Thursday, 28 May 2009

How to Not Completely Fail… at Hexic

A Guest Article by Funk

OK, I don’t purport to be a Hexic master myself but I know there are a few people out there who don’t know where to start and might appreciate some pointers on how to get going. Hexic can seem more complicated than it actually is at first and if you’re having trouble making your first black pearl or even your first starflower, maybe my ‘common sense’ guide to maximising your potential might be able to help. I wanted to just write some basic tips that I know would have helped me when I started playing.

My Philosophies

Funk’s Basic Philosophies
The following musings are I believe major factors in eventually becoming a master at Hexic. I am following these myself and my own skills have progressed. I look at a Hexic board completely differently now to when I started playing and although I do still make mistakes I am making consistently higher scores all the time.

1. Hexic is not a game you can play quickly. You must have patience, so take your time and consider every single move you make, like you would in Chess. Also, it can take hours to build a big score so don’t make rash moves. Take regular breaks if necessary. You can even quit the game and come back to it without losing your progress, take advantage of this feature as I find coming back with a fresh perspective can help you out in the long run.

2. While learning about Hexic keep it simple. Your first goal should simply be to know how to move pieces around in order to make a single starflower. So forget about high scores and black pearls for a while, just practice. Once you are adept at making one star you can move on to making and manoeuvring multiple stars. Then as your skills improve your goal will change again from making starflowers to producing black pearls. Then you can make some really big scores and win the game by making a black pearl cluster.

3. Never make a move unless it’s part of a planned sequence and you know or are at least 80% sure of what will happen next. Play the game in your head first. There is nothing worse than thinking you have your next star or pearl made and then when you make the ‘killer’ move in a sequence something completely unexpected happens and you’re back to square one. Avoid this catastrophe by planning carefully because being back at square one can often be more detrimental than you may think. Making a big mistake can knock your confidence. If that happens step back for a while.

4. Grasshopper say “Don’t try to run before you can walk. Patience and planning is the only way.”

Some basic strategies
Always try to create your first stars in the centre or upper middle area of the board. This is a good springboard and makes it easier to keep control of the board and only destroy the clusters that you want to destroy. Obviously this will not always be possible - sometimes you will be forced to make moves lower down if only to change the layout of the board if you run out of good moves.

Try to avoid making moves and destroying clusters in the lower area of the board as this will have a knock-on effect at the top. More random pieces will fall and you might build up long strings of worthless combos that don’t do your score-making potential any good whatsoever. In the early levels, avoid chaining large useless combos by only destroying clusters at the upper area of the board.

Your best chance of making a really high score is by having a large number of starflowers on the board before you reach the level 4 - 5 mark. From there onwards it becomes more difficult to make starflowers and consequently black pearls are harder too. This is because there are more colours on the board (meaning less pieces of any one colour) and also more bombs to contend with. Once you start seeing pink and dark green pieces on the board, things begin to get tricky so if you only have a few starflowers (3, 4 or 5) on the board at that point, it’s going to be very hard work to build up enough more to make a decent score.

Don’t waste time when you see a bomb. A bomb at the wrong time can ruin everything. Focus entirely on getting rid of it. In the early levels you get nine moves to get rid of a bomb so you have slightly more freedom to move your pieces around whilst still maintaining control of the board. Later in the game it becomes more difficult to remove bombs in six moves or less so at times you have to sacrifice some of your hard work. Never think you can get rid of the bomb later, or ‘after I’ve done this first’ unless you have planned the moves carefully and are at least 80% sure where every piece will land. I say 80% because there will always be new pieces dropping down from the top that you can’t see yet.

Never mix special coloured star pieces with bombs. Removing all of one colour can ruin the whole layout of the board and set you back many moves. Only if you have already lost control of the board should you bother doing this, otherwise you risk dropping perfectly placed starflowers or pearls out of play and to the bottom of the board.

When you have a few starflowers reasonably spaced around the board, use them wisely to reposition more pieces and make more starflowers. Don’t rush to create a black pearl, wait until you have at least 10 to 16 starflowers on the board before you use up 6 to make a pearl, that way you can continue manoeuvring the other pieces around easily to continue making even more starflowers.

Wherever possible, make a new starflower around another starflower. The existing starflower will only drop down a little way while a new starflower will drop in from the top of the board. This is one of the easier ways of making starflowers because when you have two or three in close proximity you can use them like ‘cogs’ turning each one to exchange the coloured pieces from one ‘cog’ to the next.

Keeping between 10 and 18 starflowers on the board is the way to go. If you get to 18, try and make a pearl. The remaining 12 plus the pearl are more than enough to arrange pieces to create more.

Basic starflower
Look at the board and try to locate three pieces of one colour together in a kind of U shape. There will always be one somewhere and if you’re lucky it’ll be in the middle or upper middle of the board. This is the ideal place to get a starflower because you have half of it made for you. Look around that area and see where the colours you need are and think about how you can go about moving them into position. Often there will be a piece that you need nearby but you’ll have no means to move it. Sometimes you have to destroy other clusters above the piece you need to bring down other pieces you haven’t seen yet. The important thing is not to rush into making a move without purpose. You can and will get those pieces you need.

Moving 1 starflower using another
When you have two starflowers together this is great. It is very easy to move them both to anywhere else on the board, just be careful that the path you take doesn’t destroy useful clusters or start chains of unwanted combos. You can use two starflowers together to go and collect a coloured piece from one side of the board and easily take it to another position where it can be used on another cog.
Choose which starflower is to become the centre of the cog, turn it until the one branching off is facing the direction you want to go in. Then simply highlight the branching one which now becomes the centre of the cog and turn again repeating the process until you get where you want to go. This is how to travel across the board. You can also do this with three and more starflowers but this requires more moves and takes longer to set up. I’ll add a picture for three or more starflowers next time I get into that spot.

Place starflowers equidistantly apart using the above method but so that they interconnect with either one or two pieces. This is your best tool in the game. It’s easily the best way to churn out loads more starflowers. Think of the starflowers like interlinking cogs, and by turning the linked cogs clockwise and anti-clockwise you can move a piece from one cog to the next.