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The game of Focus is a two-player game comparable in difficulty to checkers. It is played on a checkerboard with the corners removed, as shown in Illustration 1. Each player plays one color: red or white. Players alternate making moves until one player cannot make a move. When this happens, the other player wins the game.
To Start
Each player has 18 pieces, which are arranged as shown in illustration 1. The starting player is chosen at random.
A move consists of moving a pile of pieces as many spaces as there are in the pile. So, a pile of two pieces may move two spaces. A pile of three pieces may move three spaces and so on. A move is made in one straight line and can be up, down, to the right, or to the left, but never diagonal.

At the beginning of the game all piles are 1-high, so only one space can be moved. Illustration 2 shows the possible moves of a piece at the start of the game.

By moving up (in Illustration 2), the red piece lands on an empty space. By moving to the right, it lands on another red piece forming a 2-high pile. By moving left or down, it lands on a black piece, also forming a two-high pile, which is controlled by the red player since a red piece is on top.

A 2-high pile can be moved two spaces, as indicated in Illustration 3. Three-high, 4-high, and 5-high piles can similarly be moved three, four, and five spaces.

A player controls a pile when their piece is on top of the pile. A player may only move piles they control.
A pile can be moved over an intervening space whether it is empty or occupied by a pile controlled by the other player. The piles passed over are not affected in any way. A move may end either on a pile or on an empty space.

Captures and Reserves

Piles can be built up to a maximum of 5-high. If a move is made causing a pile to become greater than 5-high, all pieces in excess of 5 are removed from the bottom of the pile.

Pieces of the opposite color to the player making the move are captured and are out of the game. Pieces of the player's own color go into that player's reserves, from which they can reenter the game.  llustration 4 presents this type of move.

Moving Part of a Pile

A player in control of a pile may make a move of fewer spaces than the total number of pieces in the pile. She does this by lifting as many pieces off the top of the pile as the number she wishes to move. The rest of the pieces remain where they are. Illustration 5 presents an example of this type of move.
Red (in illustration 5) may take 3 pieces off the top of her pile, landing on top of the 5-high black pile. The 2-high pile remaining would be controlled by black. Red, however, would gain 1 capture and 2 reserves by this play.

Red could instead take 2 pieces from the top of her pile and land on top of the 1-high black pile. The 3-high pile remaining would still be controlled by red.

Winning the Game
When it is a player's turn to move and she has no remaining reserves (in other words, she cannot make a move) then the game is over and her opponent is the winner.
A Few Playing Hints
Unlike other board games of strategy, in Focus the contact with the enemy is immediate. The first few moves usually consist of moving 1-high piles, forming 2-high piles. Try to line up your 2-high piles so that they focus on one space. When consolidated these will result in captures of the opponent and, of even more importance, reserves for yourself.

In the early stages of the game beware of moving into a space between three, or even two, of the opponent's 1-high piles. In fact, and any stage of the game a 1-high pile is a potent threat if it can be moved next to an opponent's higher piles.

Always be on the watch for two large piles facing each other on the same line. In this situation, the player who succeeds in getting in the first punch can reap a tremendous advantage.

When you control a large pile, don't be afraid to move part of it, leaving you opponent in control of one or two pieces, if you can gain captures or reserves by doing so.

Another occasion for moving part of a pile is when a large pile is under attack by the opponent. Moving part of the pile serves a double purpose. The remaining pile is smaller and less likely to go over 5, and also the part moved off is in a position to be moved back to regain control if your opponent attacks. In the final stages of a game it is often proper strategy not to continue the attack on the opponent, but instead to focus on consolidating your own piles in order to obtain more reserves. With a preponderance of reserves the game can be rapidly terminated.

Reserves are of primary importance at any stage of the game. Letting the opponent obtain too large a lead in reserves is tantamount to losing the game.

One situation to look for is a 5-high pile controlled by your opponent but with your color on the bottom. By playing a reserve you take over control of the pile and also get back a reserve. Depending on the arrangement of the pile, your opponent may be able to make a similar play! Eventually, however, one player will stop getting back a reserve. Experience will teach you who will finally end up in control.
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