Arimaa/Attacking/Overview

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With Gold's superior strength in the east in this middlegame, attacking the f6 trap with elephant, horse and dog is a promising plan for Gold. Gold aims to occupy key squares around f6.

Attacking refers to advancing multiple pieces with a threat to take control of an opponent's trap. In the opening, attacking ideas exist in conjunction with more cautious strategies such as pulling pieces to one's own home traps; an elephant and horse might advance but then pull pieces down, setting the stage for an attack or a home capture depending on how things develop. At some point, attacking will be the best option; traps become increasingly hard to defend, and the first one to attack a vulnerable trap will have a head start.

A strong attack can force multiple captures and then a goal, or can at least force the enemy elephant to defend its own home trap. A trap attack might be a second threat that forces the enemy elephant to abandon a hostage to capture. Conversely, a trap attack might be a first threat that ties up enough enemy pieces to make a second threat viable.

If an elephant is forced to defend its own home trap, a common aim of the attacker is an elephant rotation, in which a team of advanced pieces replaces the attacker's elephant, freeing it to operate elsewhere while the enemy elephant is stuck contesting its own home trap.


A trap attacker wants to occupy at least two key squares, including a decentralized one, so the defender's placement of pieces is important. As long as Silver herself is not attacking, she typically has a horse or camel on b6 and g6 (the initial setup should prepare for this). The camel is an excellent defender, but the opponent should always be expected to attack the weakest wing. It may be worthwhile to keep the camel flexible so that it can defend either trap.

Silver could defend the c6 trap by placing horses on both b6 and c7. However, this would leave the f6 trap without a defending horse, and also make the c7 horse passive. Instead, most players will place a minor piece behind each home trap, and if necessary use a phalanx to block an enemy horse or camel from reaching c7 via c6. However, such a phalanx would include a piece on d7, which could be highly vulnerable to an attacker on d6; if the attacker has the time and space, he could flip a d7 piece to d5, breaking the phalanx and also threatening to capture the d5 piece in c3 or f3.

The defender should watch for opportunities to take an attacker hostage or frame a piece on the trap square, thus turning the tables on the attacker.

If the attacker has more strength locally than the defender, and so will inevitably make progress, the defender should probably counterattack on the other wing, defending as solidly as possible in the meantime. Such positions can become extremely sharp.


The elephant must often be available to support an attack. Beyond that, what pieces are needed for an attack depends on the defenders present. It must not be possible for the opponent to take the first attacker as a strong hostage; for example, it is very dangerous to attack with a horse on the opponent's camel wing. Similarly, it is difficult to lead an attack with a camel because of the risk of a camel hostage. Attackers advancing behind the first are safer, although a double hostage or frame-hostage could be devastating. Efficiency is also important: for instance, with a horse available, it would be wasteful to use a camel to attack a trap whose strongest defender is a dog. Using too much strength risks leaving the home traps weak.

In the opening, attacks are most common when each side has a horse on each wing, and camels are on opposite wings. Each side advances the horse on the wing where their camel lies, and tries to get it onto a key square around the enemy trap with the help of their elephant and camel. These situations are known as EMH attacks. In contrast, if camels are on the same wing the game tends to be slower and attacking harder.

If the opponent defends solidly against an attack, it may be time to switch gears. Advanced pieces have multiple uses; if not actively attacking, they could pull down an enemy rabbit, which might be captured somewhat quickly if the opponent has too many pieces committed to home defense.