Dave's Tantrix Tips
General Strategy:
Basic tactics tells us that there are either 5 or 6 tiles that fit any forced space, and knowing the number of tiles remaining is absolutely essential; but knowing exactly what tiles remain is even better.
The key to counting exact tiles is to have a system to pigeonhole the tiles on the board by assigning them a number, rather than trying to remember the shapes you've seen. After much experimentation, here is my system.
So, in summary, as my eyes zip along the lines of the first color, I'm first matching the three color pattern just as in simple tile counting. Once I identify a "hit" for the basic pattern, I look at a couple more features of the tile to give it a number, and remember the set of numbers I've seen as though it were a phone number.. When I complete a scan, I remember I've seen tiles 1534 and therefore I'm missing number 2. Then I can get out my mental rule book and figure out what tile number 2 must look like.
Identify the pattern clockwise around the forced space. So the pattern is one of A-B-C A-B-B A-A-B or A-B-A. Follow the lines of the first color in the pattern with your eye, looking for pattern matches. When you find a match, note the overall configuration as one of the 5 or 6 possibilities for the pattern and remember the set of matches you have seen.
Three Sided Spaces (there are 5 tiles) Discriminate first on which color is straight, or if none are straight, the shape of the first color. For example that the three colors are Red-Green-Blue clockwise from red. Number them 1-5 as follows. 1. Red (the first color) is Straight. 2. Green (the second color) is Straight 3. Blue (the third color) is Straight 4. Red (the first color) is curved. 5. Red (the first color) is a corner.
Two Sided Spaces with A-A-B or A-B-B pattern (there are 6 tiles) Discriminate on the identity of the third color, and then on the shape of the single color. For example if the pattern is Red-Red-Green, we need to know if the other color on the tile is Blue or Yellow, and since Green occurs once in the pattern, if the green line is straight, curved or a corner. The trickiest bit is to decide how to count the tiles with blue verses tiles with yellow. For me, the natural order is Red-Green-Blue-Yellow, so if the pattern is R-R-G the "third color" is blue and the "fourth color" is yellow. 1. Blue is the other color, Green line is straight. 2. Blue is the other color, Green line is curved. 3. Blue is the other color, Green line is a corner. 4. Yellow is the other color, Green line is straight. 5. Yellow is the other color, Green line is curved. 6. Yellow is the other color, Green line is a corner.
Two Sided Spaces with A-B-A pattern (there are 6 tiles) Discriminate first on the the identity of the third color, and then on the shape of the single color (just as in the previous case), except that the shape of the single color is curve left, straight, or curve right. If the pattern is red-green-red, the "third color" is blue and the "fourth color" is yellow. 1. Blue is the other color, Green line is straight. 2. Blue is the other color, Green line is curved left. 3. Blue is the other color, Green line is curved right. 4. Yellow is the other color, Green line is straight. 5. Yellow is the other color, Green line is curved left. 6. Yellow is the other color, Green line is curved right.
I don't believe this system is perfect or even uniquely good, but the key thing is that you don't have to remember a lot of things at once. The memory part of the process is not as hard as remembering a phone number long enough to dial it. The rest of the trick is just to have a mechanical system to build the phone number as you see matching tiles.
How often does this help? Once or twice per game on the average.
Tales of Joy And Sorrow
Even if you follow these rules, experience is the best teacher. Practice, and learn.