So I have said that there are various starting positions in the review, but to be honest despite 50+ plays of this, I am not sure I have any preference beyond four squares quite close to the middle. Why? Because if you leave too big a gap for your opponent then they can build up quickly and first player simply wins, and being any closer doesn’t make much difference when the board is only 5 squares wide and the first thing you do is move 1 square!
That said, there might be an advantage to being close to corners – because it’s easier to block people off. If you find a dominant starting position then let me know.
Also, I would generally start in a symmetrical position – it makes the symmetry of the choices you face even more tense!
During The Game:
Don’t Fall!; The biggest advice I can give is to not let yourself be in a position where you have to jump down. If you lose height in this game it can be extremely difficult to get it back. Your opponent will try to keep you pinned down (see below), and you can only build after moving. Dropping levels in this game is a quick way to give away an advantage to your opponent and likely lose the match.
Building on the diagonal; This is more of a defensive move, but it’s important to watch the diagonal. When the player builds that third level, it’s often the build from a diagonal that is left open or wasn’t seen – this can cap the third level and stop the win! Building on the diagonal is often less obvious and hence powerful.
Trapping a player; It sounds like an obvious one, but putting this in to practice is difficult. You can trap a player if (a) there is no equivalent level or one higher for them to step on to, or (b) if all the towers around have the blue cap. This is tough, but if you can create a gap between the player’s two pieces – and get both your pieces in between, your build options are vastly superior and they can almost certainly not out run you. Many early players will focus on building up with just one character and cutting them off with both of yours will likely trap them in a corner and leave you with 2-1 and the rest of the board to play.
Using your piece to block; Another key trap is to use your own builder to block. Sometimes it’s worth keeping them on a lower level just to block that tile being accessible to your opponent. That might be just before building the third level (so your opponent cannot cap it), or it might be to stop your opponent being able to move before they can build. It’s a little trick that can reduce your opponents otherwise pretty open set of options.
Keeping them on the floor; The other noteworthy strategy is to build to the second level a lot before focusing on the third. This is equivalent to trapping in the other player or at least making it take them a lot of time to get to you! Building to the second level whenever your opponent builds to the first keeps them on the ground floor. This is helpful even if you are on the ground floor as well as you are probably filling up their side of the board with unusable space before rushing off to build behind you builder!
Using the edge; Lastly, as with the second level, the edge is unusable and finding yourself backed into an edge can be dangerous. That being said, I have seen this used against me with that back corner being only accessible from three other squares – if your opponent doesn’t stay close, the corner is the perfect place to build for the win!
As I mentioned in the review though, just as soon as one of these tactics comes good, they unwind – your opponent learns the move and plays it back at you. This is a constant evolution so do let me know if you find other tactics that exploit the above!