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Created May 19, 2016 06:21
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Strategies I've picked up from a few games of Tak

4 x 4 Strategy

Because of the lack of capstones and ease at which a piece-out can be achieved, 4x4 is best played as an effort towards the secondary win conditions. This is especially true of the second to play. Always play an open piece unless by doing so you will guarantee a loss. Avoid capturing, only place.

In doing so, your opponent will likely try to capture your pieces. Encourage this, and place stones to bait them into further captures.


In and of itself, this is also a contingency plan towards a primary win by poisoning and weakening their stones. A black cap on multiple white stones can be recaptured at an opportune time to turn the tide of the game in a few well timed moves. This is especially true if you lure their larger towers together, forcing them to relinquish control over any of your nearby pieces.

TL;DR Tips

  • Aim to run out of pieces while luring your opponent into large weak towers for a primary win.

5 x 5

5x5, unlike 4x4, becomes a game of attrition of territory. While piecing out is still certainly a viable option, the risk is higher.

Primary strategy

As with the game Go, you should focus on securing territory wherever possible. Lane wins are easily blocked (corner to corner) in comparison to an extremely difficult to beat domination of the center.

If you can reliably hold the center spaces, do so. These spaces allow the most influence and mobility to other moves. If you really want to be a bother, get a strong capstone in the dead center (capstone on top of 1+ of your own pieces)

Reinforcement Patterns

In order to maintain your hold on the center, you're going to need to respond to inevitable threats. To do so, use reinforcement patterns to recapture lost stones.

The first is to have a secondary piece at the back of any critical section. This allows for recapture, but beware of an unwinnable trade.

Another is to form a square. A fully formed 2x2 square can be used to control an area and is very difficult to beat in a trade war.

While walls are typically used to halt your enemies progress, they can be used to secure your territory against invasion. A well placed wall can prevent a tower from plowing over your area.

The last, and riskiest, is to use your capstone to intimidate enemy pieces. A capstone in dead center presents a very annoying obstacle, but can make it inaccessible outside its immediate influence. Only use this if you must control an area.

Capture Patterns

Some times you need to be a bit clever to get a hold of an enemies piece in a critical section.

The first is by playing one of your own pieces outside the immediate influence of an opponents, normally diagonally from it. If no action is taken, play inside influence as bait.

Baiting and poisoning are another few interesting ones. To bait, you lead your opponent towards an area you control by feeding them stones. This poisons their stone, making a weak tower. Think of it as them handing you a lovely wrecking ball with which to wreak havoc if you get control back.

Sealing is when you take a capstone or wall to seal multiple enemy pieces and clear a small area. It's especially useful for breaking through a center blockade by your opponent.

Stealing from Gomoku / Renju

Gomoku is a game of connect-5 essentially without a 3d element. That being said, some of its win conditions can be transferred over to Tak.

Often times in Gomoku, winning involves making multiple wins possible with one stone. This includes open-ended 3 rows, and double-3s (which are illegal there but very useful here.)

The point of this is that those who think of only one win route will likely lose to a craftier player spinning a trap. Always have at least two routes to victory on the primary win condition. This also has the added benefit of not crippling you if the opponent has a well placed wall or capstone.

The other note of Gomoku is that the first to move has near complete advantage in the offensive. While not as prominent in Tak, the second move should assume a defensive stance until an opening occurs, normally the opponent failing to place a piece or making a poor move.

Stealing from Go

Go is about capturing territory and exerting influence into your opponents area. 5x5 makes this a consideration, but anything above makes it an absolute requirement.

The rule of Ko is an interesting one, in that you cannot repeatedly capture the same stone. In Tak, it's considered to be foolish to get into a trading war that leaves your board territory barren, and downright bad to enter one you'll lose.

Atari is a second consideration, when your pieces are surrounded and about to be captured. Stones with no reinforce may be wiser to consider as lost, or as poison. Pieces seperate from your main road attempt are constantly at risk of this.

Eyes can be thought of as similar to squares in Tak. Whereas an eye is a guaranteed capture, a square will almost always win a trade war. Just make sure to keep it hole instead of compacting it in trade wars.

Dealing with Capstones

An opponents capstone

So your opponent just leveled a capstone on the board. There are ways to effectively immobilize a capstone.

The first is to poison it by feeding it as many of your pieces as possible. This makes a weak tower that cannot be moved without exposing your pieces.

The second is to use walls to coerce its movement. While a capstone can knock down a wall, an easier path is preferrable. Combine with a weak tower and you've completely immobilized it with enough well placed walls.

Bonus points if you lure it into a corner.

Your own capstone

Capstones should not be seen as a wall-destroying device, but rather as an instrument of forced influence. If your opponent is encroaching on your territory, a placed capstone can negate their presence and secure the territory.

Be careful not to be poisoned by capturing too many enemy pieces. If possible, have a strong second piece of your own color under it for extra mobility. Capstones are far more powerful ontop of a strong tower.

TL;DR Tips

  • Control the center whenever possible
  • Always have a plan B and C if your road gets snipped
  • Don't sacrifice valuable influence for trading wars and taller towers


Working on this as I think of things, feel free to comment with other ideas.

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