June 10, 2020
A majestic Go board can really pull together a room. It says to any visitor: “Would you like to play Go now? It's right here.” Hopefully the answer is yes.
And if you're looking to be a Go influencer, it's essential for those Instragram photos.
But if you want to play Go somewhere other than your home, theoretically even outdoors, a majestic board isn't going to cut it. It's heavy, awkward, and it's going to get scratched to shit.
So I needed a good travel board. Just in case I want to be a, uh, Go influencer at some point.
My first one was a $20 set from the mall:
It's light, and slides into a designer backpack or shoulder bag easily. But these stones have all the weight of chewy fruit candies; it's impossible to play with force without stones skittering off the board. A gust of wind could end a photo shoot.
Even more portable is this one, folded into book format. It was a gift from a friend who keeps rats as pets, and has the quality of having actually been chewed by rats:
The stones are bigger, and it's got a 13x13 on the back, but aesthetically, it leaves something to be desired. The rat story is cool, but how are you going to be a top Go influencer with a piece of red cardboard and a book telling you what atari means?
So I went online. Years ago I'd ordered my good board from GoGameGuru, but the site has since shut down, so I needed a new retailer. I soon found myself on the Kiseido site, looking at some very unique boards:
Ordering from this place, though, looks sketchy. The SSL is broken and the reasons do not inspire confidence.
Seeing as I don't want my payment information compromised en route, or perhaps stored in a plaintext file somewhere, I kept looking.
Now this one looked ideal: a roll-up magnetic Go board, in a convenient travel sling. It's like I'm going to Yoga, except I'm definitely not – the sweat is rather from spending the afternoon generating affiliate links.
The stones stay in place, and there's even the option to stick it to the fridge, so you can consider Go problems while you're making smoothies. Or you can write out motivational phrases for yourself!
But now your hordes of followers expect new phrases all the time, so it's a fridge board now, and not a travel board at all.
What I needed was a mix of everything. A set I could take from the office to the bar. Something with heft, but not too much. One with an intoxicating Cherry finish.
It came with a convenient carrybag for the bowls, and the board slips into a large tote bag. I wouldn't want to carry it around all day, but my assistant can.
When this pandemic is over I am going to be such an influencer.
March 2, 2020
We love animals here at Mirth Turtle, but we also love Go, so we're often torn: spend time with an animal, or play the greatest game there is? (which is Go, as you are well aware)
Turns out you don't even need to choose, because Go is full of animal-themed moves that you too can bring to a game. Here are some of my favourites:
This is a fairly common sequence but never fails to bring a smile to my otherwise emotionless face. I like to think the “egg” in the situation is the stone that gets cleverly sacrificed.
Black is trying to escape from your nest, but in fact it's impossible. Prove it below by playing an egg at A!
Another bird-themed position is also a favourite of mine, and it’s a rare treat when I can make it work. I used to call it an “Awkward Split” but its actual name is far superior, and more evocative of birds.
Play at A below to see why White is powerless in the situation.
The animal that goes by this name may be adorable, but a play on the second line is far more insidious. It's a flexible way to invade an opponent’s territory, as it allows a follow-up either into the corner or off to the side. It does, however, give your opponent the choice of which to defend — so if the corner is what you want, just play at A right away instead.
Probably my favourite shimari and the main reason I like to open at 4-4. This holds the corner but it’s also powerful enough to have some influence on battles in the center. Plus, look at those birds.
Can’t leave this one out. Playing this large knight's move is a great way to reduce your opponent's undefended side territory near the endgame. Try it below!
Know any more animal-themed moves? Keep them to yourself! There’s no comments section.
January 19, 2020
If there’s anything a comedy business knows, it’s comedy. But this particular comedy business also knows Go, so some products have been Go-related.
Well, I’ve spent a lot of time communing with the Business Voices, and we’ve agreed that it’s time for a pivot:
Why? Because Go is the best game in the world, and all I need to do is produce content and software to support people who are learning it. And then get as many people interested in the game as possible.
Right now, online Go is in a sorry state. Interactive tutorials are broken. Sites don’t use SSL. Forums are dead. You may be able to teach yourself the game with the Wikipedia of Go, Sensei’s Library, but how do you know where to start?
Mirth Turtle is going to give you the tools you need to get better at Go, and if you don’t play it yet, it’s going to make you want to try it. It’s going to make it easy for you to try it.
Anyway, that’s the foundational principle of the company now. I’m starting with a semi-regular livestream, where I play Go wordlessly over music, so you can relax, see how it’s played, and connect with others in the chat. Follow me on Twitch, and on Twitter for more regular updates. You might find me under the #SickGoTakedowns hashtag.
I’ve also produced 2 volumes of Snapback, an adventure series revolving around an international Go conspiracy. I designed it to be enjoyable for all levels of players, including non-players, and you can read the first volume for free if you create an account on this site.
Anyway, if all of this turns out to be foolish and I go bankrupt: at least I’ve still got Ghostcrime to fall back on.
March 11, 2015
People are sometimes baffled by my love of Go. This often inspires from me a gushing, almost manic explanation of everything great about it, condensed into as little time as possible. I’m pretty sure I don’t do it justice.
But even ignoring the fact that it’s thrilling and mentally stimulating, there’s a lot about Go that makes it fun and accessible that has nothing to do with the relentless gameplay:
Feel like playing? Sit down at the board, take the lids off the bowls, and lay your first move. None of that card-shuffling, or queen-goes-on-her-own-colour nonsense.
At the end of the game you’ll have to separate the black and white stones and put them back into their respective bowls, but it’s kind of soothing, especially after a furious match.
Which reminds me:
You have an entire bowl of smooth stones at your disposal. Some serious players consider unnecessary touching and/or rattling of the stones in the bowl to be rude, but it feels really great on the fingers. Go ahead; I won’t judge.
In Go, it’s perfectly acceptable to slap down your stones with some force. In fact, it’s encouraged! Feels great in an aggressive game, and it can be intimidating for your opponent. Or, you can quietly slide your moves into place, lulling your opponent into a false sense of security before playing the sneaky move you’ve been plotting for half the game.
Can’t get three people together for Catan? That’s fine, because you only need one friend for Go. Even if you’ve got extra people, they should be perfectly happy to sit and watch, because:
It’s the House of Cards of board games — two players test each other, fighting small battles that tie into their overarching plans. Then, after some thrilling twists, someone plays a shocking move that completely throws the other person under a subway (spoilers). A lot can happen in 300 moves.
Are you truly, utterly alone? Not even that matters, because you can always log onto a Go server and find an opponent with a similar rank. On KGS it usually doesn’t take me more than a minute to get a game started, and it’s a great place to get exposed to a huge range of playing styles. Plus, you can step in and watch most of the games being played, so it’s an endless, free source of entertainment. Unlike House of Cards.
The game has been played for thousands of years. Strategies have come in and out of vogue with the changing of dynasties, and yet the game itself has hardly changed. And while it’s fun to read about champions of days gone by, you can also study the hundreds of Go proverbs that have passed the test of time. They’ll help your game and give you some insight into dry Go humour.
So what more could you want from a board game? Play through an interactive tutorial and see what I mean.