DVONN is a two-player strategy board game in which the objective is to accumulate pieces in stacks. It was released in 2001 by Kris Burm as the fourth game of the GIPF Project. DVONN won the 2002 International Gamers Award and the Games magazine Game of the Year Award in 2003.
Many beginner players place their pieces at the start of the game without a clear objective. However, placement is as major a factor in winning as the movement phase.
Pieces should be placed with three main goals in mind: spaces by DVONN pieces, spaces by the side, and general density. The first objective is to place pieces by DVONN pieces, thereby keeping them safe from potential separation. Keeping at least three pieces by each DVONN piece helps defend them from potential attack. Next, pieces that are surrounded cannot move; therefore, having pieces along the side to start the game is valuable. Such pieces should also be in position to free other pieces on the inside. Finally, lumping groups of one's own pieces together is usually poor strategy. It is desirable to capture on every move, or at least take a DVONN piece; keeping all of one's pieces together often makes this difficult. Spreading pieces out across the board also increases the chance of maintaining a short (and therefore highly mobile) stack into endgame, where it may be moved into position for a crucial capture.
It may also be possible to string a line of one's own pieces across the board up and down. Play almost always separates along this line; pieces on one side of a string that has no DVONN piece are usually doomed. An additional advantage of placing stones connected in a line is that moving a stone on either end of the line will free another own stone for movement.
Having an even distribution of the DVONN pieces over the board is usually recommended for novice players, since this way they will be less vulnerable against groups of stones being lost by a cut off. Having all 3 red Dvonn pieces grouped together near the edge almost guarantees a win for an experienced player playing with white.
As a remark about the setup phase it can be mentioned that it is not possible to guarantee victory with a strong setup, but it is possible to have no chance of winning by placing your stones badly.
Capturing pieces that could capture a DVONN piece can be important, as a moving DVONN piece controlled by the opponent can isolate a large group of pieces. However, mobility is the most important aspect of DVONN; one needs to keep one's options open. Building a tall stack early in the movement phase is a mistake. Most often, the game is won by the player who is capable of making the last move(s). Maintaining some single stones until the end phase is, therefore, very often a good strategy. As a general rule one can state that using a tower to take a single stone of the opponent usually is one of the better moves, since this preserves own singles. A second general rule for selecting which move to make is that you should not make a move which the opponent cannot prevent you from making at a later time.
A very common mistake among beginners is that they are stacking own stones on top of each other in an attempt to prevent losing stones by being cut off by the opponent. However, since the game is all about mobility, this usually is a bad thing, since by stacking two of their own stones, instead of capturing an opponent's stone, they are effectively losing 2 stones. Only when a really large group of own stones is at risk, or in the end-phase of the game, one should consider placing own stones on top of each other. In any other situation, it is better to just give up the stone(s) in risk of being isolated and play offensive moves elsewhere and make the opponent lose a similar or preferably larger number of stones on another part of the board.
Taking a DVONN piece is especially desirable if it is possible to move it toward one's own pieces and away from one's opponent's. However, every capture counts, so big captures and maintaining mobility is more important than just taking DVONN pieces. A similar rule applies here as is the case for placing own stones on top of each other. When a DVONN pieces is taken, the opponent is not losing a stone, which means that effectively you are set back 1 stone in the stonecount compared to the opponent. Therefore, one should only take a DVONN piece if one has a plan with it to gain a larger advantage, or if one needs to prevent the opponent from gaining a significant advantage by moving it.
After move 70 (about 20 moves into the movement phase) the board clears and settles. It becomes much more important to look ahead to see how every move affects the overall situation. Tall stacks are very hard to move, so they should be formed next to (or on) DVONN pieces and out of line of potential captures.
Both RoRoRo the Bot and Jan's program play online at the LittleGolem games site and are usually found to be among the top 10 players.