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On "connective scoring"
« Reply #105 on: Jul 12th, 2017, 7:02am »
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Recently I found Starweb, an extremely simple game that features 'connective scoring'. The fact that it was so simple while I had wrestled with the idea for so long in the past was surpising, but not really surprising. It showed once again that forcing an idea to work will not earn you the gratitude of the result. Simple solutions need some room to appear and chasing an idea down one particular alley doesn't leave much room.
 
The bare bones
Connective scoring is a means of getting points, in games where the object is to score more points than the opponent, by connecting 'groups'. Groups have an independent value, and their existence is axiomatic. One might imagine placement games with territory as the main object, but the first implementation I know of was Star, which is a connection based game, although edge play is arguably territorial.
 
History
Star is designed by Ea Ea and eventually evolved into *Star, while my wrestling resulted in Superstar and YvY. They worked, but I knew they weren't what I had been looking for. For the purpose of this thread I've provided links at the bottom, but they're no longer featured at MindSports.
Then Symple appeared (BGG entry) because Benedikt Rosenau had dragged me into the chase for 'a deeper simpler implementation' of connective scoring. Symple was definitely what I had been looking for - it actually is one of five of my games that I consider significant - but it didn't much resemble my preconception of what I had been looking for. That preconception suddenly materialised recently as Starweb. Let me summarise the similarities and the differences.
 
- All games mentioned feature precisely defined groups.
- In all games but Symple, groups basically consist of two type of stones, those that provide value and those that provide connections. Symple thanks to its move protocol needs no such distiction. It is a territory game with a connection twist, the others are connection games with a territorial twist.
- In all games but Starweb, connective scoring is based on 'group penalty' which is a kind of original sin: every group that emerges is penalised for doing just that. The penalty for 'being there' may differ from game to game and in Symple it is justifiably variable, but in any one actual game it is fixed. Thus connecting two groups gets rid of one penalty. In Starweb the incentive to connect groups is based on a variable reward that results from awarding n*(n+1)/2 points to a group containing 'n' corners. It implies that 'connective scoring' increases with the number of corners that the involved groups occupy.
 
The irony is that the satisfying games, Symple and Starweb, both emerged in seconds, literally, while the less than satisfactory ones took weeks of plodding on in Tinkertown. I've learned to seriously distrust prolongued meddling with old stuff to get something new. Or thinking it may help one to become a better inventor.
 
Basics
- The object has great affinity with placement games. Groups are axiomatic for it, and in placement games groups grow, which eventually guarantees termination. Movement is not wholly excluded, but since it renders no growth, a change in score could only result from a change in connections. Regarding capture, only 'flip capture' features simultaneous growth, other kinds of capture seem less likely to be of any use.
- Incentive to connect can be provided by a group penalty or by rewarding a group that has 'n' value cells with something like 'n*(n+1)/2' or 'n^2' or '2^n' or 'n!' points.
- Boards are arbitrary especially if there's a difference between 'value cells' and regular cells. Any grid that allows a clear definition of groups should be worth considering.  
 
I feel the whole idea is worth considering. Part of the reason of this piece is to untangle my own thoughts, the other part is to point it out to inventors who might have a go at it. The fact that *Star, Symple and Starweb are very different implementations suggests that there must be more. But I'm satisfied for now.
 
Superstar
YvY (with David Bush)
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #106 on: Jul 21st, 2017, 5:00am »
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Guess what, Cameron Browne sent me a Starweb AI by return! A great surprise and much appreciated.
 
It runs on Java on any OS and you can download it from the mindsports homepage. There's a link to the rules at BGG because the game hasn't even been implemented at mindsports yet. Getting older, the need of hurrying (worrying, anything) becomes less of a priority.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #107 on: Jul 22nd, 2017, 5:28am »
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Michael Howe on Starweb at BGG:
 
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So I think an interesting question then becomes: can a human expert beat another human expert by only taking 8 corners? Do you think it would be a viable strategy between top players?

I've put it to the test under the most favourable conditions for the AI: small board, first player (white) and the maximum possible thinking time (or 'trying time' actually) of 64 seconds. To be fair, I lost the first two games by 2 or 3 points, but I won the third one and it is quite illustrative of the idea.  
 
Here's the position after 10 moves for both:
 

I declined a corner with black-18, using 16 as the anchor. AI took the corner (19) and I blocked an isolated corner with 20 (at the same time connecting 4 and 10).
This is how the strategy panned out (and mind, the AI isn't so weak under these conditions):
 

White still has a 3-points connection at the bottom (between 5 and 19) but that's it.
(it's a 3-points connection because it adds a fourth corner to the group, but the 1-corner group disappears)
 
Ten to eight corners but the minority wins with 4 points. Indeed a viable strategy!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #108 on: Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am »
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Some thoughts:
 
The net value of merging two groups with m and n scoring cells is always m*n. This might make estimating the size of a threat easier in the endgame, compared to explicitly counting the local score before and after. (Though I suppose the latter isn't a bad habit...)
 
If it's currently hard to win with a minority of the scoring cells and this is seen as a problem, one slight tweak could be to change the score for a group with n scoring cells from n*(n+1)/2 to n*(n-1)/2 == n choose 2. This is actually just a re-indexing of the same triangular numbers sequence, and wouldn't change the m*n value of a connection from above, but would mean a singleton is worth 0 instead of 1. Thus this change would not affect play after every scoring cell is taken, but would make declining a scoring cell somewhat easier.
 
(This indexing of the triangular numbers is often preferred by computer scientists and mathematicians, especially those who consider zero a natural number.)
 
I just played through the game- pretty interesting. I did find myself really wondering about a few of white's endgame plays, though I could just be miscalculating. I do not pretend expertise in connection games.
 
The 49-50 exchange looks like a pure loss for white to me. The possibility of playing one space below and to the right of 50 seems to be enough to connect 15 with 1 and 7, since playing at 54 makes a big threat. The 49-50 exchange destroys this possibility for no compensation I can see.
 
Is 55 locally necessary? I'm not totally convinced the fight started by move 56 had to end badly for white, but playing 55 at 56 seems to lead to a comfortable draw for white, to my eyes.
 
Can white achieve a draw by playing move 61 at 70? It seems to me that black cannot achieve anything by trying to push through on the bottom, and it looks like on the right side, white can isolate either 6 or 14 with the sequence 62 at 62, 63 at 63, 64 at 69, 65 at 66, 66 at 78, 67 at 65. (In this light, move 40 might be a mistake, creating the weakness exploited by this sequence.)
 
EDIT: I hadn't read the rules carefully enough the last time- black is winning on tied scores, which makes my thought of missed 'draws' less meaningful, I suppose.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #109 on: Jul 22nd, 2017, 1:13pm »
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on Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am, clyring wrote:
EDIT: I hadn't read the rules carefully enough the last time- black is winning on tied scores, which makes my thought of missed 'draws' less meaningful, I suppose.

Hi Clyring,
 
I'll answer your post tomorrow, but a pie in combination with the second player win in case of an equal score, also implicitly puts an end to symmetric play. That fitted nicely.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #110 on: Jul 23rd, 2017, 3:31am »
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on Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am, clyring wrote:
Some thoughts:
 
The net value of merging two groups with m and n scoring cells is always m*n. This might make estimating the size of a threat easier in the endgame, compared to explicitly counting the local score before and after. (Though I suppose the latter isn't a bad habit...)

If I connect a 2-group (3 points) with a 3-group ( 6points) I get a 5-group (15 points - net increase 6 points). Yeah, that comes in handy.
 
on Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am, clyring wrote:
If it's currently hard to win with a minority of the scoring cells and this is seen as a problem, one slight tweak could be to change the score for a group with n scoring cells from n*(n+1)/2 to n*(n-1)/2 == n choose 2. This is actually just a re-indexing of the same triangular numbers sequence, and wouldn't change the m*n value of a connection from above, but would mean a singleton is worth 0 instead of 1. Thus this change would not affect play after every scoring cell is taken, but would make declining a scoring cell somewhat easier.
 
(This indexing of the triangular numbers is often preferred by computer scientists and mathematicians, especially those who consider zero a natural number.)

I don't, actually, but apart from that the premiss may be questionable. I continued my strategic quest and find it easier now to beat the AI on the small board, playing second and allowing it maximum 'trying time'. A smaller board gives MC evaluation more tries. Here's my latest example:
 

 
I declined with 18, AI took the extra corner (19) and I cut through the middle with 20. This is how it panned out:
 

 
Of course there were the usual 'unhuman' moves such as trying to cut where a cut isn't possible, moves that nevertheless require an immediate reply, and the game is clearly played out beyond what humans would do. But that illustrates the point: minority strategy has its qualities and my feeling is that it may well be applicable to the regular board.
 
on Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am, clyring wrote:
I just played through the game- pretty interesting. I did find myself really wondering about a few of white's endgame plays, though I could just be miscalculating. I do not pretend expertise in connection games.
 
The 49-50 exchange looks like a pure loss for white to me. The possibility of playing one space below and to the right of 50 seems to be enough to connect 15 with 1 and 7, since playing at 54 makes a big threat. The 49-50 exchange destroys this possibility for no compensation I can see.
 
Is 55 locally necessary? I'm not totally convinced the fight started by move 56 had to end badly for white, but playing 55 at 56 seems to lead to a comfortable draw for white, to my eyes.
 

I can't speak for the AI of course. Cameron sent it by return and emphasised that it played far from perfect. So do I, so my considerations regarding strategy and tactics are pretty immature. Hopefully the game will find a modest player base so that we can get to a better judgement.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #111 on: Jul 23rd, 2017, 8:42am »
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So I applied 'minority strategy to the regular board. AI goes first, maximum 'trying time' of 64 sec. per move.
 

 
With 18 I declined the last corner and AI took it. I next cut through the middle of the white position. This is how it panned out:
 

 
There are a number of unnecessary cut attempts by AI in the endgame, but that actually makes the position clearer. I get an extra 5 points by connecting stone 12 at the bottom. AI gets an extra point by connecting stone 7 top right. So 'minority strategy' won 23-12.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #112 on: Jul 24th, 2017, 4:49pm »
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on Jul 22nd, 2017, 11:41am, clyring wrote:
If it's currently hard to win with a minority of the scoring cells and this is seen as a problem, one slight tweak could be to change the score for a group with n scoring cells from n*(n+1)/2 to n*(n-1)/2 == n choose 2. This is actually just a re-indexing of the same triangular numbers sequence, and wouldn't change the m*n value of a connection from above, but would mean a singleton is worth 0 instead of 1. Thus this change would not affect play after every scoring cell is taken, but would make declining a scoring cell somewhat easier.
on Jul 23rd, 2017, 3:31am, christianF wrote:
If I connect a 2-group (3 points) with a 3-group ( 6points) I get a 5-group (15 points - net increase 6 points). Yeah, that comes in handy.
 
I don't, actually, but apart from that the premiss may be questionable.

It occurs to me also that n-style scoring, where (m+n) = m + n + 2mn can be verified by most with even less thinking, would also lead to de facto identical play after the corners are taken, and would be strategically halfway in-between the 0-indexed style of triangular numbers and that currently in use.
 
The nice thing about a conditional statement is that I can say such a thing with confidence without making up my mind on whether or not the premise holds. Smiley In any case, as you've pointed out yourself, fighting over connections or lack thereof doesn't bear fruit unless the groups (dis-)connected claim corners.
on Jul 23rd, 2017, 3:31am, christianF wrote:
I continued my strategic quest and find it easier now to beat the AI on the small board, playing second and allowing it maximum 'trying time'. A smaller board gives MC evaluation more tries. Here's my latest example:
 

 
I declined with 18, AI took the extra corner (19) and I cut through the middle with 20. This is how it panned out:
 

 
Of course there were the usual 'unhuman' moves such as trying to cut where a cut isn't possible, moves that nevertheless require an immediate reply, and the game is clearly played out beyond what humans would do. But that illustrates the point: minority strategy has its qualities and my feeling is that it may well be applicable to the regular board.

This game has the look of a complete demolition. I suspect white can make things much closer with more resistance in the center on or around moves 41-47, but may have given up after move 46, thinking there weren't real chances. I'd guess a black win by around 1.5 points with best play after move 44? Nevertheless a nice game.
 
Intuitively I'd guess the biggest effect of increasing board edge length will be that it is easier to isolate a lonely corner stone, because the other corners are not as close. More generally it is in the nature of the hexboard that at least one player will have large-scale connecting structure, but when the ratio of edge to corner is increased, it makes sense that more of these structures might end on edges rather than corners. Still, one scoring cell per three total edge cells isn't too terribly sparse.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #113 on: Jul 26th, 2017, 5:35am »
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on Jul 24th, 2017, 4:49pm, clyring wrote:

 
It occurs to me also that n-style scoring, where (m+n) = m + n + 2mn can be verified by most with even less thinking, would also lead to de facto identical play after the corners are taken, and would be strategically halfway in-between the 0-indexed style of triangular numbers and that currently in use.
The nice thing about a conditional statement is that I can say such a thing with confidence without making up my mind on whether or not the premise holds. Smiley

I've thought about the difference between triangular and square scoring (or 2^n for that matter) and decided that for the moment it doesn't matter much - only a couple of games use 'super additive scoring' and Starweb is the only one using the triangular variant. If there are differences in strategic consequences they're as yet opaque to me.  
 
on Jul 24th, 2017, 4:49pm, clyring wrote:
In any case, as you've pointed out yourself, fighting over connections or lack thereof doesn't bear fruit unless the groups (dis-)connected claim corners.
This game has the look of a complete demolition. I suspect white can make things much closer with more resistance in the center on or around moves 41-47, but may have given up after move 46, thinking there weren't real chances. I'd guess a black win by around 1.5 points with best play after move 44? Nevertheless a nice game.
 
Intuitively I'd guess the biggest effect of increasing board edge length will be that it is easier to isolate a lonely corner stone, because the other corners are not as close.

At the moment one can isolate a cornerstone by a single stone 'on top' of it, if it is at an outward corner flanked by one's own corners .
The value of such a move may depend on the position (i.e. are there more pressing matters elsewhere on the board). The isolated corner adds one point to the opponent, but it may eventually turn out that it took one corner of a bigger group, say a 4-group, so that it inflicted some 5 points damage.
 
The AI, like me, is far from perfect. Playing first I can get to a 7/11 division of corners, cutting deep and playing anchors in the center to escape, and just about get away with it. I'm sure a seasoned human player would refute the strategy without much trouble.
But I think occupying 8 corners and following the same strategy will turn out to be a viable strategy. I also feel that's important because it is a strategic dilemma (or rather a strategic choice) that emerges early on.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #114 on: Jul 27th, 2017, 9:14am »
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I've played around with Cameron's program for a while now and I hope to show here what I actually did see right from the start, that Starweb is a strategy game, as opposed to a tactical one. It's not surprising that members who so far have shown some real interest in the game are all very familiar with the peculiarities of the hex grid. In my case the source of this intuition is that the building blocks of the game and the way they interact are very similar to Havannah.  
 
Now instead of deviating to a popular subject like the difference between a strategy game and a tactical one, I'm going to show you strategy.
 
Michael Howe already pointed out the significance of 'minority strategy' in Starweb at BGG. Minority strategy means that you sacrifice a corner to get more influence in the center and to create cutting options in the opponent's position. Cameron's program certainly benefits from the smaller board, the more so if it's given maximum 'trying time', so I played a fair number of games trying to stretch minority strategy beyond its sensible limits by sacrificing two corners.
I lost a couple of games and quickly learned some of the program's shrewd cutting tactics, and how to guard against them. So here I have a very clear example of how to go about it ... against an AI. I'm sure sacrificing two corners is not a good strategy against a clever human player. For that we have to scale back a bit: sacrificing one corner has all the hallmarks of a lasting strategy.
 
So here we are. I tried to secure a large group (the first 3 stones of both lent themselves for that) while AI was grabbing corners. 15, 17 and 21 secured cutting points in AI's position and 19 and 23 provisionally secured the 7-group.
 

It's a position that clearly illustrates my plan: a 7-group counts 28 points, while two 4-groups and a 3-group make it to 26. My two plans are: secure the big one and prevent AI from connecting anything beyond the 4,4,3 division.
 

This is how it panned out. Note that 27 can connect in two ways and that I still have a cutting option from 49 down. But AI can close it and it doesn't matter much because I win with 2 points.
As said, don't try a 7/11 division against a strong human player, and come to think of it, not against a strong AI either.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #115 on: Jul 27th, 2017, 2:40pm »
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Intuitively I'd expect a natural strategy for a player with a large lead in the number of groups to be mutual damage, since it will be hard for the opponent to win without getting a huge group. Even though white has the strength of a titan on the left after move 23, it still seems it should be possible for black to cut off at least one group.
 
In that direction, black playing 24 at 41 clearly locally cuts 5 off from the other white corners, though it does have to be able to escape to the rest of the board later on to do so. Trying for an internal cut with the game move 24 might be okay as well, but the followups should be played immediately rather than left waiting, since there's no reason to play the 24-25 exchange except to cut off a white corner. Playing 26 (or even 34) at 35 in the game line isolates 9 due to the abundance of internal forcing moves, but maybe better practical advice for black is to not allow both 19 and 23 without a clear way to make a huge-scoring group of his own.
 
More generally, moves that affect the size or existence of a large group are intrinsically worth more, so in some sense what white is doing on the left naturally increases in priority after white invests move 19 to secure some connections, and what black is doing on the right naturally decreases in priority when white prepares cutting stones.
 
on Jul 26th, 2017, 5:35am, christianF wrote:
I've thought about the difference between triangular and square scoring (or 2^n for that matter) and decided that for the moment it doesn't matter much - only a couple of games use 'super additive scoring' and Starweb is the only one using the triangular variant. If there are differences in strategic consequences they're as yet opaque to me.

The substance of my earlier comment is that, mathematically, the strategic differences between triangular and square scoring are exactly predictable. Another way of summarizing triangular scoring is to say that taking a single is worth 1 point, and merging groups of size m and n is worth m*n points. Another way of summarizing square scoring is to say that taking a single is worth 1 point, and merging groups of size m and n is worth 2*m*n points. So, when only connections are left to fight over, the two are identical (up to a factor of two), but when a tradeoff between taking additional corners and making additional connections is relevant, taking additional corners becomes less important using square scoring.
 
2^n scoring isn't algebraically related in the same way, and would differ in more complex ways. I'd suspect that, due to the fast growth of 2^n for large n, 2^n scoring would more closely resemble largest-group scoring, at least when the number of scoring cells on each side is not very uneven. 5+1+1+1 beats 4+4+2 by a margin of 38 to 36 under 2^n scoring, but loses by 28 to 36 under square scoring, and by the even more decisive 18 to 23 margin under triangular scoring.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #116 on: Jul 28th, 2017, 12:02pm »
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on Jul 27th, 2017, 2:40pm, clyring wrote:
Intuitively I'd expect a natural strategy for a player with a large lead in the number of groups to be mutual damage, since it will be hard for the opponent to win without getting a huge group. Even though white has the strength of a titan on the left after move 23, it still seems it should be possible for black to cut off at least one group.
 
In that direction, black playing 24 at 41 clearly locally cuts 5 off from the other white corners, though it does have to be able to escape to the rest of the board later on to do so. Trying for an internal cut with the game move 24 might be okay as well, but the followups should be played immediately rather than left waiting, since there's no reason to play the 24-25 exchange except to cut off a white corner. Playing 26 (or even 34) at 35 in the game line isolates 9 due to the abundance of internal forcing moves, but maybe better practical advice for black is to not allow both 19 and 23 without a clear way to make a huge-scoring group of his own.

24 at 41 seems better indeed and the 26 follow up wasn't the strongest either. I suppose Cameron has a generic AI for 'Monte Carlo friendly' games. I got the Starweb AI after I mailed him about it. I assumed he might be interested because it's up his alley, but I never expected a working AI by return. I think the program could be made much stronger by implementing game specific heuristics. But I have no clear idea of how programs evolve since the Monte Carlo method got on the scene.
 
on Jul 27th, 2017, 2:40pm, clyring wrote:
More generally, moves that affect the size or existence of a large group are intrinsically worth more, so in some sense what white is doing on the left naturally increases in priority after white invests move 19 to secure some connections, and what black is doing on the right naturally decreases in priority when white prepares cutting stones.

Right, and it is indicative of the existence of very tricky strategic choices early on.
 
on Jul 27th, 2017, 2:40pm, clyring wrote:
... So, when only connections are left to fight over, the two are identical (up to a factor of two), but when a tradeoff between taking additional corners and making additional connections is relevant, taking additional corners becomes less important using square scoring.

Because you eventually end up with more cuts and smaller groups. It's nice to have someone with a clear deductive view around. Ed has always fulfilled that role at mindsports.
 
on Jul 27th, 2017, 2:40pm, clyring wrote:
2^n scoring isn't algebraically related in the same way, and would differ in more complex ways. I'd suspect that, due to the fast growth of 2^n for large n, 2^n scoring would more closely resemble largest-group scoring, at least when the number of scoring cells on each side is not very uneven. 5+1+1+1 beats 4+4+2 by a margin of 38 to 36 under 2^n scoring, but loses by 28 to 36 under square scoring, and by the even more decisive 18 to 23 margin under triangular scoring.

Yep, not immediately interesting but nice to keep in mind till it fits somewhere. Like Dieter having a 'polarity' idea on the shelf and suddenly seeing it adapting triangular scoring and finding a great game.
 
It's really hard to retire. Tongue
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #117 on: Aug 6th, 2017, 3:55am »
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We've dedicated a thread on what by consensus has been coined 'superadditive scoring'. Before Starweb, there were a couple of games featuring it. I mention Star, *Star and Symple. Star is the ancestor and the other two came in its wake. All are homogeneous placement games and all feature groups. At least the latter two claim to be strategy games, as opposed to games that are basically tactical.
 
All have superadditive scoring based on 'group penalty'. This penalty may differ betweem games, or even be variable as in Symple, but it is always the same in any particular game. The score obtained by joining groups is therefore always the same too.
 
Starweb's scoring is based on the 'triangular' score. This has an important consequence for the 'strategic landscape' of the game:
 
The superadditive score obtained by joining groups depends on the size of the groups

 
Considerations regarding group connections suddenly not only focus on the bare act of connecting, but on how to connect, in other words on which groups are most advantageous and which connections should be sacrificed.  
 
Is this behaviour and its strategic consequences at all known in the realm of homogeneous placement games or is it new?  
In either case I advise you to encounter it. Cameron's program (downloadable from the mindsports homepage - java required) gives the opportunity for a limited time, because posters here should be able to get too strong for it very fast.
 
Edit:
The behaviour is mirrored in Dieter Stein's Polar in a somewhat different way, namely in the decision which groups should engage in immediate conflict and which ones should be sacrificed. That's the beauty of generic principles: they may pan out in different ways by simply adapting to the mechanism.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #118 on: Aug 9th, 2017, 12:55pm »
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Being reminded of Symple led me to thinking again on its group penalty metaparameter. While I still question the necessity of it as opposed to a 'fewest groups' scoring, I thought about possible ways of integrating metaparameters into gameplay in other contexts. My first idea is probably a pretty general mutator- Allow the parameter to be set by a player later in the game, for a price.
 
I don't have high hopes for its application to Symple's group penalty, but it did lead me rather immediately to what might be an interesting Hex variant, where the parameter is whether black is connecting vertically or horizontally, and let the price is one stone. In the resulting game, black and white (after your favorite pie) alternately take turns either placing one stone of their respective color on the board, or, once only, declining to place a stone in favor of deciding which player wins by a vertical connection, and hence which player wins by a horizontal connection. Strategically, then, prior to the assignment of directions, each player must constantly (try to) threaten both a left-right connection and a top-bottom connection, for fear that the other player will choose to pay the price of not placing a stone, but still win by blocking in the non-threatened direction. This seems neat and simple, to the point where I must wonder if it already exists and has a name, though I couldn't quickly find a reference for it.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #119 on: Aug 10th, 2017, 5:53am »
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on Aug 9th, 2017, 12:55pm, clyring wrote:
Being reminded of Symple led me to thinking again on its group penalty metaparameter. While I still question the necessity of it as opposed to a 'fewest groups' scoring, I thought about possible ways of integrating metaparameters into gameplay in other contexts.

Symple is actually one of the games that materialised before the rules had been made explicit. Like Starweb for that matter. I never really considered a 'fewest groups' scoring or the difference it would make but on the face of it I'd say it constitutes a choice rather than 'a necessity as opposed to'.
 
on Aug 9th, 2017, 12:55pm, clyring wrote:
My first idea is probably a pretty general mutator- Allow the parameter to be set by a player later in the game, for a price.
I don't have high hopes for its application to Symple's group penalty, but it did lead me rather immediately to what might be an interesting Hex variant, where the parameter is whether black is connecting vertically or horizontally, and let the price is one stone. In the resulting game, black and white (after your favorite pie) alternately take turns either placing one stone of their respective color on the board, or, once only, declining to place a stone in favor of deciding which player wins by a vertical connection, and hence which player wins by a horizontal connection. Strategically, then, prior to the assignment of directions, each player must constantly (try to) threaten both a left-right connection and a top-bottom connection, for fear that the other player will choose to pay the price of not placing a stone, but still win by blocking in the non-threatened direction. This seems neat and simple, to the point where I must wonder if it already exists and has a name, though I couldn't quickly find a reference for it.

Regarding my 'favourite pie', it's the quick and dirty solution and it does fit some games excellently. But I'm very glad that the Symple move protocol harboured something better.
 
I am not aware of having ever seen anything like your (favourite) parameter and it does strike me as a simple and very interesting variant. I can't advise you what to do with it but you might want to try the BGG forum.
 
On a related issue, Benedikt Rosenau has invented a variant based on the Symple move protocol called symple Hex. It was preceded by my own square connection game Scware.
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