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Tedv



Joined: Jul 29, 2003
Posts: 1082
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Everything about Everything about Swords Reply to this Post
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Updated Jan 29, 2004:
    - New sword patterns with reviews
    - More complete strike information
    - New sword rating system[/list:u:8a01d74e8b]


    All About Swords

    This essay is designed to explain three things about swords and their
    drop patterns.

    - The features that affect how good a sword is
    - Which play styles best suit these features
    - What swords have these features

    This is VERY long and comprehensive, so be warned.


    Basic Terminology

    Drop Pattern

    Each sword has a unique drop pattern. The drop pattern determines
    the color and layout of the blocks sent to the opponent when you
    break blocks. You can see the drop pattern of a sword you own
    (or are trading for) by hovering the mouse over the sword itself and
    waiting a few seconds.

    Sprinkle Pattern

    When an unfused group of simple 1x1 blocks is broken, a set of sprinkles
    is sent to the other side. The game sends one sprinkle for every two
    blocks broken, rounded down. The breakers do count towards this total.
    The lowest sprinkle block in each column will match the lowest color in the
    drop pattern. Correspondingly, the second lowest sprinkle sent in a column
    matches the second lowest color. If more than two rows of sprinkles are sent,
    the pattern repeats with the bottom row (and then the second from the
    bottom, and so on.) Since rarely are more than 6 sprinkles sent to the
    other side, almost all sprinkles match the bottom row of the sword's drop
    pattern. This bottom row is known as the Sprinkle Pattern. The bottom two
    rows is also refered to as the Sprinkle Pattern on occasion.

    Sword Strikes

    When a fused block is broken and sent, an equivalently sized sword strike
    is sent to the opponent. (Exception: 2x2 blocks are sent as 1x4 swords.)
    Like sprinkles, the lowest row of the sword matches the lowest row in the
    drop pattern, and so on. If the height of the strike sent exceeds the sword's
    drop pattern, it wraps around to the row fourth from the top. This means only
    the top four rows are repeated. So for a drop pattern with 6 rows, the bottom
    two rows (1 and 2, the sprinkle pattern) will be sent at the start of each
    strike, but they will never be repeated in the strike, no matter how long the
    strike is. So a 2x10 strike from a sword with 6 rows in its pattern will
    copy these rows (counted from the bottom of the strike): 1-2-3-4-5-6-3-4-5-6.

    Strikes can also be horizontal, if the broken block is wider than it is long.
    Horizontal strikes send rotated copies of the drop pattern. Strikes coming
    from the left copy the drop pattern's first COLUMN for the top ROW. The second
    row from the top uses column 2, and so on. This is reversed for strikes from the
    right-- the top row is the rotated 6th column, the second row from the top is
    the rotated 5th column, and so on. The block nearest to the edge where the
    horizontal sword emerges (in column 1 for a left-originating strike) copies
    the lowest row in the strike pattern. The next block over (in column 2 of the
    drop zone) copies the from the second lowest row in the pattern, and so on

    Vertical strikes are more important than horizontal, so they have additional
    terminology. Each vertical sword strike is named by the columns it covers.
    So a 2-3 strike refers to any 2xN vertical sword falling in the second and
    third column, using the colors from that slice of the drop pattern. A 1-3
    strike refers to any 3xN vertical sword falling on the left half of the board,
    and so on.

    Doubles, Triples, and more

    Combo chains can be created by saving breakers. For example, suppose you
    have a mass of yellow, and then a bunch of red covering the yellow. And
    suppose a you get a yellow breaker and leave it above the red. When a
    red breaker breaks the red group and the yellow breaker falls down, it
    will cause a combo chain, and the yellow will break on a "Double". If this
    continues, it creates a "Triple", then "Bingo" (4x), Donkey (5x) and Vegas
    (6x). When a fused block is broken on a double, its longest dimension is
    doubled when sent. So a 2x3 broken on a double will send a 2x6 vertical
    sword. A 3x2 horizontal broken on a double sends a 6x2 horizontal. Triples
    and beyond multiply the lengths accordingly. Anything sent beyond the edge
    of the board is lost, so vertical swords can never be longer than 13 units.
    If a horizontal sword would be wider than 6 units, it can be converted to
    a vertical sword with an equivalent number of blocks. Doubles and triples
    also multiply the quantity of sprinkles sent.

    Right/Left-Handed

    The colors of the sword guard and hilt only affect the colors sent to the
    opponent, but the make of the sword determines the drop pattern's structure.
    However, the drop pattern can be reflected to the left or right. If the
    guard color is blue, green, or purple, the drop pattern is the horizontal
    mirror image of what it would be for any other guard color. This is sometimes
    called "Mirroring" or "Reversed", but I prefer the terms "Right-handed" for
    normal orientation (red/yellow/orange/white/black guard) and "Left-handed"
    for abnormal orientation (blue/green/purple).

    Even though the drop structure is the same, some swords are better when
    right-handed and others are better left-handed. This is because sprinkles
    and sword strikes are more likely to fall on the left half than the right
    half (because the drop zone is on the right half of the board). In particular,
    the game avoids sending strikes down column 4 (the drop start) unless necessary.
    So 1-2, 2-3, and 5-6 strikes have equal probability, but two thirds of them
    land on the left side and one third on the right side. So its always better
    to have a sword's stronger half on the left and weaker half on the right.
    Changing the handedness of the sword changes where the weaknesses and strengths
    are in the drop pattern.


    Sword Fighting Basics

    This section is intended for beginners of sword fighting. Experienced
    fighters probably won't need this section.

    The most common excuse someone gives for losing a sword fight was that they
    "Didn't get enough breakers". Excuse me? Of course you didn't get enough
    breakers! That's the whole point of sword fighting-- to run your opponent
    out of breakers. If everyone got enough breakers all the time, the game
    would never end.

    Always remember... Your objective in sword fighting is to run the opponent
    out of breakers. And conversely, you want to make sure that your board
    structure will maximize the probability that any breaker you receive will
    be useful.

    This is one reason sending doubles, triples, and even larger combos are so
    popular among the highly skilled players. A triple on a 3x4 sends a 3x12--
    that fills up an awful lot of the opponent's drop zone and gives them
    very little breathing room. Doubles and triples are an easy way to quickly
    fill up the opponent's side of the puzzle. This is the reason that horizontal
    swords just aren't as important as vertical swords. Horizontals can never
    be larger than 6x2 (or 6x3). Getting a bingo on a 3x2 will only send 12
    blocks total, since it's capped at 6x2. But a bingo on a 2x3 sends a 2x12,
    or 24 blocks total. If nothing else, learning to send simple doubles is good
    for any sword. It just sends more blocks, which gets you closer to victory.

    Sword Features

    There are five features to look for in a sword.

    Sprinkle Diversity

    The more diversity a sword's first line of sprinkles has, the better it
    is. Diversity refers to matching colors being separated columns apart.
    Since there are six columns and only four colors, at least one color
    must occur more than once in the drop pattern.

    Here is a hypothetical sprinkle pattern with excellent diversity:



    And here is a pattern with terrible diversity:



    Since sprinkles send half as many blocks as a strike does, having great
    sprinkle diversity makes it really hard for the opponent to form good,
    solid fused blocks and send them back. It means they will send fewer
    blocks back at you.

    Strike Layers

    When a sword strike is sent, especially really long strikes, you want it to
    take your opponent as long as possible to clean it out. The more color layers
    in the strike, the longer this will take.

    Here is a three color strike:








    And a two color strike:








    It's possible for strikes to be monochrome:








    Even though this strike has two colors in it, one red breaker will clear out
    pretty much everything. The extra green color doesn't form a layer-- only
    the red counts as a layer.

    I'm not going to run through the numbers on this fact, but please trust me
    that I've done the math: Statistically it will take twice as many breakers
    to clean out a 3 color layer than a 2 color layer.
    So even though there's
    50% more color, it requires 100% more breakers (on average). That does wonders
    for the primary objective of running your opponent out of breakers.

    It should go without saying that it is neigh impossible to win a game with
    mono-color strikes, since just one breaker will undo an entire column of
    hard work.

    Color Separation

    Another great way to run your opponent your opponent out of breakers is to
    put a lot of the same color on opposite ends of the board-- both left side
    and right side-- but none in the middle. Suppose your opponent is glutted
    on red and finally gets a red breaker. They must decide which half of
    the board they should clear unless they went through the trouble of joining
    the two halves. This can be difficult and sometimes impossible.

    Color separation can occur either in the sprinkle or strike patterns.
    Here is a sprinkle pattern with excellent color separation:



    And here's a sword whose strikes have great color separation as well:






    Most of the sprinkles sent by this sword will be red on the left and yellow on
    the right, so it's expected that the opponent will will place more red and
    yellow in those locations respectively. But once this sword sends a tall
    vertical strike, all of a suddent the opponent will need yellow breakers on
    the left and red on the right. The result is that the opponent will quickly
    run out of breakers.

    Shielding

    There is a horizontal analog to the concept of vertical color layers. That
    analog is called Shielding. First, here's an example of a drop pattern with
    good shielding:






    Notice how the red and green completely cover the inside blue and yellow.
    Sending a 1-3 or 2-3 strike puts the opponent in a tough position. They
    have to find a red breaker before they can get rid of all the blue underneath
    it. It's particularly bad for them if the strike extends to the top of
    the board-- then they can't even save a spare blue breaker on top of
    the red column. They have to leave the blue breaker in column four and
    hopefully link it over once the red is destroyed-- a difficult task indeed.

    Note that this pattern does not count as having good shielding:






    That's because the sprinkle pattern is such that the opponent will
    always put red on the right and yellow on the left. More than likely,
    the opponent will be more excited to see red breakers than blue ones.
    So while the blue is technically shielded in this drop pattern, it's not
    as useful when it's not the primary sprinkle color.

    Structure

    The structural layout of colors in a strike is almost as important as the
    amount of layering. There are four basic kinds of structure. Here they
    are, from worst to best, with examples for a two layer strike. Assume
    these are 1-2 or 2-3 strikes. (The pattern of stable and fragile reverses
    for 4-5 and 5-6 strikes.)

    Fused:






    Stable:






    Fragile:






    Broken:






    Obviously the fused structure is the worst, since it only requires two
    breakers and won't be affected by any sheering effects. The broken one
    is clearly the best. But you might not notice the subtle but important
    difference between the stable and fragile patterns.

    Remember that people tend to play pieces in a U-shaped pattern. Extra
    pieces are more likely to end up on the edges than in the center. And
    since strike drops land on the sides more often than the middle, it's
    far more likely than an overhang in the drop zone will point towards the
    middle than the edges. Since the stable and fragile patterns are for
    left side strikes, look at what happens when they come to rest on top
    of a single blue overhang on the first column (with nothing in the second
    column):

    Stable:







    Fragile:







    This sheering effect has turned the stable structure fused, but the
    fragile structure became broken.

    In general, lines going diagonally down from the upper corners to
    the lower center create fragile structures. And lines going diagonally
    up from the lower corners to the upper center create stable structures.
    The difference between stable and fragile isn't as important as other
    features, but it really does make a difference, especially for 2-3
    strikes (since it's common to have overhangs from fused blocks in 1-2).


    Play Styles

    All of these sword features don't mean a thing if the player doesn't have
    the skill to make use of them, of course. Here's a guide that matches
    a feature with the play styles that make the most of them. You can use this
    guide both to find features that best match you, and to learn how to more
    effectively use the sword you have.

    Sprinkle Diversity

    When your sword has amazing sprinkle diversity, it's best to break stuff
    sooner rather than later. This doesn't mean it's bad to set up combos--
    massive combos are still a great idea. It just means that your board
    structure should focus on keeping as much area exposed for each color as
    possible, no matter how much or little stuff gets fused together. Just
    send as many sprinkles as possible, especially if the next two or three
    rows of sprinkle pattern have good diversity as well.

    Strike Layers

    Having a lot of strike color layers favors sending swords, and the longer,
    the better. The goal is to fuse blocks together set up doubles and
    triples on them. It's okay if one colored block gets buried under
    another block-- you were planning on breaking both of them anyway, and
    it's easier to set up combos this way. This play style is the antithesis
    of the sprinkle style.

    Color Separation

    Having good color separation rewards constant and consistant attacks.
    If the separation is in sprinkles, just keep on sprinkling. For strikes,
    just keep on breaking fused blocks. The separation will artificially create
    a layering effect (for strikes) or shielding effect (for sprinkles).

    Shielding

    Shielded drop patterns favor the three wide vertical strikes (3xNs).
    The third column will shield the inner two columns from being
    broken. Having a long 3xN strike helps even more.

    Structure

    Swords that create lots of fragile and broken structures want either
    consistant sword strikes or mass sprinkles (3+ rows). The consistant
    strikes can catch an opponent with a rather unstable overhang. The
    sheering effect can really cause a lot of problems cleaning up. And
    since no one's board pattern is perfectly level, a mass of sprinkles
    is guaranteed to exhibit the sheering effect that turns fragile structures
    into broken ones.


    Of course, the opposite is true for swords with these weaknesses. Don't
    send many sprinkles if your sprinkle pattern lacks diversity. A 3xN sword
    might not be worth the extra trouble over a longer 2xN if your drop
    pattern doesn't shield one of the side colors. And if your strikes have
    a fused structure to them, by all means wait to send them en-masse.


    The Four Sword Attributes

    The different features of a sword encourage different kinds of play styles.
    But each play style falls into one of four catagories. You can send shorter
    strikes more often, or a few number of long strikes. For sprinkles, you can
    send a few sprinkles repeatedly, or build up for one massive sprinkle drop.
    These attributes are termed "Quick Strikes", "Mass Strikes", "Quick Sprinkles",
    and "Mass Sprinkles". "Quick" refers to something that's smaller, but easier
    to send. Quick strikes and sprinkles are sent more often in the early game.
    "Mass" strikes and sprinkles are much larger, and tend to get sent in the late
    game (although a quick combo can send a mass strike or sprinkle in the
    beginning of a game).

    It's worth noting that you can play a sword however you want. You can take
    a sword with a terrible sprinkle pattern like the foil and continually send
    a sprinkles. The sword just won't work as well as it would if you sent
    strikes. So each sword can be rated in each of these four catagories, based
    on how much trouble it causes your opponent if you use that style. Each
    attribute is rated on a different section of the drop pattern:

    Quick Sprinkles

    A quick sprinkle drop is any drop with one row of sprinkles or less. So only
    the bottom sprinkle row is considered when rating quick sprinkles.

    Mass Sprinkles

    Mass sprinkle drops include two or more rows of sprinkles. Rating this
    attribute considers both the first and second row of the sprinkle pattern.

    Quick Strikes

    Quick strikes are any strike that can be sent over with relatively little
    effort. So this refers primarily to 2x4s sent in 1-2, 2-3, and 5-6. The
    effectiveness of 2x6s and 2x3s in these column drops are considered as well,
    as are the horizontal 6x2s.

    Mass Strikes

    Mass strikes refer to anything require considerable effort to set up. In
    large part, this refers to the value of 2x6s, 2x8s, 2x9s, and 2x12s. But
    it also includes things like sending three 2xNs (which will force a 3-4
    strike), two long 2xNs, or any strike including a 3x4, 3x6, 3x8, or larger.

    It's worth noting that you will not actually win the game on any one attribute
    alone. No matter how hard you try, there will always be times when you send
    have to send strikes fitting any of these attributes.

    Also, in some sense it's easier to win the game with mass strikes and
    sprinkles, since the combos will fill up the drop zone faster than repeated
    quick strikes and sprinkles. You can't win the game on quick sprinkles alone.
    However, quick drops have an amazing power to really mess up the opponent's
    combo setups. So while quick drops don't win the game directly, they still
    make it hard for the opponent to make you lose (because they provide a tempo
    advantage).

    This one is today last sticky victim and the one I'm most apprehensive about. It's a great post and a great discussion... so perhaps if people want it back enough I'll reconsider. -Diamondblade.
    ----------------------------------------
    [Edit 10 times, last edit by Tedv at Dec 21, 2003 11:47:49 AM]
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Tedv



Joined: Jul 29, 2003
Posts: 1082
Status: Offline

Re: Everything about Everything about Swords Reply to this Post
Reply with Quote

Updated Jan 29, 2004

Please tell me if you spot any errors in here, especially in the drop patterns.

Sword Review

The second half of this essay is an evaluation of these features in all
available swords. A sample drop pattern is listed for each sword. The
drop pattern will always be for the red/red sword.

The swords sorted by rating, from worst to best. There is no best sword,
but some swords are definitely better than others. Each sword will have
a set of ratings given in each of its four attributes, from 0 to 10.
For non-symmetric swords, ratings will be given for both the left- and
right-handed versions.

Below the attribute ratings, three additional values will be given. The
"Rating" represents how good the sword is given a player who can effectively
use the swords optimal style. "Base" represents how well the sword will
perform in the hands of someone who doesn't focus on any one style.

"Difficulty" represents how hard it is to play the sword optimally-- it
is the difference between "Rating" and "Base". This value is then scaled
by 10 / <max difficulty> and rounded to the nearest integer, so all swords
have a difficulty between 0 and 10.

For the mathematically curious, "Rating" is computed as:

1/2 of the maximum attribute +
1/6 of the other three attributes

No matter how well you play, there will always be times when you need to send
drops of all four kinds.

Obviously, "Base" is computed as "Sum of all attributes divided by four".

And PLEASE keep in mind, these numbers are just my own opinion from playing
against these swords. They are not the final word. Some of the numbers
could be wrong, but I believe they are correct.


Stick





Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 1
Mass Strike: 1

Rating: 2.167
Base: 1.75
Difficulty: 5

The stick is really terrible. Ironically, it's possible to be worse. The strikes
would be worse if the sides sent connected 2x3 or 2x4 structures instead of 2x2s.
And the sprinkles would be worse if they sent three of a color in a row instead of
two. It's a little weird that the sword is better with sprinkles than strikes. but
it makes sense if you think about it. No matter how long of a strike you send, it
will always get cleared out by one breaker (or two if it's in 2-3). But when you
send even 6 sprinkles, it will require at least 3 breakers to take out.

That said, don't get any funny ideas about this sword. It's still terrible.
The only way you'll actually win with it is through some massive instant kill,
so the difficulty rating is a bit misleading.


Foil






Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 4
Base: 3.5
Difficulty: 5

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 4

Rating: 3.833
Base: 3.25
Difficulty: 6

No doubt about it. This is a strike-oriented sword. The sprinkles are utterly
terrible, as anyone who's received 8 rows of foil sprinkles can testify. The
only way to win with this sword is by sending strikes. All the strikes are
two colors, so mass strikes require at least twice as many breakers as quick
strikes to clean out (but presumably require twice as much effort to set up).
The right-handed foil gets an extra mass sprinkle point over the left-handed
version because of the red shielding created by a 2-3 drop. The way to win
with a foil is to set up really massive strikes and hope one of them lands
in 2-3. Of course, sending a 3xN is a great way of guaranteeing this happens.
This strategy just isn't as effective for the left-handed version, and you can
see the considerable drop in rating from losing just one point in the highest
catagory. But that said, it's still a difficult sword to use. Sending lots
of sprinkles will only cause you pain and suffering later.


Dirk







Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 1
Mass Sprinkle: 4
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 3

Rating: 3.833
Base: 3.25
Difficulty: 6

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 3

Rating: 4
Base: 3.5
Difficulty: 5

This is an odd sword, but any way you look at it, it's not that great. The
mini sprinkles in the right-handed version are downright terrible, but the
mass sprinkles are slightly better-- there's some stratified green/yellow
layers on the left side of the board and the block of blue sprinkles that get
destroyed in one breaker gets shifted to the right. But you pay for this
by letting your opponent set up massive 3xNs using your homogeneous sprinkles.
And the yellow core still extends to the top through columns 3 and 4, so the
sprinkle layers in columns 1 and 2 of the right-handed version don't help that
much.

The strikes are uniformly below average, especially the monochrome strike in 5-6
(or 1-2 for the left-handed version). Still, both the left and right handed 2-3
strikes have a good mix of colors.


Stiletto






Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 4
Mass Sprinkle: 5
Quick Strike: 3
Mass Strike: 2

Rating: 4
Base: 3.5
Difficulty: 5

It should be clear that the strikes in this sword are terrible, since both the
1-2 and 5-6 strikes are monochrome. The whole 1-2 column gets broken by one
blue breaker, leaving all the remaining column 2 red in a stack to be broken by
the next red breaker. The mass strikes are slightly worse than the quick
strikes because no matter how long the standard 1-2 or 5-6 is, it still requires
the same number of breakers (2) to clear them all out. Of course, columns
3 and 4 are really mixed up, and mass strikes are more likely to throw stuff
in those columns (from 3xNs or sending three 2xNs). That's the only thing
saving this sword from having a mass strike rating of 1.

The quick sprinkles are a typical slight-below-average pattern. It has four
colors (guaranteeing at least two singleton sprinkle drops) and no separation.
The mass sprinkles may look amazing, especially columns 2 through 5, but on
further inspection, it's just not that great. The sprinkles separate blue
and red to the left, with green and yellow on the right. So each sprinkle
half is two color. Moreover, columns 1 and 6 are monochrome, so one breaker
on the left side will destroy all the blue, leaving the remaining red in
a pile which one red breaker can destroy-- the same problem the mass strikes
had, incidently. The end result is that two breakers will clear out all but
one or two blocks on the side of a mass sprinkle attack. Still, the mass
sprinkles in columns 3 and 4 are hard to get at, so repeated mass sprinkle
attacks should eventually stack up a fairly mixed group of blocks in the
central two columns. Realistically this is the Stiletto's only path to
victory.


Falchion








Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 4
Base: 3.5
Difficulty: 5

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 4.167
Base: 3.75
Difficulty: 5

The pattern is yet another set of typically poor sprinkles. Nothing notable
about them. Just don't send sprinkles.

The quick strikes are standard two color strikes, primarily made of fused blocks.
The left-handed version gets an extra point here for slightly better structure,
but it's still not that exciting. The mass strikes add a few more colors but
not really that much. The structure the strikes send aren't terrible but not
great either. Similarly there's a bit of color separation in the strikes but
it's minimal.


Rapier








Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 4
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 4

Rating: 4.333
Base: 4
Difficulty: 4

The rapier's quick sprinkles are a typical below-average pattern. It's easy
to build stacks of red and yellow on the sides, and any incoming green and
blue blocks can be stacked in their appropriate column. The mass sprinkles
offer very little extra. On the plus side, no fused blocks will be formed
from a mass sprinkle attack. Unfortunately, each of the four colors will
still remain connected. Furthermore, if one color is broken, it's associated
interleaved color will drop to form a solid fused structure. For example,
suppose four rows of sprinkles are dropped, and the green is cleared out.
The red blocks in column 2 will drop down to form a fused 2x2 block. So
while the structure looks decent, it's really not that amazing.

The strikes have the same problem as the sprinkles. By and large, the drops
are just two color layers which are easy to clean out. The structure doesn't
contain much in the way of fused blocks (the 2-3 strike is the only one), but
none of the strikes are amazing either. The opponent can just keep one half
of the board two colors and the other half the other two colors to keep
everything cleaned out. The higher ranks of the long strikes do contain a
little extra color diversity, but it's not enough to make a difference. At
least 90% of each strike will drop the two colors associated with that
particular half of the board.


Saber








Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 4.333
Base: 4
Difficulty: 4

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 1
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 3.667
Base: 3
Difficulty: 7

The saber's quick sprinkles are hardly disruptive at all. For the right-handed
version, the opponent will probably build three sets of 2xNs against it. They
might attempt a blue 3xN on the right half of the board, although that's difficult
to set up. The mass sprinkles on the right-handed saber don't improve much--
there's "only" one solid 2xN, but every color stack is breakable with one breaker.

This already bad sprinkle pattern becomes horrible for the left-handed version.
The three blue sprinkles in columns 1, 2, and 3 literally beg the opponent to
build a tall 3xN, plus a red 2xN in columns 5 and 6. The mass sprinkles do
almost nothing to break up this pattern-- just one extra,meaningless red block
gets sent in column 1.

With sprinkles this bad, there's a boundary on how good the strikes can actually
be. No matter how good a strike is, its bottom two rows will always send another
copy of the sprinkle pattern. So the quick strikes on both versions, while they
have decent color separation, are still relatively connected and easy to break.
The left-handed saber loses a point in quick strikes (relative to the right-
handed version) because it's 2-3 strike is much worse-- it sends a solid 2x2
at the bottom, while none of the right-handed saber's quick strikes send solid
blocks. The long mass strikes don't get any worse, but they also don't get
any better. Most of the strikes are still two colors, although some of them are
nominally three color. In any case, two breakers will shatter most of the
strikes. What the longer strikes lack in color layers they make up in color
separation at least. And most of the clearing will just send sprinkles back, not
fused blocks. Not terrible, not exceptional.


Cutlass









Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 6

Rating: 4.833
Base: 4.25
Difficulty: 6

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 4
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 6

Rating: 4.833
Base: 4.25
Difficulty: 6

The quick sprinkles are identical to the foil (and stick), and just not that
exciting. The mass sprinkles are definitely better due to their structure,
but they still drop large connected chunks of colored blocks. The left-handed
cutlass gets an extra mass sprinkle point due to the better sprinkle structure
on the left side instead of the right. Most importantly, the first column
alternates red/blue (as opposed to the last column for the right-handed).

The early strikes are not that great, but not terrible-- pretty standard two
color drops. The right-handed version has significantly better 2-3 quick
strikes in 2-3, however, due to the lack of color connection. The left-handed
2-3 strikes are much easier to break. The mass strikes look notably better,
since they have so many layers at the upper levels. And the strikes are good,
but not amazing. For example, a long 2x8 in 1-2 still just sends a column
with three 2x2s in it (plus 4 semi-connected blocks of two colors each).
Incidently, while the long 2-3 strikes for the left-handed cutlass have the
same connectivity problem as the quick strikes, they send a broken structure
in rows 5 and 6, so the ratings seem to balance out. Note that the 2-3 strikes
on the right-handed version create shielding on the yellow in columns 1 and 2.


Long Sword









Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 3
Mass Sprinkle: 2
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 7

Rating: 5.167
Base: 4.25
Difficulty: 10

The sprinkle pattern is a pretty typical low-end pattern. Nothing new worth
discussing. Just remember it's bad and don't send sprinkles with this sword
if possible, making this a difficult sword to use effectively.

The quick strikes are pretty decent, if unspectacular. Each column is two
color except the outside edges. The 2-3 strike sends four colors (although
still just two layers per column). Even the 1-2 and 5-6 strikes, which are
technically one color, won't let the opponent return that much due to their
structure. Additionally, these strikes have good color separation, since
their secondary strike color is normally found 3 columns towards the other
side of the board. And as these strikes extend higher into mass strike
range, the theme of poor structure continues. The long strikes have very
broken structure, but it's unfortunate each such strike has a horrible 2x2
solid structure at the very bottom. Even still, the strikes are worthwhile.


Short Sword






Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 6
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 5.167
Base: 4.75
Difficulty: 5

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 6
Mass Sprinkle: 3
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 4

Rating: 5
Base: 4.5
Difficulty: 5

This sword is essentially a foil with better sprinkles. The mass sprinkles
are slightly better than the foil as well. Even though they are all connected,
at least the 1-2 and 5-6 sprinkles don'tdrop as massive connected 2xNs. Still,
each third of the sword's sprinkles gets cleared in one hit, and the 3-4
sprinkles are still a solid block.

The quick strikes are unspectacular two layer drops. At least each 2x4 only
sends one connected 2x2 block instead of two, but that's not exactly a selling
point. The 2-3 strike is amazing, at least. And the right-handed 2-3 strikes
is better still than the left-handed because it does an excellent job of shielding
the red in columns 1 and 2, so the right-handed mass strikes gain an extra point
for that. Otherwise though, the mass strikes are below average. Lots of
connected color masses in easily attackable layers.

The sword strategy seems to be "break a lot of stuff and hope for the best".
The sword doesn't give a very good return on massive combos, so early, disruptive
attacks are the only way to go.


Poniard








Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 5
Mass Sprinkle: 6
Quick Strike: 4
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 5.333
Base: 5
Difficulty: 4

This is a decidedly average sword. The poniard has two big weaknesses. First,
each half is two color (except when sending long strikes). And second, the
middle columns are mono-chrome. The result is that if the opponent keeps each
color to its assigned side and keeps the center columns monochrome, then any
incoming red or blue breaker will clear out half of one side, leaving the
remaining green or yellow mostly connected (and clearable with another breaker).
But this is easier said than done at times, especially if the opponent gets
a lot of green/yellow pieces. Another popular counter technique is to put
red in column 2 and blue in column 5, which should create some sizable 3xNs.

The sprinkles look great on paper, but when the above countering techniques
are applied, they can get cleared out pretty quickly. The mass sprinkles
will take longer than the quick sprinkles, especially if 4 or more rows are
sent. Quick strikes have a similar problem-- once the central core of red or
blue is removed, the remaining green or yellow is easy to destroy. Thankfully
the mass strikes add some much needed color separation in the higher ranks.


Cleaver







Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 5
Mass Sprinkle: 4
Quick Strike: 6
Mass Strike: 5

Rating: 5.333
Base: 5
Difficulty: 4

Left-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 5
Mass Sprinkle: 5
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 4

Rating: 4.833
Base: 4.75
Difficulty: 1

The quick sprinkles on the cleaver are decent but not great. On one hand,
the red has great color separation. But the paired green and yellow blocks
in columns 2-3 and 4-5 causes most opponents to focus building 2xN stacks
there instead. And while there's no blue in the sprinkle pattern, one
half of the sword is strictly two color (right half for right-handed, left
half for left-handed), so the blue gets stuffed in the other half and things
tend to work out.

The mass sprinkles doesn't break up much of anything-- only the red block in
column 6 (column 1 for the left-handed version) gets isolated. Incidently,
this is the reason the left-handed version gets one extra mass sprinkle
point. The mass sprinkles from that cleaver help bury the left side column
of red created by quick sprinkles.

The cleaver's strikes are mediocre as well. First, the first column is
mono-chrome, so the 1-2 strikes (5-6 for left-handed) are all breakable with
one breaker. It's true that it will leave a small stack of three colors
in column 2, but most of these blocks will border adjacent colored masses,
so they're easy to take out. The 2-3 2x4 strike is really good though. At least
it's two colors with no fused structures inside it. But the 5-6 2x4 strike
is just the same two colors over and over. When one color is taken out,
the other blocks fuse together into an easily clearable mass. The left-handed
cleaver loses a quick strike point because it's 2-3 strike just isn't as
good as the right-handed 2-3.

The mass strikes get a little better, but not for the effort required to
send them. The fifth row adds a third color to the 2-3 and 5-6 strikes.
Technically the 1-2 strike gets that third color as well, but that strike is
still breakable with one red breaker so it doesn't help that much. Also,
since the extra colors are yellow in 2-3 and green in 4-5 (the reverse of
the quick sprinkles), the spare blocks tend to get broken when it touches
the green or yellow in the opposite pair of columns that gets broken. The
left-handed mass strikes lose a point versus right handed because the
left-handed 1-3 strike is clearly inferior to the right-handed 1-3. It just
doesn't have as many colors in it.


Scimitar







Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 7
Mass Sprinkle: 8
Quick Strike: 5
Mass Strike: 3

Rating: 6.5
Base: 5.75
Difficulty: 8

This sword has really excellent sprinkles, both quick and en-masse. The early
sprinkles have great color separation (blue on both sides), and each half
of the board is home to three different sprinkle colors. The mass sprinkles
introduce great color diversity in the third and fourth columns, although the
outside edges remain mono-chrome (for sprinkles at least).

The scimitar's strikes are a little below average. The shorter strikes are decent,
if unspectacular. The primary benefit of the strikes is the color separation of
the green (pushed to the sides in strikes while it sprinkles in the center), but
it's not terribly hard to link that green into the center and break all of it
with one breaker. The long strikes are a nothing special for 1-2 and 5-6, and
pretty bad for 2-3 and 1-3. This is one of the few swords where 2-3 strikes are
actually worse than 1-2 strikes. Sending long strikes might be okay sometimes,
but send too many and you will surely get burned. Still a very good sword overall.


Skull Dagger






Left- and Right-Handed

Quick Sprinkle: 4
Mass Sprinkle: 4
Quick Strike: 7
Mass Strike: 8

Rating: 6.5
Base: 5.75
Difficulty: 8

While the quick sprinkle pattern looks like a standard below average sprinkle
pattern of AABCDD, the skull dagger's pattern is actually slightly better.
By dropping having columns 1 and 2 drop the same color as 5 and 6, the pattern
generates decent color separation, with columns 3 and 4 separating them.
Additionally, there isn't a good place to put the missing color, red. With
most swords that have a sprinkle color with an overwhelming majority in one
color and an absence in others, the absent colors usually group in one or
two adjacent columns when sent by strikes. This isn't the case for the
skull dagger. The red is found scattered throughout columns 2 through 5.
Of course, none of this changes the fact that it's still easy to build tall
2xNs against the sprinkles on either side of the board, and the mass sprinkles
create long connected blocks. At least there are no solid 2xNs embedded in the
mass sprinkle pattern. The end result is a mostly average sprinkle pattern.

The skull dagger's strikes are a lot more interesting, however. The 1-2
and 5-6 strikes are three color with fragile block structure. And the 2-3
quick strike, while only 2 color in each column, provides good shielding
for the blue in columns 1 and 2. The mass strikes provide more of the same--
more fragile structure in three color drops. The 1-3 strike is particularly
good because it combines the good attributes of 1-2 and 2-3 strikes-- it's a
three color shielding strike.


Factoids

I thought I'd close this review with some factoids about swords using this
rating scheme.

Highest rated: Skull Dagger and Scimitar (6.5 tie)
Lowest rated: Stick (2.167)
Best for beginners: Skull Dagger and Scimitar (5.75 tie) [highest base]

Most difficult: Long Sword (10)
Least difficult: Left-handed Cleaver (1)

Best quick sprinkles: Scimitar (7)
Best mass sprinkles: Scimitar (8)
Best quick strikes: Skull Dagger (7)
Best mass strikes: Skull Dagger (8)
----------------------------------------
[Edit 5 times, last edit by Tedv at Dec 21, 2003 11:48:30 AM]
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NinjaGuy

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Ted I have to say, this may possibly be one of the best (and longest) things ever written on these boards. I can tell you that this has really helped me considering I'm usually one who usually fought without strategy (other than "If yellow fall on the right, stack yellows there") it is very helpful to know how patterns transfer into strikes and so forth. Great job mate.
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[Edit 1 times, last edit by NinjaGuy at Dec 21, 2003 12:06:13 PM]
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AizIril



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I bookmarked this, thinking "I'll read it later". Then read it. Heh.

An excellent essay there, although I find some of the points to be slightly inaccurate. Well... Not inaccurate, accurate enough, but you write them as 'law', and I see them as 'things that happen most of the time'.

I would agree with most of your sword rankings, but I disagree with a couple. Everything you've written is based on theory from what I can see, and a surprisingly large amount of the time, things just dont go like that.
Not to knock you down or anything, this is a great guide, but IMO it's not the be all end all (not that you claimed it to be).

Aside from that...

Interesting about the shortsword. Very interesting. Might have to pick one up to try it out.

Also - Skull Dagger... eehh. I find it VERY easy to link the two sides of a skull dagger together. But we'll see. I have a couple on order. :P
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Tedv



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One thing I didn't talk about was how to weight these aspects together. For example, anyone can say "more colors in your strikes is better" and "sprinkle color diversity is good". It's much harder to say what's a fair tradeoff between more colors in strikes and more colors in sprinkles. And yes, the sword rankings are just based on my own limited play test experience and theory. I'll update the rankings as I play against them, but again-- it's still just my opinion. A well justified and thought out opinion, perhaps, but an opinion nonetheless.
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Jer



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You're a machine.
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Sarterixa



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One small thing, you said the breaker doesn't count toward the total. Unless they changed it, it does count toward the total number of pieces broken. Or otherwise I'm just clueless.
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I think i speak for all of us when i say THANK YOU! We've all been waiting for a nice long discussion on the + and -'s of all the swords. This should help me decide on a scim replacement sword.
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FrankGrimes

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Dodongo77 wrote: 
I think i speak for all of us when i say THANK YOU! We've all been waiting for a nice long discussion on the + and -'s of all the swords. This should help me decide on a scim replacement sword.


Same here. I already purchased my new poniard before reading this, since I've started setting up some devastating sprinkle combos, but I'm also considering trying a short sword. Great work.
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That saber pattern is backwards from my green/green one
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Tedv



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Sugarpie wrote: 
That saber pattern is backwards from my green/green one


Well that's the right-handed saber pattern I posted. The left-handed saber has issues with its sprinkle pattern. But I presume you're just talking about the layout, not the colors, right? I got these patterns from weaver's site: http://weaver.merold.net/pirates/swordcolours.php

And incidently, thanks for all the feedback. You might have noticed I've slowly been editing the document based on the errors everyone has noted.

For example, I just learned that deep sprinkles only copy the first and second lines over and over again. This makes the Poniard much better at deep sprinkles in my opinion, so that's enough for me to call it better than the Foil. As such I moved it to the "Pretty good swords" catagory, but you still have to be excellent at mass sprinkle combo setup to use it as such. And as always, this is just my opinion on the matter-- your opinion (and reality) may differ.
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Silverstar

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Just reading this, I find this fascinating, but I disagree with some of it... Most specificaly, I rank the Cleaver only slightly better than the foil, myself. It's very easy to return large swords and combos from what it sends over, just like a foil, but a cleaver doesn't clean up quite as nicely.

Nonetheless, I don't mind being hit by a cleaver at all. I'll turn it around and send it back.

Sidenote - did some Grand Frigate pillaging with Hades. Against NPPs (that, as far as we know, target randomly-ish), ALL the Cleaver-wielders went down relatively quickly (they were all in the first 20 people eliminated, of 60) As NPPs in a brigand are probably not sending your fodder back to you, it probably means that the average Cleaver wielder is below average in swordhandling... But I don't know for sure, and this was observed on the last battle - (I got bored and started looking through the knocked out players)
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AizIril



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Cleaver weilders go down quickly because people still have this overwhelming sense that cleavers somehow make them really dangerous, so everyone piles on them and they get killed quickly enough.
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Gotagota

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AizIril wrote: 
Cleaver weilders go down quickly because people still have this overwhelming sense that cleavers somehow make them really dangerous, so everyone piles on them and they get killed quickly enough.


Yes, but against brigands?
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garf



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very nice analysis!

some minor corrections:

 
The
HIGHEST sprinkle block in each column will match the LOWEST color in the
drop pattern.

this is not correct. just tested it. sprinkles use the same "whats lowest on the pattern lands lowest" mechanism as swords.


then, on combos on horizontal swords - first, some of the larger combos on horizontals get converted into verticals. a 3x2 bingo becomes a 2x12, for example. this likely is true for bigger horizontals, too.

the combo level may also affect the strike height for horizontal swords; this is really hard to verify as there seem to be many aspects playing a role, but overall impression is that higher combos are more likely to strike high.

also, the same mechanism as for 2x2 actuall goes for 3x3 and 4x4 as well - 3x3 drop as 2x4 (but become 3x6 for doubles), and if i recall correctly, a 4x4 drops as 3x5.
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Ted, this is an amazing post. It's really helped me a lot. Thank you!
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This is great. Although I never, ever, EVER expected to see the short sword listed under 'top swords'. Yay for rehaul.

Crystallina
who used to love fighting short swords before because she'd get these tall columns of one color, and would build them up with more of the same color, and they'd never get buried because they were just so tall, and when they maxed out she'd build a combo up, and...
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gunstepper



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A small note; it looks like your dirk pattern is slightly off in the bottom row. Might make a fair difference for mass sprinkling; I'm thinking of getting one and trying it out.
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Dylan

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As a matter of interest, how would you rate the 'old' Scimmy pattern, Tedv?

While I'm posting, part of the reason foils were percieved as so bad, as that not only were their drop patterns easy and well known, every single brigand used them. They will never be great, and will remain well known, of course, as long as greenies get them for free (hey perhaps they should get a random group 1 weapon instead?).

Final question: in sea battle with the accepted practice of 2 or 3 on one, against NPPs or players, does it a) not matter at all what you wield b) remain the same as above (after all, you might be the only one good enough to send decent attacks) or c) change the rankings of different swords. In the latter case, how?

Dylan (who cares more about winning sea battles than 1v1)
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Tedv



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A bunch of replies:

"Cleaver isn't that good"

I agree with almost all of these complaints. It's not the best sword in the game. A good sword figher will do far, far better with other swords. However, I still hold that the cleaver is superior to the swords in group 2. Moreover, the cleaver is definitely the best sword for one group of sword fighters (the unpracticed). As such, it belongs in the company of the highest group, even though the other swords can be used to better effect than it.

"Sprinkles aren't inverted"
"Horizontals can get converted to verticals"
"The dirk pattern is missing two green blocks in the bottom row"


Thanks-- I've fixed all of these

"How well do you rate the old scimitar pattern?"

The old scimitar, when Left-handed, was arguably the best sword in the game. General concensus is that the Skull dagger was slightly worse than it. I happened to like the Skull dagger more, but that could just be my play style fit it better. You might have been able to argue the Saber being better than the Scimitar as well due to the color diversity but... The scimitar was worst case the #3 sword and probably #1. It was definitely overpowered for a sword that only used 2 chalcocite to make.

It's interesting to note that even though the saber's pattern didn't get changed, the sword got a little nerfed by the strike changes. Since the saber's primary strength is color separation, before you commonly sent strikes where neither strike color matched the main sprinkle color for that column. But now it's guaranteed to have at least 3 matching colors.

Other updates

And lastly, I was thinking more about these swords last night... I actually think the Long sword is only slightly better than a foil, and belongs in the same group (Group 1). You can read the updated description for an explanation. But it really got hurt by the changes to the strikes being selected from the very bottom always. Since the long sword's best strikes are so high up, you are committed to sending very long strikes or losing in quick fashion. That's not what I want from a sword that requires 2 Lorandite to make.

I'm also thinking about the Rapier and Falchion-- should these actually be part of Group 1 (About as good as the foil) instead of Group 2 (notably better than the foil, but not the best ever)? And has anyone gotten a lot of time in with the Short Sword to determine if it really does belong in group 3, or is group 2 more appropriate? Post your results here!
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Crystallina

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IMO, rapiers and falchions are definitely better than foils. Just my 2 cents' worth.
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Sword locations... Reply to this Post
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I haven't seen any comment about it in other threads, other than that it was unknown - has anyone figured out how the locations of vertical strikes are determined?
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Dylan

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Where the strike comes seems to be random, although left and right do seem to be more common than middle.
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I wub you Tedv. =D

By the looks of your review, it does seem that the short-sword is the best sword in terms of value-for-money. I mean, for about 4K you get a group 3 sword? Wicked.
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Thesis
It’s kind of funny/sad how I still can find the thing that made me part of Y!PP canon.
[Dec 22, 2003 7:08:32 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Silverstar

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Horizontal strikes Reply to this Post
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I didn't see it mentioned in your review, but when you cover the basics, you should add that another weakness of horizontal strikes is that they can be blocked entirely.
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Silvermoon, First Mate, Silver Dragon Trading Company
Silverstar, Instructor, Puzzle Pirates Academy (retired)
[Dec 22, 2003 7:55:25 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.livejournal.com/users/chirik    Chirik    yppSilvermoon [Link]  Go to top 
kurosh



Joined: Jul 23, 2003
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Re: Everything about Everything about Swords Reply to this Post
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Nice, just one thing that stuck out. Short sword strikes are TERRIBLE, avoid at all costs! Your guide says you should use a mixture of strikes and sprinkles with them.
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Kurosh of Black Death
[Dec 22, 2003 2:28:00 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
Illumini



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Re: Everything about Everything about Swords Reply to this Post
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impressive write-up, it helped me alot. :)
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Tachler: Captain of the Jolly Rogers and King of the flag The Black Spot
[Dec 22, 2003 5:51:09 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
54x

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I think the rating system is flawed. Only dirk, stick, and foil are actually bad. Stilleto is GREAT, but incredibly hard to use for a regular person's style- hence why Poseidon handed me my severed hand with his ;)

The middle row on that thing is deadly, and he seemed to be able to get all his swords in the middle. (probably because he was building there and my middle was much harder to clear than his)

I think what's missing is the fact that lots of swords have the potential to get great results, but some are 'easier' than others, because they fit the 'average' style better. There're tricks to fighting with every sword... and the new system reflects this better in quite a few ways.
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Diamondblade, Cartographer, Crimson Tide.
from Midnight.
Dear sir or madam can you read my book, it took me years to write, will you take a look?
[Dec 22, 2003 8:46:08 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message    http://www.mjwhitehead.com/    raasike54    secondlight5454    32987700 [Link]  Go to top 
ramirojr



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Tedv, I think you made everyone like the Short Sword. It's the new fad in YPP.
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My backpacking buddy wrote: 
Remember that time we went through the Hall o'Precedents, then refused t'do it again? That Summer were the best.

[Dec 23, 2003 5:27:18 PM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
CursedBurger

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I'd like to note that, because only the top 4 rows repeat for very long swords, both the short sword and the saber will have one-color layers on the outside edges after a certain height. Therefore, it becomes very important to add a layer or three of sprinkles on top (unless the swords extend to the top of the screen, which is ideal.
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Are there any pirates on this ship?
And if they sober up,
they'll have us home by morning.
[Dec 24, 2003 1:25:12 AM] Show Printable Version of Post        Send Private Message [Link]  Go to top 
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