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christianF
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Chess variants on the fly
« Reply #75 on: Jan 22nd, 2015, 6:48am »
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Recently I made physical copies of my chess variants. It took me longer than inventing them. I thought I'd show you the result. I also thought it might be a good occasion for a crash course in inventing two-player ones. You need:
 
- A justification for the result (not for the effort).
- A board fitting the requirements.  
- An absolute piece as ultimate target for the opponent.
- Pieces that can capture it.
 
That about sums it up. Considering that there are literally thousands of published chess variants, the first one is obviously the hardest. Regarding the second one anything goes (though not always 'equally well' I fear). You can't do without the third and defining one. The last one knows at least one subset: pawns. Pawns are weaker, forwards oriented slow paced pieces that often have the ability to be promoted to something stronger. The choice of pieces is immensely larger than the choice of pawns. You can do without pawns and you can do without 'regular' pieces, but not without both.
 
You may encounter generic problems inherent in the structure:
 
- Forced cycles.
- Stalemate.
 
"3-fold" is a draw is a generally accepted solution for the first one, but only if appeals to it do not emerge too frequently.
Stalemate is a complication of the stylish circumvention of capture called 'checkmate'. Is this circumvention worth it? Decide for yourself. We like checkmate because in the old days we liked the musketeer to get his rapier at the villain's throat and then start a moralistic monologue rather than finishing him/her off. I've used it off and on.
 
The Atlantis Triplets
Shakti Cassa Cyclix

 
I found Shakti (photo, the six pieces under the board complete the full Atlantis set) purely by accident, so all justifications are retrospective. Here they are:
 
- It is unusually small for a non-trivial chess game.
- It has no pawns, nor any relation between its two regular pieces (except that they block one another and can't occupy the same space).
- It features the 'Atlantis' principle: the playing area shrinks progressively, leading to diminishing refuges for the king. This is a generic principle.
 
For Cassa:
 
- Much of the above, but here the Atlantis effect is situated in the absolute piece rather than in the pieces.
- The relation between the pieces, 'capture' by exchange, is quite unique (if not indeed wholly unique).
 
For Cyclix:
- 'The Atlantis Triplets' had a nice ring to it and I encountered a 'capture and recycle' principle that made it fit in perfectly.  
 
Loonybird

 
For Loonybird:
- It resulted from the question "What if all pieces except the king would go different from the way they capture?". This leads to a surprisingly loonyless variant. Since it features the dropping of captured pieces, a double set of pieces is required. Since pieces are composite, the making of one piece requires two chess pieces to be sacrificed. So I had to demolish four chess sets to get a complete set of pieces. Great fun!
 
Dragonfly

 
For Dragonfly:
- It's an afterthought of Loonybird, but its reason for being is that it leads 'chess' in a direction proposed by Bobby Fischer with his deplorable Chess960: less room for opening analysis and memorising, more room for tactical decisions. I don't feel that this is the direction Chess should take, but if so, then Dragonfly is the better game. The absence of a queen is compensated by the increased branching factor caused by introducing the dropping of captured pieces. It also serves completeness because 'completeness' including the queen would imply the inclusion of the other two composite pieces.
 
Yari Shogi

 
For Yari Shogi:
- Shogi variants testify of the boundless imagination of their creators, but they're all completely arbitrary. There's no implied value judgement: if it works just fine, who cares. Yet, in this unlikely environment, I still felt the need to eliminate the 'inventor' as much as possible and to create a less than arbitrary variant based on a couple of basic assumptions. Yari Shogi is a 'western' shogi with a more or less logical structure, and considering its presence on the web it doesn't do all that bad.  
 
Chakra

 
For Chakra:
Chakra started as a chess variant with choices based orthogonal/diagonal movement, boolean 'and/or' and 'one step/full range. That worked out to something similar to chess, but not as good. It landed on the shelf. Then Ed and I dreamed up a generic piece consisting of two mobile squares, allowing pieces to use them as a means of getting from one place to another in an unusual way. The piece can be adapted for use in any game with moving pieces and it thus became Chakra's reason for being. A bit fairy, but it's for fun, right?
 
Rotary

 
For Rotary:
Rotary was assembled after I encountered the abominable Ploy. Ploy had a small number of pathetically weak pieces amid an abundance of stronger ones. Like going hunting with five dobermanns and two chihuahuas. It illustrates one of the very few mistakes you can make in assembling a chess variant: internal imbalance.
 
Grand Chess

 
For Grand Chess:
The structure of Chess is arbitrary but established and as a sport weapon it still succeeds to deliver. However, even within the arbitrary, Chess is not complete. There's one composite piece where three are possible. Jos Ral Capablanca and Edward Lasker strived for completeness in Capablanca Chess, but though great players, they were poor 'assemblers'. Grand Chess is inherently justified.
 
Chad

 
For Chad:
Chad was an attempt to eliminate everything that wasn't really necessary in a chess game, a quest for simplicity. Later I found Shakti by accident, and it beats Chad in these terms. Coincidence beating a considered plan, I like that. Meanwhile Chad is a very modern game with a link to chess' earliest history, when it emerged as a representation of actual warfare between two camps. Thus, like Xiangqi, it has a 'castle', where the king resides. Its army consists of rooks only, though their interaction is mostly limited to blocking one another. Rooks are promoted to queens upon ending a move inside the opponent's castle. The mutual right to capture only exists between an attacker on the opponent's wall and a defender inside the castle. A fast and modern variant with an excellent balance between strategic planning and sophisticated tactics.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #76 on: Jan 29th, 2015, 8:28am »
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Wow, very cool. Thanks for sharing this with us Christian.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #77 on: Jan 30th, 2015, 1:39pm »
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My plan to stop inventing failed but at least it happened accidentally. I was considering Othello's mechanical move protocol and its somewhat unsatisfactory pass solution of positions that don't have a capturing move available for the moving player. If one were allowed to make placements at will, then corners would be so obvious to start with, that one might as well turn them into an initial position. But then what?
That's how the center emerged as a starting point, and the rigid move protocol makes that you have to work your way towards them. So far so good, and the game didn't do too bad so whoever markets it is probably pleased with it. But I'm not.
 
While this short analysis ran the one-bound-one-free move protocol popped up, not so much as a solution, but just to see if it would generate viable starting positions. Free moves inherently can't capture, but bound moves can, I figured, so unlike any other game using it, the number of black and white stones at the end of the first phase might not be the same.
 
To make a long story short, it became a much freer, much more 'organic' game in which players must make a placement, but are not obliged to capture. The protocol allowed the 'corner problem' to be solved by a nice little restriction in the first phase. It means that at the moment corners become available, the position in terms of priorities holds competing placements.
 
Io

 
The diagram shows a board position at the end of the first phase. "Adjacent" means both straight and diagonal. White's last free move was at C1. Black's bound reply was at B2 to keep E1 for free placement. Thus White is forced to make a bound move (F2) and leave the first move in the next phase to Black. If Black had chosen D1 or D2 for his bound placement, there would have been no place for a free placement, and White would have had the first move of the next phase.
 
From this point on it's one placement per turn for each player. Here black starts and there are 49 cells left, so after 25 black and 24 white moves the board is full and there's a winner. I'm sure that non-capturing moves will find their way into strategy and tactics and almost sure that this is a better game than its parent.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #78 on: Feb 3rd, 2015, 12:31pm »
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It's getting worse. After an approach (and one that didn't start deliberately at that) that was deplorably hampered by my own stupidity, I managed to get away with a slighly damaged ego and, eventually, a nice little game. Sort iof a childrens' game suited for grown ups.
 
It's called Knightfall.
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Re: Chess variants on the fly
« Reply #79 on: Feb 3rd, 2015, 4:24pm »
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on Jan 22nd, 2015, 6:48am, christianF wrote:

Code:

[url=http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/chad][b]Chad[/b][/url]
[IMG]http://i59.tinypic.com/hrfwci.jpg[/IMG]


 
Is Chad really played on a map of Seine-et-Marne?
Bishop to Crvecoeur, check!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #80 on: Feb 4th, 2015, 5:49am »
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Smiley
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #81 on: Feb 4th, 2015, 7:13am »
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The link led to a different image yesterday, I can't find it anymore. Maybe a bored router wanted to make a joke.
 
Beautiful sets!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #82 on: Feb 4th, 2015, 9:07am »
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I actually looked at a map of Seine-et-Marne but failed to recognise any similarity. I nevertheless welcomed the 'check'. I was well prepared!
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #83 on: May 12th, 2015, 1:14pm »
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It's spring again and to my surprise I'm not quite dead, so I feel almost compelled to give a sign of life. Last fall I managed to redirect oncoming creativity to actually creating boards and pieces for the bulk of my games, the same way I did for the chess variants. Come March, with three quarters of the work done, I ran out of fuel, but I happened to have almost a gallon of green wood-dye, because it was the only transparent green I could get for Hanniball:
 

 
So I figured I'd need a fence to put it on, and the one of Kobus' outdoors enclosure needed replacement:
 

 
That done, I started my run-up to warmth and sunshine. A bit like in a movie where someone tries to reach the end of a corridor that keeps getting longer. Really tiring that was. Meanwhile Daisy's delivery of the pups had some kind of a complication that didn't exactly kill her, but it stalled milk production so the pups died. They didn't care all that much, so why should I. I'm just glad she came trough it all all right.
 
I'm now starting on the last couple of games, and then - in a few weeks - I'll post pics of my winterly (springly) efforts.
 
P.S.
We also played a lot of Pit of Pillars. Ed usually wins but I got the last one.
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Emergo game
« Reply #84 on: Jul 13th, 2015, 10:13am »
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Emergo is both a placement and a movement game, a true bridge between different sides of the abstract community's preferences. Since both aspects, stages actually, have different strategies, it helps to understand the rules, in particular the generic entering restriction and its function.
 
I'll lead you through my move to move considerations as the game progresses.
 
1.d5 f5
 

 
White (Ed) moved adjacent to e5 to prevent Black (me) from playing there. Black moved f5 to make the centre square accessible for both. Black would like White to move there because simply allowing the capture and entering elsewhere would 'virtually' give him the first move after the entering stage.  
 
2.e6 e4
 
But White moved e6, denying Black access to it again, and Black restored it again with e4. White would prefer to refrain from capture sequences and thus have the first move after the entering stage, in a flat lay-out. Black prefers captures because for him it is an advantage if the number of captures of both sides don't even out, regardless of who makes the most.  
 
3.c7 e5
 

 
So Black attacks. Now I had expected Ed to move 4.f6 giving me a choice of captures, but no way to prevent him from evening out the number of them: White would 'virtually' keep the first move of the next stage. The line I envisioned was 4 f5x7 5.dxf5 d5, opening more options to attack. But Ed moved 4.d7, accepting a 'capture without reply' that 'virtually' gives me a shadowpiece of two at the end of the entering stage. Of course he still has the first move. But being a careful player, a shadowpiece of two is enough of a compensation in my book.  
 
4.d7 exc5
 

 
You can see that here: White must enter and now has one man less in hand.
 
5.g7 b6
6.d6 c6
 
c6 was already accessible for Black, but b6 provided cover first. After 6.d6 the square is also accessible for White, and I didn't want him there. That is because a white placement at c6 could not be countered by an exchange, at least not with an equal number of captures by each side. If, after a black move elsewhere, Black 'covers' White's 7.c6 by for instance 7 b4, the sequence continues with 7.c6x4 bxd4 8.c5x3 and Black has lost his shadowpiece of two. Simply blocking by 7 c4 leaves the weak black piece on c5 too vulnarable to being dragged into a combination in which it may be forced to capture 3 or 4 extra men before being decapitated, leaving a white column of 4 or 5. I considered it too risky to not take c6 myself.
 

 
7.h6 d4
 
After 7 d4 the center squares d5 and e5 are both accessible for Black, but as long as I don't attack any white stack, not for White. That's not to say I won't attack, but probably not until I have to enter the last piece, the two-high shadowpiece. And in that case White enters the movement phase and isn't bothered by any placement restriction anymore. Not that he would be if I would attack earlier, because attacking in the entering stage implicitly releases the opponent from placement restrictions.
I'll have to keep an eye on ef6 as a possible first move of the movement stage because of the majority capture cxg6. White might want to weave a trick or two around that move.
 
8.g6 b4
 
After g6 the possible danger of ef6 as a first move in the next stage is gone and the focus from my (black) point of view shifts to d65. But I still got time to enter at d5 because White can't. Same for f6. Both nice squares to enter a double, though I can't make any promises.
 
9.e8 f4
 

 
In this position d65 as White's possible first move after the entering stage is a strong incentive to prevent it. It opens a choice of 3-captures, as yet without the possibility of decapping the fed piece. But White isn't done yet. 9 f4 is a compromise of sorts. I still got 2 men and a shadowpiece of two to enter, and f6 isn't out of the equation yet. On the other hand, I need an anchor of sorts on the left side - just don't know where to put it yet. And I'll probably have to plug d5 with the shadowpiece (no promise implied).
 
10.g3 d5
 

 
As I said, no promise implied. White is bringing the option g34 fxh4 h65 h4xf6 into the mix as a first move squence after the entering stage, and the number of possibilities for a White feeding combination is growing disturbingly. Entering at h4 slightly reduces the danger, but h4 is a bit off side for my taste. I may have to use the shadowpiece for another purpose than plugging d5, so I plugged d5.
 
11.f2 e3
 
E3 serves to keep f2 and g3 from working together. The downside is that I don't have many squares covered by men on the edge. But White is spreading his position a bit wide and may have some initial trouble in getting pieces to cooperate.
 
 
12.d8
 

 
Decision time. There are two squares that beg for the shadowpiece, e5 and f6. I've spend the best part of an afternoon to investigate white's options for a feeding combination to build a large piece and decided for the former, immediately attacking White to limit his options.  
 
12 e5
 
The other interesting square is f6 and here I found a nice combination for White to build a piece of 7 at a price. There were many other lines to investigate, and most players wouldn't find them all sitting behind a board with a ticking clock, but this is turn based play and anything goes. So here's how a piece of 7 is build after 12...f6, and why one should always carefully consider the result, however desirable the result may appear!
 
Quote:
Analysis after 12f6
 
13.e67 cxe6
14.e7xe5xg5 fxd6
15.c76 c5xc7xe7xe9
16.de8 e9x7
17.gf7 exg7
18.f23 necessary to remove f4 and therewith a choice of capture after 19.g54
18 f4x2
19.g54 g7x5
20g4x6  
 

 
If a player would be able to find this combination behind the board, he'd probably go for it. The weak piece on g6 could find relative refuge on g7 or f6 and the big one could cause havoc in the black position. Thus he might miss Black's counter combination:
 
20 ef3
21.g3xg3xg5xg5 b45
22.cxa5 b65
23.axc5 d45 here the aggressive d65 24.cxe5 d5xf5xh5 25.h6x4 would be too ambitious for my taste.
24.cxe5 de6
25.e5x7 e6x8
 

 
How about that! The material is more or less even, but White has a weak piece on g6 that is under immediate threat of the black piece on e7. It's to early to conclude on a black win, but I certainly do prefer the black position. So, barring other white feeding combinations that I may have missed, I could safely have entered the shadowpiece on f6. But then you would have missed this analysis.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

I've added a link to Variant lines in Emergo1436553843.html at the bottom of the first one (12f6 instead of the actual 12e5), so that you can actually see the combinations happening. The link will appear at the bottom of every new variant line.
 


This marked the end of the entering stage - time for an intermezzo
 
Here's is what I said about strategy in the entering stage:
 
Quote:
"White would prefer to refrain from capture sequences and thus have the first move after the entering stage, in a flat lay-out. Black prefers captures because for him it is an advantage if the number of captures of both sides don't even out, regardless of who makes the most.

 
I feel that this should be considered intruiging at least, but I sincerely wonder who actually understands this. Emergo harbours more combinatory miracles and more drama than any game I know. Its drama is rooted in a kind of 'butterfly effect'. A slight oversight may turn a captured column of say 3 or 4 into a liberated column of 4, 5, 6 creating havoc where everything seemed under control just a few moves back.
 
To understand Emergo at all, without the feeling of facing chaotic proceedings, one should understand the basics of its strategy. Fortunately strategy in the now beginning movement phase is fairly simple, often compressed into "feed, decapitate, bury", that is: feed a number men to an opponents weak piece (a cap of one or two, preferably already carrying prisoners), but make sure you can capture the guard(s), thereby liberating a large column. Next try to bury opponent's men under it.
 
Obviously the piece changes in the interaction. It may grow larger or get smaller, but if the number of captures it makes equals the number of times it jumped by the opponent, then it remains the same height and only changes composition. Now 5 is a strong piece. 4 over 1 may be even stronger. 3 over 2 is still strong and effective in the sense that it withdraws 2 opponent's men from the action. On average 2 over 3 begins to show signs of liability and should be in retreat mode. A 1 over 4 should be in a safe position lest the guard should be captured, liberating an opponent's piece of 5. That's the 'cycle' of an Emergo piece.
There's another thing, implicitly: if a piece cannot be saved it should be sacrificed as soon as possible, before it is forced to capture even more men before falling to the opponent.
 
Now this is all fairly simple, but then, it's the movement phase. To scare off beginners, the strategy of the entering stage isn't quite that simple. Not that this should surprise anyone: strategy games implicitly have a threshold and to get beyond it there's no other way than to study, require experience and trusting the game to deliver. And since many 'the best thing since Chess' games fail to do so, players are usually and rightfully armed with a fair amount of scepticism.
 
Which brings me back to the question: who actually understands why White and Black have different strategic goals in the entering stage? Why White wants to avoid capturing sequences whereas Black seeks them? Why Black wants the number of captures by either side to differ, regardless of who makes the most, and what role the shadowpiece plays in all this?
 
Of course I'm quite willing and able to answer these questions, but for the moment were past the entering stage so let's see what White has done with the freedom to initiate a feeding combination.
 
The movement stage - end of the intermezzo


 
In the game Black's last move was entering the shadowpiece of two at E5.
 
13.e67 cxe6
14.ef8 e6x8
15.c76 c5xc7xe7
16.g34 fxh4
17.gf6 f5x7
18.f8x6 …
 

 
To a beginner this may seem odd: White has 1 prisoner and Black has 6, some combination! But the two single guards that hold 5 prisoners are both under attack in white territory and cannot be saved. Now surely Ed did not miss 18d56, a majority capture putting 4 black men under a single guard, and the prospect to follow up with ef4, adding two more (f3xf5xd5) before capturing the guard (exc5). So let's see what happens after 18d56:
 
Quote:
Analysis after 18d56
 
18d56
19.f7xd7xd5xd3xf3 - e8xe6xg6
20.g7x5
 

 
Now here's the problem: 20ef4 gives White a choice of capture. F6 interferes deplorably with the plan. Black cannot move a top left man and allow the capture because after 21.gxe6 the intended 2ef4 again allows a choice of capture. But Black must force a capture or White moves the target from f3 to g3, putting it on the wrong sub-grid for Black to attack. So the only way to the target is the sacrifice 20f67 21.exg7.
 
20f67  
21.exg7 ef4  
22. f3xf5xd5 e5xc5
 

 
So here's where Black would end up with 18d56. For starters that is, because it's White's turn:
 
23.h65 h4xh6xf6
24.gxe6
 

 
In this position White has three prisoners, relatively well guarded, that is: they can only be set free at a price. Black has one prisoner. White has six pieces, Black has four and three of them are weak. Black has one very strong piece, but an immediate attack along the e-line leaves him with a 4-on-2 in the corner, while White's 1-on-3 escapes to d2, for the time being. All in all an interesting position, but I feel the black giant is walking on feet of clay and if White plays carefully he can exploit Black's low number of of pieces to induce Zugzwang. Zugzwang plays a big role in Emergo endgames and is always costly for the player faced with it.
 
In summary: I feel that the position is a white win and that 18d56 is a nice bait, and so did Ed or he wouldn't have offered it.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
So back to the game itself. If e8 gets out of the way, to e9 or f8, then Black can perform basically the same combination without being bothered by a white choice of capture. But which one is best? Well, 18ef8 has a surprising White riposte:
 
Quote:
Analysis after 18ef8
 
18ef8
19.fxd7 d56
20.d7xd5xd3xf3 ef4
21.f3xf5xd5 exc5
 

 
White now employs a 'seesaw' forcing Black to leapfrog between d8 and f8.
 
22.de8 fxd8
23.e78 dxf8
24.g76 fxd8
25.f67 d8xf8xf6
26.gxe6 f7x5
27.f6x4
 

 
In the final position White would seem to have the edge, with at least one deeply buried prisoner and h4 for the taking, if not indeed to actively work with. It's a nice combination but Black would rather seek a way around it. And that seems to be the case with the actual move in the game: 18e89, avoiding the seesaw.  
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
In the game Black's last move was 18.f8x6.
 
18e89
19.fxd7 d56
20.d7xd5xd3xf3 ef4
21.f3xf5xd5 exc5
 
And this is how the position looks from behind my computer.
 

 
Of course you need a board to understand Emergo, and a 9x9 checkered board with dark corners does well enough, but this is nice too, don't you think? Smiley  
White has proceeded:
 
22.h65 h4x6
23.fg6 hxf6
24.g7x5
 
Black chooses the simple line:
 
24fe6
25.e7x5 d5xf5xh5
 

 
This puts two white prisoners under a solid six black ones at the price of some positional disadvantages. The variants after 24f65 25.gxe5 are more complicated with no guarantee of a better outcome.
In the current position White must get the 2-on-1 at e5 out of the way. I'll show you what happens if he doesn't and decides for instance to get the red piece on e9 first, to ensure some reinforcements: they'll be too late:
 
Quote:
Analysis after 26.de8
 
26.de8 e9x7
27.e6x8 gf5
28.e5xg5xi5 c54
29.ixg5 hxf5
30.gxe5 fxd5
 

 
This is a clear win for Black.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
26.ed5 c5xe5xe7
27.e6x8 gf5
 

 
Ed's away for the weekend so this gives me time to explain why I think Black has a won position here. Ed might not quite agree yet, but in this world, contrary to a parallel universe called 'the real world' (where I'm supposed to 'get a life'), everyone must eventually succumb to the truth.  
The key was finding the one way to make the particular feeding combination that was on offer at move 18 and avoid the other two. White's rearrangement afterwards allowed me to capture two men under a cap of six.
This is what it says on our homepage:
 
Quote:
We're more committed to strategy games than to tactical ones. Here's the difference:
Strategy games have strategies varied enough to allow different styles of play, tactics varied enough to induce their own terminology, and a structure that allows advantageous sub-goals to be achieved as calculable signposts along the way.
Tactical games have strategies that are either fairly obvious (however deep), like Pente, or fairly opaque, like Othello.

 
One of those 'calculable signposts' in Emergo is to have opponents' men deeply buried. White has prisoners too, three of them if you count the cap of e9, but they're all under small caps so you can't 'work' with them all that much. But the piece on h5 can eat a few and still have them safe. That's a strategic advantage.
 
Note that White cannot feed with 28.e76 e9xe7xe5xc5 because he can't decapitate the piece on c5 afterwards. Meanwhile Black threatens to drag the piece on d5 within reach of the big one, resulting in a 5-on-3 and a 3 in front of it, increasing the strategic advantage. If White liberates e9 with 28. ed7 or ef7, then d5 remains in place and under the same threat. So there's no way to delay that trouble comin' every day, except maybe the retreat of the piece on d5.  
 
None of the above, really
That is, Ed isn't away for the weekend and he didn't retract the piece on d5 but rather sacrificed it. Sacrificing a piece to prevent the opponent from feeding it is not unusual in Emergo, but more often than not it's a means to an end.
 
28.de5 fxd5
29.ed7 e9xe7xc7
30.ef8 cxe7
31.dxf7 hg5
 

 
Of course Black shouldn't feed anything to the big white one voluntarily. As it happens 32. e76 is the only move to engage Black immediately, so I've spend some time studying the consequences. Or I wouldn't have moved hg5 in the first place of course.
 
32.ed7
 
Totally what I expected, which doesn't make it any easier. I could withdraw the weak piece on d5 and prevent immediate interaction well, maybe I will. Meanwhile I'll give a main line of immediate interaction on White's behalf, showing why Ed politely declined.
 
Quote:
Analysis after 32.e76
 
32.e76? e5xe7xg7
33.f8x6 de5!
34.e6x4 gf5 - A choice of capture, but exg5 is followed by f5x7 and Black has a 5-on-3 and a double guarding the weak piece on g7, making the black win a technicality.  
 
35.f6x4 f5x3 - Impending doom.
36.exg4 fxh4
37.f2x4 f3xf5xd5
38.g4xe4 de5
39.e4x6 e5x7
40.e6x8 e7x9 ++
 

 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
So ed7 it was. White's plan obviously involves building a big piece by getting rid of the smaller stuff, preferably burying a few prisoners in the process, and wearing down the big one on f5. Now the weak black piece on d5 is a nice primary target, but retracting it isn't really my style. I've had a quick glance at bc6 but gf5 seems better in terms of strategy. It centralises the big one while threatening the weak white pieces on the f-line. After 33.d76 d5x7 the White four on d6 has three different ways to proceed feeding, each leading to a labyrinth of forced sequences and each sequence splitting up by choices of capture. I spent the best part of the afternoon exploring them, with Kobus sunbathing in the garden, and I found that White can succeed, in several ways, to get good counter play, but never quite sufficient to tip the scales.
 
32gf5
33.d76 d5x7
 
White is on a three forked road here. 34.de6 e5xe7xg7 35.f8xf6xf4 f5x3 is complex and most lines brings him in uncomfortable Zugzwang situations, so I'm not surprised White didn't go into that. But 34.dc6 appears straightforward enough and leads to a position that at first glance seems better than the actual position resulting from 34.d65. This means that I'll have to take a very good look at the actual position to see if Ed saw something I didn't see. For comparison, here's the line after 34.dc6.
 
Quote:
Analysis after 34.dc6
 
34.dc6 bxd6
35.c6xe6xe4 d7x5
36.ed4 d5x3
37.d4x2 f56 - of course.
38.f7x5 f6x4
 

 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
White may have concluded that Black can go and get the pieces on f2 and f8 after which the prospect of keeping the piece on d2 safe are grim. But the actual position on the face of it does not look less grim.
 
34.d65 exc5
35.d8x6 cxe5
36.fg7 exc5
37.dxb5
 
In this position I decided for the simple 37bc4 to keep White from building a piece of 5. On 37f56 or fe5 he could do so, albeit without much of a prospect to keep Black from winning. But it's an instructive combination that I won't deny you. The different lines lead to variations around the basic goal, so I'll take 37f56 to illustrate it.
 
Quote:
Analysis after 37f56
 
37f56
38.dc6 b6xd6xd8
39.c5x7 b4x6 - Black captures b4x6 and not d8x6 to avoid a subsequent choice of capture. White needs a tempo move, and g67 fits the bill because it snatches a guard from the big one leaves a free move to complete the combination.
 
40.gf7 d8x6
41. f7x5 f6x4
42.cd7 d6x8
43.fe2 d8x6
44.d7x5 bc5 - Black of course picks off the piece on d5 without weakening his piece on f4.
45.dxb5 b6x4
 

 
So here's a White 5 facing a Black 5-on-3 supported by a triple and a double. The weak black piece on b4 is well guarded and White's future would have looked bleak.  
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
37bc4
38.c5x3 b6x4
 
Here's the actual position after 38b6x4.
 

 
39.dc6 fe5
 
We're at move 40  
and you can see that the big one on e5 isn't very popular among the white forces. In fact 39fe5 prevents White from initiating immediate interaction with 40.c34 or 40.c65. Since Ed will come to the same conclusion, I might as well show that in advance.
 
Quote:
Analysis after 40.c34
 
40.c34 bxd4
41.c4xe4xe6 e5xe7xc7xc5 ++
 

 
In the final position Black's 5-on-5 seals the deal and the threat 42cd6, capturing the white 1-on-3 (majority capture), is added for good measure.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
Quote:
Analysis after 40.c65
 
40.c65 bxd5
41.d76 d5x7
42.d6x8 c54
43.c3x5 ed5
44.cxe5 dxf5
45.exg5 fxh5
46.gxi5 bc4
47.ixg5 hxf5 ++
 

 
In the final position Black simply retreats with his 2-on-5 and the big six cleans up the rubble.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
40.de7 - I had analysed 40.d76 e56 41.dxf6 exg6 42.fxh6 ba5! after which both lines appear to lose for Black, but the lines are very tricky indeed. This is more straightforward.
 
40bc5
41.c6x4 bxd4
42.c3x5 c4x6
43.c5x7 e56
44.e7x5 e6x4
45.e5x3 e4x2
46.fxd2 ef3
47.d2xf2xf4 f3x5
 

 
Here White resigned, but we'll play it out for the gallery.
 
48.cd7 fe4
49.g76 f54
50.c65 d43
51.d76 d32
52.g65 - comment: Off to H for the weekend again. You may finish the game as you see fit, just don't make me look stupid (i reserve that for myself Wink ).
52e45 - comment: Well, the game is more than a third of a century old so I feel the gallery can afford to wait a few days more to see what they could see right away in the first place. For now I can't have you dragging f4 to f6 of course.
 

 
Hey, wait a minute
White can drag the piece on f4 to f6 and then - the point of course - play de6 and liberate a piece of 3, if he can get the black 3 out of the way. And he can of course  
Yes he can, and in that sense the goal can be achieved. But Emergo combinations are subject to compulsory capture and do not end till they've run their course completely. I'll show you:
 
Quote:
Analysis after 53.cd5
 
53.cd5 exc5
54.gf5 f4x6
55.de6 fxd6
56.e6xc6xc4 c5x3
 

 
The final position should be clear.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
Another plan is to attack the black 3 with d65:
 
Quote:
Analysis after 53.d65
 
53.d65 ef5
54.gxe5 e23
55.exg5 fxh5
 

 
This final position should be clear too.
 
See the sequence of these combinations in its entirety.

 
The two lines I illustrated were the only ones that still had a shimmer of a plan about them, so White resigned.
 

 
Here's the final position in the game
« Last Edit: Aug 10th, 2015, 5:34am by christianF » IP Logged
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #85 on: Aug 5th, 2015, 11:39am »
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This post is copied from BGG and adresses the community there, but it has some useful information.
 
 
I remember, in a generic sort of way, occasional requests to cover games more in deep, with comments on strategy and examples of basic tactics and games to demonstrate the various points. Wasn't that at one time or another put forward by you, Nick?
 
So I thought I'd comply with a game of Emergo.
There have been two reactions so far, one by Corey Clark, demonstrating his perceptiveness and one by Chris Huntoon that read: "How intrinsic do you see columns to gameplay? Does it simply add another dimension or do you consider it essential?"
Considering the effort, though gladly made, I feel this is a bit meagre and I wonder why that is. Maybe the key is found in the comments that were made.
 
Checkers is boring and drawish
This is a viewpoint put forward by a number of inventors, including Corey Clark and Mark Steere, who feel they are beyond Checkers, and maybe Nick Bentley too.
I don't feel that at all. I don't consider these opinions to be sophisticated, I consider them to be ignorant. They are held by people who usually don't know much about Checkers in the generic sense, and not about International Draughts in particular. Few of them would be bothered by their claim of drawishness if they were to play against an average Dutch club player. They would lose ten out of ten, if not hundred out of hundred. Opinions are difficult you see, because they're too d-amn easy.
 
Columns and gameplay
Regarding Chris' question I wonder if it may have been rhetorical. I'm not sure what "Does it simply add another dimension or do you consider it essential?" does try to convey. Are the two mutually exclusive? Isn't "adding another dimension" often considered "essential", and a justification of a rule change?
But the fundamental uneasiness I perceive is in the "add". Add to what? Isn't the premiss for this question the opinion that column checkers should be viewed in comparison with a parental checkers game?
That's where I began to wonder about the question being rhetorical in the first place. If one starts from the premiss that checkers is boring and drawish it's easy to ridicule column checker for adding "chaotic" to that mix.
 
Some inventors don't like stacking games to begin with. They probably encountered Focus or Lasca and generalised their findings for convenience. That's inductive thinking. I like inductive thinking. It's is easy and may lead to interesting points of view and my work as an inventor relied heavily on it. I also know it's usually wrong and in that capacity it may as well deny you interesting points of view. There's nothing wrong with it except that, as a rule, eveything is wrong with it.
 
How to judge an Emergo position
First of all, get rid of the checkers viewfinder. Emergo is a pit, not a track, and the number of pieces is far less significant than their position and composition. You can't evaluate the latter without the context provided by the former.  
A 6-on-6 may be winning in almost all cases, because it's all but impossible to liberate the six prisoners with the six men left. But nothing is ever certain in Emergo, at least not till the fat lady sings, and I can create a position in which a game is lost despite the presence of a 6-on-6.
A 1-on-6 may be the last nail in one's coffin, or the key to a glorious victory. Context is everything in judging the strength of a piece.
 
How to play and what you get
1) Play against another beginner.
2) Play turn based. You'll have time to explore various lines of combinations and discover the surprises they harbour.  
 
If you play over a board, a 9x9 checkers board with dark corners will do excellently, but for beginners I recommend 7x7 with 8 men each. Make sure you use very flat men for pieces. Emergo is an adventure in which you explore a world governed by a very simple movement- and capture protocol but filled with tactical discoveries the like of which you've never seen. There's no end to them. I've encountered new and unseen intricacies and finesses in the very game we're playing now. Though dominated by tactics, this world is yet governed by strategy, and a not too difficult to understand strategy either. Once familiar with it, strategies for the entering stage will implicitly start to form, and you'll have to experiment your way to a deeper understanding of that stage.
 
The game that triggered this post does not have any obvious mistakes because it is played turn based. In an over the board game this would not be the case. Emergo combinations are often so complex that oversights are inevitable, and then they suddenly appear to have a say in their own outcome. It's like holding six balls in the air on a unicycle. But it's great fun and very rewarding.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #86 on: Aug 22nd, 2015, 11:26am »
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The discussions at BGG became a bit spicier and several interesting concepts emerged, 'occupation' as a goal being the main one. Here's a game on the theme that wrapped itself up in an evening and the next morning. It's called Storisende because I really should stop, but I couldn't resist the challenge of implementing one with this goal.
 
Quote:
Storisende
 
This is the city of Land's End with the castle of Storisende at its centre. Two armies will group around it, contesting its Throne called "Attafsix".
 

 
Material
There are two players, White and Black. Both have a sufficient number of men in their colour.
 
Object
The player who succeeds in occupying the Throne at the end of his turn wins.
 
Protocol
 
Placement
The castle is excluded from placement. The board starts out empty and the placement stage follows the 'one-bound-one-free' entering protocol: White enters one man after which players take turns to place one man adjacent to the last man placed, and one man on a cell with only vacant adjacencies. Both placements are compulsory till one player cannot make the second placement. That ends the placement stage and his opponent may now proceed with the movement stage.
 
Movement
A man may move along open lines in any of the six main directions. It may not enter or traverse the castle.
 
An unbroken straight line of like coloured men is called a phalanx. A phalanx may move as a whole along the line defined by it. Its maximum range is one less than its length. A phalanx may not move over its own men. Any 'sub-phalanx' may move as a phalanx. A phalanx may move into the castle and conditionally onto the Throne. If a phalanx ends its move inside the castle, the men inside remain, while the remainder that is outside the castle is taken off the board in the same turn. A phalanx that is partly outside the castle may move as usual and may be able to proceed inside the castle without leaving any remainder outside it.  
 
Switching
A man may move along an open line and come to halt on the first cell occupied by an adverse man. This adverse man now is put on the last vacant cell that the switching man traversed. The adverse man thus switched may not on his next move 'switch back' the switching man.
A man outside the castle may not switch an adverse man that is inside.
A man inside the castle may move and switch inside the castle, as well as outside of it.
 
A phalanx may 'run over' an opposing smaller phalanx (including a single man) on the same line. The men thus run over are placed immediately behind the moved phalanx. This too is called 'switching'. The last man of the opposing phalanx halts the move, even if the moving phalanx hasn't reached its maximum range. A phalanx outside or partly outside the castle may not switch men that are inside.
A phalanx inside the castle may move and switch inside the castle, as well as outside of it.
 
Capturing the Throne
The Throne can only be occupied with a phalanx, the head of which is on one of the six cells immediately adjacent to the Throne, or one cell further down that main diagonal if the cell in between it and the Throne is vacant (more than one cell down, the Throne will be out of reach).  To do so, the following conditions must be met before the move:
 
- The moving player has at least as many men inside the castle as his opponent.
- The moving player has more men inside the castle than there are vacant cells inside it. The Throne counts as one of these cells.
 
Did I forget something? Who knows, I'm sure I'll be notified if I did. I'm especially interested (though not very worried) in the measure of cyclophilia/cyclophobia, i.e. can forced cycles arise? That's deductive thinking. I find deductive thinking tiring (and I'm lazy).
 
 
P.S. Othello stones may make the manual process of switching easier.
 
 
Edit:
Added regulation of phalanxes that are partly inside and outside the castle.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #87 on: Oct 22nd, 2015, 10:55am »
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Since I promised it in Chess variants on the fly, here are the games I finished 'materialising' after the summer interval. Not all of them though. I noticed that the more interesting games tend to have the less interesting boards. Not that I find basic grids uninteresting (I can't imagine any inventer would), but barring positional differences Symple or Sygo look just like Go and Dameo or Bushka look just like Draughts and the presentation is already sufficiently unrestrained and self promoting as it is. So in no particular order:
 

Hanniball.
 

Rondo.
 

I highlighted the edge cells of the Storisende board to also allow for a base-5 game. Actually that seems quite enough.
 

Swish & Squeeze.
 

MacBeth.
 

The Glass Bead Game without glass beads.
 

Medusa's support act Lotus.
 

And Medusa itself. The stones are also used for Sygo. I bought 6 Othello sets for good measure. They're 25 mm. and my maximum board size is 50x50 cm. (for compulsive disorderly reasons). Both games require a straight row of 19 so it's a precise fit.
 

Pit of Pillars and two raccoon dogs caught in a bird cage.
 

Scware.
 

For fun: I made an 'orthogonised' 10x10 Draughts board and this is a famous miniature called 'le Tahitien'. White (moving up the board) to move and win in three moves. A program wouldn't need a second, but you might need a bit more.
 

Crossfire.
 

Io at the end of the placement stage. Notice two corners have been taken with 'bound' moves (because both were next to the two last free placements). From here on it is "free Othello": you must make a placement, but the only condition is that the square is vacant.
 

Mu.
 
You can find the rules in the Arena and the Pit.
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #88 on: Oct 24th, 2015, 9:36pm »
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Have you ever considered designing games that are not necessarily practical to play with any physical set, i.e. have to be played behind the computer? Video games with real-time gameplay are probably outside your interest, but I could imagine (turn-based) games that are spiritually part of the abstract strategy family, but are simply not limited by any physically practical consideration. For example, imagine a game in which the squares can change between several different types (as indicated by different colors), la Q*bert (but would still be turn-based of course).
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Re: Christian Freeling on inventing games (part 2)
« Reply #89 on: Oct 26th, 2015, 11:39am »
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on Oct 24th, 2015, 9:36pm, aaaa wrote:
Have you ever considered designing games that are not necessarily practical to play with any physical set, i.e. have to be played behind the computer? Video games with real-time gameplay are probably outside your interest, but I could imagine (turn-based) games that are spiritually part of the abstract strategy family, but are simply not limited by any physically practical consideration. For example, imagine a game in which the squares can change between several different types (as indicated by different colors), la Q*bert (but would still be turn-based of course).

Well, Mu, Dominions and Stapeldammen are not very convenient in over the board play, but they all have applets. Other games like Symple or Sygo do profit from and applet, though they are certainly playable over the board. Of course your question covers more than that. I truly feel beautiful abstracts can be found in a realm that is not bound by the practical limitations of physical boards. But that's for a new generation of inventors. I'm going the way of the dinosaurs. Clueless, but happy while it lasts.
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