Broadly speaking, competitive games are about human beings locked in a
kind of mental dance, each attempting to outwit and outmaneuver the other.
Some competitive games are about bodies - how you move your hands, your feet,
the rhythm of your breath. Some games are all about building encyclopedias
of the mind - studying a complex array of situations to uncover a set of
deeply hidden, but definite, solutions.
Lurking under both of these, however, is a feeling like intuition. It's not something you can describe exactly, it has no english word. It is uncanny but human. It is some kind of shapeless magic. It's you, reaching into my mind and figuring out what I'm about to think before I can think it. This is the action, the feeling, in which BOTOLO lives.
In BOTOLO, you will not outplay your opponent by moving your hands
faster, nor will you outplay your opponent by memorizing hundreds of opening
moves. You will only win by knowing your opponent better than they know
themselves. At the end of a match in BOTOLO, your opponent should believe
you are psychic.
To me, BOTOLO feels a great deal like poker. Skill in poker does not descend from knowing every action you can take in the game - check, call, raise, fold - but from cultivating a deep, intuitive understanding of other players' habits, behaviors and body language. BOTOLO and poker both are not so much about their own mathematics as they are about knowing how human beings tend to live and breath and act within that math.
To be good at BOTOLO, you must always be listening to your opponent. You must
pressure them in different ways just to see how they react, and you must be
cataloguing those reactions for the future. No action you take should be random.
If I were to jump in and pause the game to ask you "Why did you just do that?"
you should always be able to answer. Playing on auto-pilot, playing by flowchart,
is gameover against a good player.
Since BOTOLO is a game all about exploiting habits, you want to avoid lapsing into habit as much as possible. There should be a reason for everything you do, and that reason should be tied to what you have seen the opponent do in the past and believe they will do in the future.
Now, although the opponent is the primary material of BOTOLO, that doesn't mean the game itself is immaterial. Let's get into specifics!