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 home trap. In the opening, attacking ideas exist in conjunction with more cautious strategies such as pulling pieces; 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. As the game progresses, the position typically becomes sharper and attacking more important, because fewer pieces are available to defend and other approaches may be too slow.

Each side's attacking potential must be considered before each turn; a trap can quickly become vulnerable, and the first one to attack a vulnerable trap will have a head start. When feasible, attacking is a faster approach than dragging pieces down for home capture. There may or may not be home captures before a full-on attack; piece movement could be enough to leave a trap without adequate defense.

A strong attack can force multiple captures and then a goal, at least if the enemy elephant doesn't defend its own home trap. A trap attack might be a second threat that compels the enemy elephant to abandon a hostage to capture. Conversely, a trap attack might be a first threat that sets the stage for another.

Once an elephant is forced to defend its own home trap, the attacker might aim to rotate his own elephant out of that fight. If this succeeds and the enemy elephant remains stuck contesting its own home trap, the attacker will likely have a large advantage.


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 pushing through the trap. With the b6 and c7 entry points well defended, Gold will have to spend time disrupting Silver’s defenses in order to attack.

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

If one side is continually on defense, the attacker will likely gain an upper hand. If the defender can't easily thwart the attack, his best option may be to counterattack, usually on the other wing. With each side attacking and defending, the position may 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. It is difficult to attack on the opponent's camel wing, as an attacking horse might be taken hostage by the defending camel. It is dangerous to lead any attack with one's camel, due to 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.

Opening attacks are most common when each side has a horse on each wing, and camels are on opposite wings. Each side advances a horse on the wing where its own camel lies, and then uses its camel and elephant to try to help that horse reach a decentralized key square of the enemy trap. These situations are known as EMH attacks. If camels are on the same wing, any attack plan is less straightforward, and thus the game may progress slowly.

If the opponent defends solidly against an attack, it may be time to switch gears. Advanced pieces have multiple uses; when not actively attacking, an advanced piece could pull or flip an enemy piece, perhaps leading to a home capture, hostage, or frame.