At first, Othello might seem like a defiant game, maybe due to its similar looks to high-strategy games such as Chess or Go.
But as you start playing, you’ll notice the rules are fairly simple and are easy to learn with just the first moves.
However, once you finish your first games, you realize there’s more to it than just flipping as many of your opponent’s discs as you can, as you suddenly lost when you tough you were winning by having more pieces on the board at a certain moment.
Whether you are new to the game or a casual board gamer who wants to improve your odds of winning, we’ve got you covered.
We’ve played board games for more than a decade, which has allowed us to summarize the top Othello strategies for you to win and enjoy the game as much as we do.
Please note these are a beginner to intermediate-level strategies. There are hundreds of strategies for opening sequences, mid-game control, and endgame strategy. The focus here is to provide the basics to improve your skills.
Once you read these tips, you will know how to:
- Approach the game correctly.
- Make strategic moves that leave you an advantage.
- Take on strategic squares such as the board’s corners and edges.
- Limit your opponent’s actions in your favor.
- Force your opponent to make bad decisions.
- And more!
But first, let’s start with some basics:
- Othello: The Basics
- Our Top 10 Othello Strategies
- Ok, Now What?
Othello: The Basics
Othello is a strategy board game for two players, played on an 8×8 uncheckered board. Although it was first invented in 1883 under the name Reversi, the variant we now know as Othello consisting of a fixed initial setup of the board was patented in 1971.
There are sixty-four pieces or “disks”, white on one side and black on the other.
Each turn, the players place their disks on the board with their assigned colors facing up.
During a play, any disks of the opponent’s color that are in a straight line and bounded by the disk just placed, and another disk of the current player’s color is turned over to the current player’s color.
The objective of the game is to have the majority of disks turned to display one’s color when the last playable empty square is filled or there are no more moves available for either player.
Our Top 10 Othello Strategies
1. Mobility is Key
Each move your opponent makes is dependent on your discs’ position and availability, so make sure each piece you play leaves you with open positions for your next moves.
Minimizing your discs at the early game will help you to dictate play. If your opponent has more pieces at play than you, they are leaving you room to play.
Capturing key and strategic positions is vital to avoid a wipeout, especially corners and edges. We will see later in this guide why you must always be aware of these spaces.
Avoid creating more disks of your color that are exposed to available squares as this will let your opponent capture more of your pieces.
Limit your opponent’s moves, give them a few options and you will force your opponent’s decisions to be non-optimal.
2. Group Small Inside
Group your discs in a compact formation as much as possible. Making small clusters allow you to quickly recover from enemy attacks and maintain formation.
A more scattered formation will provide your enemy with more opportunities to move and reach strategic positions sooner. Avoid these situations.
Play inside. Clustering your pieces will eventually give your opponent fewer options to play and will limit their range of action.
As you maintain these clusters, you avoid creating more moves for your opponents.
3. Make Quiet Moves
Quiet moves are those that flip fewer discs. Aim at flipping only 1 or 2 discs at a time, which will maintain your disc count low.
You should flip discs in generally fewer directions, creating minimal new moves for your opponent
The best quiet moves are those that flip only discs that are surrounded by existing discs and/or the disc you just placed on the board.
Keep in mind these moves help you build clusters and maintain group formation, which we’ve explained before.
4. Corners and Edges
Corners are the most strategic spaces in Othello as a disc placed there cannot be flipped later on. Edges are equally important as the discs placed here can only be flipped by other edge discs.
But, once you control a corner and start placing discs adjacent to it, they can’t be flipped either.
Hence, a good strategy to start gaining positions your opponent cannot take from you is to get a corner and start building your game from there in triangles.
Be aware of not leaving gaps between your pieces once you start building these triangle formations as your opponent might attack you this way and may cost you valuable positions.
5. Capture the Corners
Now you know why you should aim at the corners, but how do you take control of one?
First, avoid playing on the corner buffers. These are the three squares surrounding each corner. Instead, wait for your opponent to play a disc in one of these areas to take the corner.
The easiest one is the central corner buffer, which is diagonal to the corner. You can take this with just a diagonal move.
If your opponent places a disc on a central buffer, avoid flipping it until you are diagonally aligned to go for the corner.
Take your time, your opponent won’t be able to take the corner as long as they have their disc in this position.
The edge buffers are a bit trickier, but also leave a player vulnerable as they won’t reach a corner whit that piece there.
However, targeting buffers during the late game can be beneficial, especially if your opponent has some discs over the edge.
This tactic is called corner exchange, where you play a buffer to let your opponent control a corner, but you immediately capture the opposite corner while grabbing your opponent’s edge pieces.
6. Control the Diagonals
Try to control the board’s diagonals. Once you do, you can reach both corners of the board located in those diagonals.
With two corners you will have control over the board and will easily recover from your opponent’s attack over the diagonal.
Now you have two vantage points where to defend and attack from.
7. Maximize Your Positions
We’ve said it and now we repeat it: Mobility is key.
Every move you make should maximize the number of positions that you can put a piece in while minimizing the number of spaces that your opponent can move to.
Clustering your pieces together allows you to keep your options open while leaving your opponent with fewer moves to choose from.
Use this to force the other player to place its pieces into the corner buffers so you can take control of those areas of the board.
8. Control the Center of the Board
Focus on the central 2×2 and 4×4 regions. Take these spaces as many times as you can, it will be easy for you to grab them back if your opponent takes them from you.
This strategy also opens more directions to play and forces your opponent to play around you, limiting their mobility.
9. Keep Your Piece Count Low
Just like clustering your pieces, having fewer discs of your color on the board means less room for your opponent to play.
Remember that the winner in Othello is he who captures more pieces at the end of the game, not at the beginning or in the middle.
Wait for you to have a strong board foundation, like one or two corners, before you start taking on the opponent’s discs to end the game in your favor.
10. Think of the Consequences of your Actions
You might not plan much as there are many outcomes. However, ask yourself if a certain move will bring your opponent closer to a wall or a corner.
If so, avoid that move.
Yes, a diagonal play is just as valid as an orthogonal one in Othello.
When did the Othello game come out?
Reversi was invented in 1883. Othello, the variant with a fixed initial setup of the board, was patented in 1971.
Where did the Othello game come from?
The game gained considerable popularity in England at the end of the 19th century. The game’s first reliable mention is on the August 21st, 1886 edition of The Saturday Review.
Are Othello and Go the same?
No. Although both games look similar, Go is a more complex game whose gameplay can extend up to 6 hours in tournament matches,
Ok, Now What?
Now that you know these advanced Othello strategies, it’s time to go and beat your friends during your next game night.
Always keep in mind to approach the game correctly by applying what you just learned here and to make strategic moves that leave you an advantage.
Othello is a great game for having a nice time either with family or friends, even if they are beginners in the board game community.
But if you want to know our top picks to introduce new players to this awesome hobby, you must check our guide on the Top 5 Gateway Games to Start Your Journey.
Finally, although it is great to play Othello with one other player, check our top picks for games that are better suited for three and four players:
- Best 3 Player Board Games – Our Top 7 Light Games
- Best 3 Player Board Games – Our Top 7 Intermediate Games
- Best 3 Player Board Games – Our Top 7 Advanced Games
- Best 4 Player Board Games – Our Top 15 Games
Last Updated on 17/10/2022 by ARU