Travidar's Ultimate Blacksmithing

From YPPedia
Not everyone puzzles the same way.
Developing a unique approach to a puzzle or challenge that works for the individual is the most important aspect of mastering the craft.
These pictures and/or suggestions derive from personal opinions and are meant as guidelines only.
They are in no way hard and fast rules as to the "correct" way to do this puzzle or game action.

This guide is designed to help those who wish to improve at blacksmithing, but do not know of any strategies other than randomly hitting squares. While I do not believe there is a fixed set of steps to follow, I have compiled many helpful tips that can help you score better. Most of these I have developed myself, and I know they have helped me.

This guide assumes that you are familiar with the rules of the blacksmithing puzzle, and are on the highest level of difficulty (all pieces, rumjug enabled).

Make sure to read "How to use this guide" first.

DISCLAIMER: These tips are all the opinions of Travidar, pirate of the Viridian Ocean. They are not endorsed by any official source, nor are they guaranteed to be perfect. But I use them when I blacksmith, and they've gotten me to Ultimate, so I figure they're worth something.

How to use this guide

Blacksmithing is largely a game of logic, and accordingly all of the tips in this guide have a logical reasoning behind them. Thus, each tip is broken into three parts:

  • What: The summary of what you should do during the game. You should read this part to at least get a feel of what the tip is about.
  • Why: This explains the logic I used when developing this tip - the reasoning behind employing the strategy. Read this part only if you are interested, or if you are confused as to why you would use a certain tip.
  • How: This part goes into detail about how to execute a given tip. Read this part if you are unclear on how a particular tip works, or if you just want more comprehensive strategy.

The guide itself is broken up to cover the Opening, Midgame, and Endgame sections of the blacksmithing puzzle. There is also a small section covering tips as to what to always keep in mind.

This guide is fairly long, and you should not try to read all the tips in one sitting (unless, you know, you really want to). I recommend you learn a few tips at a time, then practice in-game until you've mastered those specific tips. With time, hopefully you will improve!

Before you start: Things to keep in mind

These are just some basic tips to remember as you play the game.

Blacksmithing is untimed

Unlike crafting puzzles such as distilling and shipwrighting, blacksmithing is completely untimed. There is no limit as to how long you can take before making a move (besides, of course, logging out from inactivity). What this means is that there is no reason to rush while playing the puzzle; relax and take your time to practice some of the tips.

Minimal planning required

Many people believe the only way to succeed at blacksmithing is to plan endlessly before even making the first strike. This is NOT TRUE AT ALL. By following certain strategies it is easy to achieve very good results with almost no planning out of moves.

I usually get "Incredible" duty reports, and each puzzle generally takes me about four or five minutes to complete. I do not plan heavily until I am near the end of the puzzle. In fact, I call my playing style "semi-random striking", as I follow my strategies when I play but still hit fairly randomly.

Keeping this in mind will make playing the puzzle a lot less frustrating and a lot more relaxing.

How scoring works

Scoring in blacksmithing is based almost entirely on how many strikes you have unfinished at the end of the puzzle. The puzzle only ends when there are no possible moves remaining, at which point the number of strikes you have made are counted and converted into a score. There is a slight bonus for combos and repeat hits. Creating Alternating Sets can boost your score, but it is generally only feasible to plan for these on your first move.

To get an Incredible duty report, one generally needs to have four or less strikes remaining at the end of the puzzle. Five strikes is borderline Excellent/Incredible, depending on combos and repeat hits. Expert labor starts when about six or seven strikes remain. Making a chain of Alternating Sets of length three ("Finely Honed!") or better can shift this by two or more strikes.

The Opening

Just as in chess, the opening of the blacksmithing puzzle is important. I define the opening as the period of time when most of your strikes are on "molten" (orange) pieces, up until you create your first rumjug piece.

There are several effective strategies here that will help improve your game, both to ensure you don't run out of moves early in the puzzle (which earns a low rating) and to provide you with more options later. The tips that (in my opinion) are more important are listed first.

Create the rumjug on the corner

  • What: When hitting your last molten (orange) piece, the rumjug piece is created. Try to make this last strike on one of the corner pieces.
  • Why: The rumjug, when hit, allows you to hit any other piece on the board; as such, it is an extremely powerful tool, and one you want access to. The problem is that if placed somewhere in the middle of the board, the rumjug can be frustratingly hard or even impossible to reach again. In contrast, the corner pieces are very accessible and act as a sort of "catch-all", as many pieces will eventually lead to the corner. For example, any queen or rook on the two sides the corner is on will lead to that corner. In addition, many chess pieces in the center of the board will lead either directly to the corner, or to a side that can then reach the corner. Thus, putting a rumjug on the corner drastically increases the chances that you will hit it again. I consider this one of the most important tips I discovered; after employing it, I found my puzzling improved greatly.
  • How: Make sure that you have at least one corner piece unstruck, and clear all the rest of your pieces before hitting that last corner piece. It is a good idea to leave more than one corner unstruck, however, just in case you booch. In the event that you accidentally strike all your corners before other molten pieces, try and aim for a side.

Avoid repeat hitting

  • What: Very simply, try not to hit pieces you have already struck.
  • Why: Holes in your puzzle ("completed" squares) are bad, especially early in the game; they restrict the available moves of some squares and, in the worst-case scenario, may cause you to run out of moves completely, ending the puzzle early. Squares become holes when you strike them three times, so the more strikes you make on a square, the closer it gets to becoming a nasty obstacle. It is best to even out your strikes among many different squares, striking a square the second time only when necessary.
  • How: When looking at the available moves from a square, if you can choose between striking a molten piece and a warm (gray) piece, hit the molten piece. Same thing for choosing between a warm piece and a cool (silver) piece. The only exception to this is when you have to choose between your last molten corner piece and warm pieces, and there are other molten pieces on the board. In this case, the above tip (placing the rumjug in the corner) takes precedence, and you will probably want to strike a warm piece instead. Realize that you will invariably create a few silver pieces before clearing all your molten squares, and that this is not a problem; having many silver pieces along with many molten pieces, however, is not so good.

Hit the sides only with chess pieces

  • What: Don't hit side squares unless you're doing it from a chess piece other than the knight (rook, bishop, queen).
  • Why: Since chess pieces (other than the knight) can only hit onto side squares, and since chess pieces often take up a large part of the board, it is a likely that the side squares will be hit much more often than the middle pieces, and thus might turn into holes much more quickly. Thus to try and lessen the number of times that side pieces are struck, we want to avoid hitting them when we can - striking them only from those pieces that MUST end on the sides.
  • How: When looking at available moves from a square, if you can strike a piece in the middle rather than a piece on the side, do it. However, this assumes that both choices are molten (or both grey) - I usually like to give precedence to the above tip (avoiding repeat hits).

Try to make an Alternating Set on your first move

  • What: Make the longest Alternating Set you can from your first move
  • Why: Making an Alternating Set of length 3 or greater can give a significant bonus, or make an Incredible of what would otherwise be an Excellent. It's practically impossible to plan for alternating sets once the puzzle is started - the first move is the only real chance you have.
  • How: When you enter the puzzle, have a good look around for sets that can be chained. Look for any pieces that are not present on the board - you can't make an Alternating Set unless at least one of all pieces is present (or you get lucky by double-striking a piece - not recommended). In the chess piece set, note that the only piece that doesn't hit the sides is the knight, so plan accordingly. If you can't see a chain of at least two, you might wish to quit the puzzle - there's no penalty for quitting before any strikes are made. If you have the opportunity to make a chain of four or more, it can be worth temporarily disregarding the above strategies - don't be afraid to hit corners or double-strikes if it will give you a big chain.

The Midgame

Once we reach the middle of a blacksmithing puzzle - when most of the pieces are either grey or silver - we need to change some of our strategy to account for holes, which will begin to appear during this stage. We will also want to pay attention to exactly where our first rum jug is placed and plan accordingly. While the following tips will become very important at this stage, keep in mind the earlier tips - the side squares will still be hit more often, so continue to try and hit them with chess pieces. Also remember that your second, silver rum jug should still be made in the corner.

Plan for the rum jug

  • What: At some point during the puzzle, begin to formulate and keep in mind a path that leads back to your rum jug, and follow it.
  • Why: Utilizing the rum jug is essential to doing well on the puzzle. Without hitting it, you cannot get a second rum jug; in addition, sometimes it is impossible for you to reach some pieces given the path you are currently following, and you will need the rum jug to get to those pieces. Thus it's important to make sure that you hit the rum jug, in order to progress through the game.
  • How: You should probably begin forming some sort of path once holes begin to appear in your puzzle and the possibility of dead pieces gets larger. Be sure that any moves you make don't remove your ability to get to the rum jug. It's not necessary to plan out every step, but try to have a sense of when you should try to get back to the rum jug.

Stall the rum jug

  • What: Don't hit the rum jug for as long as possible; that is, hit as many pieces as you can on your way back to it.
  • Why: Since blacksmithing scores according to how many strikes you've made, it's important that when given the chance you do so. Thus, on the way back to the rum jug, we should try to hit as much as possible, as long as we can get back to the rum jug. It's possible that sometimes while following this strategy, we remove some pieces essential for another path; in my experience, though, this does not happen too often. In general, delaying hitting the rum jug as long as possible will improve your score.
  • How: You should follow the previous tip on planning a path. While you are doing so, check the available moves at each square you're striking from. If you can work out an alternate path - one which is longer than your currently planned route, and that still ends at the rum jug - go with that instead. Rinse and repeat until you reach the rum jug. It's also helpful to keep an eye out for outlet pieces (see below) so that you don't end up removing part of another path, as I warned about above.

Midgame/Endgame pieces

These are some squares that I have given special names, and that require special attention. For each piece type, I have given a definition, and also give some advice as to how to deal with them. In general, in the later parts of the midgame (where there are more silver pieces and holes) you should pay more attention to exactly what you're hitting - these next three tips are just guides as to exactly what you should pay attention to.

Dead pieces

  • What: Look for and avoid pieces that do not have any possible moves.
  • Why: "Dead" pieces are pieces that have no available moves when you hit them; that is, if you strike them the puzzle will end. Obviously, we don't want to hit them. There isn't much more I can say about dead pieces, except to note that if you have more than one, it's impossible to get a Masterpiece.
  • How: When you look at your board, take note of pieces that only lead to holes (completed squares). These are dead pieces, and you will want to make sure your strikes don't lead you to that piece. If you really like, you can keep track of these pieces on a piece of paper, a spreadsheet or something similar - I generally just keep them in my memory, but slip-ups can happen.

Risk pieces

  • What: Look for pieces with only one or two available moves left, and strike them as soon as possible.
  • Why: "Risk" pieces, as I call them, are only one false move away from becoming dead. In other words, if there is a square that only leads to one silver square - we'll call this the "outlet" - and you turn that last outlet into a hole via some other piece, your risk piece will have turned into a dead piece. In order to prevent this from happening, I generally try to hit the risk piece as soon as I can.
  • How: Finding the risk pieces is your first task. Look for squares that have only one outlet; these are the most dangerous. The next step is to strike your way to the risk piece - WITHOUT first hitting the outlet, of course. Then hit the risk piece, hit the outlet, and continue. If you already have some holes, it's a good idea to make sure your outlet isn't a dead piece. Sometimes, your outlet will also be a risk piece, in which case you should keep track of all your risk pieces and outlets, planning accordingly. Final note: If the outlet piece is the rum jug, you should route your path to the rum jug (a previous tip) to include the risk piece.

Outlet pieces

  • What: When looking at available moves from a square, make sure the square you're hitting isn't an outlet for a different risk piece.
  • Why: This tip is simply the converse of the previous one; in addition to specifically looking for risk pieces, you can also make sure you're not hitting outlets (thus creating dead pieces).
  • How: Finding outlets is much trickier than finding risk pieces, as you must take into account all possible squares that could lead to the piece. Outlets are generally easier to find when there are many holes in the board, making this tip more fitting for the endgame; still, you can keep this in mind while looking for dead pieces and risk pieces. Once you find an outlet, avoid it until you hit the risk piece it's connected to. Also check if the outlet is also a dead or risk piece.

The Endgame

The home stretch. This is the time when only some silver pieces remain among many holes - not that they can really be called "holes" any more, since they outnumber pieces. By this time, you should have hit your first rum jug, and have made your second. From here on out, you will want to follow a path back to this rum jug, then finish off as many of the remaining pieces as you can. The next few tips will tell you how to maximize the number of strikes you make before you complete the puzzle.

Plan out your entire endgame

  • What: Have in mind - and check to improve - a route that leads to the rum jug, then to completion.
  • Why: This is the part of the blacksmithing puzzle where planning will really, really help. Honestly, you can usually make strikes almost at random in the beginning, as long as you plan out your path when you near the end. The reason you want to plan out everything is to make sure you have the path that can take as many strikes as possible. And since every strike counts in your score - remember, you need four strikes for an Incredible - even adding one strike to your path will help immensely.
  • How: First, plan out your path to the rum jug using tips from the midgame. This may be more challenging due to the number of holes that by now will litter the puzzle, but try to manage it if you can. Once you hit the rum jug, plan out a second, independent path - one that DOES NOT use any pieces that are already in your rum jug path! After you have got this plan in your mind, it's a good idea to run through it again. This will allow you to make sure you don't mess up while actually carrying out your strikes, as well as give you a second chance to spot a better path.

Counting strikes

  • What: From your current list of available moves, count how many strike you can make from each piece, then take

the path with the highest number of strikes.

  • Why: Again, straightforward: you want to make as many strikes as you can. When there are many dead pieces on the board, you will want to take a look at where you are immediately at, see which pieces will give you the most strikes, then follow that path.
  • How: From each piece, work out some sort of path that leads to a dead piece. Repeat for all the pieces you can move to (that are glowing). Once you have figured out the path with the maximum number of strikes, follow it. Make sure you haven't double-counted any squares, or your path may be cut short! You may want to keep your eyes open for unexpected additions, though - see the below tip.

Unexpected additions

  • What: When you are carrying out your strike path, keep an eye out for available moves that you didn't spot before, and see if they lead to a higher strike count.
  • Why: Sometimes when I plan, I miss a possible route that would give me more strikes. When I keep looking for more options, I am likely to catch these in the middle of my striking. When I do, I examine the new path. Sometimes I get an extra strike or two, which is (again) very helpful in the end.
  • How: Just make sure there aren't any glowing squares beyond the ones you expect there to be; if new ones you didn't notice show up, look at them and see if you can get a better path. In other words, count your strikes from each square again.

Final Thoughts

Thank you for slogging through my guide. If you enjoyed it, or if you have questions or comments about it, PLEASE send me a tell - I am Travidar on the Viridian Ocean - or leave your message on this forum thread. I especially want constructive criticism about how to refine this guide so that I can make it clearer and more understandable - I'm pretty sure that at some point, something I wrote was probably vague or confusing, and I would like to fix that as soon as possible.

Ultimate Blacksmithers: If you have additional blacksmithing tips that you feel would be a good addition to this guide, please tell me and I will write it up in a similar format. Don't worry - I will give you full credit. Looking at you for help!

Finally, put my tips to work and let me know how it goes!

Thank you for reading, -Travidar