The Hunter: Primal – A game with dinosaurs.

Well, there’s this early access game called The Hunter: Primal which happens to be an interesting game to play. So, while I’m sick in bed with the flu, I decided to just try it. For 20 euro’s it would probably offer me some fun and a small adrenaline rush. It’s new and still under development but the early access is already very promising.

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Boy, I was wrong… It’s real great already and really gets your adrenaline pumping! Why? Because you, the player, gets dumped on a strange planet with three prehistoric animals. And two of those will hunt you! And the weapons you have to protect yourself? Well, if you’re lucky you’ll start with an improvised bow and 5 arrows. There are better weapons but you will have to find them. And you’ll have to find ammunition for those weapons too. And possibly find some other useful gear. But it’s most likely that you’ll end up with just that bow for a long time.

This is a game that you can play with friends, if you just open up some ports on your router. Unfortunately, I’m behind a router and port forwarding is set to my web server, not my gaming system so that won’t work for me, unless all players are behind this router. Still, the multiplayer part makes it even more fun. The graphics are great, the sound is eery and you can actually hear the dino’s walking around if they get close. It is not a game you play for 5 or 10 minutes, though. Expect to spend hours trying to find weapons to kill those dino’s! That is, if you survive that long because it happened often enough that I died within 10 minutes…

Right now, there are three types of dinosaurs that you can hunt. The most interesting is the triceratops, a colossal beast that gets scared quite easily. I never had a weapon powerful enough to kill it immediately and to be honest, I’m trying to save my ammo to protect myself against the other dino’s. This huge herbivore makes a nice trophy, though. And so far it’s the only dino that hasn’t even tried to kill me.

Next, the T-Rex. Big, brutal and deadly. Fortunately, they tend to be noisy and when they walk around, they stomp loudly. And that makes some very good warning signals against them. Still, they are very hard to kill and they can kill you with a single bite so I try to stay away from them.

And then there’s the Utahraptor, named after the place where they’ve found their bones. A pack animal and a keen hunter. Not as deadly as T-Rex but still very deadly if you’re not careful. Especially when you meet a complete pack. You might need several shots to kill them, though. But that’s more because you did not aim correctly or tried to hit them in the head. These raptors are more vulnerable in their chests and neck so better aim for those areas. I did manage to kill one with a single arrow shot in the neck so a single shot can kill them. You just need a bit of luck. If you need a second shot, the raptor will be on his way to bite you so you will end up hurt. If you need more shots, you’re likely to be doomed.

So far, I’ve managed to stay alive with one character for more than 5 hours. Real hours, that is! And I still have just a bow and arrow because I’m stuck in an area full raptors and a T-Rex. But what I’ve noticed from all my gameplay so far (16 hours and counting) is that these dinosaurs seem to follow very natural patterns. And by learning those patterns you can try and survive in this environment.

So at first I tried to walk to the coastline and follow it to get to know the island that I was dumped upon. Seemed a wise decision since I expected the dino’s to stay away from the water. So at one point I started wading through the water until I discovered a raptor bathing in the water, right in front of me! It hadn’t noticed me so I considered shooting it, until I looked around and saw two more raptors walking towards the water. Fortunately, not towards me. They seemed to ignore me. That is, until the 4th raptor arrived and he wanted to bathe where I was standing. That didn’t end well. Had a gun, had three bullets and none of my shots hit any vital spots so I became food for 4 raptors…

So, the lesson I learned was that raptors like to bathe in the morning. So in the morning, stay away from the water, including the lakes. I also learned that they really start hunting in the afternoon and early in the night so at those moments they are more in the forest, making the beach and water areas more safe. This is useful to know since you can now estimate their locations based on the time of day!

Then the T-Rex. I had noticed that he spends most of his time on the hills, close to the forests. So I walked downhills towards water in the early morning expecting just raptors. Nope. Even T-Rex likes his bath and he will walk to the lakes too in the night for his morning bath! So we had a brief encounter. Me with my shotgun and T-Rex with his wide smile. And no, one shot doesn’t kill a T-Rex. Don’t know if two shots would have, though. He was chewing on me by then.

Still, I’m trying to learn to evade these dino’s while searching for better weapons. Not so easy when the game dumps you on the wrong side of the island so you have to cross it through T-Rex his domain. How I know it’s his domain? Well, its eggs were there. (Eat them and you have 1 minute to run before T-Rex goes after you!) And it’s an area with not so many hiding places so moving though it is slow. Especially when you take time to discover treasure boxes.

Those treasure boxes is what helps you survive. Since you start with 5 arrows, you would be able to kill up to 5 raptors before the 6th kills you. So you need treasure to get more arrows and other weapons. You can also find other useful things like clothes, small pieces of the world map that you can drag on your pad and healing canisters that you can equip and then use when need be. But the amount of stuff you can carry is limited so you can’t take everything you find.

But what you need most of all are weapons and ammunition. And preferably scopes for your weapons so you’ll aim better. You can basically have a bow, a pistol, a shotgun or a rifle and you can equip two of those weapons if you have them. (But only shoot with one.) But the ammunition for your pistol won’t fit in your shotgun or rifle so what to do if you have a shotgun and only find ammo for a pistol? At one point, you can’t carry more and thus have to decide about leaving things behind. And try to find that pistol you need or the ammunition for the shotgun you need.

Another problem is deciding what to do when you run out of ammunition! I saw a video on YouTube of a player throwing a rock at a T-Rex because the hints of the game suggested something like that. No, don’t throw rocks at dinosaurs because that makes them just pissed off! Find a tree at some reasonable distance and try to hit that tree with your rock! The noise it will make will likely distract the dinosaur into moving away from you. Still, don’t walk away because it uses its ears to hunt too, so if it hears you crawling, it will turn around again, towards you! Stay still, crawl and hope the dino will continue in the direction of your stone throw. Only move when you’re sure it is far, far away.

I also discovered some other useful thing. Part of the forests have these huge, mangrove-like trees with huge roots that tend to have a hollow center. These make excellent hiding places as long as you’re crouching or crawling. I’ve had a pack of 4 raptors roaming in front of some tree that I had hidden myself inside (ran out of arrows) and they did not notice me there. Then again, you can’t move much inside trees so you will need some patience to wait for the raptors to disappear, which could take some time.

Still, I’ve hidden in those hollow trees more often afterwards and even killed raptors by shooting from that hiding place, simply because they were close enough for my aim to be perfect. The one time I did get killed was because I had used a gun from my hiding spot and that sound attracted the three other raptors that were near the one I shot.

This game promises to become a real hit! It is not about hunting since you’re not the hunter. You’re being hunted too. It’s about survival with limited means. Moving from treasure to treasure to collect better weapons and gear, hoping to kill some of the bigger dino’s in this game. And that’s the challenge behind it, because you never know when your character turns around, only to end up face-to-face with a T-Rex…

Stratego

If you ever visited the Stratego site, and when you’re as old as I am, then this site will bring back nice memories from the past. (You did play the board game, didn’t you?) And now, you can play against other players online in a very good version of this not-that-old Dutch game! (Yeah, someone in the Netherland came up with the concept somewhere around the second World War.) (Who do we Dutch people call it the second one, while we’ve never been part of the first World War?)

Anyway, great game! You should play it sometimes. But let me offer some helpful tips to help you win the game…

First of all, the board has 10 rows with ten columns. There’s no real numbering for all the fields, though, but from the starting player’s perspective, I will number the rows from 1 to 10 and the columns from left to right A to J. So A1 is the bottom-left corner for the starting player and the top-right for the opponent.

The fields C5, C6, D5, D6, G5, G6, H5 and H6 cannot be used, thus the play area is literally divided into three strategic areas. A left flank, a right flank and the center. And the trick is to get control over these lanes, making sure your opponent can’t get past, while you yourself can move into the enemy’s territory. This is not that easy, though, since both players start at equal strength. So, you need to capture the most valuable pieces of your opponent without losing your own valuable pieces.

Most people consider the Marshall to be the most valuable piece. Actually, it’s not. It’s so powerful that you would like to use it for offensive purposes but the only piece stronger than the Marshall is the Spy, and the Spy is a pure defensive piece. Once one of your pieces has been taken by the Marshall, you can easily remember where it is and how it walks around the board, thus avoiding it with your General. Basically, your General is more practical to use for offensive purposes once you know where your enemy keeps his Marshall. Better keep your Marshall hidden in the beginning so your opponent cannot use the full force of his General.

After the General you have the two Colonels. But to keep them safe, you will also need to track the enemies General. Keeping track of two pieces is a bit difficult for some. But try to capture the Colonels of your opponent and they will offer you a lot of strength.

Next is the Major, and you have three of those. Keep them in reserve for when you’ve lost the more powerful pieces. You should still try to capture your opponents Majors, though. Because once the strongest pieces have been traded and taken from the board, these majors can help you close the lanes that your enemy uses to get into your territory.

The Captain and Lieutenant are less powerful and can be used to scout the territory of your enemy. They will often be taken by stronger pieces and hopefully a Colonel or General will take them. Which is great, since it’s a good thing to remember where your enemy keeps those pieces. Still, be careful not to lose your Lieutenant to a Captain since knowing where the Captains are is less valuable than knowing where your enemy keeps his General. You have four of both, which you should divide evenly on your flanks.

The Sergeant is most practical to keep behind bombs, since they are stronger than the Miners that are used to defuse bombs. If you manage to capture all five enemy Miners then your flag is safe if it’s behind bombs. Otherwise, your enemy has to take more risks into guessing which non-moving pieces are bombs or flags. Still, with four Sergeants and five Miners, you will have to capture some enemy Miners with your other pieces.

Your often advised to keep your eight scouts in the front. This isn’t always a good idea, since your opponent will also keep scouts in the front, thus all you’d be doing is exchange your scout with those of the enemy. Most scouts are on suicide missions anyways, so better use them to retrieve more valuable information. Since a scout can only win from a Spy, they’re great to keep in the back to check where your enemy keeps their Spy. Because if you take away the Spy from your enemy, your Marshall will be the strongest offensive piece on the board.

And where to keep your Spy? Most players will keep their Spy near their General. That way, if the enemy gets closer with his Marshall, your Spy can defend your General. But often it’s also practical to keep your Spy in one place, not moving it until some of the major pieces are off the board. Also, if you manage to capture a Colonel or General from your enemy, you can exchange your Marshall with the Marshall of your enemy, thus making you more powerful.

And then we have Bombs. Nothing can defeat a Bomb, except for a Miner. Put them around your Flag, make sure your enemy has no Miners and your opponent will now be unable to win, unless he manages to take all your pieces. Or until you cannot move anymore, because your pieces are locked behind Bombs. For example, the following setup will make you lose before you start:

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I’ve occasionally seen players use bombs to block one of the three lanes on the board. Often the right or left flank. Is this a wise strategy? Most players who used this against me just lost, because I then focus on the two open lanes, knowing my opponent is unable to use this third lane. But if I need it, I can easily open it by sacrificing a Miner against it. (Which will be taken by a stronger piece behind it, but okay… I have the new lane through which I can move my strongest pieces, if need be.

I’ve often found bombs to be a nuisance for myself, simply because they block my movement. You can’t destroy your own bombs, nor can you move them to a better place. So I prefer them to be on the first two lines, with an occasional bomb on the third line, preferably in the C, D, G or H column. (Where scouts are less likely to discover them.) The fourth line is better used to move my pieces around. (Although an occasional bomb in the fourth row might surprise your enemy.

And where to put your flag? If you put it in a corner, you can defend it with two bombs. You can then put three Sergeants around the bombs and add a second layer of four bombs around the Sergeants. This way, your opponent will at least lose one Miner in trying to capture your flag. Thus, if you’ve already captured four other Miners, your flag will be safe. But it does have some drawbacks, since your opponent will realise how you’ve set up these bombs, thus he knows he can take anything else that’s on the board. If he knows where your Marshall is, his General will make a real killing among your pieces. And when you’ve traded Generals, he will do the same with his Colonels, followed by his Majors. And if he managed to take away enough of your pieces, you might end up with a strong Marshall and a bunch of scouts, Miners and Sergeants. Not practical when your opponent still has a bunch of Captains and Lieutenants…

Keeping your flag on the first line is still the most practical, since it allows you the best defense for its position, even though you have to put three Bombs around it. But you could put the other bombs in other locations, thus hoping your enemy walks into them with his Major or maybe even his General. This tends to happen with some overconfident opponents who let their General walk around the enemy. (Which tends to happen when they know where your Marshall is.)

Example

The above example can be strong, because your flag is protected by two layers of bombs. It will likely cost your enemy two scouts before he sees the pattern. He might send two or three miners to clean them up, yet losing them in the process. If the flag is still behind those bombs and you manage to capture the remaining miners, then your opponent will have to take all your moving pieces to win.

But the left flank is actually weak since he could put a General and a Spy next to the bomb once he knows where your Marshall is. Then almost nothing can get past, unless you’re willing to exchange Generals. Then he can use a Colonel to block the passage, still knowing that the Spy will keep your Marshall away. You will have to focus on the other two lanes instead but if you weaken this left flank, then his General will enter your area through this opening while your strongest pieces are on the other side. Sending in the Miners to clean up is then quite easy, accompanied by a Captain to take away the Sergeants. Or just keep the General in that area while the other pieces hunt down your strongest pieces. It’s a pattern that has been used often enough so players will be more likely to walk around with Colonels on your first and second row, while their Marshall and General will keep yours in check.

In general, you will need enough space for your pieces to move around. This setup, although it is reasonable strong, will take away this freedom of movement once your pieces become less powerful than those of your opponent. (For example, because you lost a Major or Colonel.) This setup only works for as long as you’re at least as strong as your opponent.

Of course, there are two things you should try to do. First of all, try to become more powerful than your opponent by hunting down his General, Colonels or Majors. This way, your strongest pieces can block the lanes that your opponents want to use. And if your opponent blocked one lane with Bombs, he will surely regret it now. But remember that most players will keep the Spy near their General, thus you have to be careful when you hunt down this General with your Marshall.

Once you’ve taken a bunch of enemy Scouts, you should consider walking around with your Spy, and especially move it away from the Marshall of your enemy. I’ve had several occasions where I would move my Colonel or General together with my Spy away from the enemies Marshall. The enemy would then follow think I’m walking around with a Miner to clear away Bombs. So, in several locations, the enemy put his Marshall between my Spy and my General, making me choose which one to lose, but ending up very frustrated instead once my Spy slays his Marshall. (Which gets a very nice animation in this game!)

In one situation I even manage to get the enemies Marshall this way and immediately took the General of my enemy with my Marshall, knowing it was protected by a Spy. Why? Because now my strongest piece is the General, while my opponent only has a Colonel. Otherwise, that Spy would still be able to take down my Marshall if all other pieces are traded equally.

Still, having the strongest pieces isn’t enough. In one game, I knew where the enemy kept his flag and it was exposed from three sides. I had a General and Two Sergeants, but my flag was surrounded by bombs. My enemy had a Marshall and one Colonel, so all he had to do was capture my pieces and he would still win. Unfortunately, since my General was more powerful than his Colonel, he had to protect one side with his Marshall. My two Sergeants could approach the flag from the two other sides and his Colonel could only protect one side. So in the end, my last piece took his flag and I won with one Sergeant against a Marshall and a Colonel!

If your flag isn’t behind bombs, you can lose more easily. But if your flag is behind bombs, your enemy will know where to look and send down his Miners. A Marshall can’t win from two Miners even if the flag is behind bombs, simply because the Miners will walk through all those bombs. This is why it’s important to take all Miners your enemy has. Which is even true if your flag is in the open, since it forces your opponent to be more careful.

It is a good idea to keep your forces divided over both flanks. One Colonel on the left and one on the right. The Majors close to every lane, the Captains and Lieutenants in the front in the hopes of exposing your enemies strongest pieces and your scouts ready to scout once the first row is cleared up a bit. Miners in the back, preferably in a pattern that would suggest a layout of bombs. And your Marshall and General on both sides next to the central lane, close to the fourth line so they can block the center or one of the side fronts.

Also, keep in mind that if you know where your enemy keeps his Marshall, moving pieces towards him often suggests that you’re sending your Spy to capture him. Or your Marshall for an exchange. Use this in your advantage by faking these kinds of movements, or by moving your Spy away from their Marshall.

Also, keep in mind that when you’ve captured a Colonel or Major, it is time to exchange all pieces so you will have the strongest piece on board. Make good use of that advantage and it will increase your chances of winning.