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christianF
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #60 on: Jan 28th, 2014, 5:55am »
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We've had no winter at all this year (not that I object) and nowadays, at noon, the sun has crept its way back into my eh … garden, that is: the raccoon dogs' enclosure. By and by they awaken from their semi-hibernation (during which they only came out towards dark, for one or two hours) and today they were coming out into the sunlight.
 

 
The wire fence isn't a fence, actually, rather it's meant to separate them if and when that might be necessary. Here's a live cam covering most of the area.
 
In about 3 weeks Daisy (the wild colored one) will get in heat. Raccoon dogs are monogamous so she will allow only her mate, not her son. It's a fairly quick affair, lasting two days at the most. After that everyone seems puzzled about what happened (what the heck was that all about!?).
Mid April there will be another litter. Spring is in the air (that one could miss the target though … it doesn't look like January, but it still is).
This got nothing to do with games or mindsports applets, by the way. Blame it on the spring feeling. Smiley
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #61 on: Apr 8th, 2014, 1:33pm »
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And so the absence of winter culminated in an untimely spring, ominous by context, but glorious for those touched by it in the Netherlands. We broke the usual records, warmest March ever and the like. It allowed me to air Kobus out in early April.  

That's another record for that matter.
 
There's more news from the animal front. Daisy expects her litter in about ten days. If you're lucky or patient, you can see the pups 3 or 4 weeks later on the livecam. Meanwhile they're shedding the down fur in the usual explosive way. That looks like this:

The brilliant thing is that nothing ever gets entangled, it just slides out, ready made for countless birds that fly in and off continuously. They even can choose white if they like.
 
Ah, yes, games…
Mindsports' Joomla cms has been updated which had some unforeseen but manageable consequences. We're quite happy with it (of course, what choice do we have?) and we hope you like it too.
 
Rotary
Ed finally managed to finish the Rotary applet, giving everyone interested the opportunity to play a decent chess variant based on rotational pieces. Here's the first game between two players who are embarrassingly concious of not quite doing the game justice.
 
Multiplicity
Ed also made the much anticipated (by me at least) Multiplicity applet. My curiosity was rooted in the fact that Multiplicity's concept is flawless (if you don't agree, don't bother). So far as I know it is the only 'product' game that counts the product of all groups as the score, and the simple move protocol fits that goal as a glove. No exceptions, no 'special rules', just the bare thing.
However, I was acutely aware that Multiplicity is a non-connection game, where you initially try to keep your groups as wide apart as possible, and extend every group as close to itself as possible. The center is the most important area to avoid. But Multiplicity has compulsory placement, so in terms of hot and cold, it ends in a freezer.
 
In actual play, this results in a game with an obvious strategy and little tactical leeway. The real judgement call is when to grow all groups, and when to start a new one. That's the tricky part, and the only tricky part.  
So it's a great concept, resulting in a somewhat disappointing game. Certainly not ArenA stuff. Here's our second game (never mind the first one).
 
Pit of Pillars
We played PoP a lot, but I've said quite enough about the game I think, so I'll only repeat that you don't know what you're missing.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #62 on: Apr 8th, 2014, 4:51pm »
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I find the rotating pieces mechanic in Rotary interesting. I have challenged you to a game on your site!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #63 on: Apr 9th, 2014, 3:14am »
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on Apr 8th, 2014, 4:51pm, browni3141 wrote:
I find the rotating pieces mechanic in Rotary interesting. I have challenged you to a game on your site!

Thank you, let's invite some spectators too, here it is.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #64 on: Apr 20th, 2014, 8:29am »
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Occasionally things happen, even in my life. The raccoon dogs are busy with the pups, initially dragging them around to find a place and arrangement to suit both parents and Snowy alike. I always wonder how they survive. I'm not sure about numbers and kinds (white/wild colored, male/female) cause I'm not allowed near the nest, at least not for now.
Quote:
"If you find a good move, look for a better one"

Remember this Shogi proverb? I disregarded it when Multiplicity revealed itself. It arose in the context of the Symple move protocol and I considered it a perfect fit, at least as far as perfect goes in an imperfect world. That blinded me for alternatives.
 
Putting it to the test was a disappointing experience. Theoretically the strategy is very deep, but due to the initial opacity it is dull in practice. Add that tactics didn't seem to have much scope and the reasons for my disappointment would seem clear.
 
It took me more than a year to finally realise I had used the wrong move protocol. I should have used the "one bound - one free" protocol. So I did:
Quote:
Rules
There are two players, White and Red. Each has a sufficient number of stones and both move only with their own color. A 'group' is a number of connected like-colored stones. A single stone is a group by definition.
 
The game starts on an empty hexhex board. White moves first, after which turns alternate. Moving is compulsory.
 
The restricted placement phase
White starts by placing one stone on the empty board. From that point on players take turns to:
 
* Place a stone on a cell adjacent to the last stone placed by the opponent, and …
* ... place a stone on a on a cell that has only vacant cells as neighbors.
 
Both placements are compulsory. When the player to move can no longer make the second placement, then his turn ends and his opponent may start the free placement phase. The number of white and black stones will always be equal, although the 'density' of the position may vary and either player may end up being the one to start the next phase.
 
The free placement phase
In this phase players take turns to compulsory place one stone on a vacant cell.
 
Object
The game ends when the board is full and the player with the highest score wins. A player's score is the product of the sizes of all his groups. The applet keeps track of the score.
 
Draws
Though draws will be far from common, the game may end with an equal score.

Now here's a nice twist regarding turn order balance. The "one bound - one free" protocol may end with either player to move next. The strategy to get (or to avoid getting) that move is very opaque. In Pit of Pillars and Inertia having the first move after the 'one bound - one free' phase would seem advantageous, but how about Multiplicity?
 
After the restricted placement phase there's an even number of stones on the board, so there's an odd number of vacant cells left. So the first player to move in the 'free placement' phase, is also the last to move. In terms of hot and cold Multiplicity ends in a freezer, so having the last move, if it implies a forced connection, may well be one's undoing.  
 
Of course there are many factors to consider (no pun intended), but if it would turn out to be the case that generally speaking having that first move would be considered disadvantageous, then part of the strategy of the first phase would be to avoid that from happening, which basically poses the same problem.
 
 
P.S. Ed will modify the applet shortly.
P.P.S. Done. Smiley
« Last Edit: Apr 21st, 2014, 5:33am by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #65 on: Apr 20th, 2014, 7:19pm »
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on Apr 20th, 2014, 8:29am, christianF wrote:
Remember this Shogi proverb?

You appear to be the only one placing the origin of this saying outside of Western chess. Some online digging unearthed this:
 
Quote:
This maxim has been attributed to everyone from Damiano to Emanuel Lasker
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #66 on: Apr 21st, 2014, 2:37am »
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on Apr 20th, 2014, 7:19pm, aaaa wrote:

You appear to be the only one placing the origin of this saying outside of Western chess. Some online digging unearthed this:
 

Mea culpa! Sad
 
However, if we consider what it suggests, the origin doesn't mean all that much to me. I'm sure it holds for Shogi too! Smiley
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #67 on: May 1st, 2014, 11:28am »
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I've played some 25 games of Pit of Pillars now, to reach a point where I feel fairly at home in the game. The initial opacity of its unusual endgame strategies has made way for deeper understanding, and the considered choices I made regarding implementation (the shape of the board, the exclusion of mono-colored stacks from being captured by entering, and the winning condition) all enhance its behaviour.
 
So I'm satisfied leave it to its own devices in attracting players. I can't very well comment on its more advanced tactics. The mechanism, though simple and efficient, gives rise to considerable complexities that aren't easily explained when basic strategic knowledge isn't present at the moment. My hope for those who don't know the game is that this lack of knowledge will not be permanent.
 
Multiplicitly is a different bird altogether. Its visual appearance supports it goal perfectly, and makes some specific strategic considerations possible with a high degree of clarity, even to beginners (implicitly, actually). I'll post these considerations shortly.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #68 on: May 2nd, 2014, 8:56am »
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Multiplicity - basic strategies
 
Here are the rules sec.
Quote:
The game starts on an empty hexhex board. There are two players, White and Red. Each has a sufficient number of stones and both move only with their own color. Moving is compulsory.  
A 'group' is a number of connected like-colored stones. A single stone is a group by definition.
 
The restricted placement phase
White starts by placing one stone on the empty board. From that point on players take turns to:
 
* Place a stone on a cell adjacent to the last stone placed by the opponent, and …
* ... place a stone on a on a cell that has only vacant cells as neighbors.
 
Both placements are compulsory. When the player to move can no longer make the second placement, then his turn ends and his opponent may start the free placement phase.
 
The free placement phase
In this phase players take turns to compulsory place one stone on a vacant cell.
 
Object
The game ends when the board is full and the player with the highest score wins. A player's score is the product of the sizes of all his groups. The applet keeps track of the score.
 
Draws
The game may end with an equal score.

Simple enough. Groups are factors, so a little visual and computational dexterity goes a long way in calculating the effect of a particular move. Moreover, the applet keeps track and also indicates the result of a move before submitting.
 
Strategy
We'll take it from the end of the restricted phase, like here for instance:
 

We have an even division. It might have been denser or less dense, and both might have ended up having to move first in the free placement stage that is now beginning. There's usually a couple of doubles present already, maybe even the odd triple. Now what?
 
Let's call adding a stone to only one group extending, while adding a stone to more than one group simultaneously is called connecting.
 
Extensions
Extending from a group of size 'n' increases the score by 1/n x 100%, so the smaller the group, the larger the effect.  This leads to a basic strategy of primarily extending from the smaller groups, preferably singles, and if at all possible, preventing the opponent to do so by enclosing  singles.  
 
Connections
Though the maximum increase in the score can be effectuated by a connection (connecting 3 singles with one stone increases the score fourfold), connections quickly turn unfavourable with increasing groups sizes. Connect a double to a triple and you play even. Connect a 4-group to a 5-group and your score halves.
 
Compulsory movement
This is the catch: you need many small factors for a high score, but you rapidly approach the crunch time event horizon in which avoiding connections is an increasingly looked for and decreasingly present option. All other things being equal and given the choice between two extension cells, one of which leaves the opponent with an extension, while the other forces him to a connection, then the choice would naturally be for the latter. But usually not all things are equal and indeed, some things may be more equal than others.
 
Turn order balance
This one is specially interesting. Without the one-bound one-free protocol it might eventually be established whether or not having the first move, and consequently the last move too, should be considered an advantage or a disadvantage. The latter is a distinct possibility: in these ice-cold endings the last move may well be the one that does you in. Now if this were to be established, then a pie would be no remedy, because it is the presence of a stone that matters, rather than its position.
 
To be ahead of emerging problems, the one-bound one-free protocol not only insures the emergence of an 'initial position' that provides an even division of material that includes the center, an area that would otherwise be avoided for as long as possible, resulting in an 'inward creeping' game, but it also implies a fight for whatever is considered advantageous regarding the first free move: to take it or to leave it.
 
The restricted phase
Strategy in the restricted phase is not only about the first move in the subsequent phase, but also about positioning. Since every group wants the maximum space, a kind of Voronoi division suggests itself. But with the prospect of crunch time, this may need some refinement. Rather than keeping all groups separated as much as possible, one should aim at separate clusters and be prepared to connect within a cluster as a necessary prize to pay.
 
Status
It's a funny little game and interesting in the sense that most connection games are focused on establishing one or more connections, not on avoiding them. I like it for its simplicity of concept, the elegance of its implementation and the generality of its object.
But its not quite ArenA material.
 
christian freeling - ed van zon (0-1)
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Afterhours
« Reply #69 on: Sep 4th, 2014, 12:59pm »
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In 2014 in the Netherlands summer fell in the spring and autumn fell in the summer, with temperatures on average 5C below average, and double the rainfall. Bad weather matching the bad news.  
 
I passed the time playing a lot of Pit of Pillars and where Havannah lured me into inventing abstract games, half a lifetime ago, PoP released me from the blessing or curse (depending on how it worked out). It's autumn now, which is my usual time, but there's nothing to indicate an impending outburst of creativity. I've finally reached immunity! Here's why.
 
After a couple of month of investigating PoP's unique strategical dilemma (which I will leave you to encounter yourself) I was convinced that the chances to ever top it were extremely low. It made any ambition to even try vanish. To go through yet another wave and coming out with a couple of tactical small affairs with no guarantee of striking a significant one, suddenly looked like a silly prospect. I've always felt that my final game should be a major strategy game, and here I am, playing just such a game. At 67 it seems the right time to call it a day.
 
As far as abstract strategy games are concerned, I love playing games at LG and Mindsports (currently Havannah, Symple, Ayu, Stapeldammen, Rotary and of course PoP) and I'm afraid I'll keep on haunting the halls of BGG too, as Rey put it so eloquently. I'll try to catch up on my reading, go fishing (got a large pond nearby, next to a coffee bar - a real coffee bar, not a 'Dutch' one, but I have my own weed), enjoy the wheather (if applicable) and suffer a general lack of problems.
 
And, of course, care for the animals. Five of them, barring the yearly litter of raccoon doggies.
 
Last summer Lyme knocked out my left knee (among other temporary inconveniences) which made carrying Kobus down the stairs somewhat problematic. He very well manages going back up the stairs, to his room, but refuses to go down. Since he's 40k+ I figured weight might be a factor so I lost 20k in about six month using a revolutionary concept: eating less. Moreover my knee slowly improved so I can move like Jagger nowadays and carrying Kobus is no longer a problem.
 

 
For the time being at least and hopefully for several years to come. He's currently catching up on sunshine because we got a gorgeous Indian summer to make up for the lost Dutch one.
 
I've had to move Snowy, a white raccoon dog that I've had for four years, to a zoo in Germany (Solinger Vogel- und Tierpark) because his father (the white one below) suddenly saw him as a rival. Raccoon dogs are exceptionally silent creatures, except when they fight. Then they're worse than cats, I can assure you, and fights are inevitable once the relation is hostile. To fill the gap I kept a wild coloured one of this years litter. He's already bigger than his parents now and always keeps his distance, which suits me fine because he's otherwise unproblematic. He's the one in the background.
 

 
Since this is both an update and an afterword of sorts, I'll include Flurry for completeness:
 

 
I found him some four years ago while walking the dogs on a wood path nearby. The first two days he could only fly at a 45 degrees angle downwards, but eventually he managed longer flights. He's lived in my living room ever since but has never landed on me. Nor do I invite him to. You see him here at base camp, a bird cage that he's never seen from the inside. He commutes to an outpost, a bookshelf at the other end of the room. He never lands anywhere else, which is convenient, guano wise. The pile in his cage is too fascinating to remove anyway.
 
So if and when I fade away into the background and someone asks, know that I'm busy living happily ever after, till the time comes that time stops and I'm bound to face the same problems I had before I was born. I'm not at all in a hurry to get there, but I've chosen Afterhours for just such an occasion.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #70 on: Oct 16th, 2014, 11:55am »
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As I write, four players have played more than 10 Pit of Pillars games, Ed van Zon, Jos Dekker, Tjalling Goedemoed and yours truly. That's not bad, considering PoP has a high threshold for beginners. It is one of those games where you can get no insight whatsoever into its inner workings, its tactics and the peculiar strategy dilemma surrounding its tipping point towards the endgame, by merely reading the rules. So you'd have to trust me if I say it's worth the effort.  
 
If you care to do so, you have two options: challenging a beginner or challenging a more seasoned player. The first option will slowly lead both to a deeper understanding of PoP's rather unique endgame dilemma. The second will do it fast, but at the price of losing n-in-a-row. Fortunately most posters here would realise the game is not to blame.
 
In trying to understand the dilemma in the course of some 50 games against Ed (quite unsuccessfully in terms of wins/losses) I always realised that the way the object is phrased - absence of a players colour on the board means a loss, disregarding any reserves - is at the core of it. But making the capture of a mono-coloured stack by entering impossible also seemed to play a role. That was a rule I added on a whim because it seemed to fit nicely. I apologise for the absence of any deeper consideration, but that's the way rules sometimes present themselves.
 
Anyway, it does play a role. It does change the endgame to a degree, but to a minor degree. In most endgame positions that did tip one way or the other, it seems to favour the überdog. So statistically, omitting it would provide some negative feedback to that. Whether or not that is desirable is actually not my call. I'm more interested in what the simplest implementation may have to offer. The fact that I added the rule right away and on impulse testifies to my freedom as an inventor and my "whatever that is" intuition. And while it doesn't in any way hamper the game, it alters it slightly in a way that I cannot see as better or worse than when it were omitted.
 
So as in Catchup, where I favour Luis simpler implementation despite the fact that it alters the game, I've asked Ed to implement a optional version of Pit of Pillars without the restriction on capturing a mono coloured stack by entering. I'm fairly sure that this leaves the unique endgame dilemma unaffected. And a rule less is a rule less.
 
We've not seen a draw yet, by the way, and barring a cooperative cycle I don't think it's possible.
 
In the game we just finished the issue was the subject of the commentary. Don't mind the short dutch commentary, it's about the Essen weekend (which promises glorious weather on Sunday!).
 
Edit:
Quote:
In trying to understand the dilemma in the course of some 50 games against Ed (quite unsuccessfully in terms of wins/losses) I always realised that the way the object is phrased - absence of a players colour on the board means a loss, disregarding any reserves - is at the core of it.

Actually there's another feature at its core. A capture in PoP always concerns a mixed stack: you capture one or more opponent's men and get one or more reserves yourself. More often than not such a capture involves two of your own stacks, so you then lose two stacks in the process. Experience shows that being down to about four stacks brings you in the danger zone where capture with on-the-board pieces becomes a severe liability. Take it a step further and soon any capture is a no go!  
The negative feedback of one capture too many may surprise you by its swiftness and decisiveness. No game I know has anything like it.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #71 on: Oct 19th, 2014, 3:44am »
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Spielmessen in Essen  Angry &*#%+$!!!
 
In the Netherlands we have the "NS" (Nederlandse Spoorwegen - Dutch Railways). As a rule they don't strike because they have plenty of other means to annoy travellers, like herding them into busses because of "work on the track" or föcked up signals, or whatever.
 
Germany of course is more "gründlich", and Enschede Station is part of their network. There's a German ticket machine there that after a chat session in German and accompanying payment will provide you with tickets to, say, Essen Hbf:

So everything seemed in good order - till I arrived at the station to take the 7.56 to Dülmen and then the 9.33 to Essen, where I was supposed to arrive at the Hauptbahnhof at 10.17.
 
But the DB turned out to be on a strike. No German train to be seen. A sign informed me of the circumstance, saying that the NS gave a "negative travel advisory" for Germany.
 
"A negative travel advisory". That seemed to imply there's still a choice. But they wouldn't give a negative travel advisory for cars, now would they, so if no trains are running, what's the choice? I put this before an employee and got back the zombie like incomprehensive stare of one who faces the challenge of explaining whatever in the name of the company he works for.
 
To get my money back, if at all, requires me to go to Germany. It all fits!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #72 on: Oct 19th, 2014, 4:26am »
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Of course, in a parallel universe the train might have derailed, or a suicide bomber might have visited the Spielmesse because God doesn't like games, or whatever. I should count myself lucky!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #73 on: Oct 21st, 2014, 8:14am »
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on Oct 16th, 2014, 11:55am, christianF wrote:
So as in Catchup, where I favour Luis simpler implementation despite the fact that it alters the game, I've asked Ed to implement a optional version of Pit of Pillars without the restriction on capturing a mono coloured stack by entering. I'm fairly sure that this leaves the unique endgame dilemma unaffected. And a rule less is a rule less.

This has been done. If you start a game now, you'll be given the option to choose either version.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #74 on: Nov 6th, 2014, 11:28am »
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on Oct 21st, 2014, 8:14am, christianF wrote:

This has been done. If you start a game now, you'll be given the option to choose either version.

Not anymore actually. The rule proved to be at best insignificant to the game so it has been omitted. Simplification rules.
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