Material Balance

In Crumble, nearly every move of the game changes the material balance in one direction or the other. Players take bites out of each other's position as they pursue their positional goals. During the opening phase, each bite amounts to 1/2 of a starting piece, or 1/72nd of the full playing field. Later, this ratio drops off precipitously.

Although it's possible to win the game with an arbitrarily thin strand of pieces (statistically 0% of the total), that would have to involve one of the most impressive sacrificial attacks imaginable.

In practice, all other things being equal, a material advantage does make a difference. To achieve the winning condition, your opponent must break through your position. A shear weight of your own pieces can make that difficult, especially if the extra material is active and centralized.

I've found that the equivalent of 19 starting pieces to 17 seems to be fairly tolerable. That level of advantage can tend to blend in with the normal material back-and-forth of each turn. Once you start getting to the equivalent of 20 starting pieces to 16 though, the advantage can start to be oppressive.

Since you can build up that kind of advantage in only four discrete moves, it does add importance to the idea of taking that bite out of the opponent's position with every turn. This is especially true in the opening, because the pieces are at their biggest. Once the position consists mostly of half-pieces and smaller, the importance of any individual move to the material balance drops considerably. This is made even more clear when you consider that half-squares are much less aggressive than full squares.

Because of that, the only time to play for a quick material advantage is in the early stages of the opening, during the first 10 moves or so. After that, most of the best big pieces will be either impervious or gone.

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