Getting good at apterous/Countdown

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Callum Todd
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Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Callum Todd » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:49 pm

Since joining apterous nearly 2 months ago, I think my game has improved quite a bit. But I'd like it to improve some more as I plan to start attending the co events fairly often. I'm wondering how the top top players do as well as they do, or what players of any ability do to improve their game. Is it all just 100% raw natural talent or is there some way of actively improving your game? Is there some kind of strategy or technique that can make you any better?

Any ideas on how to be improved will be appreciated. Thanks :)
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Zarte Siempre » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:05 pm

Don't take it too seriously. I only started watching the show and playing on Apterous a little over 18 months ago, and I've found that the more seriously I take it, the less I perform. I just plug my headphones in, have music that isn't too distracting on and play a little bit of everything so one skill doesn't dwarf the others.
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Kevin Steede
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Kevin Steede » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:48 pm

I had a gander around here for threads on this very topic a few months after I joined. I found this one: http://www.c4countdown.co.uk/viewtopic. ... lit=advice

…and others arguing ad nauseum over the value of stemming. I was surprised there wasn’t more in fact. For what it’s worth, I’ve found learning the falseagrams on the countdown wiki useful.
For a while I practised with 10 second rounds a lot which improved my ability to spot common enough words quickly so I then have time to look for something longer and more obscure.
But really, from what I’ve read and experienced all the fancy stuff can only compliment, not replace, solid practice (more fun anyway). Look up the name Clare Sudberry on here as an example of someone who learned a lot of stems and such things and lost her first game on CD.
Of course, you’re a better player than I, yet I’ve been on apterous longer than you, so I probably shouldn’t be giving you advice! Hope it’s some use anyway.

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Jennifer Steadman » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:51 pm

Learn to spell. Learn to count. Wear low-cut tops to put your opponents off.
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Callum Todd
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Callum Todd » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:56 pm

Thanks Kevin, that thread's really useful! And I have to disagree with your claim that I'm a better player than you; I think we're fairly evenly matched, with you being slightly better :)
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Mark Deeks » Mon Sep 23, 2013 10:03 pm

First thing I always tell newcomers:

http://www.apterous.org/wordstats.php?v ... &show=1000

Learn that list. Adds 25% to your game instantly.
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Callum Todd
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Callum Todd » Tue Sep 24, 2013 2:10 pm

Mark Deeks wrote:First thing I always tell newcomers:

http://www.apterous.org/wordstats.php?v ... &show=1000

Learn that list. Adds 25% to your game instantly.
Thanks a lot Mark, that's really helpful :)
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Jack Worsley » Tue Sep 24, 2013 3:46 pm

Like Mark said, learning that list is always a good place to start. In my early days, I relied on stemming and falseagrams a lot but over time, the words I used to spot with these techniques became easy to spot without stemming or falseagrams. It's best to stem with words that you mostly or always spot. It's also a good idea to write down words you miss. I generally don't but that's because I'm lazy. :P

You don't have to be a natural at the game to become a really good player. If you want conclusive evidence of this, look at Jonathan Rawlinson's early games on apterous.

There are inevitably going to be times when you're not playing as well as you know you're capable of and this can be a real challenge. Even the best players have these spells so there's nothing to worry about. The best thing to do is keep the faith and believe you'll be back to your best soon. The more you believe this, the sooner you likely will be.

I find that you can learn a lot from the top players. Playing against the best was a real privilege for me during my early days, even if it did mean being on the end of a few heavy defeats. Most people naturally raise their games against the better players and if they declare brilliant words against you, they're much more likely to stick in your memory than DC words that neither you nor your opponent get in my opinion.

Finally, aim high. You'll be amazed how good you can get at this game. I remember seeing the likes of Innis when I joined and thinking that I'd never be anywhere near his standard. I'm still not as good but I'm an awful lot closer than I thought I ever would be. If you carry on playing regularly, you could easily be up there challenging the top players within a year or two. Hope that helps.

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Heather Styles » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:18 pm

Strange though it may seem, I have found that my game slightly improves with a general lack of sleep and a glass or two of wine. Another thing, don't be afraid to make up words - you just never know, they might be in the dictionary! :)

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Innis Carson » Tue Sep 24, 2013 5:10 pm

I still maintain what I said on that thread from years ago - fun is the key. Unless you have near-superhuman self-motivation, you're not going to get very far solely through staring at some lists. You'll learn so much more efficiently if it's in the context of an enjoyable hobby, and that's what makes apterous as effective as it is. Enjoy it to the max - make friendships or friendly rivalries with players around your level, play in tournaments whenever you can, try all the different variants and game modes, basically just get as much out of it as you can. Then, there may (or may not) come a point where you actually feel enough of a personal interest in the game that word-learning exercises become a natural and self-motivated extension of your interest rather than just a chore, and then these things will be so much more useful. If not, just play loads of games and you won't go far wrong.

Also, I'd recommend looking up words you don't know. Words are so much more memorable than letter strings.

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Charlie Reams » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:06 pm

Callum Todd wrote: Is it all just 100% raw natural talent
I'd say 1% is closer to the mark. There are lots of ways to get better but the one thing all good players have in common is that they practised a lot.

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Callum Todd » Tue Sep 24, 2013 6:55 pm

Thanks for the response everyone, it's really good of you all :)
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Eoin Monaghan » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:05 pm

Not just relevant to Countdown, but one thing I made sure I did when trying to get good at something was hang out with people who were good at it. You've done that already by being here. I found that chatting to, playing against (getting hammered by!) and simply watching/ copying the best from here all spurred me on to get better at Countdown. Try and challenge those that are just rated above you in the rankings, then once you beat them and continue to beat them, challenge those higher than you again.

I never learnt stems for my shows - the only time I ever did non-Apterous work for the show was in failing to learn the 4-large tricks. (though this is of course entirely subjective, so whatever works for you!) Playing Apterous is undoubtedly the #1 method though.

I can't really add much more else than has been already said, but I will echo Innis and say the most important thing when you're doing this is enjoying it. Some people take it too seriously, go on the show and miss the experience. Whilst I assume you won't apply for a while yet, do enjoy the whole build-up to appearing, these months of practice and all the banter that goes along with it! :)

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Zarte Siempre » Wed Sep 25, 2013 10:34 pm

Eoin Monaghan wrote:Whilst I assume you won't apply for a while yet, do enjoy the whole build-up to appearing
*snigger*
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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Callum Todd » Thu Sep 26, 2013 12:17 pm

Zarte Siempre wrote:
Eoin Monaghan wrote:Whilst I assume you won't apply for a while yet, do enjoy the whole build-up to appearing
*snigger*
Well I definitely won't be submitting an application for any time soon; let's just put it that way.
Mark Deeks wrote:Callum Todd looks like a young Ted Bundy.

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Kirk Bevins » Mon Sep 30, 2013 8:35 pm

Eoin Monaghan wrote:
I can't really add much more else than has been already said, but I will echo Innis and say the most important thing when you're doing this is enjoying it. Some people take it too seriously, go on the show and miss the experience. Whilst I assume you won't apply for a while yet, do enjoy the whole build-up to appearing, these months of practice and all the banter that goes along with it! :)
I took it seriously but I also enjoyed it. I enjoyed the challenge of getting max games, of breaking records, of breaking my own records. Of seeing the percentage of maximums hit increase etc. You could set targets but the key was I enjoyed it. If I wasn't practising I'd think that someone like Chris Davies was practising and they'd learn words that I didn't know...and I couldn't afford that to happen.

Memory is massive in this game so write down words you come across that you don't recognise. Even if you do recognise the word (LASAGNE), write it down and practise spotting it by setting yourself a page of words you miss in anagram form. I remember going to the gym with a word list of unpencilled words and just stared at it whilst smashing the treadmill for half an hour.

All in all, practise loads but make sure it's decent practice. Playing Countdown without really remembering what you miss isn't going to help you get better. If I missed LEOTARDS, I'd remember the word (perhaps as LOADERS + T as LOADERS was really easy to spot) and make sure I didn't miss it again. After a while the stem was lost as you get to recognise the letters DTSRLOAE after several hundred games.

Have fun!

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by Jonathan Wynn » Wed Oct 23, 2013 4:17 pm

Callum Todd wrote:



Well I definitely won't be submitting an application for any time soon; let's just put it that way.
Am I missing something here :shock:

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Re: Getting good at apterous/Countdown

Post by David Barnard » Thu Nov 14, 2013 10:05 am

I am a firm believer in the power of teasers to learn words, I have a book of scrambled up words from the top 1000 common maxes and other various word lists on apto, the ultimate goal is to work through every page in the book without error and I go through it every day. Also stemming is good but don't rely on it too much as it tends to distract in a gameplay situation, again I have teasers on this written down, my belief is the more you work through teasers the easier they will just pop out at you without having to thinkand that can only be a good thing.

Also there are variants on apterous that are really good, touchdown teaches you loads of new words, goatdown teaches you how to pick the last letter more effectively (goat junior is great too) and nice and nasty are very useful too, goatdown with prune picking (easy selections) or Rex picking (lots of tough selections and darrens) is good.

Finally for the numbers and conundrums, just play loads of them.

Well that's what I do as practise, take as much or as little out of it as you please but the most important thing is to enjoy although judging by what you say in chat you already have loads of fun, enjoy

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