another reason the player must be aggressive is due to the fact that by design, the game ends with the opponent’s victory if all 100 squares of the board are completely filled, and thus the longer the game goes on, the less it favors the player. However, one cannot attack blindly in hopes of a blunder from the opponent, and one must be very attentive of the defenses the opponent is putting up, as it is very easy to get wrapped up in one’s own offense and get caught off guard by the opponent’s counter attack. Each individual move should always be assessed for its potential benefits and risks, and the player’s mind should always be focused on not the next immediate move, but 2 or 3 moves later.

Of course, there are always situations where the opponent forces you onto defense, and usually there are only 1 or 2 places you can move, one end of his line or the other. It is absolutely essential to consider the pros and cons of both ends of the line, because you always want to not only defend against his attacks, but turn the tables on him as quickly as possible. Just like any game, the luck factor is undeniable in Cellblock. However, one should never make a move in hopes of getting lucky. The player should always bear the mindset to welcome luck as an ally to help win the game faster, but never depend on it to win the game in the first place.

Conclusion:

As a wise man once said, “persistence is the key to success.” This statement indeed holds true to the game of Cellblock. Hopefully this guide has helped you in some small way in understanding it, and I have no doubt that you will soon be well on your way to earning your brand new trophy from this great game.

 
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