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Standard Drinking Strategy

From YPPedia

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Standard New-drinking strategy.


Board control

Board control refers to your ability to play pieces in rows you control, versus your opponent's ability to play pieces in rows they control.


Kegs give a 50% bonus for completed rows. This means an extra 50 to 100 points for a single keg, and more for a second keg.

This is a huge bonus for new drinking. There is very little worse than having a keg appear on your turn, and being unable to place it to your benefit.

There is worse: Worse is your opponent playing the keg for their benefit.

Rule #1 of new drinking: Always play kegs when they appear unless you have a game winning move available.

Play for your benefit if possible
Play to deny your opponent any benefit if not.

Rule #2 of new drinking: Always manage the board so that you can play kegs to your benefit.

Row Completion

Drinking is not about "Play pieces wherever you can". While some mugs (Chalice) may change this, the general rule is to play to not block your rows. You want to be able to finish, and score, the rows that you are winning in. Playing pieces next to the rows that you want to score may block your own rows from being scorable.


In a similar vein, being able to block enemy rows is helpful. This is not true for skilled flagon users who gain 150 points from an enemy's successful row completion, and is difficult for non-chalice mugs.

Special pieces

In almost all cases, you want to play special pieces as soon as they appear.


As mentioned in the board control section, kegs are valuable -- a minimum of 100 point swing for a normal (Stained) completion (+50 for the winner, versus the 50 points that the other person did not get). If a keg shows up on your turn, and you do not play and score it, but your opponent does, you have lost 100 points for a stained row, 200 points for an unstained row (most of the early games), and more for some mugs and dual-keg rows.

It is rarely worth it to not play kegs. At the very least, bury it in a contested, blocked row that will not likely be scored.


This cannot be stressed enough: Remove your opponents specials. Remove kegs from rows they control. Remove fries from rows they control if only fries can replace it (very common case, actually). Remove key pieces that are restricted to the same piece (two adjacent pieces of the same type and different color, plus a third adjacent piece of a different type).

If there are no such swing pieces on the board that your opponent owns, then play a hook to protect your own swing pieces.

The only reason to pass a hook is if there are no swing pieces for either player, and you have a better move to make that improves your position.


Fries allow you to place a piece anywhere. This is useful for finishing rows that are otherwise unplayable. They are wildcards.

Never pass a fries. Always play to fill your rows.

The Skull mug

The skull mug is the exception to the general rule of "Always play specials". The skull's power of a second play when playing specials is very strong, but it is balanced by the cost of doing so.

For details, and skull-specific strategy for specials, see the skull mug page. Think a third time before passing a special if your opponent has a skull.

Opening Game

Some people may have heard about the corner opening, and early game drinkouts. This is an attempt to clarify and dispell the myth.

The opening play of the initial fries in the corner was tested, under the classic drinking game, as being approximately a 10% chance of an early forced drinkout, with this split evenly between the two players. The only time that this was beneficial was if you were playing someone so much stronger than you that a 5% chance of winning was something to hope for.

Under the best-known, optimal play strategy (as shown by DrinkingAI), the optimal opening for original drinking was the (2,0) point -- along an edge, two spaces from the corner.

Playing in the corner does have an advantage. It restricts the development of the board (when there is no chalice). This does permit skilled players better ability to control the board. The early drinkout factor has been reduced to effectively zero -- new drinking not only loses only one turn, instead of two (making the "Drinkout" termination case much harder), but with three choices instead of one choice, it is far less likely that there will be a drinkout case. (Additionally, if the game length is not "Board stained or all passed out" then drinkouts are not game enders even if they do happen.)

Drinking Drinking
Mugs: Wooden cup | Goblet | Tankard | Pitcher | Stein | Flagon | Horn | Chalice | Skull | Cursed chalice
Strategies: Standard | Denial | Infiltrator | Fry | Builder | Short | Aggressive | High | Stain |
Holes in the Table
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