What Planet is This?

23 Jul 2005


Tringo is a hybrid of tetris and bingo, involving a 5x5 square board and thirty-five pieces containing each between one and five squares. The game is generally played amongst a small group of people that may contribute money or prizes to a winner's pot.

The aim is to complete as many square or rectangular sections of 2x2, 2x3, 3x2, or 3x3 squares as possible. You get 5 points for a block of four squares, 15 points for a block of six, and 30 for a block of nine. Once you complete a block, it's removed from the board. Blocks nearest to the top left are removed first, and vertical blocks are taken before horizontal ones. You cannot rotate any of the pieces, and you have a set amount of time to place them.

The game is perhaps 70% chance and 30% skill, though this varies depending upon the skill level of your opponents. The strategy for the game in general can be summed up in two rules:

  1. Do not mess up your board.
  2. Get as many sixes as possible.

With the first rule taking precedence. It's important not to mess up your board because if you fail to place a piece, points are deducted. It's important to get sixes because constant fours will not win you the game, and setting up for nines makes you prone to messing up the board. On some occasions, however, you have no choice but to place a piece which will likely mess you up, or to place it in such a way that it gives you a four, in order to avoid messing up.

It's even possible to score combination pieces, whereby you may get two fours or, even, the rarest of the rare, a nine and a six. This often happens when your board is so messed up that only a single piece will fit into an awkward shape in the middle, thus clearing the board.

The opening strategy is difficult, but the guiding principles are to always place your pieces around the edge, and to remember that it's usually possible to place two pieces carefully without messing up. Therefore, it's almost always worth waiting on the second move if you're unable to score a six with it. It's often best to just follow common sense, though, and sometimes, especially with the diagonal pieces, you just have to use tringo zen in order to place them in such a way as to be maximally advantageous.

Tringo arenas usually have three boards at the front, one showing all the pieces that have been called and are yet to be called, another showing the top five placed contestants, and another showing the current piece to be placed. The first board, showing which pieces have and haven't been called yet, is most useful in the endgame. If you can tell which pieces are most likely to be coming next, and have a relatively clean board, it's often possible to manufacture a nine.

The currently active piece is not only indicated on your own board and the board at the front right, but also on the called and uncalled pieces board, and this is useful to know since due to lag this is often the first place to show the new piece, providing a slight advantage. This is especially useful in speed tringo, where each turn is much shorter than in regular tringo, though it should also be mentioned that scores in speed tringo are usually comparable to those of regular tringo, if not (somewhat counterintuitively) better.

Games are occasionally tied, and usually it's difficult to predict who's won until the very last move, probably due in part to the endgame strategy. My personal best at the moment is 300, and I have been in a game where somebody scored 320.

One of the subtler points of tringo strategy is to make sure that your board is evenly spread, and has shapes that will easily accommodate plausible pieces. Unfortunately, it's easy to get lured into this too much and design your board so that it accommodates only one piece which will then, due to sod's law, obviously not come out until the very end. It's also easy to be fazed by placing a piece and then having a resulting shape that is the inverse of the piece you just placed, meaning that you know it won't come out again. But since the pieces are all fairly similar, you'll often get something which fits just as well, or an unexpected development will take place on another part of the board.

This is really a game that can only be played on the computer, and is especially good in SL, but it is plausible to make a board game from it, and it would certainly be possible to update some bingo arenas to host tringo.

The game is probably solvable by computer, but the search space is quite treacherous, and it's difficult to rank the things that can provide you with an advantage, so it seems as though computers would not be naturally good tringo players. On the other hand, everybody thought that about chess, and tringo isn't as complicated as chess.

Tringo may even pave the way to some other interesting game hybrids. Are chess and go meldable? There are some sites on the web that compare chess and go, but apparently none that postulate chessgo.

Cite: Palmer, S.B. (2005). "Tringo", in: What Planet is This?
Archival URI: http://inamidst.com/notes/tringo


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