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A Puzzling Situation

Zertz 1.0

Zertz is a capture game played on an ever shrinking board. The board is constructed by disks laid out in a hexagonal pattern and the pieces are three sets of marbles; five red, seven blue and nine green. Neither player "controls" these pieces though as they're drawn from a common pool and can be used by either player.

On your turn you have two possible actions:

  1. Place any marble from the pool onto any empty disk on the board and then remove an empty disk. (The disk you remove must be at the "edge" of the board. That is, you must be able to remove it without disturbing the surrounding pieces. In the diagram below C & E are removable but F is not.) -OR-
  2. Capture a piece by "hopping" it as in checkers.

Most importantly, captures are mandatory so if your opponent places a marble (using option 1) that allows you to capture you must do so. You are free to choose any possible capture presented to you though. Finally, if you isolate a group of non-empty disks (by removing a disk as part of action 1) you capture the pieces on those disks.

There are two ways to win:

  • Capture two of each colored piece.
  • Capture the majority of any color. (3 red or 4 blue or 5 green.)

Things aren't looking good—your opponent has five captures to your three and needs only a red or a blue or three green pieces to win the game. It's not as bad as it looks though, it's your turn and you have a series of moves that will guarantee victory. What are they?

Solution

You can read more about Zertz by checking out the official website. You might also want to read Mitchell Thomashow's review.

- Greg Aleknevicus

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