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(Message started by: omar on Mar 8th, 2009, 11:39am)

Title: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Mar 8th, 2009, 11:39am
I've known Christian Freeling for several years now and am very fond of one of his games; Havannah. I really admire his talent for inventing abstract strategy games. If I am a dan 1 on the ASG inventing scale, Freeling is a dan 9. His writings are also very interesting to read. He recently wrote an essay titled "How I invented games and why not".

http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not

Very insightful views from someone who has been close to ASGs longer than most of us have been alive. We are lucky to still have his company.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 8th, 2009, 6:30pm
I'm intrigued by Freeling's claim that he (unlike normal people) can tell from the rules of an abstract strategy game whether or not the game will be good.  He explicitly says that he doesn't need to be able to play at a grandmaster level to know what it will feel like to play at a grandmaster level.  He begs us to take his word on four or five of his games that haven't yet been proven to be excellent games, and offers us Havannah as evidence because he knew it was a great game decades before a serious gaming community embraced Havannah and uncovered the glory that he knew all along would be waiting.

I have argued in other threads in this forum precisely that one can't tell a great game just from its rules.  You must play to know.  Arimaa is fabulous because of its emergent complexity, and by definition, emergent complexity can't be obvious from the start.  If you can see something on the surface, it is not emergent.  I can't believe that anyone, even a "game whisperer" could have foretold the intricacies of the camel hostage strategy from the bare rules of the game.  The way we play and talk about Arimaa today would be impossible without the accumulated experience of the community.

On the other hand, Freeling has so many acute insights into why rules make a game good or bad that I can't quite dismiss his claim to supernatural powers.  Just because I can't judge a game from its rules (and just because I have read a ton of trash from self-styled experts trying to judge a game based on its rules) doesn't mean that it is wholly impossible.  Given that Freeling will not profit monetarily if we believe him or suffer if we disbelieve, I am convinced that his motive is exactly what he says it is: he wants to leave his mark on the world by sharing what he knows.

I'm surprised he doesn't call himself Cassandra, gifted with prophecy but cursed that no one will believe him.  But he does put his faith in generations.  He believes that time will tell.  I suppose prophesy is like emergent complexity: if other people could judge your claims to be true at the time you made them, then you wouldn't be a prophet.

I recall that Don Green, the inventor of Octi, told me by e-mail that he had invented several other games before, but nothing as special Octi.  This poses a dilemma for us non-prophets.  If I believe Christian Freeling about the games he invented, am I not also compelled to believe Don Green about Octi?  Freeling excoriates hype that often surrounds superficial games that get quickly played out.  What enables me to know that his word is more reliable than that of the next game designer?  Merely that he has not been commercially successful and that he has Havannah?

Let me say right now that I hope Freeling is flat wrong in at least one respect.  He says that Havannah was doomed to commercial failure, not by any flaw in the game, but simply because it was a great abstract strategy game.  If he is right, then Arimaa will be a commercial flop because it is a great strategy game.  Z-man is a great guy with a great reputation, but he has nowhere near the resources or reputation of Ravensburger, the company that pushed Havannah.  If Freeling is right, then marketing is futile, and only time can make a great abstract strategy game popular.

I think that if we are going to prove Freeling wrong for Arimaa we need to pay special attention to this point he makes: "A strategy game requires more than isolated players can bring to the table: clubs, books, teachers, a whole infrastructure."  The reason Arimaa has succeeded so well to this point is all the infrastructure that Omar created: the game room per se, the presence of on-line bots to play when there was no human community, the ability to comment games, the Forum to exchange ideas, the bot ladder to give newcomers a graded challenge, etc.

The community is key.  Everyone who writes a bot and enters it into the Computer Championship contributes to the infrastructure.  Everyone who gives beginners a helping hand in the chat room is part of the infrastructure.  Commenting games with possible improvements; commenting tournament rules with possible improvements; writing up event game summaries; bashing bots in unusual ways; and just pain playing Arimaa as well as you know how are all contributions as well.  Thank you to everyone who does these things and so many more similar activities.

As I look to the future, I have a glimmer of what must be built to allow Arimaa to reach its full potential.  My book has been such a hassle to write that I shudder to ask anyone else to go through the process, but Arimaa will need more books than mine.  The Continuous Tournament has been fun, but there will need to be more on-line tournaments, run by players other than me or Omar.  There will have to be local Arimaa clubs, and before there can be local clubs, there will have to be individuals who want to found local clubs.  IdahoEv hosted the first-ever live Arimaa tournament in a gaming convention; there will have to be more live tournaments like that both inside gaming conventions and standing on their own.

The commercial release of boxed Arimaa sets isn't going to make any of this happen by magic; it will only enable it to happen.  I'm excited by the potential that is there, and excited by Adanac's prediction of multiple 3000-level players by 2015, but we're not going to get there just because Arimaa has the depth locked up inside of it.  There will have to be an organic and vibrant community in which players can take root and grow.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arimabuff on Mar 9th, 2009, 12:02am
I don't think that there is any sure fire way to predict the future of a game no more that one can predict the evolution of the stock market or the weather in the long run. All these things are similar in that they involve countless parameters and that they are subject to the butterfly effect. Of course that doesn't mean that promoting Arimaa is useless, advertising and striving to develop a community around this game increase the probability to make it perpetual but the complexity of the situation can't even give us a hint as to what that probability might be. For all we know, 30 years from now Arimaa will have expanded to a level of popularity comparable to Go or it will have been completely forgotten, or something in between. In my view, it would be as impossible at this point to tell what will happen, as it would be to give the state of the world economy at that time. What well-known pundit predicted the crisis we're in only a mere three years ago? NOBODY.

Commercial success doesn’t always reward excellence; in fact, I suspect that it only accidentally does that once in a great while. We all know for instance that Betamax was superior to Vhs or that Microsoft is a mere shadow of the system it stole from. Monopoly is a stupid game that I got sick of after playing it a couple of times as a kid. Sometimes what prevails is mediocrity… we can’t help it.

The strength of Arimaa is that in spite of its great potential, it has very simple rules and can be learned and played by people of diverse backgrounds, and that may be the most important characteristic that will decide of the durability of the game, but who knows?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 9th, 2009, 7:42am
You are right, Patrick.  We can try anticipate events and we can try to shape then, but the future remains essentially unpredictable and out of control.  Just hang on and enjoy the ride!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Ciribot on Mar 16th, 2009, 8:11am
I'm currently in the process of designing a board game, I found that without play testing the game design process would have gone no where. I've played about 200+ games of it online, and refined the rules as I discovered weaknesses in the play. However, the net result is the rules are not as simple as I originally planned, but I cannot see how one can simply look at a board, create a game, and never revise it. With or without some gift for board game making.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clauchau on Mar 18th, 2009, 5:39am
I have some doubts too. Rules and games are like formal systems and their expressive power. However small they are, however enlighted you are as a mathematician, it's often hard to say whether they end up modelling anything interesting, let alone anything at all, without any tedious exploration and research.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 24th, 2009, 2:56am
Hello Omar, all,

Omar, thanks for your kind introduction. I certainly hope Arimaa will prove me wrong with regard to strategy games being difficult to market. I think you do a terrific job!

I'm not sure how far the strategical insights of the players have grown, but my guess is that by now the difference between top players and the lesses echelons is considerable. Tactics will largely have been sorted out, and positional aspects may by now have begun to dominate the top players' strategies. That's a good development.

Fritzlein, thanks too for a fair comment and argued scepsis. I can understand that. Allow me to clarify a few points.

"The way we play and talk about Arimaa today would be impossible without the accumulated experience of the community."

I agree. Arimaa is by no means the easiest game to 'predict' in this sense, and my insights - limited to symmetrical abstract perfect information games in the first place - don't apply to every game equally. My insight isn't so much about specific tactics and strategies, the ones you can have endless discussion about, but about the fact that you can have these discussions, now, in the first place. Not all games provide the ever deepening intricacies that are a prerequisite for that. Arimaa does. And I don't need experience to see that, just silent reflection. In fact I would start out as poor a player as the next guy - every new game is like trying to ride a bike for the first time.

It is something in the structure of the game, the 'organic' quality, that reveals how strategies eventually will solidify, and though Omar uses the Chess comparison, I'd rather see he didn't. Arimaa is not a chess game and it is in fact far more 'organic' than chess type games. I don't think the comparison is useful or necessary.

"If he is right, then Arimaa will be a commercial flop because it is a great strategy game."

That may indeed be the case, though I hope not. It's difficult to predict because the online community plays such a big role, quite apart from the 'commercial succes'. We may not even need boxed games in the future.
A strong point of Arimaa however, is its low treshold and the fact that beginners soon have some 'grip' on the proceedings. Naive strategies are a lot better than no strategies at all, for beginning players.

"I'm surprised he doesn't call himself Cassandra, gifted with prophecy but cursed that no one will believe him.  But he does put his faith in generations.  He believes that time will tell.  I suppose prophesy is like emergent complexity: if other people could judge your claims to be true at the time you made them, then you wouldn't be a prophet."

Healthy scepsis, and very accurately put! ;)

Finally, all my games have been playtested, some modestly, others extensively. Most of it was done at the games club 'Fanaat' at the University of Twente. So it's not as if I put my insights above playtesting. It's more of a prediction of what playtesting will eventually reveal. And the intuition is of course guided by simple common sense. We all know that simple mechanisms can lead to mindboggling complexity. So, in a nutshell, if a new Draughts type game allows incredible combinations (the norm being set by 10x10 International Draughts) and has a solid and balanced set of rules. it is not that difficult to predict how its strategical behaviour will be.

"I don't think that there is any sure fire way to predict the future of a game no more that one can predict the evolution of the stock market or the weather in the long run."

Quite right Arimaabuff, and I hope Arimaa will be a commercial success. But my particular insight doesn't have anything to do with that. I judge a game by what it is, not by the measure of its success. Nor can I predict that measure, I wish I could ;).



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 24th, 2009, 1:20pm
Hi, Christian.  I'm glad you are not offended by my inability to know whether or not you are right.  :)


Quote:
All my games have been playtested, some modestly, others extensively.

Yes, sorry for my implication that you prognosticate on intuition alone.  In fact I also read something you wrote about the play testing of Havannah.  The fact that a new player could come along with a different strategy (first stone in the center) and beat all the old hands served as a very persuasive argument for the excellence of Havannah as a game.  For Arimaa a similar process of new players and new strategies forcing deeper insights has occurred several times.


Quote:
I'm not sure how far the strategical insights of the players have grown, but my guess is that by now the difference between top players and the lesses echelons is considerable.

The whole history rating system designed by Remi Coulom has recently been implemented for the Arimaa server by Herve D'hondt.  It shows the human players already have a skill range of more than 1400 Elo points.  I consider this measurement of skill difference more reliable than the game-room ratings, which are often distorted by bot-bashing.  I have a strong hunch that there are at least another 500 Elo points at the top of the scale that we haven't discovered yet.


Quote:
A strong point of Arimaa however, is its low treshold and the fact that beginners soon have some 'grip' on the proceedings. Naive strategies are a lot better than no strategies at all, for beginning players.

That's a good point.  It doesn't take forever to get some kind of a handle on Arimaa.  I once beat a beginner who said after the game that he saw what I had done to him and he would beat me next game.  I felt he was being overly optimistic about how fast he could rise to world-championship level, but I agreed with his sentiment that he would have a much better strategy already on his second game.  One can start learning Arimaa right away, without tremendous up-front investment.


Quote:
Not all games provide the ever deepening intricacies that are a prerequisite for that. Arimaa does. And I don't need experience to see that, just silent reflection.

In case you really are a prophet, your opinion of Arimaa is reassuring for those of us who love the game.  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 26th, 2009, 4:52am

on 03/24/09 at 13:20:34, Fritzlein wrote:
I have a strong hunch that there are at least another 500 Elo points at the top of the scale that we haven't discovered yet.

...

In case you really are a prophet, your opinion of Arimaa is reassuring for those of us who love the game.  :)


Hello Fritzlein,

I tend to agree, but climbing that scale would require a massive effort by as yet non-existent grandmasters.

There's a big difference between a recreational game and a 'mental sportsweapon'. Many games, including Arimaa, may have the intrinsic qualities required, but whether or not it will happen depends on the acceptance as such, and the emergence of a broad and eventually professional playerbase, national and international associations and the like.

Even then, a game, however great, may eventually reveal a flaw. The kind of flaw that only massive scrutiny by hundreds of masters and grandmasters can reveal. 10x10 International Draughts is a great game, but a flawed 'mental weapon'. In matchplay the world's top hundred or so will usually draw. That's not a flaw of the players, but a flaw of the game. In the lower echelons the game does all right, because the measure of mistakes is higher.

In my essay you will find some 'Bashne bashing'. I argue that it is a bad game, but actually it's fun to play (just started at iG Game Center). As a 'mental weapon' it is self-hampering and extremely volatile, but as a rollercoaster ride it is great.

So a game's qualities may be rooted in the sheer pleasure of playing, even if the strategic summits will never be tested to the limit.

The only thing I regret is that the world of 'mental sportsweapons' is monopolized by a limited number of admittedly great games. I'd welcome any game (including Arimaa) able to conquer that bastion - but it's extremely well defended. That's why the opening sentences of MindSports are:


Quote:
We humbly acknowledge that old games are always better because inventing games is one of two human activities excluded from progress. The other one is the brain activity of people adhering to that point of view.

::)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 26th, 2009, 10:24pm

on 03/26/09 at 04:52:12, christianF wrote:
Even then, a game, however great, may eventually reveal a flaw. The kind of flaw that only massive scrutiny by hundreds of masters and grandmasters can reveal.

I quite agree.  Your statement is an extension of my experience that I can't judge a game from its rules, and must play it to know what it will be like.  It is possible that, after much further study, Arimaa will be "played out" in some respect.  At present, however, when the Arimaa community makes claims such as

1. Optimal play in Arimaa is not drawish
2. The first-player advantage (or disadvantage?!) is insignificant
3. There are many levels of expertise
4. Good strategy can compensate imperfect tactics
5. Playing to win doesn't require everyone to play in the same style
6. Positional tension may be maintained for many moves before it resolves into obvious advantage for one player or the other; it can be clear what each player is fighting for without being clear which objective is superior.

we are in a relatively good position to substantiate these claims.  I don't know of any other game that withstood as much scrutiny before its commercial release as Arimaa has.  Just this month we passed one hundred thousand games in the database!


Quote:
The only thing I regret is that the world of 'mental sportsweapons' is monopolized by a limited number of admittedly great games. I'd welcome any game (including Arimaa) able to conquer that bastion - but it's extremely well defended.

I think it must be so.  It is rational behavior on the part of gamers not to put their faith in a game that hasn't withstood the test of time.  Why waste effort on a new game when it is very likely to prove flawed in the long run?  I also quite sympathize with masters of established games not wanting to walk away from the thousands of hours they have invested honing their skills at one game if their reward is to be a beginner at another game.

Admittedly it creates a nearly-closed circle of great games, because one needs gamers to prove that a game is great, and one also needs to prove that a game is great before it will attract gamers.  The circle is not entirely closed, however, and I think Arimaa should aim for the heart of it.  The market we need to try to break into is the chess market.  People should love Arimaa for the same reasons they love chess, only more so.

It's a crazy quirk that the people who will give Arimaa an audience at the moment aren't the best long-term audience.  Innovators love Arimaa for the improvements it makes over chess, but innovators want to keep innovating rather than plumbing the depths of an established game.  We've had a number of attempts to fix or improve Arimaa, which is surprising given that Arimaa doesn't have any obvious flaws.  It must be a function of the talents of the people the game has attracted.

Other early adopters may love Arimaa because it is new and cool.  But how long can Arimaa be considered new?  Next year there will be something else cool, and some of the people who jumped on our bandwagon will jump off to get on the next one.

The people who will stick with Arimaa in the long haul and be the future grandmasters are, to a large extent, the people we can hardly convince to give Arimaa a try in the first place.  Nevertheless, I think that is the crowd to which we must address ourselves.  Yes, Arimaa is innovative; yes it is new and cool.  But if we sell it on those grounds, it seems more likely to flash and burn out like so many games before it.  Instead we need to sell Arimaa's strength: It will not be exhausted before we are.  We need to emphasize that it is a game worthy of clubs, worthy of world championships, worthy of annotated collections of games, worthy of strategy books, worthy of simultaneous exhibitions, etc.

Oddly, I think humility serves us well in this pursuit.  We should freely admit that we don't know and can't know whether Arimaa is as good a game as chess is.  We should merely claim that Arimaa shows promise to be as good as chess by comparison to the merits of chess.  We want to win the hearts of people who consider their favorite game to be a discipline, a source of self-improvement in addition to a source of entertainment.  This requires not just enthusiasm for Arimaa, but a sort of reverence for the way it transcends us.

Let us storm the chess citadel.  Into the breach!  Our cause is just, because chess is too drawish, too unbalanced in favor of white, and not sufficiently computer-resistant.  That is not how or why we will win, though.  Our victory will come if and only if Arimaa is more chess than chess ever was.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 27th, 2009, 1:12am

on 03/26/09 at 22:24:47, Fritzlein wrote:
I quite agree.  Your statement is an extension of my experience that I can't judge a game from its rules, and must play it to know what it will be like.

In the case of Draughts, that's not entirely fair. There were millions of Draughts games played without the game giving any real indication of a problematic draw margin.
To reveal the kind of bugs that playtesting is used for, a couple of thousands of games are usually considered sufficient. Draughts, were it a new game, would have passed such scrutiny with flying colors.


on 03/26/09 at 22:24:47, Fritzlein wrote:
It is possible that, after much further study, Arimaa will be "played out" in some respect.

Unlikely, I think. How would it be 'played out'? Not by a computer (by the current standards or those of the foreseeable future), and not by grinding into drawishness.


on 03/26/09 at 22:24:47, Fritzlein wrote:
I think it must be so.  It is rational behavior on the part of gamers not to put their faith in a game that hasn't withstood the test of time.  Why waste effort on a new game when it is very likely to prove flawed in the long run?  I also quite sympathize with masters of established games not wanting to walk away from the thousands of hours they have invested honing their skills at one game if their reward is to be a beginner at another game.

Admittedly it creates a nearly-closed circle of great games, because one needs gamers to prove that a game is great, and one also needs to prove that a game is great before it will attract gamers.  The circle is not entirely closed, however, and I think Arimaa should aim for the heart of it.  The market we need to try to break into is the chess market.  People should love Arimaa for the same reasons they love chess, only more so.

I totally agree with your analysis, but putting your faith in what people should do may lead to some frustration, I fear ;) .


on 03/26/09 at 22:24:47, Fritzlein wrote:
Our victory will come if and only if Arimaa is more chess than chess ever was.

Here I politely disagree. Arimaa is a race game and its connection with Chess is at most superficial. Checkmating a king is an existential theme, winning a race is not. In my opinion themes do matter, and Chess isn't called 'the royal game' for nothing, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with such a qualification.

Kind regards,

christian


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 27th, 2009, 8:36am

on 03/27/09 at 01:12:54, christianF wrote:
There were millions of Draughts games played without the game giving any real indication of a problematic draw margin.

Very interesting; I did not know that.  Having such a real-life example increases the probability in my mind that Arimaa will eventually prove broken in exactly the same way, i.e. by being inherently drawish.  We have seen occasional positions that tended toward stalemate and piece shuffling, although only two or three I am aware of in the whole history of Arimaa, and none that were completely blocked.  I consider it unlikely that playing to win at Arimaa will drive us toward such corners of the position space, but one never knows.


Quote:
I totally agree with your analysis, but putting your faith in what people should do may lead to some frustration, I fear ;).

Well spoken.  :)


Quote:
Here I politely disagree. Arimaa is a race game and its connection with Chess is at most superficial. Checkmating a king is an existential theme, winning a race is not. In my opinion themes do matter, and Chess isn't called 'the royal game' for nothing, regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with such a qualification.

Perhaps we agree, and are merely using the word "superficial" in different senses.  Seen in one light we could list

Superficial similarities: Board, number and type of pieces
Profound differences: Move mechanic, capture mechanic, objective, strategic themes.

Yet from another perspective we could say

Superficial differences: Move mechanic, capture mechanic, objective, strategic themes.
Profound similarities: Both games are mental sportsweapons.

I am not entirely sure what you mean by mental sportsweapon, but you must have invented this term for a reason.  What are the characteristics of games that qualify?  Is chess in that class?  Might Arimaa be as well?  If they are both in the same class, are they not profoundly similar?  Themes are admittedly important, but is the theme of a game at all related to whether it is a mental sportsweapon?

When I consider why I like Arimaa better than chess, it has nothing to do with the theme.  I do not inherently prefer race games to capture games.  I am not more drawn to wildlife and wrestling than I am drawn to royalty and mideval warfare.  (Evidence: I loved Tolkien and Dungeons & Dragons in my youth.)

Admittedly, a great factor in my love of Arimaa is that I am good at it.  But this is circular: I wasn't good at it in my very first game.  Why did I love the game enough to engage it seriously enough to get good at it?  Why I have I spent as many hours of my life on Arimaa as only a tiny handful of people have done?

I did study chess too, by the way, in high school and in brief stints as an adult.  What attracted me to chess was not the battle, not the checkmate, but the basis of excellence.  Top performance at chess doesn't come from mere familiarity, mere attentiveness, or mere calculation.  Top performance arises from understanding.  How else could the master play twenty opponents at once?

I love Arimaa because of the learning curve.  I can feel my understanding of Arimaa steadily deepening.  That's what I felt a little bit for chess, and the feeling is much stronger for Arimaa.  That's what I mean when I say, "Arimaa is more chess than chess ever was."  The essential feature of chess in my experience was not checkmate, it was the process of coming to understand, and Arimaa has given me more of that process.

I don't expect everyone to enjoy games for the same reason.  Surely even chess players are not all identically motivated.  Still I believe that if you take lovers of chess who play no other game seriously, ask them why chess deserves such devotion, and distill the most prevalent themes in their answers, you will get criteria that Arimaa also meets or has a good chance to meet in the future.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 27th, 2009, 10:15am
Christian, your services as a game whisperer are probably much in demand, so I understand if you decline this invitation, but you would honor one member of the Arimaa community, John Herr, if you would give a considered opinion of his abstract strategy game Rekushu, described in this thread. (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1185322156)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 27th, 2009, 10:18am

on 03/27/09 at 08:36:31, Fritzlein wrote:
Yet from another perspective we could say

Superficial differences: Move mechanic, capture mechanic, objective, strategic themes.
Profound similarities: Both games are mental sportsweapons.

I see your point with regard to themes. Yet in the international sports arena, certain themes dominate.

Checkmate: Chess, Shogi, Xiangqi
Elimination: Checkers, 10x10 Draughts, Shashki
Territory: Go, Othello

For the main part these games are based on an existential theme - either eliminating the 'heart' or, in absence thereof, body and limb.

The one co-existential theme is territory. Connection, race, breakthrough, configuration are all peripheral. Mancalas are widespread outside the western world, but barring an occasional local tournament, these too are played mainly recreationally.

So apart from my personal opinion, it's hard to deny themes do seem to matter.


on 03/27/09 at 08:36:31, Fritzlein wrote:
I am not entirely sure what you mean by mental sportsweapon, but you must have invented this term for a reason.  What are the characteristics of games that qualify?  Is chess in that class?  Might Arimaa be as well?  If they are both in the same class, are they not profoundly similar?  Themes are admittedly important, but is the theme of a game at all related to whether it is a mental sportsweapon?

Yes, all above games are in that class. Is the theme relevant? To a degree, I think. Pente, the simple, beautiful and deep Pente, is not a mental sportsweapon. It's like comparing tennis to tabletennis. However much energy is required to become a world class tabletennis player, the game itself lacks the charisma to captivate the masses.
One could become a Pente master, I assume, but a grandmaster? Dedicating one's life to arranging 5 stones in a row or capturing 10? Hardly.

A mental sportsweapon must be a strategy game, as opposed to a tactical one. We mention the difference in our homepage:

Quote:
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 obscure, like Othello.

As you can see I argue Othello into both categories, and inherently, the dividing line is is less than clearcut.

Next to being a strategy game, a mental sportsweapon must be 'inexhausible' in human terms, and preferably in programming terms. Checkers is still Checkers, and people still may enjoy it for another hundred years, but the mere thought that after each game you can consult Chinook about your mistakes is a bit of a bummer.

Far more games qualify than currently dominate the sports arena, including Arimaa, the six games I mention in the essay, and Hex. To really become recognized, a game must captivate the imagination of a large audience. Paraphrasing Emanuel Lasker, a friend if mine put this in his member profile at iGGC:


Quote:
While the Baroque rules of Go could only have been created by humans, the rules of Hex are so elegant, organic, and rigorously logical that if intelligent life forms exist elsewhere in the universe, they almost certainly play Hex.

Hex has all the qualities required wrapped up in utter simplicity of rules. As a game it is quite big, as a mental sportsweapon it is peripheral, because dedicating one's life to connecting opposite sides seems so futile, though of course it is no less futile than playing Chess, as every grandmaster will tell you in his or her darker moments.

For a mental sportsweapon, the hardest thing is to become what it is. Havannah and Arimaa both qualify, but I'm sceptical about their chances. For one thing they don't seem to have the right themes.

My best all around weapon is Dameo, and my strategy to immortalize it is to keep knocking on the door of 10x10 Draughts with the message "You're playing the wrong game". Not so much the conquering of a new audience, as turning around an existing one because their beloved game is flawed and they know it. But it won't happen in my lifetime I fear.

cheers,

christian


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 27th, 2009, 10:23am

on 03/27/09 at 10:15:05, Fritzlein wrote:
Christian, your services as a game whisperer are probably much in demand, so I understand if you decline this invitation, but you would honor one member of the Arimaa community, John Herr, if you would give a considered opinion of his abstract strategy game Rekushu, described in this thread. (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1185322156)

I came across it at iGGC, but I will need a couple of hours to let it sink in, so I'll reply in a couple of days if that's all right.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Janzert on Mar 27th, 2009, 12:00pm

Quote:
It's like comparing tennis to tabletennis. However much energy is required to become a world class tabletennis player, the game itself lacks the charisma to captivate the masses.


It's always interesting to me how much our view of games is shaped by our local culture. It's my understanding that had this conversation been taking place in China it wouldn't be far fetched for the above statement to be made, only with the sports reversed.

Janzert

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 27th, 2009, 1:51pm

on 03/27/09 at 12:00:04, Janzert wrote:

Quote:
"It's like comparing tennis to tabletennis. However much energy is required to become a world class tabletennis player, the game itself lacks the charisma to captivate the masses."


It's always interesting to me how much our view of games is shaped by our local culture. It's my understanding that had this conversation been taking place in China it wouldn't be far fetched for the above statement to be made, only with the sports reversed.

Janzert

Guilty as charged ;) .
My argument remains however in that the games are comparable in terms of the energy required to become a world class player (and indeed the fact that a game allows players to become world class). The difference is in the measure of appreciation by the masses, one way or the other.
And indeed, in this case, one way in the 'west' and the other in China.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 27th, 2009, 2:46pm

on 03/27/09 at 10:18:31, christianF wrote:
As you can see I argue Othello into both categories, and inherently, the dividing line is is less than clearcut.

What is the international standing of Othello?  I know it is quite popular because I see it in Walmart, but then again one can also find Monopoly everywhere.  How does the strategic literature of Othello compare to that of draughts?  Is there a professional playing/teaching class?

I find it unaccountable that the intense man vs. machine drama from chess and from English checkers didn't develop for Othello.  Is that because Japanese play it, and they have (witness shogi) a different sense of the honor at stake when playing machines?  Or is it because Othello gets no respect, just like nobody would care if a computer could play Monopoly well?


Quote:
Pente, the simple, beautiful and deep Pente, is not a mental sportsweapon. It's like comparing tennis to tabletennis. However much energy is required to become a world class tabletennis player, the game itself lacks the charisma to captivate the masses.
One could become a Pente master, I assume, but a grandmaster? Dedicating one's life to arranging 5 stones in a row or capturing 10? Hardly.

This interpretation truly surprises me.  First, Pente was definitely embraced by the masses, at least in the United States.  We played it at church camp when I was in high school.  You could find it everywhere.  There were clubs, there were books, there were tournaments including a World Championship.  Then suddenly the fad was over.  What happened?

I don't know exactly how fads are made and how they end, but it seems highly implausible that we collectively woke up one day and said, "What were we thinking?  Checkmate is grand and five-in-a-row is silly!"  I would be much more inclined to believe the public's change of heart had something to do with the World Champion declaring that the rules of Pente were broken, the first-player advantage was unacceptably large, and proposing everyone should start playing by alternate rules.

In other words, we didn't know at first whether Pente was a good mental sportsweapon or not.  It only became a "fad" after the fact when the game proved unbalanced.  The end of the craze was not the fault of a fickle populace that can't tell a good game from a flashing light, it was the fault of the game itself.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 28th, 2009, 3:45am
Hello Fritzlein,

I truly appreciate an exchange of opinions that forces me to rethink ideas and concepts, so thanks for that :) .


on 03/27/09 at 14:46:19, Fritzlein wrote:
What is the international standing of Othello?  I know it is quite popular because I see it in Walmart, but then again one can also find Monopoly everywhere.  How does the strategic literature of Othello compare to that of draughts?  Is there a professional playing/teaching class?

The volume of Draughts literature is dwarfed by the volume of Chess, Shogi and Go literature, but it surpasses the volume of Othello literature by about the same ratio. This isn't at all surprising. Draughts has been around much longer and has been played far more extensively, although the USA played only a very modest role. Here's a complete list (in dutch) of worldchampions. Closest to the USA is the Canadian Marcel Deslauriers (1956):

http://nl.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wereldkampioenschap_dammen


on 03/27/09 at 14:46:19, Fritzlein wrote:
I find it unaccountable that the intense man vs. machine drama from chess and from English checkers didn't develop for Othello.

First of all, Omar created Arimaa explicitly to make it hard for computers, by using mechanics that lead to an exploding branch density.
Havannah is implicitly hard for computers, because there's hardly anything to build an evaluation function around.
In 2012 a 10 game match will take place between me and one or more Havannah programs, one of which will be a joint effort by two German universities, under the supervision of Prof. Dr. Johannes Waldmann, Leipzig (http://www.imn.htwk-leipzig.de/~waldmann/) and Prof. Dr. Ingo Althofer, Jena (http://www.minet.uni-jena.de/www/fakultaet/iam/personen/althofer_e.html). The program(s) win if they can beat me once.

See also: http://senseis.xmp.net/?Havannah

The point being that not all games are equal in terms of programmability.

I'm no expert, but I'm pretty certain that 6x6 Othello could be solved brute force, the way Checkers and Oware were solved. That is: perfectly. The size of the tree is such that 8x8 is currently out of reach, but as far as I'm aware the evaluation functions of Othello are fairly strong too and I don't know what the outcome would be if a really strong program would be pitted against the world champion.

But who cares about a really strong Othello program? You mentioned what I think is at the core of the issue: "the intense man vs. machine drama from chess and from English checkers".
Drama, that's what's absent in Othello, in Hex, in Pente. The drama of a deep combination, resulting in checkmate, or a breakthrough or wipe out in Draughts, or the capture of a really large group in Go, at the cost of minor losses. Dramatic tactics that can be understood, not only by strong players, but by an audience of laymen too.

I mentioned Marcel Deslauriers. He became world champion in 1956 and lost the title to the Russian player dr. Iser Koeperman in 1958. Please have a look at the link below, displaying a combination named after him, the 'Coup Deslauriers'. The position is from a 1956 game against his future successor.

http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/draughts/60-coups?start=5

That's drama. And that's what's missing in Pente, Othello, Hex.


on 03/27/09 at 14:46:19, Fritzlein wrote:
There were clubs, there were books, there were tournaments including a World Championship. Then suddenly the fad was over.
What happened?

I don't know exactly how fads are made and how they end, but it seems highly implausible that we collectively woke up one day and said, "What were we thinking? Checkmate is grand and five-in-a-row is silly!" I would be much more inclined to believe the public's change of heart had something to do with the World Champion declaring that the rules of Pente were broken, the first-player advantage was unacceptably large, and proposing everyone should start playing by alternate rules.

In other words, we didn't know at first whether Pente was a good mental sportsweapon or not. It only became a "fad" after the fact when the game proved unbalanced. The end of the craze was not the fault of a fickle populace that can't tell a good game from a flashing light, it was the fault of the game itself.

Yes, you're right, only I didn't need a 'proof' of that. First of all, there are deepening intricacies in Pente, but ever deepening? Pente is just too small for that. The whole 5-in-a-row concept suffers from first player advantage, and variants like Pente, Renju and Ninuke Renju seek to balance it one way or another to 'safe the game'. Good games don't need to be 'saved'. Pente, however elegant and deep, was playing outside its league.

Games with strategies that are either 'fairly obvious' or 'fundamentally obscure' are not strategy games but tactical games. Pente is in the first class, Othello in the second, although strategic insights into it are still evolving. The main characteristic of such games is that it's hardly possible to distinguish between strategy and tactics. There are strategic goals, but hardly any more or less permanent sub-goals to be achieved as calculable signposts along the way. Tactical games are mental toys, not mental sportsweapons.

Hex on the other hand is a strategy game: it's strategy is neither obvious nor fundamentally obscure. It's tactics are clearly distinguished within the framework of its overall strategy. The swap rule serves perfectly to eliminate any first move advantage and a flexible boardsize makes it inexhaustible in both human and machine terms. Hex is a perfect 'mental sportsweapon' for those who are familiar with its intricacies - indeed 'ever deepening'. Hex only lacks the kind of drama that seems to be required to captivate the mind of the masses. Laymen have no way of knowing what's going on in any given position, and no dramatic turns of events ever happen. This is considered boring.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 29th, 2009, 2:53am

on 03/27/09 at 10:15:05, Fritzlein wrote:
Christian, your services as a game whisperer are probably much in demand, so I understand if you decline this invitation, but you would honor one member of the Arimaa community, John Herr, if you would give a considered opinion of his abstract strategy game Rekushu, described in this thread. (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1185322156)

Hello Fritzlein, John,

John, I've refelected a bit on this. I find the idea of occupying vertices to claim regions of squares excellent. There's a simple logic behind it, yet I cannot immediately think of a game that employs it. Usually one claims what is occupied: like vertices in Go or squares in Othello.

The actual mechanism is not very 'organic' though, so reflection alone poses its limits here and its not easy to see all the way though. What I do note however is that it is not at all easy to score in the first place. As Adanac remarked:

on 11/26/08 at 05:43:26, Adanac wrote:
It was definitely fun to play, but also very tough to score points against a good defensive player.


Which led Fritzlein to:

on 11/26/08 at 07:34:27, Fritzlein wrote:
But it is possible to force a score against a player who plays only defensively?


And your riposte:

on 11/26/08 at 09:34:53, The_Jeh wrote:
If anyone thinks he can prevent me from scoring by playing purely defensively, I would love to receive a challenge from him sometime.

Boldly spoken, but they may have a point there, don't they?

Allow me to ask a few questions:

1. Can there be reasons to decline claiming a region, other than preventing the removal of its four corner stones?

2. If a region is not claimed, and the opponent does not, on his next move, place a stone on its edge or inside, or claim a tile inside, can the player still claim it after that? Or is it only the act of completing a rectangle that gives the right to claim a region?

3. If a rectangle is completed, but the opponent has a stone on its edge or inside it, the region cannot be claimed. Why can't a player claim a completed rectangle if a friendly stone is on its edge or inside?

4. The obligatory removal of the four stones that constitute the basis for the claim is a good idea. If point 3 is considered, you might also consider the optional removal of the friendly stones on the edge or inside

5. If a rectangle is completed, but the opponent has a claimed tile inside it, the region cannot be claimed. Why can't a player claim a completed rectangle if a friendly claimed tile is inside?

I ask this because generally speaking a mechanism should not hamper itself.

Then there's Adanac's suggestion:

on 11/26/08 at 05:43:26, Adanac wrote:
The idea of a triangular board also occurred to me, not only to eliminate the mirror rule but also to make it easier to score (3 corners rather than 4).



on 11/26/08 at 09:34:53, The_Jeh wrote:
The triangular version you proposed interests me. However, you may notice that a player can obviously force a score on such a grid, unless one-cell claims are disallowed. And if one-cell claims are disallowed, then my hunch is that defense would be very obvious. I want any forced scoring to be deep enough so as to not be trivially solvable.

...

I take it back; the opposite is true. Offense on a triangular grid would be trivial regardless of cell size restrictions.

Is that so? If I place two stones on adjacent vertices, then obviously my opponent cannot prevent both threats to claim one triangle. Why forbid that? Would you forbid a beginning Go player to secure a small group where bigger issues are at stake?

If the stones are farther apart on the same line, cannot the opponent defend against both threats by placing a stone in between on the same line?

You may want to reconsider some of these aspects, because though the idea is very good, there may be a better and more 'organic' game there, with possibly even less rules. The current game won't run away by reconsidering ;-)

Kind regards,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by The_Jeh on Mar 29th, 2009, 9:34am

Quote:
1. Can there be reasons to decline claiming a region, other than preventing the removal of its four corner stones?


Of course not, but there is more than one reason for wanting to keep the stones on the board. If the stones are removed, it may unblock your opponent from scoring. Alternatively, you may want to keep the stones in place because they are part of a larger threat on which you are working. Of course, the game may work with the claiming of tiles being mandatory, but so far I have no reason to dislike the rules as they are.


Quote:
2. If a region is not claimed, and the opponent does not, on his next move, place a stone on its edge or inside, or claim a tile inside, can the player still claim it after that? Or is it only the act of completing a rectangle that gives the right to claim a region?


The player can still claim the rectangle at any point in the future if all the conditions are still satisfied. It is not the act of completing the rectangle that gives the right, only the existence of the individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions.


Quote:
3. If a rectangle is completed, but the opponent has a stone on its edge or inside it, the region cannot be claimed. Why can't a player claim a completed rectangle if a friendly stone is on its edge or inside?


Quote:
4. The obligatory removal of the four stones that constitute the basis for the claim is a good idea. If point 3 is considered, you might also consider the optional removal of the friendly stones on the edge or inside


Quote:
5. If a rectangle is completed, but the opponent has a claimed tile inside it, the region cannot be claimed. Why can't a player claim a completed rectangle if a friendly claimed tile is inside?


These are all interesting variations, and I have thought of them. I'm not sure what their consequences would be; I'd have to play them. Admittedly, I have become fond of and have not found serious flaw with the rules as they currently are. That and the fact that I have no companion to help me playtest has thus far taken away my incentive to experiment with possible "improvements."


Quote:
Is that so? If I place two stones on adjacent vertices, then obviously my opponent cannot prevent both threats to claim one triangle. Why forbid that? Would you forbid a beginning Go player to secure a small group where bigger issues are at stake?


No I would not. And in fact during the middle of a game of Rekushu such situations do occur, where one must abstain from securing a little territory in order to prevent one's opponent from taking much more. However, I do not like the idea of a player knowing with certainty from the opening position of a blank board that he can forcibly score, regardless of whether his opponent can cancel it by scoring himself.


Quote:
If the stones are farther apart on the same line, cannot the opponent defend against both threats by placing a stone in between on the same line?


Sure, but then one plays where one would have anyway, and while you cannot claim the triangle, since there is a stone on the edge, you now have two threats of the same magnitude as before, provided the board is large enough. So I do not see a way of making offense non-trivial without making defense trivial on a triangular grid.


Quote:
You may want to reconsider some of these aspects, because though the idea is very good, there may be a better and more 'organic' game there, with possibly even less rules. The current game won't run away by reconsidering


I am not averse to experimentation, but I would like to be convinced of the flaws/deficiencies of the current rules before making the momentous decision to scrap them. My challenge from above may be bold, but it still stands. Perhaps you would like to play a game sometime to get the feel of it? I do appreciate your sage comments and help. It would be great if I could someday gain a somewhat substantial player pool.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 29th, 2009, 11:48am

on 03/29/09 at 09:34:43, The_Jeh wrote:
Of course, the game may work with the claiming of tiles being mandatory, but so far I have no reason to dislike the rules as they are.
The player can still claim the rectangle at any point in the future if all the conditions are still satisfied. It is not the act of completing the rectangle that gives the right, only the existence of the individually necessary and jointly sufficient conditions.

That's fair enough, and an option is indeed preferable.


on 03/29/09 at 09:34:43, The_Jeh wrote:
These are all interesting variations, and I have thought of them. I'm not sure what their consequences would be; I'd have to play them. Admittedly, I have become fond of and have not found serious flaw with the rules as they currently are.

Neither have I. But you may know the Shogi proverb 'if you've found a good move ... look for a better one' ;)


on 03/29/09 at 09:34:43, The_Jeh wrote:
Sure, but then one plays where one would have anyway, and while you cannot claim the triangle, since there is a stone on the edge, you now have two threats of the same magnitude as before, provided the board is large enough.

Yes, the character would be that of an 'offensive race' and it might be difficult to catch up for the second player. One might even consider a swap with regard to the size of the first triangle.


on 03/29/09 at 09:34:43, The_Jeh wrote:
I am not averse to experimentation, but I would like to be convinced of the flaws/deficiencies of the current rules before making the momentous decision to scrap them. My challenge from above may be bold, but it still stands. Perhaps you would like to play a game sometime to get the feel of it?
The decision is only momentous in the light of your fondness of the current rules. I'm not implying you shouldn't be, quite the opposite in fact, but as an inventor, generally speaking, questioning one's babies comes with the territory.

And yes, we are often at iGGC at the same moment, so I'd be happy to be your next victim :)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arimabuff on Mar 29th, 2009, 12:04pm

on 03/29/09 at 11:48:44, christianF wrote:
...Neither have I. But you may know the Shogi proverb 'if you've found a good move ... look for a better one'...


Wasn't that a quote from Lasker?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Mar 29th, 2009, 2:22pm

on 03/28/09 at 03:45:06, christianF wrote:
I truly appreciate an exchange of opinions that forces me to rethink ideas and concepts, so thanks for that :) .

And I truly appreciate the experience and insights of a veteran game designer.  The honor is ours.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 8th, 2009, 5:34am

on 03/08/09 at 18:30:08, Fritzlein wrote:
What enables me to know that his word is more reliable than that of the next game designer?

Hi Fritzlein, Omar, all,

Unexpectedly and unintentionally I've been given the opportunity to put my little money where my big mouth is, that is, I've invented a new game over the last three days. No board or material and implicitly no play testing. That's your department ;) .

It happened in the process of translating rules at iGGC. For the last two weeks I've been engulfed in rules and ideas, and out of the chaos the contours of a game emerged, the evening of the April 6th, not looked for and rather intrusively. I eventually fell asleep pondering it.
The next day it popped up on and off, and solidified in the evening. This morning I added a final modification concerning shots at the goal and the keeper ... soccer, yes, quite an unusual theme in the light of my previous work.

The trigger was a game called Jeson Mor (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/jesonmor.html), very old, and rather blunt and primitive in structure, but obviously fun or it wouldn't have survived in the first place. Something stuck about running toward a basket, grabbing what's inside and bolting.
That's what occupied me while translating Phutball (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/phutball.html), a game I knew of course, though I'm embarrasingly bad at it.
Further games that crossed my mind during the 'whispering' period were Camelot (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/camelot.html) and indeed Arimaa (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/arimaa.html). You'll find some similarities there.

Last night the concept had solidified to the point that I mailed the story and the provisional rules, with the diagram below, that I quickly made using Congo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/interesting-games?start=3) material, to Ed van Zon, my partner at MindSports, to Arty Sandler at iGGC, and to Benedikt Rosenau, a friend in Germany with a deep interest in board games. Here's a slightly more crystallized version:

HanniBall
http://i44.tinypic.com/eitwd2.jpg
© mindsports.nl



HanniBall is a two-player abstract boardgame invented by Christian Freeling the 6th, 7th and 8th of April 2009, without board or pieces, as a 'mental exercise'.

Board
The board is a rectangle of 9x15 squares, with two additional goals of 1x3 squares. There are two 'goal areas' of 2x5 squares. Both players, White and Black, have 11 pieces: 1 Keeper, 2 Lions, 4 Elephants and 4 Knight. The diagram shows the board with the pieces in the initial position. The ball lies in the centersquare.

Object
The object of HanniBall is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. If a player shoots the ball into his own goal, he has lost.

Moving and capturing
On his turn a player is allowed to make up to three moves. A 'move' may be:
1. Moving a piece that does not have the ball.
2. Moving a piece that does have the ball.
3. Shooting the ball.

Shooting the ball can only be done by a piece that has the ball in its possesion. The pieces move and shoot as follows:

* The Knight moves as the knight in Chess, but may not jump to its target square if both the in between squares are occupied by pieces.
A Knight shoots the ball 'king's move' wise. If a Knight shoots the ball, it lands on a straight or diagonally adjacent square.

* The Elephant moves as the king in Chess.
An Elephant shoots the ball 'knight's move' wise. If an Elephant shoots the ball, it lands on a square one knight's move away, no restrictions.

* The Lion combines the options of Knight and Elephant, so it moves and shoots either way in any combination.

* The Keeper combines the options of the 'HanniBall knight' and the queen in Chess, but may not leave the goal area (except for the goal itself).
A Keeper shoots the ball up to five squares away, queenwise. Direction and distance are the player's choice.

* Only the Keeper is allowed to enter the goal, the other pieces are not. Inside the goal the Keeper should not have the ball in its possession, because a ball inside the own goal ends the game in a win for the opponent.

The Ball
The Ball may land on any square, whether or not occupied.

* If a piece moves to a square where the ball is, it takes possession of the ball.
* If the ball lands on a square occupied by a piece, the piece takes possesion of the ball.
* If a player is in possesion of the ball, and it is his turn, and he has still one or more move options left, than he can do one of the following.
1. Shoot the ball.
2. Move the piece and take the ball along.
3. Move the piece and leave the ball.
4. Move another piece.

* If a player is in possesion of the ball, and it is not his turn, then the piece holding the ball can be captured by the opponent. Capture is by replacement. The captured piece is taken off the board, and the capturing piece takes possession of the ball.

Please note that if a player shoots the ball to an opponent's piece, and he has still one or more move options left, he can capture that piece!

Shots at the goal or the keeper
If a player shoots the ball into the opponent's goal, he wins the game (into his own goal means he loses).
If a player shoots the ball at the opponent's Keeper, then the latter cannot catch it. Instead the following happens:

* Is the Keeper in the goal, then the ball ricochets back into the field, straight or diagonally forwards, with a maximum of five squares. Direction and distance are at the shooting player's choice.

* Is the Keeper not in the goal, then the ball ricochets back into the field, straight or diagonally forwards or straight sideways, with a maximum of five squares. Direction and distance are at the shooting player's choice.

Swap
The game starts with a 'swap' option for the second player. One player makes up to three moves, the other chooses which side he'll play.

That's it.
Give it a try, you'll be the first :-*

cheers,
christian

HanniBall © mindsports.nl - First publication at the Arimaa Forum, April 8, 2009.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 9th, 2009, 8:59am
We've done some playtesting today. Any enthusiasm would appear biased, so let me just say that I've found neither inconsistency nor incompleteness in the rules.

Strategically I can say that it's a team sport. In actual play this is one of the first things that becomes apparent.

http://i44.tinypic.com/2qss1au.jpg
[color=#aa0000"]a provisional board with Grand Chess pieces[/color]


Tactics revolve around capture. You cannot, as a rule, in a crowded field have the ball and not risk being captured. Towards an endgame this will be another matter.

Usually capture starts with one player picking up the ball (1), passing it to an opponent's piece (2) and capture that piece (3). So the capturing piece is left with the ball in possesion. Now there's a risk of a double capture: the opponent captures back the piece that is in possesion (1), passes the ball to another opponent's piece (2), and captures it (3). Of course this leaves him in possesion of the ball ...

So more often than not, the ball will remain in the field, to avoid immediate capture.

I'm sticking my neck out here, to convince the sceptics - whom I fully understand, and who's reactions have been equally well formulated as received - that this was (and obviously still is) the way I invented the majority of my games.

This one, again, more or less put itself together with me just watching the process. This is not in any way intended as provocative, just illustrative.

cheers,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 9th, 2009, 2:32pm
Christian,

Congrats on inventing yet another game!  I really enjoy Grand Chess and I’ll try this one out too when it goes online.

I’m contemplating whether it’s possible to generate a goal against a perfect defensive player.  For example, if a defensive-minded player retreats all 11 players into the goal zone, can the attacker break through?  If  the attacker ends a turn with a ball-carrying lion 4 rows away from the goal, then the next move it threatens:

1.      Shoot the ball as an Elephant
2.      Move the Lion as a Knight, capturing a defender.
3.      Shoot at the goal, either winning the game or sending the ball back to its team-members.

The attacker has to leave an empty square 1 row outside of the goal zone for step #2 to work.  But is it possible to generate such an attack without allowing the defender to break through?  I can easily find such a position, but I can I force it against a perfect player?

Perhaps the attacker’s strategy should be a wall of pieces just outside of the defender’s goal zone with a ball-carrying elephant behind the wall.  Then:

1.      Shoot the ball at a powerful defender.
2.      Capture it with an adjacent elephant.
3.      Shoot the ball back behind the wall.

I suppose the defender’s perfect position won’t be a solid 2x5 box but actually a large box with gaps between the pieces.  Is there such a box that cannot be broken?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 9th, 2009, 11:12pm

on 04/09/09 at 14:32:40, Adanac wrote:
Christian,

Congrats on inventing yet another game!  I really enjoy Grand Chess and I’ll try this one out too when it goes online.

That's the plan. However, the applet is not simple, and I'd like to see/hear results of some playtesting first. It would be nice to see the game at iGGC and/or LG at some time in the future, though.


on 04/09/09 at 14:32:40, Adanac wrote:
I’m contemplating whether it’s possible to generate a goal against a perfect defensive player.  For example, if a defensive-minded player retreats all 11 players into the goal zone, can the attacker break through?  If  the attacker ends a turn with a ball-carrying lion 4 rows away from the goal, then the next move it threatens:

1.      Shoot the ball as an Elephant
2.      Move the Lion as a Knight, capturing a defender.
3.      Shoot at the goal, either winning the game or sending the ball back to its team-members.

The attacker has to leave an empty square 1 row outside of the goal zone for step #2 to work.  But is it possible to generate such an attack without allowing the defender to break through?  I can easily find such a position, but I can I force it against a perfect player?

Good questions. If the attacker ends a move with a ball carrying Lion. then this Lion may be captured before it gets to the next turn. It's close to the defenders so it's more that likely that on of those can capture it in one or two moves.
Most of the time, a player ending a turn with the ball in possesion does so as the result of a previous capture: getting the ball (1), passing it to an opponent's piece (2) and capturing the piece (3). Sequences of exchanges may occur in which it is important to keep in mind that:

1. if a player has the ball in possesion at the beginning of the opponent's turn, the latter may be able to capture two pieces instead of just one.
2. an exchange may have an odd number of pieces directly involved, resulting in one player capturing more often than the other.

I noticed something that was not delibarately done: the squares of the back row, just outside the goal area, cannot be covered by the Keeper and allow a shot by an Elephant or Lion.

It would appear hard to cover everything, because it seems hard to avoid a capturing sequenqe in the first place, if after the opening pieces start to gather around the ball.

Quite another thing is: can 8 pieces be put tight around the ball? In that case the opponent cannot get to it (the knight's move is no jump).
I'm not sure about that one, but I doubt whether it can be forced.
But what about 5 on the side or 3 in a corner? That might be less difficult to enforce. This situation should be covered by the rules of course, but I'll have a look at it first. It will require a 'modification that emerged in playtesting', guilty as charged ;) . A simple solution would be to allow a player's Knights an Lions to jump, if and only if all squares a king's move away from the ball are occupied by opponent's pieces.
Even then the opponent might try to enclose the ball with 3 pieces in a corner and 2 extra pieces occupying the squares a knights move away. Food for thought.


on 04/09/09 at 14:32:40, Adanac wrote:
Perhaps the attacker’s strategy should be a wall of pieces just outside of the defender’s goal zone with a ball-carrying elephant behind the wall.  Then:

1.      Shoot the ball at a powerful defender.
2.      Capture it with an adjacent elephant.
3.      Shoot the ball back behind the wall.

I suppose the defender’s perfect position won’t be a solid 2x5 box but actually a large box with gaps between the pieces.  Is there such a box that cannot be broken?

I think it is not very likely, in a crowded and close position, that the opponent would allow a Lion to be in possession of the ball at the beginning of the attack. If the attacking Lion did have it in possesion at the end of his previous turn, then the defender could most likely have captured it. In a crowded position, almost any piece holding the ball can be reached in two moves by some defender.
So it would most likely be the result of a previous capturing sequence that left the Lion in possesion in the first place. And it's like Chess: you don't leave your strongest pieces exposed without a good reason. "Lion in possession" was one of our first red flags, yesterday.

So my feeling is that tactics are on strained terms with the strategies you suggest. I can't say I'm sure though.

The decisions in our games yesterday all saw quite a lot of captures, and eventually one or two players breaking through the lines, taking advantage of the reduced material. And indeed the squares left and right of the goal area on the back rows, were involved because the attacking piece, once away from the defenders, can indeed hold the ball there for one move, because the Keeper can't move outside the goal area, and thus not capture such an attacker. On the next move the Keeper cannot block the player or the ball alone, because the attacker can make a move or even two, and shoot.

One modification for now: I think I'm going to call the 'knights' what they are: 'Horses'. I named the game "HanniBall" because of the Elephants, and Lions and Horses fit the name better. Ever seen a knight (in shining armour) cross the Alps? ;D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 2:12am
It is possible to 'bury the ball'.

If the ball, with or without piece, is in a cornersquare, say a2, and there are white pieces on b3, b4 and c3, then two additional pieces, one one a3 or a4, and one on b2 or c2, would block the opponent from getting to the ball. In the 'a4,c2' case, the ball would not even be surrounded 'king's move wise', so the above suggestion of allowing a conditional jump doesn't even solve the problem in a simple and generic way.

A simple solution would be to do away with the restriction of the knight's move altogether, but that would mean losing the tactics involved in blocking the knight's move with two interposing pieces. Not too big a loss maybe, but I kind of like the analogy with real soccer: you can get past one defender quite easily, but if two are blocking your path, it's a lot harder. I'm not prepared to give up on that quite yet.
Moreover it doesn't solve the above situation, where the squares a knight's move away from the ball are also blocked.

Of course it's 'unsporting conduct', but the rules should cover it one way or the other.

I'm thinking about it. As long as it remains the only problem emerging after playtesting, I'm quite happy :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 4:37am
Modifications
I've got three modifications that have no relation to playtesting:

1. 'Knights' are renamed 'Horses'.

The second one is a simplification of the 'shot at the opponent's Keeper' rules, by using one generic rule:

2. If a player shoots the ball at the opponent's Keeper, it ricochets in any of eight directions, 'queenwise', at the choice of the shooting player, not farther than 5 squares and not into the goal.

This eliminates the need to specify the Keepers position as either in or outside the goal, and makes the bounce generic 'queenwise', without the need to specify 'forwards' or 'sideways'.

The third one is 3-fold - I can hardly see that playing any role. Maybe at some point in endgames, but I can't even think of an example right now. Nevertheless:

3. 3-fold is a draw.

The 'Buried Ball' problem
Now the one modification that emerged through playtesting, concerning the 'buried ball':

4. At the end of any player's turn, the ball may not be in an area that is completely separated from the rest of the field by orthogonally connected pieces of either or both colors.

In other words, there must be, at the end of any turn, a 'king's move route' out of an area surrounded by pieces, if it contains the ball.

With this rule, the restrictions on jumping, for the Horse and the Lion, can remain intact, and therewith the tactics involved, and the affinity with real football in terms of being able to get past one defender, but not past two at the same time.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by jdb on Apr 10th, 2009, 6:55am
After some reflection about the game, here are some comments.

Elephants and Horses move and shoot in opposite ways. I assume this was done so that it takes an individual piece a full turn (ie three moves) to capture an enemy piece.

Having a special case rule for the 'Buried Ball' makes it harder for people to learn the game. It would be better if the mechanics of the game made a buried ball impossible. The rules for Elephants and Horses look good, so that leaves the Lion. Modifying its powers, so it has enough mobility to get through a blockade, would eliminate the need for a special case rule.

One way could be to allow the Lion to move like a queen up to three squares (but able to move through any blocking pieces) and have it shoot like a knight. In this way a Lion would need a full turn to make a capture on its own.

If the ball is on the corner squares (a2, i2, etc) it takes the fewest pieces to make a blockade. Maybe removing the 4 corner squares would be effective.

On a separate topic, I like the simplification of the rules regarding shooting the ball at the keeper. It looks like capturing the keeper would be a devastating advantage. What if the ball would bounce off either keeper the same way? In other words, shooting at your own keeper causes the ball to ricochet away. Also make it illegal for the keeper to possess the ball. This way the keeper is immune from capture. This also makes it impossible for the keeper to capture anyone.

Looks like an interesting game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 10th, 2009, 9:02am

on 04/10/09 at 04:37:20, christianF wrote:
4. At the end of any player's turn, the ball may not be in an area that is completely separated from the rest of the field by orthogonally connected pieces of either or both colors.

In other words, there must be, at the end of any turn, a 'king's move route' out of an area surrounded by pieces, if it contains the ball.

With this rule, the restrictions on jumping, for the Horse and the Lion, can remain intact, and therewith the tactics involved, and the affinity with real football in terms of being able to get past one defender, but not past two at the same time.


I was thinking about this same issue yesterday after I commuting home last night.  I was going to propose a similar rule, except that a wall would only be illegal if it's impossible for one player to reach the ball with any of his/her remaining pieces (unless one player only has a Keeper, in which case the game is either a forced win or forced draw and the wall rule ceases to apply).

For example, if:
(i) White has 9 pieces from a12 to i12  and
(ii) Black has 8 pieces from b13 to i13

then according to my suggestion the position is legal so long as the ball is on row 12-17 (neither team is walled off from the ball).  Neither player can shoot the ball to rows 1-11 until the white wall is broken.

However, if I've understood your rule correctly, then the White position is illegal, regardless of ball location, because the white team has created a wall.  Is that correct?

If so, suppose we have a different example:  the ball is in the middle of the field and there are 5 pieces forming a wall in one of the corners.  Would that be illegal because part of the field is walled off, or is it OK so long as neither player tries to shoot the ball over the wall?

JDB's idea of allowing lions to jump walls simplifies the rules but I think there are 2 problems:

(1)  If a player loses both lions, then the opponent can wall off the position and then wait 1000 moves before deciding to free that ball.

(2) Leaping a lion over a wall and onto the ball amongst a throng of enemy pieces would be futile -- it would be exposed to capture without being able to accomplish anything useful.

I play-tested a few scenarios today, and the opening is far more interesting than I imagined it would be.  Getting to the ball first isn't the major advantage that I expected.  It really takes a re-organization and co-ordination of several pieces to gain a positional advantage.

One final question:  had you considered other board sizes when designing the game?  Because pieces move slowly, and have to move in large groups for safety, it seems that it would take a very long time for the action to move from one side of the board to the other.  Perhaps a board with 11 or 13 rows would play better?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 9:51am

on 04/10/09 at 06:55:47, jdb wrote:
Modifying its powers, so it has enough mobility to get through a blockade, would eliminate the need for a special case rule.

One way could be to allow the Lion to move like a queen up to three squares (but able to move through any blocking pieces) and have it shoot like a knight. In this way a Lion would need a full turn to make a capture on its own.

If the ball is on the corner squares (a2, i2, etc) it takes the fewest pieces to make a blockade. Maybe removing the 4 corner squares would be effective.

Thanks JDB for your comments.
Regarding the first point, it would not, I think, because one could lose both Lions and the problem would remain. And giving the Lions extra 'jumping power' would also require an extra rule.
Regarding the second, there's some interesting play in the corners and the current shape is a soccerfield.


on 04/10/09 at 06:55:47, jdb wrote:
What if the ball would bounce off either keeper the same way? In other words, shooting at your own keeper causes the ball to ricochet away. Also make it illegal for the keeper to possess the ball. This way the keeper is immune from capture. This also makes it impossible for the keeper to capture anyone.

Looks like an interesting game.

This suggestion is a good one. I like it because it simplifies the rules and allows some interesting tactics around a player's own goal area.

Consider it implemented and thank you :)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 10:01am

on 04/10/09 at 09:02:38, Adanac wrote:
One final question:  had you considered other board sizes when designing the game?  Because pieces move slowly, and have to move in large groups for safety, it seems that it would take a very long time for the action to move from one side of the board to the other.  Perhaps a board with 11 or 13 rows would play better?

Hi Adanac, Thanks too. Allow me some time to look at your other examples, but you may have a point here. The size was chosen rather arbitrarily.
Till now we've had no problems with it, and playing "on the counter" can make a player who has 'escaped' with the ball awfully fast (as long as he's beyond immediate capture and can hold the ball). I lost two times on that scenario, after attacking with too many pieces and just failing to push the advantage home.
I think this can wait till there's a bit more experience around in the game. Fortunately my son has fallen for it :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by jdb on Apr 10th, 2009, 11:48am
Thats a good point about the Buried Ball and piece captures.

Consider a situation where one side is down to just their 4 Horses and the Keeper. The other side could have the ball on a2 (ie in the corner), and pieces on c3 and b4. The ball is not walled off, and there is no way for a Horse to get to it.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 12:13pm

on 04/10/09 at 11:48:49, jdb wrote:
Thats a good point about the Buried Ball and piece captures.

Consider a situation where one side is down to just their 4 Horses and the Keeper. The other side could have the ball on a2 (ie in the corner), and pieces on c3 and b4. The ball is not walled off, and there is no way for a Horse to get to it.

Very good point, I'll have to reconsider my 'solution'. There should be a generic solution to the 'buried ball' problem. Also, I haven't considered Adanac's input yet. It's late, I'll sleep over it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 1:45pm

on 04/10/09 at 09:02:38, Adanac wrote:
I was thinking about this same issue yesterday after I commuting home last night.  I was going to propose a similar rule, except that a wall would only be illegal if it's impossible for one player to reach the ball with any of his/her remaining pieces (unless one player only has a Keeper, in which case the game is either a forced win or forced draw and the wall rule ceases to apply).

For example, if:
(i) White has 9 pieces from a12 to i12  and
(ii) Black has 8 pieces from b13 to i13

then according to my suggestion the position is legal so long as the ball is on row 12-17 (neither team is walled off from the ball).  Neither player can shoot the ball to rows 1-11 until the white wall is broken.

However, if I've understood your rule correctly, then the White position is illegal, regardless of ball location, because the white team has created a wall.  Is that correct?

If so, suppose we have a different example:  the ball is in the middle of the field and there are 5 pieces forming a wall in one of the corners.  Would that be illegal because part of the field is walled off, or is it OK so long as neither player tries to shoot the ball over the wall?

You're right, my 'solution' is far from consistent. I'll try to think along your highlighted suggestion. How to formulate it bullseye, that's the problem.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Apr 10th, 2009, 2:43pm
I hadn't checked the forum in a few days and what a nice surprise I had today to read the rules of HanniBall posted by Christian and discussion over the rules. Sure brings back memories from the early days of Arimaa. Thanks Christian for choosing to post the first official rules here. Perhaps we should move the discussion into its own thread so that it will be easier to find in the future.

Aamir and I will try it out this weekend and let you know how it feels :-)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2009, 11:38pm

on 04/10/09 at 14:43:53, omar wrote:
Thanks Christian for choosing to post the first official rules here. Perhaps we should move the discussion into its own thread so that it will be easier to find in the future.

Aamir and I will try it out this weekend and let you know how it feels :-)

Hi Omar, thanks, and I really appreciate the chance to post an unintended invention here, and the valuable comments it has generated. You can even try the game with the modufied rules, because I think I've solved the 'buried ball' problem. 8)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 11th, 2009, 1:07am
Barring the renaming of the knight as 'Horse', and 3-fold, there has been one modification (in two steps) and one addition to solve the 'buried ball' problem.

The first step of the modification was the generalisation of the initial 'shots at the Keeper' rule.
The second step was to make the rule even more simple and generic. This one is courtesy of JDB for which my admiration and thanks.

As mentioned in the previous post, I thought I'd solved the 'buried ball' problem in a satisfactory way, and I did inasmuch as it has become a 'red card' offense against the rules.
However, the definition of 'obstruction' that led to the final solution came from Adanac (see: *) for which my admiration and thanks too.


So here are the modified rules, similar enough to the ones I conceived in my head, to illustrate that I was close, different enough to illustrate that some playtesting is always necessary, even for a 'game whisperer' ;) .
Eventually the modifications went through a process of simplification, which is almost always the right way to go.

HanniBall
http://i44.tinypic.com/eitwd2.jpg
© mindsports.nl


HanniBall is a two-player abstract boardgame invented by Christian Freeling the 6th, 7th and 8th of April 2009, without board or pieces, as a 'mental exercise'. In the days following its invention, some important modifications were suggested by members of this Forum, for which I'd like to thank all posters, in particular Adanac, JDB and Omar.

Board
The board is a rectangle of 9x15 squares, with two additional goals of 1x3 squares. There are two 'goal areas' of 2x5 squares. Both players, White and Black, have 11 pieces: 1 Keeper, 2 Lions, 4 Elephants and 4 Horses. The diagram shows the board with the pieces in the initial position. The ball lies in the centersquare.

Object
The object of HanniBall is to shoot the ball into the opponent's goal. If a player shoots the ball into his own goal, he has lost.

Moving and capturing
On his turn a player is allowed to make up to three moves. A 'move' may be:
1. Moving a piece that does not have the ball.
2. Moving a piece that does have the ball.
3. Shooting the ball.

Shooting the ball can only be done by a piece that has the ball in its possesion. The pieces move and shoot as follows:

* The Horse moves as the knight in Chess, but may not jump to its target square if both the in between squares are occupied by pieces.
A Horse shoots the ball 'king's move' wise. If a Horse shoots the ball, it lands on a straight or diagonally adjacent square.

* The Elephant moves as the king in Chess.
An Elephant shoots the ball 'knight's move' wise. If an Elephant shoots the ball, it lands on a square one knight's move away, no restrictions.

* The Lion combines the options of Knight and Elephant, so it moves and shoots either way in any combination.

* The Keeper combines the options of the 'Horse' and the queen in Chess, but may not leave the goal area (except for the goal itself).
A Keeper shoots the ball up to five squares away, queenwise. Direction and distance are the shooting player's choice.

* Only the Keeper is allowed to enter the goal, the other pieces are not. Inside the goal the Keeper should not have the ball in its possession, because a ball inside the own goal ends the game in a win for the opponent.

The Ball
The Ball may land on any square, whether or not occupied.

* If a piece moves to a square where the ball is, it takes possession of the ball.
* If the ball lands on a square occupied by a piece, other than a Keeper, the piece takes possesion of the ball.
* If a player is in possesion of the ball, and it is his turn, and he has still one or more move options left, than he can do one of the following.
1. Shoot the ball.
2. Move the piece and take the ball along.
3. Move the piece and leave the ball.
4. Move another piece.

* If a player is in possesion of the ball, and it is not his turn, then the piece holding the ball can be captured by the opponent. Capture is by replacement. The captured piece is taken off the board, and the capturing piece takes possession of the ball.

Please note that if a player shoots the ball to an opponent's piece, and he has still one or more move options left, he can capture that piece!

Shots at the goal or the keeper
* If a player shoots the ball into the opponent's goal, he wins the game. If he shoots it into his own goal he loses.
* If the ball is shot to a square occupied by a Keeper of either side, the ball 'ricochets' off the Keeper, queenwise, upto 5 squares, but not into the goal. Direction and distance are determined by the shooting player, whether the shot is directed at a player's own Keeper or the opponent's Keeper.

Note that a Keeper can only take possession of the ball by picking it up in the goal area, or by capturing a piece there, that is in possesion of the ball. A Keeper in possesion of the ball risks capture like any other piece.

Obstruction
Obstruction is a 'red card' offense against the rules. It is permitted, but may and usually will be punished.
* If a player on his turn finds a position in which he has at least one piece other than a Keeper, and not one of his pieces can reach the ball in any number of moves, then the opponent has committed obstruction and the player to move may (but is not obliged to) remove one of the blocking pieces from the board as his first move. *

3-fold
If a player on his move can for the third time recreate an identical position, he can claim a draw.

Swap
The game starts with a 'swap' option for the second player. One player makes up to three moves, the other chooses which side he'll play.

cheers,
christian

HanniBall © mindsports.nl - Second publication at the Arimaa Forum, April 11, 2009.

* Definition of obstruction courtesy of Adanac, suggested in a following post and applied in this version afterwards.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 11th, 2009, 9:11am
2B fair, with the ball on a2 (corner)
and a white wall of pieces on a4, b2, b3, b4, there's a vacant kingfield, a3, and a vacant knightfield, c3, while black cannot penetrate.

So there remains a formal problem, demanding regulation, no doubt, but as far as practical play goes, it doesn't seem easily enforcable.
For starters you must get the ball first and by the time you're back with it, the opponent is all over the place and can prevent any walling off.

But it might yet be an option now and again. Any suggestions? A draw?

There's still the option to give Horses and Lions the right to jump. The whole problem will then cease to exist, and the rules would be simplfied. But it would lose the tactics involved in blocking Horses and Lions, and those seem nice enough tactics that are in line with soccer, where you can get past one defender easily but not past two.




Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 11th, 2009, 10:05am

on 04/11/09 at 09:11:36, christianF wrote:
2B fair, with the ball on a2 (corner)
and a white wall of pieces on a4, b2, b3, b4, there's a vacant kingfield, a3, and a vacant knightfield, c3, while black cannot penetrate.

So there remains a formal problem, demanding regulation, no doubt, but as far as practical play goes, it doesn't seem easily enforcable.

But it might be. Any suggestions?

There's still the option to give Horses and Lions the right to jump. The whole problem will then cease to exist, and the rules would be simplfied. But it would lose the tactics involved in blocking Horses and Lions, and those seem nice enough tactics that are in line with soccer, where you can get past one defender easily but not past two.

I think this rule would be easy to understand and prevent all types of obstruction:

Suppose white has created a wall and it's black's turn to move:  If black cannot possibly reach the ball with any piece within an infinite number of moves, then white has violated the obstruction rule. **

Using the same example I used earlier:
(i) White has 9 pieces from a12 to i12  and  
(ii) Black has 8 pieces from b13 to i13
(iii) the ball is located between rows 2-11

If it's black's turn to move then white has clearly violated the obstruction rule as no black piece can possibly reach the ball given an infinite number of moves.  If the ball were in rows 12-16 then it's OK because both teams have access to the ball.

** unless black only has a keeper remaining in which case it's a forced win for white and the obstruction rule does not apply.  EDIT: unless the lone keeper is holding the ball against a single enemy horse in which case it's a draw.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 11th, 2009, 10:35am

on 04/11/09 at 10:05:36, Adanac wrote:
I think this rule would be easy to understand and prevent all types of obstruction:

Suppose white has created a wall and it's black's turn to move:  If black cannot possibly reach the ball with any piece within an infinite number of moves, then white has violated the obstruction rule.

I think you're right, and it's easily checked too. However, I've also come to like the idea of the 'red card' and the removal of a piece as a penalty, so it may not be necessary to actually forbid obstruction as you define it, just to give the opponent the right to penalize it if it happens by removing one of the obstructing pieces as his first move.

Gives more of a 'soccer flavor'. I've even considered "Choccer" as a name, an unlikely mix of Chess and Soccer.
There's also an implication to realize: the definition of obstruction remains the same if a player has only Elephants or Horses left, but the actual type of blockade that causes obstruction changes.

In any case you and JDB have earned the right to be mentioned in the credits :)

The modification discussed here has been introduced in the rules @ post #39 (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1236541162;start=30#39) afterwards

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 11th, 2009, 2:09pm
Does anyone want to play a game of HaniBall (or Choccer if you prefer), by e-mail?  Untimed, of course, but I'd like to play at a pace of roughly 1 move per day.  If so, just send your first move to grmagne@yahoo.com

For notation how about something like:

1w Hb4-c6 Eb3-b4 Ke1-d1

If the elephant on i16 is shooting the ball then the notation can be Bi16-h14  (B for ball).  If the elephant carries the ball then EBi16-i15.  If a piece is removed then use an X such as Hb4Xc6  (similar to chess).

Grand Chess is a lot of fun too.  If anyone wants to play against me, the website is http://www.mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/ListGames.cgi?game=GrandChess

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 11th, 2009, 2:27pm

on 04/11/09 at 14:09:14, Adanac wrote:
Does anyone want to play a game of HaniBall (or Choccer if you prefer), by e-mail?  Untimed, of course, but I'd like to play at a pace of roughly 1 move per day.  If so, just send your first move to grmagne@yahoo.com

For notation how about something like:

1w Hb4-c6 Eb3-b4 Ke1-d1

If the elephant on i16 is shooting the ball then the notation can be Bi16-h14  (B for ball).  If the elephant carries the ball then EBi16-i15.  If a piece is removed then use an X such as Hb4Xc6  (similar to chess).

That seems fun, it's too late now, over here, but you can expect my move (or yours, if swapped) tomorrow. Thanks again for your contribution :).

I'm christian-at-mindsports.nl
*************************

It's Monday the 13th now and the game between Adanac and yours truly has begun.

Meanwhile the game has been renamed "Choccer" and the pieces may be renamed too, eventually - the 'animals' came with the name 'HanniBall'.

Also, this game may have some commercial potentional, but hardly as a pure strategy game. That's why I have come up with a variant that introduces the 'hand of fate'.
It's called "Choccer-6" and in it the number of moves a player has on his turn, is determined by the roll of a normal six-sided die, all else being the same.
The average number of moves in this game is 3.5, but the distribution of the actual number of moves will ensure many 'twists of fate' and make for a much faster game, more suited for beginning players.

Just thought I'd let you all know :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 13th, 2009, 4:31am
More news, more thoughts

3-fold and the 'swap' may be unnecessary in Choccer. Ed van Zon suggested '4-moves-per-turn' as a variant, and I agree. It would make the character of the game somewhat wilder:

1. A piece can grab the ball (1), play it to an opponent (2), capture the opponent (3) and kick the ball (4) therewith avoiding capture itself, or ...
2. A piece can get to the ball in two moves (2), play it to an opponent (3) capture the opponent (4) and stay in possesion of the ball, therewith risking capture.

So a 'turn' can have both a different and more of an impact.

The 'hands-of-fate' variant mentioned above neatly fits in between with 3.5 moves on average.

Then there's this:
I've googled around to see whether blending Chess with Soccer, however unintended, was an original idea.
It's isn't, in fact: far from it.

Most attempts were deliberate and resulted in very different games. One however is fairly similar, especially at first glance. It has been invented by João Pedro Neto, a fellow inventor with whom I've been in contact for many years and who's work I value very highly. His Internet Home (http://homepages.di.fc.ul.pt/~jpn/) has always been prominent in the mindsports linkpages, and his game Gonnect (http://homepages.di.fc.ul.pt/~jpn/gv/gonnect.htm) is featured (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/interesting-games?start=9) at mindsports.

His version, dating from November 1997, can be found at the Chess Variant Pages ('crossover games'). It is called Soccer Chess (http://www.chessvariants.com/crossover.dir/soccer.html).

The similarities are obvious: 11 chesstype players, who can obtain and kick the ball on a similar playing area with the same goal (literally), though his field measures 11x17 while Choccer uses 9x15.
There are '5-moves-per-turn', however the moves must be made with different players.

The other differences soon become obvious. Soccer Chess is more of a long range game, more 'soccerlike' if you want, where the ball may range from one side of the field to the opposite side in one shot. Less 'soccerlike' is the fact that many players move as far as the ball does in one move, as rooks, bishops as queens, which makes it a far more a game of 'surprise tactics' than Choccer (although there's no lack of surprise tactics there).

More importantly, pieces may not move with the ball and cannot keep it in possesion: the ball must be 'kicked' as part of the same move - very modern, considering the 'one contact' school of play that has become so prominent in soccer.

Most importantly, pieces cannot be captured or 'red carded'. All of this makes Soccer Chess more 'soccer' than 'chess', while Choccer leans towards the reverse.

There's no 'hands-of-fate' variant included, though a die to determine the number of move a player is allowed to make, could be applied the same way as in Choccer-6.

cheers,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Apr 14th, 2009, 10:12am
I drew the board on a sheet of paper, cut out some disc pieces out of paper; labeled them with red and blue markers and tried it out. I didn't play it with Aamir yet, but I tried playing both sides myself. As soon as I started playing, I thought there should be a Zillions of Games file for this. It is difficult to play test new games without it. Even though Zillion won't play games like this very well, it is helpful because it can make sure that you aren't making illegal moves, can easily take back and redo moves and it automatically records the moves, which you can easily email to human opponents. Christian you might want get a ZRF file made for this. If you are not familiar with ZRF programming you might want to post over at the Zillions of Games forum and see if someone can help you with it.

Some thoughts on the game. At first I tried to have a couple lions from one side go forward and score, but found that as soon they near the opponents side of the board, they become vulnerable to being captured. So a quick offensive strategy won't work. Though initially I thought capturing pieces in a soccer game was weird, I can see why it is needed to prevent one side or the other from hogging the ball. It also makes the ball a bit of a weapon :-). It is not really the opponents pieces that can hurt you; they need the ball to do it. It also adds an interesting twist between your pieces wanting to get close to the ball and away from it (to avoid capture). Also the captures are needed to add committal moves to the game. Without committal moves games can easily become non-progressive. I am not good enough at the game to know if captures can always be avoided. But even if they can the threat of captures may be enough to keep the game progressing forward. The amount of change per move did feel a bit overwhelming to me; especially with different pieces moving/shooting in different ways. Can't really say much more by playing just one game, but one thing for sure is that games like this need to be play tested a lot. Good luck with the game Christian.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Apr 14th, 2009, 10:46am
I haven't playtested Choccer at all, but just from looking at the rules I would be concerned about piece density.  It seems like it would be difficult for the game to be good both when the pieces are strung out sparsely across the board, and good when the pieces are all clumped in one area.  More specifically, the rules must make it possible to defeat defensive play where one player clumps all of his pieces in front of goal and merely tries to avoid being captured (three-step strategy: jump out to the ball, kick the ball away, jump home to safety).  But I would worry that rules which can handle the defensive huddle won't also make for a good game when pieces aren't all near each other.

Given the obvious advantage of massed pieces that mutually protect each other, there needs to be a compensating advantage of spreading out pieces.  In Go, for example, there is the strength/territory tradeoff where players are continually torn between playing thinly and playing thickly.  Will well-played Choccer be a slow-moving game because the pieces stay clumped of necessity, and therefore you have two mobs slowly pushing each other forward and back?

I eagerly await the reports of the playtesters.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 14th, 2009, 12:29pm

on 04/14/09 at 10:12:42, omar wrote:
Christian you might want get a ZRF file made for this. If you are not familiar with ZRF programming you might want to post over at the Zillions of Games forum and see if someone can help you with it.

Hi Omar, thanks for your kind comments. As for Zillions, Ed van Zon, my partner in crime, has done a load of games for Zillions and is already working on this one :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 14th, 2009, 12:37pm

on 04/14/09 at 10:46:58, Fritzlein wrote:
I eagerly await the reports of the playtesters.

Hi Fritzlein,

I understand your comments, but my feeling is you worry too much ;) . It's hard to avoid excanges in close contact. 'Merely' avoiding capture isn't all that easy. Material dwindles.

Meanwhile there are now 'officially' three variants: 3-moves per turn, 4-moves per turn (you will appreciate the impications regarding capture) and 1-6 moves, depending on a die. That's the 'commecial angle': quick games, dramatic turns of events, beginning players can win.

Also, the keepers shot and ricochet range has been extended from 5 to 6 squares.

I'm enjoying a game against Adanac by mail :)

cheers,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Apr 14th, 2009, 3:13pm

on 04/14/09 at 12:37:34, christianF wrote:
I understand your comments, but my feeling is you worry too much ;) .

I get that a lot.  :)  Worrying is one of my strengths, but I can see how it would be an obstacle to an inventor/innovator.  Anyway, if I believe my own arguments, I should shut up and playtest, because I'm not going to be able to deduce anything from the rules alone.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 15th, 2009, 3:12am
I've chewed a bit on 'Choccer' but I got trouble swallowing it. I think I'll revert to 'HanniBall'. It isn't soccer anyway ...  ::) ... it's an old Carthaginian ball game, played in between feeding Romans to the Lions.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 15th, 2009, 10:17pm
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
...
* = ball

http://i40.tinypic.com/9zpsmh.jpg


This is the position after white-9 in the game between Adanac (black) and me. No clogging or clumping till now  8)

Note: there should be an Elephant (rook) on h3. I found it under the table. My cat's name is Simba >:( .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 18th, 2009, 2:25am
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
...

* = ball

http://i44.tinypic.com/9fru4h.jpg


According to the 'broad definition' in the MindSports site:

"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 obscure, like Othello."


HanniBall leans towards the tactical. No pawns. 'Advantageous sub-goals' boil down to winning a piece or forcing an actual breakthrough in which a piece 'escapes' with the ball and cannot be stopped. The advantage in the latter case may dwindle if the piece fails to score.

The ball goes around rather quickly, so running after it with as many pieces as possible seems rather pointless. No clogging or clumping in sight.

We've declined several exchanges, but now I've traded a Horse for an Elephant - not sure about their relative strenght, but Horses are more mobile.

13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8 serves to protect the Horse on d10 that risks capture by 13. ... Lcd9/*d9-10/Hf11xd10

The game seems to behave properly, but we should be able to establish that more objectively in about two weeks time, when Ed will have the first version of the Zillions implementation ready (without the 1-6 random version, but with both 3 or 4 moves per turn).


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 19th, 2009, 12:54am

on 04/18/09 at 02:25:45, christianF wrote:
The game seems to behave properly, but we should be able to establish that more objectively in about two weeks time, when Ed will have the first version of the Zillions implementation ready (without the 1-6 random version, but with both 3 or 4 moves per turn).


For the start of the game I'm reverting to a 'swap' that will be the same for all versions (3 moves per turn, 4 moves per turn and 1-6 moves per turn).
The first player wil make a number of white moves up to the maximum of the chosen variant (3, 4 or 6, inclusive). The second player then decides whether to play white or black.
In the 1-6 version this first turn is the only one that is performed without the use of a die to determine the number of moves.

The implementation of a 'swap' in Zillions is not easy because it's not built into the system, but according to Ed it can be done.

Meanwhile Adanac launched a sudden attack that brought the ball to h2, and almost succeeded. It forced my Horse and Keeper into an emergency 'ricochet' cooperation (the only escape, I was very lucky to find that line) that sent the ball to the leftcenter.
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
...

* = ball
^ = ricochet

http://i44.tinypic.com/242amic.jpg
The position after white-16




Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 19th, 2009, 10:00am

on 04/14/09 at 10:46:58, Fritzlein wrote:
I haven't playtested Choccer at all, but just from looking at the rules I would be concerned about piece density.  It seems like it would be difficult for the game to be good both when the pieces are strung out sparsely across the board, and good when the pieces are all clumped in one area.  More specifically, the rules must make it possible to defeat defensive play where one player clumps all of his pieces in front of goal and merely tries to avoid being captured (three-step strategy: jump out to the ball, kick the ball away, jump home to safety).  But I would worry that rules which can handle the defensive huddle won't also make for a good game when pieces aren't all near each other.

Given the obvious advantage of massed pieces that mutually protect each other, there needs to be a compensating advantage of spreading out pieces.  In Go, for example, there is the strength/territory tradeoff where players are continually torn between playing thinly and playing thickly.  Will well-played Choccer be a slow-moving game because the pieces stay clumped of necessity, and therefore you have two mobs slowly pushing each other forward and back?

I eagerly await the reports of the playtesters.


I had also expected a lot of clumping and thought that the best strategies might involve large walls of pieces that that block off key squares and shield off the enemy from the ball.  However, the ball has been moving around the field so quickly that neither of those things has occurred in my game against Christian.

I also wonder about how easy it is to score once a material advantage has been established.  Scoring with a lion seems easy enough but can 2 elephants score against a single lion and a keeper, for example?  Probably, but we haven't reached that stage yet  :-/

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 19th, 2009, 12:47pm

on 04/14/09 at 10:46:58, Fritzlein wrote:
I eagerly await the reports of the playtesters.

on 04/19/09 at 10:00:49, Adanac wrote:
I had also expected a lot of clumping and thought that the best strategies might involve large walls of pieces that that block off key squares and shield off the enemy from the ball. However, the ball has been moving around the field so quickly that neither of those things has occurred in my game against Christian.
See, Fritzlein, I can "see" how a game will behave ... well, more or less at least, depending on the nature of the 'organism' ;) . This one, like Arimaa, is very 'organic' for a game with chess type pieces and mechanics.

In fact my trust in what shaped itself in my head was the reason to engage in a 'live on stage' invention process in the first place, and this trust appears to be justified. That's why I have published the game in the "almost complete games" section of MindSports too, now, with due reference to JDB's and Anadac's contributions: HanniBall (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)

Shortly the story of its genesis will be part of the Epilogue of my essay on game inventing.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Apr 19th, 2009, 1:43pm

on 04/19/09 at 12:47:02, christianF wrote:
See, Fritzlein, I can "see" how a game will behave ...

Heh, I'd say it's a mixed verdict so far.  Why do you have variants of three actions per turn or four actions per turn if you can tell in advance which would make a better game?  But I would quickly concede this: you can see from the rules how the game will behave better than I can see from the rules how the game will behave.  I'm not trying to pit my game-inventing instincts against yours; the unresolved tension in my mind is between instinct and play testing.

Although you may have enough evidence from the games of Hanni-Ball you have already played, and Adanac's report is independent verification, the jury is still out in my mind.  I still believe that it is difficult to know how the game will behave when it is played well.  To know that one must have players who play the game well, right?  As evidence for my claim, I hold up early Arimaa games which were replete with captures and goal races.  Only after the players developed a certain skill level did it emerge that Arimaa is a rather defensive game, and races are the exception rather than the rule.  From the bare rules I wouldn't have worried that Arimaa might be a defensive stalemate; that worry was emergent given the way experts played a year after the game's Internet release.

You would have really knocked my socks off if you could have definitively said that Rekushu was or wasn't a defensive draw without playing it.

All of which is not to say that you exaggerate your prophetic abilities.  I say only that my limited information doesn't let me see that you can do what you claim.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 19th, 2009, 11:45pm

on 04/19/09 at 13:43:20, Fritzlein wrote:
Heh, I'd say it's a mixed verdict so far.  Why do you have variants of three actions per turn or four actions per turn if you can tell in advance which would make a better game?  But I would quickly concede this: you can see from the rules how the game will behave better than I can see from the rules how the game will behave.  I'm not trying to pit my game-inventing instincts against yours; the unresolved tension in my mind is between instinct and play testing.

I'll settle for a mixed verdict. As for three or four moves, it basically remains the same game, but the 4-moves variant will give more room for opportunism, because the margin for tactical mistakes is wider.
I'm not saying the comparison goes all the way, but I cannot "see" which bordsize would be the best for Hex. Players may prefer different sizes for different reasons, but Hex is still Hex.


on 04/19/09 at 13:43:20, Fritzlein wrote:
Although you may have enough evidence from the games of Hanni-Ball you have already played, and Adanac's report is independent verification, the jury is still out in my mind. I still believe that it is difficult to know how the game will behave when it is played well. To know that one must have players who play the game well, right?

If that's 'by definition', then there's no argument, is there? My claims could be discarded as being silly and baseless. In my statement I also added "more or less". Not all games have the 'organic' qualties that enable me to 'identify' with a game mechanism and I've never claimed I could foresee the behaviour of any given game.


on 04/19/09 at 13:43:20, Fritzlein wrote:
You would have really knocked my socks off if you could have definitively said that Rekushu was or wasn't a defensive draw without playing it.
It's clear that the inventor thinks it isn't. One good thing about Rekushu is that it reminded me of a game I invented one night at the games club Fanatic, in the early eighties, only to forget all about it later.
Some might add "and rightly so" ;) .
I ressurrected it just yesterday as Square Off (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=15). It's not in any way like Rekushu, except that it blends configuration mechanics with a territorial theme. I've also added it to the 'miscellaneous' section of the essay.


on 04/19/09 at 13:43:20, Fritzlein wrote:
All of which is not to say that you exaggerate your prophetic abilities.  I say only that my limited information doesn't let me see that you can do what you claim.

Don't worry, I actually do exaggetate sometimes, and there's no definite answer as long as experience with HanniBall is so limited. Moreover it may remain limited - "you can take a player to a board, but you can't make him play", to paraphrase an equine proverb. And even if HanniBall should turn out to be a game that can handle the pressure of accumulating strategical insight, it would not in any way 'prove' my claim, only make it less outrageous.

For the record, I do feel that HanniBall would withstand the pressure, but making a fair prediction of, say, a margin of draws, can be very difficult. It took over a century of grandmaster games to establish that 10x10 International Checkers indeed does have a problematic margin if played on the highest level, especially in match play (as opposed to tournament play). It's a great game, but a slightly flawed 'weapon'.

Which is to say that everything, after all, is relative.

cheers,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 20th, 2009, 1:47am
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
...

* = ball
^ = ricochet

Position after white-20
http://i41.tinypic.com/4lj23p.jpg
Note that the ball was still on h2 after black-15
and is now on a16 after white-20.



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 21st, 2009, 2:15am
I've uploaded the lot in the mindsports site, though 'a late arrival' still must be added to the essay's menu (a bit tricky for me, so I'll leave it for Ed, presumably tonight).

HanniBall (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
A late arrival (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/434)
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
...

* = ball
^ = ricochet

This is better: position after white-22
http://i39.tinypic.com/35l6uf6.gifWith a black elephant on b16 and  the Keeper on d17, I had to move the ball two steps away from the elephant, or it would grab the ball, return to b16, and ricochet the ball via the Keeper back into the field.

Black crept nearer to the ball with an elephant and lion (and the far elephant at h13) and I called in reinforcement too.

In the current position black can capture either the horse on c13 or the lion on c15, but the latter loses the game, and the former ... well let's see, if and when.

One request if you're not Adanac: please do not comment on the actual position - we both like to enjoy our own brand of stupidity ;) .


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 21st, 2009, 2:44pm

on 04/21/09 at 02:15:44, christianF wrote:
With a black elephant on b16 and  the Keeper on d17, I had to move the ball two steps away from the elephant, or it would grab the ball, return to b16, and ricochet the ball via the Keeper back into the field.

Black crept nearer to the ball with an elephant and lion (and the far elephant at h13) and I called in reinforcement too.

In the current position black can capture either the horse on c13 or the lion on c15, but the latter loses the game, and the former ... well let's see, if and when.


I’m not falling for that trick :o I’ll decline both captures and kick the ball upfield instead.

22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10   Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 21st, 2009, 11:26pm

on 04/21/09 at 14:44:44, Adanac wrote:
I’m not falling for that trick :o I’ll decline both captures and kick the ball upfield instead.

22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10   Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10

It was worth a try :)  
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
...
* = ball
^ = ricochet

position after white-24
http://i39.tinypic.com/1ooq37.gif


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 23rd, 2009, 2:00am
position after white-25
http://www.freeimagehosting.net/uploads/2c3d2aaeb8.gif
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
25. Ef5-d6/*e8

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
Ec10xb9/E*b9-c8/*c8-d6
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 23rd, 2009, 5:48am
position after white-26
http://i41.tinypic.com/2v8pwgp.gif
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
25. Ef5-d6/*e8
26. Ed8xg7

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
Ec10xb9/E*b9-c8/*c8-d6
Hc12-d10-e8/H*e8-g7
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 23rd, 2009, 10:55pm
position after white-27
http://i43.tinypic.com/29mpp2t.gif
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
25. Ef5-d6/*e8
26. Ed8xg7
27. Ed6xg7

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
Ec10xb9/E*b9-c8/*c8-d6
Hc12-d10-e8/H*e8-g7
Hg3xg7/Ec8-d7
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 24th, 2009, 7:56am
position after white-28
http://i44.tinypic.com/2jg04ch.gif
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
25. Ef5-d6/*e8
26. Ed8xg7
27. Ed6xg7
28. Ef3-f5/Kg2-g3

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
Ec10xb9/E*b9-c8/*c8-d6
Hc12-d10-e8/H*e8-g7
Hg3xg7/Ec8-d7
Lh4-f5xg7/Ed7-d6
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 24th, 2009, 11:58pm
position after black-28
http://i44.tinypic.com/fcmt1j.gif
1. Hf4-e6-f8/Lg2-f4
2. Hf8-g10/b4-c6/Lf4-g6
3. Hc6-a7-c8/Ed3-e4
4. Ee4-e7
5. Hc8-e9/H*e9-g8/*gh8
6. Ee7-g9/Hh4-i6
7. Lg6-h8/*h8-i10/Hg10-h12
8. Lh8-i10/*i10-h12-i13
9. Lc2-d8
10. Hh12-f11-d10/*c9
11. Hg8-e9-d11/Li10-g11
12. Ld8-b7/*b7-c9/Hd11xc9
13. Hd4-f5-d6-c8
14. Eh3-f5/*f5-g3
15. Hi6-g5-i4/Ke1-g2
16. Hi4-h2/*h2-g2^b7-a9
17. Lg11-e10-c9-a10
18. Lb7-a9/L*a9-b11/*b11-a13
19. Lb11-b13/La10-b12
20. Lb12-a13/L*a13-b14/*b14-a16
21. Lb14-a16/L*a16-c15/*c15-a14
22. Hd10-e12-c13/Hc8-d10
23. Eg9-d9
24. Ed9-d8/*d8-b9/Hd10xb9
25. Ef5-d6/*e8
26. Ed8xg7
27. Ed6xg7
28. Ef3-f5/Kg2-g3
29. white resigns

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hd14-c12/Ed15-d14-e13
Hc12-d10/Hb14-c12/Ee13-e12
Ee12-d11/Lc16-d14-e12
Hf14-f10/Hh14-g12
Hg12-h10/Lg16-g12
Hf10-g7/Hd10-f9
Eh15-i12
Ei12-i13/*i13-g12-e11
Lg12-f10/Hc12-e11/*e11-d10
Ed11-c9/*c9-b7
Hh10-f11/Eb15-c13
Lf10-d9xc9/*c9-d9
Lc9-d9/L*d9-e7/*e7-f5
Hg7-h5-g3/*g3-h2
Le7-g6-h4/Hf11-e9
Ec13-b12-a11/Le12-c11
Ea11-b10/Hf9-d8-b9
He11-c12/Ef15-d15
Ed15-c15/Eb10-a11/Lc11-d13
Ke17-d17/Ec15-b16/Ld13-c14
Eb16-b15/Ea11-b12/Ei13-h13
Eb15-a14/*a14-b12-c10
Eb12-c10/*c10-d8
Ec10xb9/E*b9-c8/*c8-d6
Hc12-d10-e8/H*e8-g7
Hg3xg7/Ec8-d7
Lh4-f5xg7/Ed7-d6
*g7-f5/Lg7xf5-f4
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Congrats Adanac, on winning the first ever recorded game of HanniBall ;D !

On a personal note

on 03/16/09 at 08:11:28, Ciribot wrote:
I cannot see how one can simply look at a board, create a game, and never revise it. With or without some gift for board game making.

That's why I feel priviliged that HanniBal 'happened'. And I didn't 'look at a board'. I looked at Jeson Mor and my mind wrapped itself around a kind of 'advanced' Jeson Mor with a 'grab-the-treasure-and-run' theme. I am familiar with that 'wrapping' process - that's what the essay is in part about. It took over unexpectedly and uninvitedly. There was nothing deliberate about it and it left me somewhat surprised at the outcome, because mechanisms employing chess type pieces usually aren't all that 'organic'. And in my mind it feels like an organism or a certain spirit taking shape. The pieces and the unusual capturing mechanism came first, the board and the actual numbers came last. This is how it happens, and I can't change it. Neither can I decide to 'invent another game', and nor do I want to.


on 03/08/09 at 18:30:08, Fritzlein wrote:
On the other hand, Freeling has so many acute insights into why rules make a game good or bad that I can't quite dismiss his claim to supernatural powers. Just because I can't judge a game from its rules (and just because I have read a ton of trash from self-styled experts trying to judge a game based on its rules) doesn't mean that it is wholly impossible.  Given that Freeling will not profit monetarily if we believe him or suffer if we disbelieve, I am convinced that his motive is exactly what he says it is: he wants to leave his mark on the world by sharing what he knows.

You're right, can't very well deny that, except that I haven't much 'knowledge' to share. For one thing: I can't explain what happens during the 'autoshaping' process. I don't know where the pieces of HanniBall came from, but there was never an alternative because they 'fitted' the organism. The unusual capturing mechanism fell into place almost at the same time, without any deliberation.

I have always trusted the systems that evolved 'of their own accord', so I implicitly trust HanniBall. That's my prerogative, and I don't expect anyone to follow suit. For me the first 'serious' game revealed exactly what I expected in terms of behaviour, despite the fact that playing any new game feels like riding a bike for the first time. My judgement is inductive and therefore of little value to the objective observer.

However, the same objective observer has seen a game that evolved in my head over the course of two days slip into it's final shape with, barring some details, only two modifications.

I want to thank JDB again for the generalization of the 'ball on the keeper' rule. That fits perfectly.

I want to thank Anadac again for bypassing my lame suggestions to solve the obstruction problem, and getting right to the core of it. It underlines my feeling that if the system is sound (this is not to be taken for granted, nor will it, hopefully) the rule will be there. And Adanac had no trouble finding it.

On a general note
Barring platitudes as 'pieces having to cooperate', I'm still very much in the dark about strategy.

The first thing to notice is the risk of having the ball in possession at the end of one's turn, in a field full of players (unless a player got his bases covered in terms of exchanges).
In the early stages the ball therefore is mostly kept 'afloat', which means that it has a tendency to go around rather fast.
In our game. on white 16 the ball was on h2, four moves later it was on a16, admittedly with a ricochet involved, but then, I got the feeling that ricochets will be part of defensive strategy quite often.

With the keeper on d17 and an elephant on b16, the opponent cannot leave a ball next to the elephant, because it can take possesion, return to b16 and ricochet off the keeper to midfield. It's just an example of the general idea of putting the keeper on the correct ricochet distance of a defender.

In the later stages, things change. A player who keeps the ball in possession, moves both the piece and the ball, doing in one move what in the earlier stages would take two. So when material has dwindled beyond a certain density, a player 'running with the ball' becomes an increasingly important factor: you'll have to stop the piece before it slaloms through the defense. See the end of my game against Adanac.

My opionions don't matter. The verdict on HanniBall is open. Next weekend it will be available on Zillions so many can put it to the test. And I hope many do and comment on their findings.

Enjoy  :)

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Apr 25th, 2009, 7:52am
Thanks, Christian, for posting the moves to your game with diagrams so that it was easy to follow to the dramatic finish.

The increasing tempo you describe sounds similar to what happens in Arimaa and shogi: the more captures have happened, the more the position becomes razor-sharp.  I didn't anticipate the consequences of being able to run with the ball.  If HanniBall is sharp enough with only 3 actions per turn, then 4 actions per turn seems likely to make the game worse.  But 4 actions per turn is unnecessary only if 3 actions per turn is sharp enough in the opening as well as the endgame.

I'm so enmeshed in Arimaa that I'm unlikely to be play-testing HanniBall, but I hope someone else tests it because I am curious about the result.  When strategy is better understood, will the gameplay look anything like it did in this game?  (For Arimaa the answer was no...)

Thanks for sharing your latest game with the Arimaa community first.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 25th, 2009, 8:18am

on 04/25/09 at 07:52:11, Fritzlein wrote:
When strategy is better understood, will the gameplay look anything like it did in this game?  (For Arimaa the answer was no...)

Fair chance it will not. I remember seeing some very early Havannah games years later. It didn't resemble 'Havannah' very much. This probably holds for any strategy game.
On the other hand, HanniBall may lean more towards a 'tactical' game, where strategy remains fairly obscure. Let's therefore say I hope it didn't look too much like hypothetical future games.



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 25th, 2009, 8:41am
Technically, I recorded my final move incorrectly as I meant to play:

28. Ef3-f5/Kg2-g3   *g7-f5/Lg7xf5/L*f5-f4  (oops  :-[ )

In any event, it was a lot of fun to try out a new game that combines strategy and tactics in original ways.  

Strengths

1.      With a cluster of slow-moving, slow-shooting pieces on a large field, I had expected the action would be slow.   But my game against Christian was surprisingly fast-paced with frequent ball movement and momentum shifts.

2.      Playing a game that blends soccer, chess & even arimaa themes is quite fun!  While a 4-step variant would make HaniBall more arimaa-like  ;), the 3-step variant has an amazing side benefit...

3.      I completely overlooked this when I first read the rules, but the 3-step version of HaniBall (the version used in our e-mail game) has a brilliant feature that I never would have expected from such a tactical game:  as long as both players are careful not to blunder a piece away, virtually all trades are 1-for-1.  This unique concept implies that:

(a)      This would be an excellent anti-computer game because the human can focus on strategy without worrying too much about tactical blunders.

(b)      Beginners can have fun playing against experts.   As long as the new player learns some basic lessons about positioning & mutual protection, the material should always be fairly balanced.  This is in sharp contrast to virtually every other tactical game where a beginner will always fall behind in material very early in the game.

(c)      Games are most often decided by strategy rather than unfortunate blunders.

Weaknesses

There are 2 weaknesses, but I’m optimistic that both can be solved quite easily.

1.      The lions are far too powerful relative to the other pieces.  While an attack with only a few horses and/or elephants is very easy to stop, lions are quite dangerous.  However, lions are also extremely powerful defenders covering a full radius of 5 squares plus about half the squares 6 steps away.  One player might choose to keep both lions back leading to…

2.      A defensive player can create an iron curtain by keeping 2 lions back, supported by a few other defenders.  My game against Christian was very offence-focused because we both used lions on the attack.  I’ve tested a few scenarios and it seems impossible to score against a talented and determined defender that keeps both lions back.  Obviously, if perfect defensive play makes it impossible to score then this will be a fatal weakness in the design.  Whether this is true or not will soon be revealed on zillions.

Possible Solutions
I think HaniBall is a potentially great game that needs only a few minor tweaks to overcome the impossibility of scoring against a perfect defender:

1.      Add extra kicking power to horses and elephants.  This simultaneously solves both of the weaknesses mentioned above.  Possibilities include:
(a)      Horses can shoot in any of the eight directions at a distance of 1, 2 or 3 squares.
(b)      Elephants can shoot in an L pattern of 2-1 or 3-2 or 4-3 (i.e. the last option would be 4 square in one direction and 3 in the other).
(c)      Lions would still kick like either a chess king or knight (no change from the current rules).  I believe that a Lion would still be the strongest piece due to its fast and flexible movement.

2.      If option #1 doesn’t work, perhaps just make pieces stronger in the attacking zone than the defending zone.  This isn’t realistic, however, and I’d much prefer the previous suggestion.

3.      Adding a second ball would greatly increase the offensive chances, but it would completely destroy the soccer theme.  Again, I’d much prefer the first suggestion.

If someone can demonstrate that it *is* possible to score against a perfect defender then I suppose my suggestions are pointless.  But if I’m right, then this game needs a bit of a fix.  I’m confident that HaniBall can easily become a classic strategy game with 1 or 2 very minor rule changes.   :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Apr 25th, 2009, 11:01am

on 04/25/09 at 08:41:10, Adanac wrote:
A defensive player can create an iron curtain by keeping 2 lions back, supported by a few other defenders.  [...]  Obviously, if perfect defensive play makes it impossible to score then this will be a fatal weakness in the design.


on 04/14/09 at 12:37:34, christianF wrote:
[...]you worry too much ;) . It's hard to avoid excanges in close contact. 'Merely' avoiding capture isn't all that easy. Material dwindles.

So, we have diametrically competing claims.

I demand a rematch under the condition that Adanac can't win by scoring goal, he can only win by preventing goal for 100 moves.  Christian doesn't have to worry about defending; he can move up all his pieces except the keeper in an effort to score.  The stakes are whether or not the HanniBall rules as written are fatally flawed.  The outcome will also indirectly support or undermine Christian's claim that he can see from the rules how a game will play.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Tuks on Apr 25th, 2009, 11:20am
that sounds like a good way of finding out if its a viable flaw, hopefully the attacker wins!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 25th, 2009, 11:22am

on 04/25/09 at 11:01:49, Fritzlein wrote:
So, we have diametrically competing claims.

I demand a rematch under the condition that Adanac can't win by scoring goal, he can only win by preventing goal for 100 moves.  Christian doesn't have to worry about defending; he can move up all his pieces except the keeper in an effort to score.  The stakes are whether or not the HanniBall rules as written are fatally flawed.  The outcome will also indirectly support or undermine Christian's claim that he can see from the rules how a game will play.

That seems like a correct assessment and an interesting proposition. I hope Adanac will agree - I'm all in for it :) .


on 04/25/09 at 08:41:10, Adanac wrote:
The lions are far too powerful relative to the other pieces.  While an attack with only a few horses and/or elephants is very easy to stop, lions are quite dangerous.  However, lions are also extremely powerful defenders covering a full radius of 5 squares plus about half the squares 6 steps away.


In the very early days of modern Chess, when the queen was just introduced, it was sometimes called the 'mad queen' because its power seemed so unbridled within the context of the still existing Shatransj community.

Nowadays no player would consider the queen outside the bounds of balance. It's not easy to establish at face value whether a piece is too strong.

HanniBall is not Chess however. Chess dwells in the highest realms of strategy, while HanniBall is a recreational pastime with no higher ambitions than intelligent fun. There's no 'strategical framework' that keeps a piece within bounds.
So I really can't tell - my feeling is that the pieces and their division are balanced, but that's only due to my implicit trust in the process of its genesis. The questions Adanac raises however, are very legitimate.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 25th, 2009, 9:10pm

on 04/25/09 at 11:01:49, Fritzlein wrote:
So, we have diametrically competing claims.

I demand a rematch under the condition that Adanac can't win by scoring goal, he can only win by preventing goal for 100 moves.  Christian doesn't have to worry about defending; he can move up all his pieces except the keeper in an effort to score.  

I'll accept against all challengers.  I hope a few people take a shot at it (I have an Excel spreadsheet with a formatted HaniBall board if that helps).  

To speed things up, how about this...we'll fast-forward to the endgame and the game ends after:
1.  100 moves
2.  admission that it's impossible to score
3.  a goal -->  :-[  :o  :-[

Choose one of the following scenarios (or multiple scenarios if anyone wishes) and try to score on me:

1.  White: E-E on d2 & f2  // Black:  E-E on d10 & f10  
2.  White: L on e2  // Black:  E-E on d10 & f10
3.  White: L on e2 // Black:  H-H on d10 & f10
4.  White: L-L on d2 & f2  //  Black:  L-L on d10 & f10
5.  White: E-H-E on c2-e2-g2 // Black:   E-H-E on c10-e10-g10
6.  White: H-E-L on c2-e2-g2 //  Black:  H-E-L on c10-e10-g10
7.  White: E-E-E on c2-e2-g2 //  Black:  H-H-H on c10-e10-g10
8.  White: L-E-L on c2-e2-g2 //  Black:  H-H-E-H-H on a10-c10-e10-g10-i10
9.  White: L-H-L on c2-e2-g2 // Black:  E-E-E-E on a10-c10-g10-i10
10.White:  E-H-L-H-E on a2-c2-e2-g2-i2 //  Black:  E-H-L-H-E on a10-c10-e10-g10-i10

Rules
- The ball begins on e9 and the White Keeper on e1 in every scenario.
- I will never advance any of my pieces beyond the 9th row.
- I will play with the white pieces in every game.
- Otherwise, all the standard 3-step HaniBall rules apply, including the new 6 square rule for Keeper shots & ricochets.


Quote:
The stakes are whether or not the HanniBall rules as written are fatally flawed.  The outcome will also indirectly support or undermine Christian's claim that he can see from the rules how a game will play.

For the record, this isn’t my intent.  I think HaniBall has tremendous potential and I’m very curious as to whether it’s possible to score in these 10 scenarios.  If the game needs a only minor rule tweak to make it work, I won't lose any sleep over it  ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 26th, 2009, 2:16am

on 04/25/09 at 21:10:02, Adanac wrote:
I think HaniBall has tremendous potential and I’m very curious as to whether it’s possible to score in these 10 scenarios.  If the game needs a only minor rule tweak to make it work, I won't lose any sleep over it  ;)

Neither will I, the game is after all more important than my ego, and I'm as curious as you are. I'll have to take a closer look at the scenarios first though.

I'm flattered by the 'tremendous potential', but the question is 'as what'? On our homepage is stated:

Quote:
"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 obscure, like Othello."

These 'advantageous sub-goals' ... Chess is full of them. But HanniBall must do without a strategical framework such as is for instance provided by pawns. The only permanent sub-goal would be winning a piece, but barring that, the game is far more volatile in that it is difficult to imagine any more or less permanent sub-goal. Like a soccer match really.

So I would label HanniBall a tactical game with a 'fairly obscure' strategy. This may have some commercial potential (whishful thinking, more likely) but for me it remains a possible intelligent recreational pastime rather than a 'strategy game'. No value judgement implied.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 26th, 2009, 4:25am

on 04/25/09 at 21:10:02, Adanac wrote:
Choose one of the following scenarios (or multiple scenarios if anyone wishes) and try to score on me:

1.  White: E-E on d2 & f2  // Black:  E-E on d10 & f10  
2.  White: L on e2  // Black:  E-E on d10 & f10
3.  White: L on e2 // Black:  H-H on d10 & f10
4.  ...

Adanac, I've looked at the first couple (I'd add White: L on e2 // Black: H on d10, E on f10) but wouldn't it be better to have info on one-on-one endgames first? Here's a table I tend to fill. The defender (White) using the Keeper and a piece. The attacker (Black) using only a piece and starting with the ball from the center spot.
Say + if the attacker wins, = if it's a draw.

Attacker Defender result
1. Elephant Elephant
=
2. Horse Horse
?
3. Horse Elephant
?
4. Elephant Horse
?
5. Lion Lion
?

Title: Cancelling a rule / Zillions game available!
Post by christianF on Apr 26th, 2009, 7:41am
I've had a look at an attacking Horse against a defending Elephant and the outcome leads me to the conclusion that there slipped a superfluous rule into the game.

Guilty as charged! :-[

The rule that players are not allowed in the goals appears to needlessly favor the defender.
So I've omitted it.
It boils down to cancelling one sentence. The rule slipped in on a misplaced sense of esthetics.

It's omission is in line with a point already made by the more sceptical section of the forum, by Fritzlein for instance, that a defensive strategy may lead to problems.

On top of that, Ed just called with the announcement of the first moves made by Zillions.
Zillions, according to Ed's first impression, favors a defensive strategy as well*. It's to soon to say to which extend, because dwindling material makes a game more 'decision prone', but there's no reason for an explicit rule that favors defensive play, in particular if the game is better off without it.

The omission of the rule implies that all players now may be anywhere on the field, including the goals. Nothing changes with regard to a ball in the goal, with or without a player of whatever side: the game ends in a win for the other Keeper's side. A piece other than the Keeper in the own goal has no great defensive potential, because a ball shot at it lands in the goal just the same, and the opponent wins. It at most can prevent an attacking piece from entering the goal, ball and all.

Important
The cancelling of the rule will certainly have consequences for the scenarios that Adanac suggests to test defensive strategies.
More precisely: it will turn out to favor the attacker!

Now back to the one-on-ones. The attackers main concern is of course to avoid being captured while approaching the goal:
Attacker Defender result
1. Elephant Elephant
draw
2. Horse Horse
?
3. Horse Elephant
win
4. Elephant Horse
?
5. Lion Lion
?

* The Zillions game is available in a bèta-0.3 version, albeit without implementation of the obstruction rule, but also already without the rule I omitted above.

download HanniBall (beta 0.3) from the rules page (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22#zillions)
download HanniBall (beta 0.3) directly (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)

Meanwhile Ed has reason to reconsider the degree to which to program 'plays defensively' - if given half a chance it does indeed attack.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Apr 26th, 2009, 11:37am

on 04/26/09 at 04:25:45, christianF wrote:
Attacker Defender result
1. Elephant Elephant
=
2. Horse Horse
+
3. Horse Elephant
=
4. Elephant Horse
=
5. Lion Lion
=


IMPORTANT NOTE:  I examined these scenarios before seeing Christian's new rule regarding nets.  The key difference is that Horses can now win against Elephants and Horse versus Horse is much easier.  Otherwise, the same analysis applies.

Horse vs. Elephant

Attacker: Black Horse & ball on e10
Defender:  White Elephant on e2

With perfect play I believe this is a draw.  A ball-carrying horse is a threat to score anywhere from rows 2-6.  However, if the white elephant steps up to e3 it benefits from Keeper protection while covering all 35 squares in b2:h6.  The black horse will need to score between a2:a6 or i2:i6.

1.  Ee2-e3    H*e10-a5
2.  Ke1-d2    H*a5-c4-a3
3.  Kd2-c2/Ee3-c4  Draw  

In this position, the horse flees with the ball and the elephant returns to e3.  The key is that the elephant did not de-centralize until required.  It would have been a blunder to make an unnecessary early decentralization:

1.  Ee2-e3    H*e10-a5
2.  Ke1-d2/E3-c4   H*a5-g4  Goal-in-one

Elephant vs. Horse

Attacker: Black Elephant & ball on e10
Defender:  White Horse on e2

A defending horse can capture a ball-carrying attack over the vast majority of squares over a 5 square radius.  However, there are key squares that a horse cannot reach within its 3 step allotment:

2-2  (two steps in one direction, two in the other)
4-4
5-1
5-3

So, with a defending horse on b8, for example, an attacker should carry the ball to a square such as d6 or f4.

I think the ideal square for a defending horse is e5.  From that square, the key weak squares are c3, g3, c7 and g7.  However, the keeper is protecting c3 and g3 leaving very little room for infiltration.  That forces the Elephant to infiltrate via c7 or g7 and then later kick the ball into the corner upon further advancement.  I cannot find a forced win for the attacker but I haven’t examined all possibilities yet.

1.  He2-e5    Ee10-g7
2.  Ke1-g3    *g7-h5/Eg7-g5
3.  He5-g4

At this point, I tried various strategies for the horse to try to score but could find anything.  This looks like a draw to me, but I’m not 100% sure.

Lion vs. Lion
Attacker: Black Lion & ball on e10
Defender:  White Lion on e2

This is a curious stalemate as neither piece can end the turn with possession nor kick the ball within 1 move of the opposing lion, lest it be captured.  The best I can come up with here is a perpetual dance in which the lions can trade roles as attacker and defender but neither side makes any real progress.

1.  Le2-e4   L*e10-c6/*c6-a5
2.  Le4-c3   Lc6-a5/L*a5-b3/*b3-a3
3.  Lc3-a3/*a3-b5  Lb3-b5/*b5-c5
4.  La3-c5/*c5-d7  Lb5-d7/*d7-e5
Draw

Horse vs. Horse

Attacker: Black Horse & ball on e10
Defender:  White Horse on e2

This is the toughest scenario.  An attacking horse can drive a defending horse absolutely crazy by constantly kicking the ball one orthogonal space beside the defending horse and then setting up to repeat the process on the next move.  Or sometimes it can just pick up the ball and move 2 diagonal steps from the defender.   Note that neither horse can capture the other unless one carelessly hold onto the ball on the 3rd step.

1.  He2-e5   H*e10-c7
2.  Ke1-c3   H*c7-d5/*d5-e6/Hd5-f4
3.  Kc3-e3   Hf4-e6/*e6-d5/He6-c7
4.  He5-e4    Hc7-d5/H*d5-c6
5.  Ke3-c2/He4-e2   H*c6-g4   Goal-in-one

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 26th, 2009, 12:08pm

on 04/26/09 at 11:37:09, Adanac wrote:
I examined these scenarios before seeing Christian's new rule regarding nets. The key difference is that Horses can now win against Elephants and Horse versus Horse is much easier. Otherwise, the same analysis applies.

Taking your much appreciated analysis into account the preliminary result is:
Attacker Defender result
1. Elephant Elephant
draw
2. Horse Horse
win
3. Horse Elephant
win
4. Elephant Horse
?
5. Lion Lion
draw

Thanks for all the work :) My mind is poorly wired for deduction :-/

Note: The Zillions game is available in a bèta-0.3 version.
(Implemented by Ed van Zon)
download HanniBall (beta 0.3) from the rules page (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22#zillions)
download HanniBall (beta 0.3) directly (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 27th, 2009, 2:20am
I'm a poor analyst, but here's how far I came with the Elephant versus Horse:

http://i42.tinypic.com/2yphqhv.gif
diagram 1
It's not too difficult to get the ball to h2 and the Elephant next to it, say h3.
It's also clear that the Keeper on f1 and the Horse on g2 are the only defense.

http://i43.tinypic.com/2urpekp.gif
diagram 2-1
If Black moves ... Eh32/E*h2i4, both the Keeper and the Horse are pinned.

http://i39.tinypic.com/2ljjblh.gif
diagram 3-1
If the Horse moves, it must end on h3 to prevent the Elephant from reaching g2 with the ball in two steps, and score. However this triggers ... E*i4f5 and Black can score next move.

So white can't move either piece, but then, he doesn't have to, does he?
A player may make up to 3 'moves' per turn, which up to now included 'zero moves'.
Of course this endgame probably isn't the most frequent to appear, and I don't consider it a big problem that its outcome hinges on the possibility of passing. However ...

Guilty as charged, again :-[
However, it may be indicative of a more general problem concerning passing on one's turn. I have therefore changed the move rule to "On his turn a player is allowed to make up to 3 (4, 1-6) moves, making at least one change".

Taking this change of the move rule into account the preliminary result of the one-on-one endgames is:
Attacker Defender result
1. Elephant Elephant
draw
2. Horse Horse
win
3. Horse Elephant
win
4. Elephant Horse
win
5. Lion Lion
draw

The next update of HanniBall for Zillions (beta 0.3 download) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip) will have the rule implemented.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 28th, 2009, 9:23am
To revert to what this was all about, here's the content of my original mail to Ed van Zon, Arty Sandler and Benedikt Rosenau, sent April 7:

Quote:
Hoi Ed, Hi Arty, Benedict,

So this is what I dreamed up yesterday evening and this evening. No tries, straight from the mind.

HANNIBALL (board attached)

Knights move as in Chess, but cannot jump, so if both squares in between are occupied, they can't get to a target square.
Elephants move like the king in Chess.
Lions combine the above.

Knights kick the ball using the king's move.
Elephants kick the ball using the knight's move - here a jump.
Lions combine the above.

The goalkeeper moves as a knight (no jump) or queen, but is restricted to the goal and the goal area. It kicks a ball up to 5 squares straight or diagonal.

A turn consists of up to 3 moves distributed over pieces (whether or not carrying the ball) or kicking the ball (to any square, vacant or occupied by either). Moves may be with different pieces or the same.
A piece with the ball can also choose to move and leave the ball behind.

If on a player's turn, an opponent's piece has the ball, then this piece can be captured chesswise and the captured piece is removed, while the captor gets the ball. It is permitted to kick the ball to an opponent and next capture the piece.

If the goalkeeper gets a ball kicked to it by an opponent's piece, then the ball ricochets off up to five squares in a straight line, direction and distance being decided by the keeper.

If the goalkeeper gets a ball kicked to it by afriendly piece, then the ball is catched normally, and the keeper can, if moves are left, kick it or move with it (or without it).

The game starts with a swap. One player makes up to three moves, the other chooses which side he'll play.

Result of an hour's listening to whispering :)

cheers, christian


So how much has changed since?

major
1. The 'ball to the keeper' rule has been generalized, courtesy of JDB, to apply to both keepers the same way.
2. Obstruction has been recognized as possible, and defined by Adanac, and it has been made a 'red card' offense.
3. There are now 3 variants, depending on the number of moves allowed per turn - this is not a rule change however.

minor
1. Pieces other than the Keeper have temporarily been banned from the goal. This restriction has been lifted again.
2. After any turn, there must be at least one change in the position.
3. The Keepers shot & ricochet range was extended from 5 to 6 squares.

That was all. For now we haven't seen "a whole lot of rule adaptions induced by playtesting" as was the prediction of some of the more sceptical posters.
Now I'm curious about the game's behaviour because my prediction was and is that it will behave properly. And it is this prediction that is at stake here.

So, did anyone try the Zillions Game? (download HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)

P.S. Maybe it is worth noting that HanniBall has an unusual theme and unusual mechanics. It's not as easy to predict it's behaviour as, say, Grand Chess, which is basically Chess, or Dameo, which builds on an established and well tested framework. So I'm not betting on the safe side with this one.

Nor is it in the same league (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena) as Grand Chess and Dameo. A game idea develops on its own terms, and HanniBall turned out to be a tactical game with a loose and largely unknown strategical framework, that might solidify somewhat over time, if indeed it is played enough for that, but hardly enough to qualify as a 'strategy game' by mindsports (http://mindsports.nl/) standards (see point 4 of the 'acknowledgement').


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 3:04am
You know the Zillions Machine:
"It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear, and it absolutely will not stop. Ever. Until you are dead."

So I'm only too glad I'm facing a bèta version here. No swap. It's by mail, because I'm on a mac.
It gets 45 sec per turn (actually 15 per move, and it works up to seven ply each time).
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-1
http://i42.tinypic.com/1s19vl.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 3:41am
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-2
http://i44.tinypic.com/2uqizx5.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 5:51am
Zillions prefers defensive play, which is good inasfar as the merits thereof were a discussion point.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-3
http://i44.tinypic.com/rgwcpd.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 6:53am
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-4
http://i41.tinypic.com/2cn9kjd.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 7:54am
The little sneak is stealing my ideas >:( Time to keep an eye on every piece that can get the ball from the Keeper, in particular my own. Meanwhile I'll try 'coordinated progress'.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-5
http://i42.tinypic.com/v4qjgi.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 8:36am
I could capture the Horse of course, but I don't like the exchange. My provisional plan is to have a strong midfield first.

For the record: I spotted a possible problem reminiscent of actual soccer: prolongued possession of the ball by the Keeper should not be allowed.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-6
http://i40.tinypic.com/2iblxz9.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 9:45am
To and fro with the ball. So much for bot coordination.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-7
http://i42.tinypic.com/15wf9tg.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 10:49am
So I got the midfield covered :P
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-8
http://i44.tinypic.com/jsbxqb.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 30th, 2009, 12:25pm
I said the game would behave properly, I'm not sure about the program ;)
Its Lion is now under direct threat (and not merely an exchange), so it may be time to get rid of the ball.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-9
http://i42.tinypic.com/se0l5k.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 1st, 2009, 12:00am
It's digging in - this is where a mix of Elephants and Horses comes in handy.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-10
http://i39.tinypic.com/ayav14.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6
10. La6-c5/Lc5-a6/Hd7-c5

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10
Ec10-c8/Ld14/c12

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 1st, 2009, 2:03am
After *c5, H*e4, white can ricochet off the Keeper, so I'll have to cover the right flank to a degree.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-11
http://i42.tinypic.com/27xpb89.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6
10. La6-c5/Lc5-a6/Hd7-c5
11. Lg2-h4/L*a6-a4

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10
Ec10-c8/Ld14/c12
Lc12-f9/Ld9-d8

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 1st, 2009, 2:51am
Now Kec3 *a4-c3^d4 leaves the Horse on d4 open to capture, but the result is immediate loss.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-12
http://i42.tinypic.com/qxqqko.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6
10. La6-c5/Lc5-a6/Hd7-c5
11. Lg2-h4/L*a6-a4
12. Ed3-e4/Hb8-c6/Hg6-f8

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10
Ec10-c8/Ld14/c12
Lc12-f9/Ld9-d8
He6-d4/Ld8-e6/Lf9-d8

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 1st, 2009, 4:10am
White 13 is effectively a pass, but the 'change required' rule isn't yet implemented, so for now we'll have to accept the 'move'. But it is rather stupid to hold on to the ball because the Lion can be captured now.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-13
http://i42.tinypic.com/r29ohj.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6
10. La6-c5/Lc5-a6/Hd7-c5
11. Lg2-h4/L*a6-a4
12. Ed3-e4/Hb8-c6/Hg6-f8
13. L*a4-b6/*b6-a4/Lb6-a4
(effectively a pass)

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10
Ec10-c8/Ld14/c12
Lc12-f9/Ld9-d8
He6-d4/Ld8-e6/Lf9-d8
Hc4xa4


^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 1st, 2009, 4:55am
The program behaved less than properly ;) . As for the game, the Keeper should not be able to hold the ball indefinitely, because of its range - an attacker would be forced to cover the midfield while the ball isn't actually 'in play'. I'll think of a fix there.
Other than that I'm not entirely sure how to interpret this game. It ended in 14 moves, but against a generic bot of doubtful qualities, at least in a game with a tree density as high as HanniBall.
If someone argues that such a result means twiddlytwit, I'd have to agree.

To know how the game will behave eventually, many games will have to be played. My prediction stands, as well as my qualification: a tactical game with a strategy that is at the same time 'fairly obvious', in terms of pieces having to work together, as 'fairly obscure', because the action has a 'shifting' local focus point in the ball, without having a more permanent strategical framework such as for instance the pawn structure in Chess.

But then, I never quite know what comes out if a game 'autoshapes'. I am happy to have been given an unexpected and unsought for opportunity to illustrate how it happens. To the sceptics: it's not a provocation, but if the truth means offending someone's lack of imagination ::) then so be it.
Zillions (bèta) - Christian
position after black-14
http://i41.tinypic.com/9ldi01.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hh4-f5/Hf4-g6/Hb4-d5
2. Hf5-f7/Hd4-c6
3. Hf7-e9/H*e9-c5
4. Lc2-d4/*c5-d4/L*d4-c4
5. Hc5-d7/*c4-e3/Ke1-e3
6. *e3-b6/Lc4-b6/*b6-c6
7. *c6-b6/Hd5-c7/*b6-c6
8. *c6-b6/Hc6-b8/L*b6-a6
9. L*a6-c5/Ef3-f4/L*c5-a6
10. La6-c5/Lc5-a6/Hd7-c5
11. Lg2-h4/L*a6-a4
12. Ed3-e4/Hb8-c6/Hg6-f8
13. L*a4-b6/*b6-a4/Lb6-a4
(effectively a pass)
14. Hc5xa4/Ee4-d4/H*a4-c3

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hb14-d13
Eh15-f13/Hd14-e12
Lg16-e11
Hf10-e8/He12-d10/Ed15-c14
Hf14-f10/Ec14-b13
Eb13-b10
Hd13-c10/Lc16-d14
Ef13-d11/Le11-d9
Hc10-e6/Ed11-c10
Ec10-c8/Ld14/c12
Lc12-f9/Ld9-d8
He6-d4/Ld8-e6/Lf9-d8
Hc4xa4

Le6-d5xc3/*c3-d1/goal!

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 3rd, 2009, 5:20am

on 05/01/09 at 04:55:57, christianF wrote:
The Keeper should not be able to hold the ball indefinitely, because of its range - an attacker would be forced to cover the midfield while the ball isn't actually 'in play'. I'll think of a fix there.

So I did, and the solution that presented itself was not to restrict the Keepers time with the ball explicitly.

On the contrary:

The Keeper combines the options of the 'Horse' and the queen in Chess, but may not leave the goal area (except for the goal itself). A Keeper in possesion of the ball, may not let go of it other than by shooting it (that is, he may not move and leave the ball behind). A Keeper shoots the ball up to six squares away, queenwise. Direction and distance are the player's choice, but the ball must land outside the goal area.

The darkblue parts are new.

Note that the rule feels in agreement with actual soccer, and the time restriction is implicit: a Keeper in possesion of the ball risks capture like any other piece, and 3 moves per turn opens ample opportunities to threaten it.

I've also made '3-moves per turn' the main variant and pushed the other two a bit further to the back.

christian freeling

PS. I'm playing the Zillions program again, this time with 10 minutes or more per move (half an hour or more per turn). The 'or more' is due to the fact that Ed must keep an eye on the timer himself: Zillions has no automatic timer above 3 minutes.
Nevertheless it needed only seven turns to lose its first piece.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 3rd, 2009, 6:45am
This time Zillions has 10+ min. per move (30+ min. per turn)
Links in the notation table go to the position after the black move.
The new Keeper rule is implemented, swap and obstruction not yet.

@ black-30: this is tricky, Zillions is winning a piece ... mea culpa!

Disregarding the fact that I'm an absolute beginner, I think it's clear that Zillions tends to blunder in positions with many pieces, as was to be expected, but improves as the number of pieces is diminishing, to the point of tricking an inexperienced humanoid out of a piece :) .

Meanwhile, in this game, none of the preperceived 'problems' materialized. Obstruction needed a formal definition and a formal procedure, but as an actual problem not even a shadow of it has emerged on the horizon.

That's not to say these problems might not emerge, although I don't feel they will. I trust the game to be what I said all along: an intelligent tactical game, and a nice and unexpected addition to my oeuvre, but not quite a 'mental sportsweapon'.


finished game ...
Christian - Zillions (bèta)
position after white-40
http://i44.tinypic.com/242y0i9.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hb4-d8/Hf4-e6
2. Hd8-e9/H*e9-f7
3. H*f7-d8/Hd4-c6/Ed3-c4
4. H*d8-b7/He6-d8/Ec4-c5
5. Hc6-e7/H*b7-a5/Lg2-f4
6. H*a5-d4/He7-g8
7. Ec5-b5/Ke1-c3/Lf4-g6
8. *d4-c4/Eb3xc4/E*c4-b3
9. Lc2xb3/Hg8-i9/Lg6-f8
10. Hd8-g9/Ef3-f4
11. Ef4-g5/Lb3-d7
12. Hh4-h8/Eg5-h6
13. Hd4-b3/*b3-c3^i9/Hh8-g10
14. H*i9-h7/*h7-g8/Lf8xg8
15. Eh6xg8/Ld7-f8
16. E*g8-i9/Hg9-h11
17. E*i9-i10/Lf8-h9/Hg10-h8
18. E*i10-h10/*h10-f9/Hh8xf9
19. Lh9-d9/Hb3-c5
20. Hh11-g13/Eh10-f12
21. Ld9-e11/Hh7-f8/Eh3-g4
22. Hf8-G10/Ef12-g14
23. Le11-f13/Hg10-e11/Eg14-f14
24. Ef14-f15/Lf13-b11
25. He11-b14/Lb11-b12
26. Lb12-b13/Hg13-f14
27. Ef15-e15/Hf14-d15/Hc5-d7
28. Lb13-f13/Hd15-f14
29. Hf14-d13/Hd7-d11
30. Eb5-c8
31. Ee15xb14
32. Hd13xa13
33. Hd11xa13
34. Ec8-c11
35. Eb14-b12/Kc16-c15
36. Lb13-f15/Eb11-c11
37. Lf15-b15/Ec11-c12
38. Ec12-b13/E*b13-b14/*b14-a16
39. Eb14-a16/E*a16-b16
40. Lb15xb16/L*b16-d15/*d15-e17 goal

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hb14-c12/Hd14-e11 (http://i41.tinypic.com/o6l8pk.gif)
Hh14-f13/He11-g10/Hf14-e12 (http://i44.tinypic.com/eg301.gif)
Hc12-d9/Hg10-e9 (http://i44.tinypic.com/1rbwgg.gif)
Hd9-c7/Hf13-e11/Hc7-e8 (http://i41.tinypic.com/6h8gwn.gif)
He8-c4/He12-c11 (http://i42.tinypic.com/11imjoo.gif)
Ke17-e16/Hc4-a3/He9-d7 (http://i42.tinypic.com/eil1n8.gif)
Ha3-c4/Lc16-d14/Hd7-e5 (http://i44.tinypic.com/34ph00z.gif)
He5xb3 (http://i41.tinypic.com/291n9tw.gif)
Ef15-h13/Hc11-e10 (http://i40.tinypic.com/72tanc.gif)
He10-d8/Lg16-f14/Ld14-b13 (http://i41.tinypic.com/105o8xs.gif)
Lf14-e13/Hd8-e6/He6-d8 (http://i41.tinypic.com/6igw0o.gif)
Lb13-c11/Hd8-b7/Le13-d11 (http://i44.tinypic.com/4sbaft.gif)
Hb7-d8/Ld11-g8 (http://i43.tinypic.com/mudil5.gif)
Hd8xg8 (http://i41.tinypic.com/ilddz6.gif)
Ed15-e14/Lc11-d10-d9 (http://i39.tinypic.com/osb9e9.gif)
Ld9-f10-g8-g7 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2repsgp.gif)
He11-g11/Lg7-f9 (http://i39.tinypic.com/11t8w79.gif)
Hg11xf9/H*f9-c12 (http://i43.tinypic.com/v4njvp.gif)
H*c12-d14/*d14-d15/Ke16-d15 (http://i43.tinypic.com/2vc7oyh.gif)
Eb15-c14/Hd14-f13/K*d15-f16 (http://i42.tinypic.com/n6qbrs.gif)
Hf13-d14/Ec14-e12 (http://i39.tinypic.com/hv6sk0.gif)
K*f16-c15/Ee12-d13 (http://i43.tinypic.com/e16beb.gif)
Eh13-e15 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2vdles5.gif)
Ee15-d15/Ee14-d16 (http://i42.tinypic.com/21cyonl.gif)
K*c15-c16/Ed16-c15/Hd14-b15 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2141hys.gif)
Ec15-b16/Ed15-c15/Ed13-d14 (http://i43.tinypic.com/18dq3d.gif)
K*c16-g16/Eh15-i14/*g16-i14 (http://i44.tinypic.com/mw2m2e.gif)
E*i14-h14/*h14-g16^b16/Ed14-d15 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2dax47d.gif)
Hb15-c13/E*b16-b15/Ed15-c14 (http://i41.tinypic.com/10ri7i9.gif)
E*b15-c16/*c16-b14/Ec15xb14 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2m7hfdi.gif)
Hc13-b11/Ec14xb14/E*b14-a13 (http://i43.tinypic.com/2nupuft.gif)
Ec16-b14/Hb11xa13 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2ihm0ix.gif)
Eb14xa13/Ea13-b14/Kg16-c16 (http://i44.tinypic.com/fd9gcw.gif)
Lg13-b13/Ec11-b11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/wmilmt.gif)
Eb12-a13/E*a13-a14/*a14-c15^g15 (http://i43.tinypic.com/dq6wpj.gif)
Kc15-e17-g15/*g15-a15 (http://i44.tinypic.com/30uxx88.gif)
Ea14-a15/*a15-b13/Ea15-a14 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2641gmq.gif)
Kg15-d17/Ea14-b13 (http://i44.tinypic.com/dw77np.gif)
Eb13xb16 (http://i42.tinypic.com/35m4msh.gif)
...

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 5th, 2009, 4:37am
Since Zillions is obviously no match, this game may be considered to be the first serious HanniBall game.
I've rejected to swap white's first move.
Links in the notation table go to the position after the corresponding move.

@ Black 9: overlooked the Horse on c10, now I'll have to do without a Keeper :o .

@ Black 11: my last move initially was E*f13-f12 which was stupid because the Horse on e9 can capture in two moves and thus win a piece. Adanac kindly allowed a redo (E*f13-g13).

It's the flipside of the medal. When inventing, my mind moves effortlessly, when playing it stumbles from one tactical oversight to the next, making it hard to do justice to any game, including my own.

The game, I'm glad to say, behaves as expected, and so, I'm sorry to add, does the inventor :-[ .

@ Black 27: White aims at the ricochet La87/L*a7b5/*b5c3^...
The horse was moved to b5 to prevent that, for the moment.
Should it be captured, the Lion on d8 can recapture in two moves and use the third to get rid of the ball, possibly even using a ricochet off the white Keeper.

@ Black 34: In terms of material I could capture 34 ... Hg9-h11/*h11-g11/Eh12xg11. White can recapture, but he cannot risk the second possible capture of the Horse on g10, because his Lion would remain in possesion of the ball and be captured in the rebound.
However, he can instead move 35. Lh9xg11/L*g11-f13/*f13-e15. And he would certainly do that because it's the point of moving the Elephant to d15 in the first place. Since I must manage without my Keeper, the capture of the Elephant on g11 at this (http://i40.tinypic.com/209t0t2.gif) point would actually lose the game.

@ Black 36: Here (http://i41.tinypic.com/30hylgn.gif) White has only the chosen (http://i39.tinypic.com/2n9xd1v.gif) option, Lh3, *i5 or the same with *i2 or *i3.
On the chosen option 37... Hg9-i5/*h5 seems also possible, but I'm a bit worried about 38. Lh35, *i7 because I can't reach the ball in one move there.

@ Black 39: Since my breakthrough @36 (http://i41.tinypic.com/30hylgn.gif) Adanac has had to defend very carefully, and now (http://i40.tinypic.com/2vccjyh.gif) he threatens to ricochet off to midfield.
Exchanging a Lion doesn't help, because the Lion on d5 recaptures in 2 and thus can still employ the same ricochet. So I'll have to 'bury the ball' and summon reinforcement. I'm curious how the game will handle the ensuing cornerfight ... ::) .

@ Black 40: White 40 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2jdgx88.gif) is a dirty trick  >:( and a pattern that should be kept in mind for cornerfights. I can't capture the Elepant because I would lose a Lion. Meanwhile the threat is to pick up the ball with it, return to h2 and ricochet off the Keeper. So I'm forced to retreat, politely but decisively.

@ Black 43: White 43 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2rge05j.gif) threatens to capture the Lion on h3 with the Elephant on g3.
The exchange of an Elephant on h6 looks disadvantageous for black because it would set off the g5 Lion towards the wide open spaces in front of my keeperless goal.

@ Black 48: My idea in the last couple of moves was to sneak up on the solitaire Elephant on d15 and try to trap it, but events take a somewhat unfavorable turn :-/ .

@ Black 49: Black resigns.

Adanac - Christian
position after white-49 - Black resigns.
http://i42.tinypic.com/10z48rm.gif
(download Zillions HanniBall bèta 0.3) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.3_Zillions.zip)
1. Hb4-a6/Hh4-i6/Eb3-c4 (http://i44.tinypic.com/52nrm0.gif)
2. Hd4-c6/Hf4-g6/Eh3-g4 (http://i40.tinypic.com/fo12iu.gif)
3. Ha6-c5/Hi6-g5/Ed3-e4 (http://i44.tinypic.com/259zp8h.gif)
4. Lg2-f4/Ec4-d5/Eg4-f5 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2lux4p.gif)
5. Hc5-d7/Hg5-f7/Lf4-e6 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2dtoxd.gif)
6. Hc6-c10/Hf7-e9 (http://i42.tinypic.com/25im88k.gif)
7. Hd7-d11/Le6-d8 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2jg08kh.gif)
8. Hc10-e11/He9-f11/Ld8-e10 (http://i40.tinypic.com/16ljixf.gif)
9. He11-c10/Le10-d10/Hf11-e9 (http://i42.tinypic.com/1pcv9t.gif)
10. Hc10xe15 (oops) (http://i42.tinypic.com/34y18he.gif)
11. Ef5-f8 (http://i44.tinypic.com/sazj85.gif)
12. Hd11xg13 (http://i43.tinypic.com/259fwpe.gif)
13. Ld10-e8/Hg6-h8/Ed5-d6 (http://i43.tinypic.com/f0zo76.gif)
14. Lxe9/L*e9-c10/*c10-a9 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2coh2sn.gif)
15. Ed6-b8/Lc10-b11 (http://i42.tinypic.com/zn0zrm.gif)
16. Eb8-a9/*a9-a13 (http://i42.tinypic.com/1fjyis.jpg)
17. Lb11-d12/Ef8-d10 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2en5b28.gif)
18. Ea9-b11/*b11-c13 (http://i43.tinypic.com/14j00lt.gif)
19. Lc2-d8 (http://i42.tinypic.com/bi5jtk.gif)
20. Eb11-b13/Ld8-c10 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2eldtgp.gif)
21. Lc10xd10/L*d10-e11/*e11-g10 (http://i44.tinypic.com/ohv3v7.gif)
22. Le11-g10/L*g10-f12/*f12-e14 (http://i44.tinypic.com/24kz09y.gif)
23. Lf12-g14/Eb13-c14/Ld12-e11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/dwcky9.gif)
24. Le11-c10/Ee4-d6 (http://i40.tinypic.com/70uj49.gif)
25. Ed6-b6/Ef3-e4 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2j1l840.gif)
26. Lc10-a8/*a8-a7 (http://i42.tinypic.com/16gwthd.gif)
27. Lg14-e10/Ke1-c3 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2j2gp34.gif)
28. Le10-a6 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2d2btop.gif)
29. Eb6-a7/E*a7-b8/*b8-a10 (http://i39.tinypic.com/zjts2w.gif)
30. Eb8-b9/Hh8-d8 (http://i43.tinypic.com/ekkh93.gif)
31. La6-d7/*d7-e9 (http://i41.tinypic.com/29opv00.gif)
32. Ld7-h9/Hd8-f9 (http://nl.tinypic.com/r/flfsxw/5)
33. Eb9-e10 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2cysa9x.gif)
34. Ee10-g11/Ec14-d15 (http://i40.tinypic.com/209t0t2.gif)
35. Lh9-h7/*h7f8 (http://i40.tinypic.com/209t0t2.gif)
36. Kc3-e3/La8-b6/Lh7-g6 (http://i40.tinypic.com/ifzsap.gif)
37. Lg6-h3/*h3-i5 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2n9xd1v.gif)
38. Ee4-g5/Lh3-g3 (http://i42.tinypic.com/n65guh.gif)
39. Lg3-g2/Ke3-f1/Lb6-d5 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2vccjyh.gif)
40. Eg5-h2 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2jdgx88.gif)
41. Eh2-g3/Ld5-g5 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2nqqi4w.gif)
42. Eg11-h8 (http://i40.tinypic.com/k4zdvm.gif)
43. Eh8-h6/Hf9-e7 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2rge05j.gif)
44. Eh6-i5/E*i5-h6/*h6-i8 (http://i41.tinypic.com/20fdjdx.gif)
45. He7-g8/Eh6-i7/Eg3-f4 (http://i40.tinypic.com/51c4cz.gif)
46. Ei7-i8/E*i8-i9/*i9-h11 (http://i44.tinypic.com/142znec.gif)
47. Ei9-h10/Lg5-e9 (http://i40.tinypic.com/6gvrz6.gif)
48. Le9-f12/*f12-g14 (http://i40.tinypic.com/f57n2a.gif)
49. Lf12-h14/*h14-g16 (http://i42.tinypic.com/10z48rm.gif)

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
Hh14-f10/Hd14-e12 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2duf41e.gif)
Hb14-c10 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2hygrv8.gif)
Hc10-e9/H*e9-d11/Ef15-e14 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2e6576c.gif)
Eb15-c12 (http://i41.tinypic.com/20fddnn.gif)
Ed15-d14/*d11-c12/Hd11-b10 (http://i44.tinypic.com/x26ono.gif)
*c12-d14/Lg16-f13 (http://i42.tinypic.com/v3lptx.gif)
Ee14-e13/*d14-f15/Ed14-d13 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2psfzt1.gif)
Ke17-f15/K*f15-e15/He12-c11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/5nnhig.gif)
Lf13-e11/Ed13-e12/Hb10-c8 (http://i43.tinypic.com/2hxx5yx.gif)
Lc16xe15/L*e15-f13/Lf13-g11 (http://i39.tinypic.com/30kafdi.gif)
Lg11-e10/Ee13-f13/E*f13-g13 (http://i39.tinypic.com/r2ryvc.gif)
EH15xg13/Le11-f11 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2a5lpgg.gif)
*G13-e9/Hc8xe9 (http://i43.tinypic.com/24czhxh.gif)
Hc11-b9/Ec12-b10 (http://i39.tinypic.com/10s9mjo.gif)
Ee12-c12/Hf10-d11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2qu3l1t.gif)
Eb10-a12/Hd11-b12 (http://i40.tinypic.com/16c6u0m.jpg)
Le10-c11/Ea12-a13/*a13-b11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2n9hsmr.gif)
Lf11-e12-c13/*c13-a14 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2drv3nc.gif)
Ea13-a14/E*a14-b14/Hb12-c14 (http://i43.tinypic.com/14t0ky1.gif)
*b14-d10/Hb9xd10 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2iuc6dw.gif)
Lc13-e12/Hc14-e13/Eg13-h12 (http://i40.tinypic.com/3358tax.gif)
Ec12-d13/Eb14-c13/Le12-f13 (http://i44.tinypic.com/jqgkf4.gif)
Lf13-e14/*e14-a12 (http://i40.tinypic.com/jt40b6.gif)
Lc11-a12/L*a12-b10/*b10-a8 (http://i43.tinypic.com/2e0tnro.gif)
He13-c9/Le14-f12 (http://i42.tinypic.com/153bul0.gif)
Lf12-d8/Hf14-e12 (http://i41.tinypic.com/10msuoo.gif)
Hc9-b5 (http://i44.tinypic.com/34ex15w.gif)
Ld8-c7/He12-c8 (http://i39.tinypic.com/2ch6st1.gif)
Ec13-b12/Ed13-c11 (http://i43.tinypic.com/157hfmb.gif)
Lb10-a10/L*a10-b8/*b8-d7 (http://i44.tinypic.com/szijv4.gif)
Hc8-e9/H*e9-g10/*g10-h11 (http://i39.tinypic.com/jtoq4y.gif)
Hb5-g9 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2jtr2r.gif)
Lb8-g12 (http://i44.tinypic.com/55i4yb.gif)
Lg12-h11/L*h11-i9/*i9-h7 (http://i39.tinypic.com/335e2s6.gif)
Li9-f8/*f8-e6 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2cmt4if.gif)
Lc7-e6/L*e6-g5/*g5-h3 (http://i41.tinypic.com/30hylgn.gif)
Lg5-i4/Lf8-h4 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2j2ib1z.gif)
Li4-i5/L*i5-h3/*h3-i3 (http://i42.tinypic.com/et883t.gif)
Lh4-i3/*i3-i2/Hg9-h7 (http://i44.tinypic.com/5o6s6c.gif)
Li3-i2/L*i2-h4/*h4-i5 (http://i42.tinypic.com/29kopqp.gif)
Ec11-d10/Hg10-g6 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2v00o6s.gif)
Ed10-g7 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2mfkck1.gif)
Lh3-f8 (http://i39.tinypic.com/9743ue.gif)
Eh12-h9 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2ch9p9e.gif)
Hh7-g9/Eg7-h6/Lf8-h7 (http://i42.tinypic.com/30au975.gif)
Hg9-h11/H*h11-f12/Hf12-d11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/k37nls.gif)
Lh7-g9/Eh9-f11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/14tbgo8.gif)
Hd11-g14/*g14-h14 (http://i40.tinypic.com/29fq9uc.gif)
Black resigns.

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2009, 5:03am
First things first: Adanac, congrats with your victory in the first ever serious Hanniball game. Thanks for the game and I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did :) .

Of course I'll never be able to prove any claims with regard to the game's behaviour at a hypothetical grandmaster level, because there will be no 'grandmaster level'. When a game 'autoshapes' I never quite know what will emerge until it's there, and HanniBall turned out a nice recreational game among a multitude of nice recreational games.

Strategy games have 'advantageous sub-goals' in their bag, such as for instance promotion in Chess of Draughts. Hanniball has only material gain as a sub-goal, so I'd classify it as a tactical game.

With regard to its behaviour, one aspect isn't quite clear to me. Fritzlein touched on that when he wrote:


on 04/14/09 at 10:46:58, Fritzlein wrote:
Given the obvious advantage of massed pieces that mutually protect each other, there needs to be a compensating advantage of spreading out pieces. In Go, for example, there is the strength/territory tradeoff where players are continually torn between playing thinly and playing thickly. Will well-played Choccer be a slow-moving game because the pieces stay clumped of necessity, and therefore you have two mobs slowly pushing each other forward and back?
I think it's not quite that simple because pieces do not capture the usual way and thus can't protect one another in the usual way either. If a piece is in possession, any opponent's piece that can reach it in three moves can capture it, but only at the risk of countercapture. Leave a piece in possesion that can be reached in two moves or less, and it can be captured without risking countercapture (because the capturing piece can separate itself from the ball after capturing). In terms of capture and exchange this leads to a way of thinking that is quite new and various consequences have emerged that were not immediately obvious. Playing so far suggests that clustering is less of a problem than feared. True, the action is where the ball is, but the ball goes round rather quickly.

Adanac wrote:


on 04/25/09 at 08:41:10, Adanac wrote:
There are 2 weaknesses, but I’m optimistic that both can be solved quite easily.

1.      The lions are far too powerful relative to the other pieces. While an attack with only a few horses and/or elephants is very easy to stop, lions are quite dangerous. However, lions are also extremely powerful defenders covering a full radius of 5 squares plus about half the squares 6 steps away. One player might choose to keep both lions back leading to…

2.      A defensive player can create an iron curtain by keeping 2 lions back, supported by a few other defenders. My game against Christian (note: the previous one) was very offence-focused because we both used lions on the attack. I’ve tested a few scenarios and it seems impossible to score against a talented and determined defender that keeps both lions back. Obviously, if perfect defensive play makes it impossible to score then this will be a fatal weakness in the design.
I think this is still an open question, and no doubt Adanac is a good defender. But a crowded defense opens possibilities for exchange (in our game several of these were declined), and exchange reduces material. And this touches on an aspect of HanniBall that has been underexposed. It concerns 'decisiveness', as defined by Mark Thompson in his leading article Defining the Abstract (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml), that I highly recommend. Here's a quote:


Quote:
But in addition to drama, a game must also have decisiveness: it should be possible ultimately for one player to achieve an advantage from which the other player cannot recover. Abalone has been criticized as lacking decisiveness: there appears to be a strategy which a weaker player can adopt (clumping his pieces together and never extending them, even to attack), which makes it impossible for the stronger player to win.
That sounds not too far off: Hanniball might suffer from indecisiveness, almost the same way soccer does. Two strong defensive players, familiar with the subtleties of its tactics, might have the ball going round and round, without the scales tipping one way or the other.

Mark Thompson remarks this about Chess:


Quote:
Even Chess at the highest levels is becoming drawish; in matches between world championship contenders, dozens of games are played and most end in draws. Imagine how unsatisfying it would be if contestants for the world championship played fifty games and the victor won 3-2 with 45 draws; one could not help but wonder whether, if the match had been ten games longer, the other player might have been champion.
He might have said the same about Draughts, or even Arimaa, if some comments are to be believed.

And these games have 'pawn structures' of a progressive nature, enabling the 'sub-goal' of promotion (although in Arimaa this promotion has been 'promoted' to the actual goal). HanniBall doesn't. Wouldn't that make the problem even worse?

I'm not sure about HanniBall's measure of 'decisiveness', but it differs in one important aspect: where in the above games, mutual reduction of material will eventually lead to more drawish positions, in Hanniball it's the reverse: the less material, the greater the chance of an attacker escaping the ranks of the defenders. Even with a mutually balanced reduction of material, the game becomes progressively more 'unbalanced' and more inclined to tip one way or the other.

Alas, we'll never know, because it would require a miracle to get enough high lever players for a game that is nice enough between a multitude of nice enough games. It's fun, but it's certainly not a 'mental sportsweapon'.

In terms of sticking my neck out by predicting the behaviour of this highly unusual organism, with no past references to build upon ... I think my head is still attached ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2009, 6:16am
A more general remark about 'future behaviour' - Fritzlein wrote:


on 03/26/09 at 22:24:47, Fritzlein wrote:
It is rational behavior on the part of gamers not to put their faith in a game that hasn't withstood the test of time. Why waste effort on a new game when it is very likely to prove flawed in the long run? I also quite sympathize with masters of established games not wanting to walk away from the thousands of hours they have invested honing their skills at one game if their reward is to be a beginner at another game.
Admittedly it creates a nearly-closed circle of great games, because one needs gamers to prove that a game is great, and one also needs to prove that a game is great before it will attract gamers.

I totally agree, but there's an underlying premise that the question of predicting future behaviour is devoid of rational arguments.

In judging Grand Chess (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/grand-chess/), can't one rely to a fair degree on the behaviour of Chess?
There are differences, sure, otherwise it wouldn't be Grand Chess, but there are ample similarities too. Grand Chess has by now proven to suffer no obvious imbalance from its opening array. That being the case, isn't the behaviour of Chess a reliable indicator of Grand Chess' behaviour?
As for specific strategies, let's for the sake of argument assume different openings will eventually emerge in Grand Chess, and that they will have names. I cannot predict which main alleys will emerge, only that main alleys will emerge. And so, it would appear to me, can anyone.
Why Grand Chess would "very likely to prove flawed in the long run" is not clear to me, unless one holds to the idea that inventing games is a human activity excluded from progress.
And why would that be?

The same argument holds for Dameo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/dameo/).
The framework on which it is build is well known and well tested. It is capable of the same mindboggling combinations that can be found in International Draughts, but has a much smaller margin for draws, quite independent of the level of play. It is more flexible in terms of pace than any other draughts game.
This is what Benedikt Rosenau writes at BoardGameGeek's A call to arms to all ABSTACTS fans! (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/41721/item/941927#item941927):


Quote:
Dameo (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/24698) - from the ever mutating Checkers family, a very testbed of game design. Simple rules based on historical versions. It keeps all that was good in Checkers, adds to it, and drops what was bad. The aspect that men can jump their own for movement influences both strategy and tactics. The fascinating combinations of Checkers are still there, while the option for increased speed results in new plans. Interestingly, the people I showed it to liked it beginning with the first game.
So is it really that difficult to predict how it will behave at top level? Isn't the problem, really, that players do not trust their own judgement?


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Adanac on Jun 1st, 2009, 9:29pm

Thanks again for an interesting game, Christian.  The Keeper for Horse trade created quite an unusual imbalance.  On the one hand, I knew that I could score easily if I could advance the ball deep into your territory.  Unfortunately, with one less piece on the board, I had great difficulty getting control of the ball.

Overall, I’d have to say that this second game has reinforced many of my beliefs from the first game:

-      Lions are far, far more powerful than the other pieces and virtually every successful attack & defence in our 2 games have relied heavily upon Lions.
-      I find Horses to be the least useful pieces.  They’re good at long-range threats against enemy ball-carriers and, of course, they can be effective as part of a wall of pieces.  But they seem to be near-useless as attackers because it’s often so awkward for them to pick up the ball, and having done so they might have to immediately kick the ball away at a range of only 1 square.
-      It’s extremely difficult to score.  Our last game went on for 49 moves and I only won by getting a Lion in deep against a Keeper-less net.  Intuitively, I still believe that scoring against a determined stonewaller with defensively-positioned lions is near impossible.

I still believe that increasing the kicking distance of the Horse & Elephant would simultaneously solve many of the problems that I’ve noted in previous posts.  Extra kicking power it would allow many more tactical options on each move, allow more interesting long-term positioning of pieces across a larger area of the board, reduce the clumping of pieces, eliminate/reduce those long sequences of play where pieces are afraid to get too close to the ball, reduce the enormous power imbalance between Lions and other pieces & greatly increase the number of scoring chances.

I’m of the opinion that HaniBall has a little bit of commercial potential if it’s targetted at youths/teenagers when they’re just getting into organized sports & strategy games.  This game has a really fun & appealing theme and a lot of strategic and tactical options on every move.  However, I find the game overly defensive at this point and some small rule tweaks are likely needed.  I have no idea whether a simple change to the kicking rules would be the magic-bullet fix to all the little issues, but I would be very interested to see it tested.

Finally, Christian may have stumbled onto a great anti-computer game, without even trying to do so!  HaniBall is both tactical & strategic, yet doesn’t easily allow material imbalances.  That’s an unusual feature in a tactical game and it implies that humans may be able to dominate this game even if talented bot-programmers took up a “HaniBall Challenge”.  I’d love to see it, but I’m not necessarily saying that I’m brave enough to risk $10,000 of my own money like Omar did for Arimaa!  :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 3rd, 2009, 6:44am
Thanks Adanac. I've gone over your comments and I agree largely with your diagnosis, less so with the suggested remedies.
I'd like to disregard the 'behavioural claims' in favor of the game itself, because there's room for improvement indeed.


on 06/01/09 at 21:29:27, Adanac wrote:
Overall, I’d have to say that this second game has reinforced many of my beliefs from the first game:

-      Lions are far, far more powerful than the other pieces and virtually every successful attack & defence in our 2 games have relied heavily upon Lions.
-      I find Horses to be the least useful pieces.  They’re good at long-range threats against enemy ball-carriers and, of course, they can be effective as part of a wall of pieces.  But they seem to be near-useless as attackers because it’s often so awkward for them to pick up the ball, and having done so they might have to immediately kick the ball away at a range of only 1 square.
-      It’s extremely difficult to score.  Our last game went on for 49 moves and I only won by getting a Lion in deep against a Keeper-less net.  Intuitively, I still believe that scoring against a determined stonewaller with defensively-positioned lions is near impossible.

Horses and Elephants are each others reverse in terms of movement and shooting, while Lions are their union. The resulting set and the 4-4-2 distribution has a certain completeness and elegance that I value greatly. In fact: this is the set I saw playing in my head and I still believe it basically behaves properly. Differences in character appear almost implicitly in such a set, so for me that's less of an argument. At its introduction in the sixteenth century, the Queen in Chess was also largely considered to be off the scale in terms of strenght, and even coined the 'mad queen'.
But I agree with your third point: a player who declines exchanges as much as possible, and concentrates on defense, might keep a game dragging on indefinitely. A lack of 'decisiveness' as Mark Thompson would call it.


on 06/01/09 at 21:29:27, Adanac wrote:
I still believe that increasing the kicking distance of the Horse & Elephant would simultaneously solve many of the problems that I’ve noted in previous posts. Extra kicking power it would allow many more tactical options on each move, allow more interesting long-term positioning of pieces across a larger area of the board, reduce the clumping of pieces, eliminate/reduce those long sequences of play where pieces are afraid to get too close to the ball, reduce the enormous power imbalance between Lions and other pieces & greatly increase the number of scoring chances.

You advertise it so convincingly that I'm almost inclined to follow. Almost, because I think the same improvements can be made without altering the nature of the pieces. It's not simple to maintain the 'duality' of Horse and Elephant, and their 'union' in the Lion, when you want to increase the shooting range, even apart from other side effects that might emerge.

So this is what I suggest:

1. Reduce the keeper to the Lion's move.
That is 'king or knight' instead of 'queen or knight'. Of course its restriction to the goal area remains, as do its shooting abilities.
I had initially given it the queen's move to compensate for its restriction to the goal area, but the Keeper is indeed too strong in the current context.

2. Reduce the board by two rows.
http://i43.tinypic.com/szjqmv.gif

That obviously brings the target nearer. It also implies that a shot by or a ricochet off the Keeper both have a maximum range of 5 instead of 6.

3. Make it 4 moves per turn and forget about '3' and '1-6'.
This needs a somewhat more elaborate motivation.

First and foremost: it will be harder to avoid captures and harder to restrict them to exchanges. That's good, because the less pieces, the more Hanniball tends to tip one way or the other.

Secondly: light pieces one step away from the ball get the opportunity to capture solitary. With 3 moves per turn they can't: they can grab the ball (1), shoot it at an opponent (2) but next they cannot capture, because they move and shoot in different ways. So you always need a combination of light pieces to capture.
With 4 moves per turn however, such a single minor piece can capture on its own, albeit at the price of being in possession of the ball, and thus vulnarable, at the end of the turn. Nevertheless this is an increase in potential to be reckoned with.

Of course the Lion also profits: it can now capture solitary and even get rid of the ball. That's good in another way: it increases opportunities for mistakes that result in the loss of a piece and thus increases 'decisiveness'.

Taken together, these changes don't actually alter the core of the game all that much. Boardsize is arbitrary to begin with, and 4 moves per turn was already an option. The only real change is a slight reduction of the Keepers options, and one that even brings is more in line with the moves of other pieces.


on 06/01/09 at 21:29:27, Adanac wrote:
I’m of the opinion that HanniBall has a little bit of commercial potential if it’s targeted at youths/teenagers when they’re just getting into organized sports & strategy games.

I'm not so optimistic there, because I'd have to convince a manufacturer, and I'm not a merchant. I can't say (though any manufacturer must have heard that a hundred times before in the first place) that I invented a 'great strategy game' and that 'the end of Chess is nigh', because it's not true. But I'm expected to say at least that much, because saying that I've invented a nice tactical game when there's a multitude of nice tactical games out there, just won't cut it either.


on 06/01/09 at 21:29:27, Adanac wrote:
Finally, Christian may have stumbled onto a great anti-computer game, without even trying to do so!  HanniBall is both tactical & strategic, yet doesn’t easily allow material imbalances.  That’s an unusual feature in a tactical game and it implies that humans may be able to dominate this game even if talented bot-programmers took up a “HanniBall Challenge”.  I’d love to see it, but I’m not necessarily saying that I’m brave enough to risk $10,000 of my own money like Omar did for Arimaa!  :D

On this I can comment more generally. It's not too difficult to taylor a game to be manageable for humans and unmanageable for bots. Omar did so with Arimaa, which is not to say that it was an 'easy' game to invent (you should ask Omar for that), but only that this particular aspect is not too difficult. I guess Omar took his inspiration from the Jungle Game (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jungle_(board_game)) and introduced 'multiple moves per turn' to make sure the game tree had an exploding branch density that would choke a program. HanniBall's bot resistance is based on the same, and if you care to take a look at Medusa (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=12), you'll discover a mid-game branch density that easily surpasses them both. Medusa also was invented without that in mind (at the time programs were hardly able to play Chess or Checkers and Go was a faint dream). The point being that for the forseeable future there will be human superiority in games, because we can taylor games that way ;D .
There'll also be computer superiority in many other games. The qualities required for one or the other are very interesting. Havannah's 'unprogrammability' for instance, is not so much based on complexity and an exploding branch density.
I think this is a highly interesting field, and the more programs, the clearer the contours of the possible and impossible, and the more mysterious the pattern recognition abilities of the human mind.

P.S. I've already simplified the rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22) and 'a late arrival' (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival) accordingly, and of course I'd love to play another game for the gallery, against Adanac or anyone willing to give it a try.

P.P.S. On informing Ed of the above changes, he suggested to get around the swap rule (which is difficult to implement on Zillions) by limiting the number of moves for white on his first turn to 'two', instead of 'four'. Since this effectively leads to a very similar result, I think it's an excellent idea - consider it implemented.

P.P.P.S. The game has been updated @ Zillions - thanks Ed!
Download HanniBall for Zillions (bèta 0.6) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.6_Zillions.zip)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 5th, 2009, 9:35am
Here's a HanniBall game 'new style' for the Gallery:

@ black-5 (http://i42.tinypic.com/mt3sjq.gif): A mistake triggering a nice  manoeuvre by the Horse on c8, first clearing the way for the white Lion, while preparing for the capture of the black Lion.

@ black-7 (http://i44.tinypic.com/fb3nq.gif): Here black already indicated the hopelesness of the position. It would seem that Mark Thompson's decisiveness criterion (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml) is sufficiently met under the '4-moves-per-turn' rules.

@ black-9 (http://i41.tinypic.com/11sm2v4.gif): Hopeless or not, black 9 is a strong defense and I must retreat with one Lion. Both white Lions are offered for exchange after white-10 and the Elephant on d7 covers the center against breakout attempst by the black Lion.

@ black-10 (http://i41.tinypic.com/5ds6yp.gif): A 'ricochet escape' that white overlooked. It suggests that there's no lack of Mark Thompson's drama criterion (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml) either.

@ black-11: I made a mistake in the display (Elephant should be on the h-file, ball on the i-file instead of vice versa - miraculously white's next move still fits as intended). It is corrected now.

Christian - Sol
position after white-14. Black resigns.
http://i44.tinypic.com/2vaz02q.gif
Download HanniBall for Zillions (bèta 0.6) (http://mindsports.nl/Download/Freeware/HanniBall_0.6_Zillions.zip)
http://i40.tinypic.com/344s0sk.gif
1. Hd4-e6/Hh4-f5 (http://i43.tinypic.com/168argl.gif)
2. Hf5-f6/Lc2-d4/Eb3-d5 (http://i42.tinypic.com/fokpaq.gif)
3. He6-g10/Ld4-f8 (http://i44.tinypic.com/fk30ux.gif)
4. Hg10-f12/Hd6-c8/Hf4-c7 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2hmpuna.gif)
5. Hf12-c9/Hc7-b9/Lf8-d7 (http://i43.tinypic.com/256be5y.gif)
6. Hc8-a9/Ld7-b8/*b8-b7/Ha9xb7 (http://i39.tinypic.com/122khv8.gif)
7. Lg2-c10 (http://i40.tinypic.com/2i1cld3.gif)
8. Lb8-a8/*a8-c7/Hb9xc7/*c7-b8 (http://i44.tinypic.com/10ckl1i.gif)
9. Lc10-b8/*b8-c9/H*c9-a10/*a10-a11 (http://i39.tinypic.com/mtkw09.gif)
10. Lb8-d9/Ha10-b8/Ed5-d7 (http://i40.tinypic.com/24q6agm.gif)

11. Ld9-h12/*i11 (http://i40.tinypic.com/10cvh8k.jpg)
12. La8-g7/Lh12-g10 (http://i41.tinypic.com/10xugqw.gif)
13. Ef3-g4/Eh3-i5/Lg7-h7 (http://i41.tinypic.com/2yo92t4.gif)
14. *i5-h7/L*h7-h11/*h11-i13 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2vaz02q.gif)

* = ball
rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=22)
http://i40.tinypic.com/344s0sk.gif
Hf12-g9/Lg14-e10 (http://i42.tinypic.com/2jbl5ib.gif)
Le10-e8/L*e8-f10/*f10-g12 (http://i40.tinypic.com/n535zq.gif)
Lf10-g12/L*g12-e11/*e11-c12/Hb12-c10 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2pqst3l.gif)
Eb13-c12/*c12-e11/L*e11-d9/*d9-b8 (http://i39.tinypic.com/10morjm.gif)
Ld9-b7/Hg9-c7 (http://i42.tinypic.com/mt3sjq.gif)
Hc10xb7/H*b7-a9/*a9-b10 (http://i44.tinypic.com/2quqfz4.gif)
Ec12-b10/*b10-a8/Eb10-b11 (http://i44.tinypic.com/fb3nq.gif)
Ha9-d10/Hh12-f11/Ef13-e13 (http://i43.tinypic.com/awcgw9.gif)
Lc14-b10/Hd10-b9 (http://i41.tinypic.com/11sm2v4.gif)
Hb9-a11/H*a11-c12/*c12-d13/*d13-
e15^h12 (http://i41.tinypic.com/5ds6yp.gif)
Eh13-i11/E*i11-h10/*h10-i8 (http://i44.tinypic.com/arz3p.gif)
Hf11-i8/H*i8-h6/*h6-i5 (http://i43.tinypic.com/2e0l7wj.gif)
Hh6-f7/Hd12-f11/Lb10-e9 (http://i43.tinypic.com/34tc1tx.gif)
Black resigns

^ = ricochet
history (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2009, 11:05am
Well guys, that's it. Ed will make an applet soon, so HanniBall will be accessible to everyone at mindsports (http://mindsports.nl/). Later maybe at iG Game Center (http://www.iggamecenter.com/) too, but that might take a while because Arty has several shortlists of different weight and for the moment HanniBall isn't on any of them.

I enjoyed the process of invention that unexpectedly started and the reactions of the posters in this thread, and I thank Omar and Adanac in particular, for starting the thread and contributing so enthusiastically to the game's development respectively.

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by SpeedRazor on Jul 3rd, 2009, 5:08pm
One of the most interesting, and worst forum threads that I've ever read.  Anywhere.  I'm such a Big fan of Havannah, that I shuddered following through all of the leads/games, everything.  I don't believe that I can be as tactful as others - so I won't.  I understand that I may be barred from this, one of my favorite Games' website, but I just can't "sit on my hands..."  (Note:  your "Lasker" quote based on the preceding sentence quip is wrong:  T'was Siegbert Tarrasch who said it.  Just an observation.)  Oh yeah, castling in chess is more important in hiding the one-step king, than in getting the multi-step rook to the center:  but I do see your point about Fischer 960.  

It's ... not going to get easier from here...

Christian, your essay was very insightful, but you're no more a "game whisperer" than most (in the same vein as everybody who likes movies is a 'film critic':  matters of taste aren't arguable, or so says the ancient Latin proverb.  Hey, who are we to argue with the Ancient Roman).

Now, down to brass tacks:  I've taught ~untold~ many people Havannah, but I always, at first, teach it with TWO rules missing (Occam's Razor manifested, let's just say).  Note:  these are mostly Go and Chess enthusiasts whom I've taught - three or four dozen, realistically - which is quite easily reflected in which board they choose:  triangular:  play on the nodes; or hexagonal:  play in the cells (Go and Chess players, respectively.)  After a while, I add the remaining two rules, and so far, nobody wants to use them.  None.  Let me elaborate: the two rules that I omit are...

1.  There are three ways to win. (Me:  there are just two ways to win:  ring, or connect three edges.  I omit connecting corner to corner wins - not necessary), and...

2.  Corner nodes don't count as being on an edge.  (Me:  corner nodes count for both of the edges that they are a part of)

Now notice, what used to be called a 'bridge', is now just a three edge fork:  if you connect two corners, and corners count for what they obviously are (touching two edges each), than you AUTOMATICALLY have three (or four) edge connections: a win.

Why confuse people with a third winning condition, plus telling them that corners don't count as "edges"?  What has actually changed?  Now, connecting a corner to a non-contiguous edge will win, also.  Tactics do jump up a notch, here, plus corners are more valuable:  but only negligibly so.

Now ... I had presumed ... that you had already done the extensive play testing, and that you added those two, what seem to me as, superfluous rules because it was "necessary".  The game might have been broken without them.  But now, I think that all of my ASG friends may have been right all along:  your game - which is, and I hope, will remain, a classic - is Flawed, as it is. The corner connection winning mechanism just adds confusion.  After playing through your Hanniball games, I'm now convinced of it.  It was added because  3:2:1 seemed more organic (whatever that means):  1 ring, 2 corners, 3 sides (even though 2 corners is ALWAYS 3 sides if edges are counted intuitively).

My apologies for being so forthright, and thank you for such a great game...  
...Speedy

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 4th, 2009, 5:23am

on 07/03/09 at 17:08:22, SpeedRazor wrote:
One of the most interesting, and worst forum threads that I've ever read.  Anywhere.  I'm such a Big fan of Havannah, that I shuddered following through all of the leads/games, everything.  I don't believe that I can be as tactful as others - so I won't.

Thank you, I appreciate frankness and indeed, there's no 'format' for inventing a game live & online so it was an ad hoc event, implicitly prone to lack of structure.


on 07/03/09 at 17:08:22, SpeedRazor wrote:
 

It's ... not going to get easier from here...

Christian, your essay was very insightful, but you're no more a "game whisperer" than most (in the same vein as everybody who likes movies is a 'film critic':  matters of taste aren't arguable, or so says the ancient Latin proverb. Hey, who are we to argue with the Ancient Roman).

I think in this metaphor you would be the one "who likes them" while the inventors are the ones who make them, right?


on 07/03/09 at 17:08:22, SpeedRazor wrote:
Now, down to brass tacks:  I've taught ~untold~ many people Havannah, but I always, at first, teach it with TWO rules missing (Occam's Razor manifested, let's just say).  Note:  these are mostly Go and Chess enthusiasts whom I've taught - three or four dozen, realistically - which is quite easily reflected in which board they choose:  triangular:  play on the nodes; or hexagonal:  play in the cells (Go and Chess players, respectively.)  After a while, I add the remaining two rules, and so far, nobody wants to use them.  None.  Let me elaborate: the two rules that I omit are...

1.  There are three ways to win. (Me:  there are just two ways to win:  ring, or connect three edges.  I omit connecting corner to corner wins - not necessary), and...

2.  Corner nodes don't count as being on an edge.  (Me:  corner nodes count for both of the edges that they are a part of)

Now notice, what used to be called a 'bridge', is now just a three edge fork:  if you connect two corners, and corners count for what they obviously are (touching two edges each), than you AUTOMATICALLY have three (or four) edge connections: a win.

Why confuse people with a third winning condition, plus telling them that corners don't count as "edges"?  What has actually changed?  Now, connecting a corner to a non-contiguous edge will win, also.  Tactics do jump up a notch, here, plus corners are more valuable:  but only negligibly so.

Now ... I had presumed ... that you had already done the extensive play testing, and that you added those two, what seem to me as, superfluous rules because it was "necessary".  The game might have been broken without them.  But now, I think that all of my ASG friends may have been right all along:  your game - which is, and I hope, will remain, a classic - is Flawed, as it is. The corner connection winning mechanism just adds confusion.  After playing through your Hanniball games, I'm now convinced of it.  It was added because  3:2:1 seemed more organic (whatever that means):  1 ring, 2 corners, 3 sides (even though 2 corners is ALWAYS 3 sides if edges are counted intuitively).

My apologies for being so forthright, and thank you for such a great game...

You're welcome. I must say you choose very elaborate way to make a very simple point. And you're dead wrong. The bridge is the soul of Havannah, and you definition would change its role dramatically, not 'negligibly'. You're absolutely right that 'tactics would jump up a notch, but at the cost of refinements of strategy provided by the current game - not at all in the right direction.

I hope you'll excuse my frankness  ;)

Now that I'm here, HanniBall has been officially launched at Zillions (http://www.zillions-of-games.com/cgi-bin/zilligames/submissions.cgi/12098?do=show;id=1735) last month.

iG Game Center now features live Havannah (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/havannah.html), Dameo (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/dameo.html), Emergo (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/emergo.html), Shakti (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/shakti.html) and Grand Chess (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/grandchess.html).

Several bots are participating in havannah base-4 to base-7 tournaments at Little Golem. Best place to keep an eye on them is the hex/havannah forum (http://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/forum/forum2.jsp?forum=50).

cheers,

christian

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 21st, 2009, 11:39am
Hi all, long time no see. Last night, in bed, I thought "the rules of Superstar (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=19) are in fact too complex". So I dreamed up 'YvY'. It has of course never been played, let alone playtested  - sue me :). Here's the board:

http://i36.tinypic.com/9qliro.gif


Grey is taboo, the orange pairs, called 'bricks', are part of the playing area.

Players take turns to place one stone. A player may pass without losing the right to move next turn. A 'chain' is defined as usual, a 'loop' is a chain surrounding at least one cell completely, regardless of whether this cell is vacant or occupied, or by whom (as the 'ring' in Havannah (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/havannah/)).

A player completing a loop wins - this is the sudden death way to end a game.

If no loop is completed, the player with the highest score at the end of the game (on two successive passes) wins.

A chain is worth two points less than the number of bricks it connects - thus connecting chains pays off. A player's score is the sum of the scores of his chains.

The game may end in a draw.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 22nd, 2009, 9:11am
There's a thread on it @ LG (http://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/forum/topic2.jsp?forum=50&topic=418) and David Bush pointed out a misstatement in the rules.

"A chain is worth two points less than the number of bricks connected" isn't meant to go into the negative, so you don't lose a point by having a stone on an otherwise disconnected brick.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Oct 24th, 2009, 11:03pm
Nice to hear from you Christian. Perhaps you should move this post to as a separate thread so it can be found more easily.

Can you give some examples of chains and what their scores would be just to make it very clear. Also why do you call it YvY (neat name)?

It's funny that you thought of this game yesterday. Because yesterday I also had an idea for a game. I usually try to avoid thinking about new games, but I just had to try this one because it's rules are about as simple as Go. So this morning Aamir and I did some play testing trying to see if there are any obvious flaws in the game. We didn't find anything wrong so far. Even though I am tempted to post the rules, I am going to hold off until I've experimented with it some more.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 25th, 2009, 5:45am

on 10/24/09 at 23:03:31, omar wrote:
Nice to hear from you Christian. Perhaps you should move this post to as a separate thread so it can be found more easily.

It's no big deal.


on 10/24/09 at 23:03:31, omar wrote:
Can you give some examples of chains and what their scores would be just to make it very clear. Also why do you call it YvY (neat name)?

It's very easy. Connect 3 bricks and you score 1 point, connect 5 and you score 3.  Provided they're separate chains, they total 4.
Now connect them to get one chain connecting 8 bricks, scoring 6 points.
So the connection brings 2 additional points.

The aim was to get a very simple low-res scoring system in a connection game. It's all about winning by 1 or 2 points or ... sudden death.

The loop is of course the tactical disruption tool in the scoring strategies. Loop threaths must be met regardless of the score.


on 10/24/09 at 23:03:31, omar wrote:
I usually try to avoid thinking about new games, but I just had to try this one because it's rules are about as simple as Go.

The best ones wait till you're trying to avoid them ;) so this sounds very promising. Let us know if and when you're ready :)

PS. The name. The 'Y' connection, no pun intended, had little to do with it. I had decided on 'bricks' to emphasize simplicity, and the chains were like 'ivy' creeping in between. Then I misspelled 'Ivy'.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 26th, 2009, 10:20am
David J Bush worried about the margin of draws, and probably rightly so, and made an interesting suggestion to try to eliminate it. I liked it enough to go along and make YvY a joint invention. It also led to an elegant rephrasing of the score.

Not to mention a new board:

http://i38.tinypic.com/mlqwq9.jpg

See the thread at LG (http://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/forum/topic2.jsp?forum=50&topic=418) for the ongoing developments.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 28th, 2009, 6:16am
I'll gladly trade my original game for the one that evolved after David's suggestions.

Here's the new YvY board - let's call this one base 4/5.

http://i35.tinypic.com/r2vuaa.jpg
YvY


The green cells are 'sprouts' and a closed chain of like colored stones is a 'group'.
The game has a swap and players may pass without losing the right to move next turn.
Loops must surround at least one cell completely (vacant or occupied doesn't matter), and win regardless of the score.

The score for each player after two successive passes is:

The number of occupied sprouts minus twice the number of groups involved.


That's the same as before, but phrased more elegantly.

'Bad sprouts' are vacant sprouts the occupation of which reduces the score for either player doing so.
Close off a vacant sprout with two white stones, and close off those two stones with black ones, and you have a bad sprout.
In order to end in a draw, an odd number of bad sprouts is necessary, but not sufficient.

YvY © MindSports/David J Bush

P.S. This game was invented without the use of a board or pieces, and without ever being playtested, something that cannot be done ... ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by SpeedRazor on Oct 28th, 2009, 11:07pm
I SO want to study your new ideas, Christian.  If I told you my Mom is flagellating up/down with anger as we speak, you may understand Gbye.  

Okay, I'm back on the computer - no time to study your new hexagonal-themed idea.  Tomorrow.  As Abstract game designers, and Mathematicians/Programmers, you guys MUST also know:  http://www.cameronius.com/

Please don't be insulted if I say that he rocks - one day - as cool as you are, Christian/Omar!  That's saying a lot!  Probably you already know him ...

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2009, 12:04am

on 10/28/09 at 23:07:43, SpeedRazor wrote:
Please don't be insulted if I say that he rocks - one day - as cool as you are, Christian/Omar!  That's saying a lot!  Probably you already know him ...


Oh yes we do, and you're quite right, Cameron is an icon in the abstract games world, a great designer and an expert on connection games :)


Speaking of which, there is an aspect of YvY that begs playtesting. The whole point of David's suggestion to take an odd number of single-cell sprouts, was to eliminate draws.

Consider: with all sprouts occupied, one has an odd number, and one an even number. Both must subtract an even number, i.e. 'twice the number of groups involved'.

So with all sprouts occupied, a draw cannot occur.

Whether or not this was a good decision would depend on the frequency in which 'bad sprouts' occur. My guess is that they will occur occasionally. It is not likely that one would occur in the opening, or even middle game: there are other priorities at these stages. So the cradle must be in the finer points of the endgame. It is admittedly hard to make a calculated guess about the frequency of occurence of bad sprouts without a great number of games between seasoned players. As it is, the first ideas about strategy haven't even been established.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 31st, 2009, 10:27am
Finding YvY

Inspired by the deafening silence I'll try to show what you're looking at and how it will behave. As for playtesting: Ed and I just started our first game - you can find it in the MindSports Spectators Section (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section) at the bottom of the scroll box.

First a rerun of the rules in a nutshell:

http://i38.tinypic.com/11awikz.gif
An YvY base 4/5 board


The diagram shows a base 4/5 board, with 27 cells called 'sprouts' along the edges.
There are two players, black and white. White moves first by putting one stone on the board, after which black has the option to swap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_rule).
After that players alternately put one stone on the board. Players may pass their turn without losing the right to move next turn. The game ends by sudden death or when both pass on successive turns.

Groups
A 'group' is a number of connected stones of like color. A single stone is a group by definition. An 'involved group' is a group containing one or more sprouts.

Loops / Sudden Death
A 'loop' is a group that completely surrounds one or more cells. Whether or by whom such cells are occupied is irrelevant.
A player completing a loop wins immediately, regardless of the score.

The Score
If no loops are completed the game ends after the players both pass on successive turns.
Now all uninvolved groups are removed from the board and the player with the highest score wins.

A player's score is the number of sprouts he occupies minus twice the number of his groups (now all involved).
This is equivalent with an involved group having a value equal to the number of sprouts it contains minus 2.

However, if a group is located inside a group of like color (as a result of the removal of uninvolved groups), the two count as one group.

http://i37.tinypic.com/5xsjgj.gif
connections, loops, cutting points


If black occupies F1 he gets one point but at the same time creates a new involved group that cannot be connected anywhere, costing two points, the net result being the loss of one point.
If white occupies F1, the same applies initially. However, at the end of the game, the black group of 2 is removed and a white stone on F1 is considered connected to the surrounding white group. So for white the net result is the gain of one point.

Note: a purely theoretical consideration: suppose black has a group around the 5 white stones, including stones on D1 and H1. Now the white group is uninvolved too and situation is the reverse. Black can occupy F1 and eventually score +1, white cannot occupy it because it would render -1.

History
You may have noticed that the history's still evolving - I solved the 'bad sprouts' problem and eliminated draws halfway the article ;-) - but its still all here and at the LG forum (http://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/forum/topic2.jsp?forum=50&topic=418). To give my critics credit, this version is better than the first version (the one with the 'bricks') thanks to David's contributions, that gave it a final push in the right direction. The organism was only too happy to slip into this better outfit.

Nevertheless the basic subject of this thread is met: barring the one game currently played between Ed and me, the game has been completed without any playtesting whatsoever, and I'll try to have a go at its 'character at high level play' in all openness.

The twilight zone between Go and Hex
I posted a question at LG asking if anyone knew other abstract boardgames besides Craige Schensted (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Craige_Schensted)'s Star (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_(board_game)) and my own Superstar (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=19) where connections rendered scores.

There was no answer, so I figure there may not be all that many. However, I found the inventor formerly called Craige, himself improved on his creation. I must say I like this one (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/*Star) better, because it shifts the counting from vacant cells adjacent to the board, to actual cells (or points rather) on the board. And what a board! A beautiful 'hexpentagonal' plane with slightly rounded edges.

Like Hex, Star is pure 'pathfinding'. But where Hex is abysmal in a life or death situation, Star is abysmal in a point scoring situation, and not a very convenient count either. There's nothing wrong with that, or Go would have the same defect, but back then I thought I'd make it a bit livelier, and created Superstar.
Superstar isn't all that bad either if you get to know it, but it doesn't exactly invite you to get to know it. Complex rules and complex counting of stars, superstars and loops, are too much of a treshold for that.

That thought occured to me a few days back, followed by "a loop should simply win", followed by the consideration that simultaneously merging the concept of stars and superstars, would reduce counting to just one aspect instead of three. And it would keep the loop in play as monkey in the snakepit, introducing similar tactics as the ring in Havannah into the general 'pathfinding' strategies.

The merger is still visible in the 'bricks' of the first version. It's not a flawed game. What's wrong with it is that this one is so much better. The most important push was due to David's quest to eliminate draws. The final piece of the puzzle was the removal of uninvolved groups at the end and defining enclosed groups of like color as 'connected' to the enclosing group.
To speak with Michael: This is it.

Character
I don't hesitate to call Star (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/*Star) a quintessential "Gonnection" game. Although that qualification has already been taken by Gonnect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gonnect) - a game that developed in the opposite direction: employing territorial mechanics for an absolute  connection goal - I'll use it here for convenience.

Yet Star falls short of Go in the tactical realm. Not that it doesn't have deep tactics, but they are not all that pluriform. That's why I made Superstar in the first place, overshooting the target.

YvY, more than Havannah, will have the feel of Go, very much a game of territorial influence. It's resolution is lower because there are only 27 sprouts to be divided. The bright side is that counting is too easy to be distracting and a swap seems to remedy too much of an advantage for the first player.
After that it's a fine line: as in Havannah or Go, it can be a one point difference that makes all the difference, and at its highest level it almost certainly will be.

At its highest level, too, the loop will be a constant presence in the equation, without ever materializing. In Havannah a ring may materialize as the consequence of a simultaneous deadly threat, but in YvY you're inclined to prevent one at all cost, because it's a choice between sudden death and losing one or two points.
Of course loops might materialize in less high level games.

The 'influence' aspect comes from the risk of occupying a sprout: unconnected it will cost a point, so taking one is a risk to begin with, and taking one under an 'umbrella' of the opponent is probably a bad idea. In consequence an umbrella, or 'influence' will be a leading strategical concept.

So where does YvY fit in? Thematically it's in the "Gonnection" class that as far as I know holds four games, two of which are more or less redundant.

For the 'feel' of it, it resembles Havannah as 'something in between Hex and Go', but YvY leans more to the Go side in that a player can accumulate, whereas Havannah is all about one winning structure. Stripped from the 'loop' YvY would be a Star variant. The loop provides what is lacking in Star: pluriformity of tactics. A pluriformity that strongly resembles havannah's.
Let's have a look at the diagram again.

http://i37.tinypic.com/5xsjgj.gif
connections, loops, cutting points


In Star a black stone at "X" would be a rock solid connection in the fast majority of cases, and the white groups would have no escape. In YvY however, white A and B cannot be defended both, because then C would mean sudden death.
The loop is the basic tool to gain tempo, force cuts an draw defensive stones in the process, which are the primary source of 'uninvolved' groups.

There'll be no end to YvY's inticacies. Thirty years after its invention, Mirko Rahn (current rating at LG: 2102) taught me a new 'basic tactic' in Havannah, by making me its victim three times in a row. I'm a slow learner. The thing is called a "blockbuster" and requires the preparation of a second stone at some distance, but then it makes a block (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/havannah/51-basic-tactics?start=2) impossible. So I can still learn in Havannah, and YvY will not be different in this respect.
That's my prediction about its general behaviour at high level play, should it ever come to that. There's no need to take my word for it however, as far as I'm concerned YvY should be able to care for itself.
I don't know about David, but I guess he feels the same.

We hope you enjoy the game :)

YvY © MindSports / David J Bush

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 5th, 2009, 12:50pm
In Go, if it is said that a certain group is dead, it doesn't mean that the group is a group, nor that dead is dead in the formal sense. The 'group' may consist of several smaller groups or loose stones, and all of them may have liberties, or they wouldn't be on the board in the first place.

In YvY (and other games) a similar semantic freedom is used. Formally a group must be connected, but when I say that in the endposition both players have two groups, it is said in this semantic freedom.

Also, vacant sprouts under a player's control simply count as belonging to the enclosing group. Of course they could be formally occupied, like one could formally enclose dead groups in Go. It just isn't done because experienced players know and agree on the situation, or both wouldn't have passed.

http://i36.tinypic.com/2s8qx5f.gif
Here we're halfway


http://i36.tinypic.com/mjy3nl.gif
Here both have passed


http://i38.tinypic.com/fmrgxh.gif
Here the uninvolved groups have been removed


The single white stone bottomleft formally is an 'uninvolved group' - of course it isn't within the semantic freedom between experienced players. Likewise the bottomleft red 'group' fomally consists of three groups.

The count
Both have two groups, so that evens out. White occupies two sprouts and controls five, red occupies three and controls five.

Red wins by one point.

Note: In this example the situation didn't arise, but if the final position has groups that include precisely one sprout, without contolling others, then such groups may be removed since doing so doesn't alter the score difference: both gain a point.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 27th, 2009, 2:23am
YvY will be launched @ MindSports shortly. Here are the rules as I've posted them a @ Little Golem to see if David or others might have any comments. In a small section on strategy and tactics I predict the game's behaviour at high level play.

When will I ever learn
 :-*

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/arena/go_havannah/yvy_45_board.gif


YvY is played on a special board. The image shows a 'base-9' one, with 9 sprouts - the green cells - along any two adjacent sides. MindSports also provides base-7 and base-5 applets.

Rules
> The game starts on an empty board. Players move in turn to place one stone on an empty cell. White moves first. The second player is entitled to a swap (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_rule)
The MindSports applet will shortly offer the swap under the 'choose' button. The result will be a switch of color of the stone on the board.

> A player may pass his turn, without losing the right to move on the next one.

Groups & Loops
> A 'group' consists of a number of connected like colored stones. A single stone is a group by definition.
As in Go, a 'group' is most of the time meant in a less formal way as a group of 'cooperating' stones.

> A 'loop' is a group that completely surrounds one or more cells. Whether or not such cells are occupied, or by whom, is irrelevant.

Object
The game ends in one of two ways:

> By sudden death: if a player completes a loop he wins, regardless of the score.
> After both players pass on successive turns: now the player with the highest score wins.

Life & Death
> A group lives if at least one of its stones occupies a sprout, otherwise it is (as yet) dead.

Territory & Scores
> If a game ends by the players passing on successive turns then dead groups are removed from the board before the counting starts.
> After the removal of dead groups, any group fenced in by a group of like color, is considered part of that same group.
> The score of each player is the number of sprouts he controls (that is: sprouts occupied or fenced in by his stones) minus twice the number of his groups.

If, for example, one player has followed a center oriented strategy, resulting in one group controlling 11 sprouts, his score would be 9. The other player controls the remaining 16 sprouts, so if he managed to do that with three groups, he has 10 points and wins, but if he needed four he has 8 points and loses. This is a game of 'divide and rule'!
Note: if one player's score is even, the other's will be odd, so the game cannot end in a draw.

Strategy & Tactics
In terms of tactics, YvY first and foremost requires reading the hexplane the same way as in games like for instance Hex (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hex_(game)) and Y (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Y_(game)), but the presence of the loop as an absolute criterion to win makes its tactics much more Havannah (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Havannah) like. In fact YvY might be considered a 'generalized Havannah' in which the concept of corners and sides has been replaced by by an odd number of evenly distributed sprouts and the goal is, roughly speaking, to connect as many of them as possible with as few groups as possible.

Not surprisingly, the strategic dilemma of Havannah - 'spider' versus 'snake' - is revisited here. The edge is important to get control of a sufficient number of sprouts, but the center is clearly the area where connections are made. One may sacrifice a couple of sprouts to connect one's own live groups, as in the example given in the rules: one group controlling eleven sprouts wins if the opponent has four groups or more, and loses if he has three groups or less. The resulting tension between moving near the edge or higher up is totally reminiscent of Havannah, as is the loop, that fulfills the same tactical role: a tool to cut and/or connect.

There are important differences nonetheless. In Havannah the fastest connection is usually very important, whether it be ring, bridge or fork. A frame doesn't mean much if the opponent has a faster one. In YvY the score is accumulative, and in terms of the absolute win, a loopframe will usually not face a faster threat (the only option being a faster loop). So basically framing is winning.

Another difference is that YvY will usually have a 'Go type' opening, with claims staked out along the edges, whereas Havannah can have many different types of opening. YvY definitely feels more Go-like than Havannah.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 27th, 2009, 11:34am
P.S. Concerning Havannah, here are some photos (http://www.althofer.de/lange-nacht-jena-2009.html) of "The long Night of the Sciences 2009" in Jena, Germany.

It included a human versus computer Havannah tournament with two strong players and the two strongest programs to date (scroll down). Here are the games (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/havannah/443-jena-2009-tournament).

P.P.S. YvY has been launched (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/yvy/) @ MindSports.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Dec 9th, 2009, 10:48pm
Thanks for sharing the pics with us Christian. Wow, Ed's Havannah set is really nice. Much better than the one I made: http://arimaa.com/havannah/. Can I buy one of those signed by you. Haven't had much of a chance to play Havannah this year, but I shall return :-)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Dec 15th, 2009, 6:02am
@ Omar,

I'd gladly sign one if I had one :)

Meanwhile YvY (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/yvy/about-yvy/446) may have been my final whisper, but not my final breath, nor my departure from the world of games (frankly, I expect those two to coincide).

So I'm going to stretch my hardly accepted point - hardly so despite HanniBall and YvY - to the limit with an epic abstract game that has been dormant for a quarter of a century because the conditions for its launch were less than favorable. Its name is Mu.

Now things are different, because Ed considers the multi player applet required as a challenge, which gives me a good hope that it will take shape in 'the not too distant future', considering that Ed has a steady supply of other priorities.

The applet will impicitly be fit for at least two other games, Chinese Checkers (http://chinesecheckers.vegard2.no/) (at  Vegard Krog Petersen' excellent site, and playable here (http://www.truantduck.com/cc/cc.html), here (http://thinks.com/java/chinese-checkers/chinese-checkers.htm) and here (http://www.vinigames.com/Game.do?gameKey=chineseCheckers)) and my own multiplayer abstract Phalanx (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=17), which may be considered Mu's support act.

A delicate point is - again - that it has been playtested only once, early eighties, against Anneke Treep who was to become the mother of my son Falco, a decade later.

She won. Like Muldoon I say "clever girl".

It's introduction at  the games club Fanaat couldn't have been at a less promising time, because almost everyone had started climbing Martin Medema's previously developed 'Atlantis', and shortly after it was all Dungeons and Trolls - and abstracts all but disappeared from the scene.

So it remained on the shelf and for its only change I didn't even have to dust it off: when Phalanx became a 'segmented game', in my mind I took note that this would improve Mu too.

So shortly you can have a go at my claims again, and this time the organism/mechanism covers several themes within its territorial object, with ample opportunity for "advantageous sub-goals to be achieved as calculable signposts along the way".

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Dec 17th, 2009, 9:43am
http://mindsports.nl/images/smilies/mu_logo.gif (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-field/470-mu)


christian freeling
game whisperer  :-*

"The reason I could conceive Mu without so much as a checker, is the same that made me unable to forget it: it's a self explanatory organism with will, intent and logic, rather than a bag of assorted rules and restrictions. It would always explain itself."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Dec 25th, 2009, 6:06pm
Wow, looking forward to seeing the rules of Mu. I think Havannah is still your best creation. It will be interesting to see if Mu tops that.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Dec 26th, 2009, 7:45am
Hi Omar, thanks for the reply. I was wondering if anyone would.

You can click on the logo to see the rules. What's missing is the applet, and that's not an easy one compared to our usual ones. Ed will make it, but he's also in the process of finding a new house, and if he finds one ... well you know what moving is like.

So not only has Mu been playtested only once, it won't be playtested for some time. Good case regarding my claim that an organism can be self-explanatory.

Mu is not like anything the abstract game world has seen, and comparisons are therefore hard. An 'abstract perfect information Risk' may be a workable way of putting it.

I wish you a very happy new year and an ever expanding Arimaa  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Dec 26th, 2009, 6:20pm
I didn't notice the image was a link to the rules. Thanks. I just read the rules. I think I still like Havannah :-) Just because it's so simple and pure. I didn't realize until I read the rules that Mu was a multi-player game; actually you did mention that, but I missed it the first time. I am not much into playing multi-player games and I remember Karl mentioned to me that he also didn't like multi-player games even if there is no element of chance or hidden information because there can always be collusion among a group of players and so a single player does not have full control of the outcome. I don't like mulit-player games because I hate waiting for all the other players to go before taking a turn again :-)

I don't mean to be negative about Mu in any way; it might well be a great multi-player game. It's just that I know even less about multi-player games than I do about two players games.

One think I do admire about you is your ability to keep inventing and thinking out of the box. Keep'em coming :-)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 16th, 2010, 10:12am
Hi Omar,

Thanks, but no thanks, I stopped. There's no shortage of inventors, lately, and I prefer a place along the sidelines. Mu is not new, I just never got around to publish it.

Arty of iGGC told me that a Russian proverb is "Moving is worse than fire". Ed, responsible for the MindSports applets, will be moving shortly to another town, another province, same old country.

That means that a Mu applet and/or improvements in the current applets will likely come later than sooner.

All else being the same of course - anyone wanting to playtest Mu manually before anyone else, in particular the inventor, can find the rules under the logo above. Take white draughtsmen for Virginity, black ones for the Wall, plastic chips for pieces and a number of cardboard segments and you can easily beat us to it. :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 26th, 2010, 2:05am
I wouldn't deny you Omar's four out of four win (http://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/tournament/tournament.jsp?trnid=havannah.mc.2010.feb.1.4) in a Hanannah Tournament at Little Golem, counting yours truly among his victims! :o

Another pleasant message is that Ed van Zon managed to buy a very nice house in the countryside. Another couple of months and he'll be settled in and MindSports will be set to proceed with new and better applets and a more 'player friendly' structure.

And above all: hey guys, it's spring! ;D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Mar 27th, 2010, 7:50am
I got very lucky. I seem to have a lot of beginners luck and this was the first time I tried a tournament on LG :-)

Thanks for sharing the good news with us. I'm looking forward to see the new MindSports site. I've played a lot of Havannah there in the past. I hope one of the features in the new site will be to permanently save the games.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 23rd, 2010, 2:38am
Hi Omar,

At the moment we already keep them longer (a year if I'm not mistaken) and in the coming update we'll reconsider it, among many other things.

Because David and I wanted to play on a smaller YvY board - to figure out how it's ticking strategically - Ed has implemented the base-23 (two-three, not twentythree :P )and base-34 applet, so if you challenge someone for a game, you get the choice between three different sizes.

YvY's opaque strategy is due to the combination of an absolute and a relative object, and the way they interact. This is rather new and feels a bit weird.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 14th, 2010, 5:19am
HanniBall, which was the theme of this thread about a year ago, has now been implemented (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html) at iGGameCenter. Have fun :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on May 14th, 2010, 6:18am
Cool. This will make trying it out much easier. Thanks for letting us know.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 19th, 2010, 10:43am
After six days @ iGGC, here are HanniBall's stats (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/game114.html).
It's not unusual for a new game to be played fairly frequently (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/topplayed7.html), so let's see how it develops.
This is the playtesting that according to common sense should have been done before the game's launch.
Till now the game behaves as expected - that is: the way described a year ago, though now my view is indeed more crystallized by actually playing it.
A couple of games ended in a draw by lack of plan caused by unrealized tactics. That'll pass.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 24th, 2010, 5:33am
So where's Hanniball at the moment? There have been three modifications since its genesis:

1. The boardsize has been slightly reduced (9x15 -> 9x13 for the field).
2. JDB's stroke of brilliance simplified the shots at the keeper rule and it works perfectly.
3. Greg Magne defined 'obstruction' and the rule is implemented in both iGGC (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html) and the Zillions machine (http://www.zillions-of-games.com/cgi-bin/zilligames/submissions.cgi/12098?do=show;id=1735) in the 'smart' version: if a player has only horses left in the field, the systems will notice if an open narrow passage causes obstruction.

There has been a slight modification of the penalty on obstruction, because it simplified Arty's algorithm: in case of obstruction, the victim can choose to remove any opponent's piece, and is thus not restricted to removing a blocking piece. If the obstruction is still there at the beginning of the next turn of the player who caused it, it is up to him to undo it or to risk having another piece sent off.

Obstruction is far from being the 'exception' I suggested it would be. I'm a (cautiously) attacking player and building a fortress around the ball is not the first thing that comes to my mind. But it should have.

Arty Sandler was the first to explicitly formulate a strategy based on 'near obstruction':

Get the ball (black can get to it first), bring it to the left or right backfield and build a 'narrow passage' along the b- or h-column where you keep the ball save from invasion by a knight's move.
To get in the opponent would need a Lion or an Elephant, and a lone invader runs the risk of being captured.
Now here's the puzzle: move the whole narrow passage towards the opponent's side, taking the ball along, till you're close enough to the opponent's goal to make a break for it with a Lion and the ball.

That's it in a nutshell. It has been coined catenaccio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catenaccio).

But in actual play it is complicated. Black can get to the ball first, but he cannot keep it in possesion because of the approaching pieces of the opponent, so he can only drop it one square off center.

The one who eventually gets away with it doesn't have all that much time to make his narrow passage and may be forced to retreat to somewhere near his own backrow.

Near the goal area anything might happen:

a. The opponent's goal is a freezone for capture: to capture a piece in his own goal, the player would have to shoot the ball into his own goal.
b. The jump from a cornersquare of the goal to the backrow is always possible because there are no two intermediate squares, so a piece in the opponent's goal often has this option (and the systems won't signal obstruction if this route is open).
A Lion on the cornersquare of the goal may jump to the backrow, jump to the ball, jump back with the ball and jump back into the goal: end of game.
c. Both players may have the option to use a ricochet to free the ball and totally alter the nature of the position.

So you won't want to be too far back while building your narrow passage, but less far back you need more time and the opponent's pieces can cooperate better to frustrate the attempts.

And always, always there's the risk of a piece, usually a Lion, breaking away with the ball and dropping it in too thinly spread a defense, ready to score next turn (or even the same turn, sudden death happens).

As I said it's very complicated, but grinding over it, I got a taste of possible gridlock anyway. Where did it come from.

Implicit restrictions shape the nature of a game, but an 'organism' should preferably not explicitly hamper itself. It's not a law, but rather an intuition.
It didn't take me too long to realize that the restriction on the knight's move, based on the 'visual' that a player can pass one, but not two players, was somewhat funny, because it implied that the player is hindered as much by his own as by his opponent's piece. And the consequences showed when trying to invade an opponent's fortress.

So I changed the rule from "the knight's move is not possible if both intermediate squares are occupied by pieces" to:

4. "The knight's move is not possible if both intermediate squares are occupied by opponent's pieces".

My critics were right: playtesting is a must. Yet I don't feel I was far off the mark for a game this complicated.

Anyway, what does the rule change imply?

For the catenaccio player, aka the defender, aka the ballkeeper not much changes. He can jump over his own wall into or out of his fortress and 'organize' the required moves to get the whole thing forward somewhat easier.
The latter is the more important. There's not much 'jumping in and out' of one's own fortress. A piece of the wall that moves to the ball inside, leaves it's own hole to exit, and Lions and Elephants can also shoot the ball over pieces without restrictions.

For the attacking player, aka the ballhunter, things do change: any piece he manages to get in between the opponent's pieces that make up the enclosure can act as a 'bridge' for another piece to jump over, so the coordination as wel as the effectivenes of his pieces increases.

The implementation of the rulechange was far from applauded by Hanniball players at iGGC, and they pointed mainly at the advantages for the catenaccio player: hey, now Arty gets even stronger, if not unstoppable.

So it was kind of a relief that I won my first game new style against him, and against a clear catenaccio I might add.
But it was a close call.

Let's see how it works out  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 24th, 2010, 7:46am

on 03/27/09 at 08:36:31, Fritzlein wrote:
We have seen occasional positions that tended toward stalemate and piece shuffling, although only two or three I am aware of in the whole history of Arimaa, and none that were completely blocked.  I consider it unlikely that playing to win at Arimaa will drive us toward such corners of the position space,

Wrong.  That's exactly what will happen.

1. Game X has only been played seriously for a couple years.
2. Drawish play almost never happened.
3. Therefore, so what??

Good luck with your planned grandmaster community.  With all this prophecy going on, in the coming centuries finite games such as Oust will leave infinite games such as Arimaa in the dust.  Of course I don't expect anyone to believe that.  Not this century.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on May 24th, 2010, 9:16am

on 05/24/10 at 07:46:16, MarkSteere wrote:
Wrong.  That's exactly what will happen.

1. Game X has only been played seriously for a couple years.
2. Drawish play almost never happened.
3. Therefore, so what??

Good luck with your planned grandmaster community.  With all this prophecy going on, in the coming centuries finite games such as Oust will leave infinite games such as Arimaa in the dust.  Of course I don't expect anyone to believe that.  Not this century.

Who the hell are you!?

[A Google search later...]

Oh good grief. The fact that you're the inventor of Oust has nothing to do with your observations, does it? No-o of course not. Heaven forbid.

I mean what is the point? Why did you waste your time signing up here and browsing the forum if all you're gonna do is find some obnoxious way of saying "My games are better than yo-our game! Ner ner ner ner ne-er ner!"?

Excuse me if I ignore your self-serving claptrap and keep on enjoying myself. Why don't you go off and invent hex Ludo or something.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 24th, 2010, 10:05am
I was seeing links to this discussion every day in the iggc chat.  When I finally checked it out I had to answer the desperate cry for a reality check.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on May 24th, 2010, 10:48am
Here's an amusing contrast.  One the one hand, I have played and studied Arimaa for about six years, and I think it is not a stretch to say that I am one of the world's foremost experts on Arimaa.  Nevertheless, I am well aware that I can't know the future of Arimaa if it is someday played by folks who are significantly better at it than I am.  Indeed, a portion of this very thread is filled with my skepticism of Christian Freeling's claims that he (or anyone) can know in advance of playing and developing expertise at a game what will become of that game in the long run.  I take the "So what?" part of Mark's comments very seriously.  Thus, even now, my most forceful predictions about Arimaa (including the one he quoted) are still qualified by words like "probably" and "unlikely".  Indeed, even from the paragraph he quoted, Mark trimmed my qualifier, "but one never knows".

On the other hand, Mark Steere, who is only superficially familiar with Arimaa, claims to know "exactly" what will happen in its future, although he advances neither argument nor evidence to support his claim.  I expect I would dispute the argument or the evidence if it were there, but since neither is present we have only his expertise to dispute (i.e. his right to hold an opinion with no justification).

In addition to the lack of substance, Mark also threw in inflammatory comments.  This is classic trolling behavior.

Mark, I understand that there are communities in the world which would benefit from a "reality check", but you have provided nothing of the sort to the Arimaa community.  So far you have added heat while shedding no light.  I invite you to choose between (A) backing up your claims in less incendiary form than your first two posts, or (B) leaving the Arimaa community in peace.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 24th, 2010, 11:06am
I'm going to leave you in peace.  

I hold court in rec.games.abstract, a moderator free zone.  I recently started a new topic there, "Arimaa grandmaster society".

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 24th, 2010, 11:42am

on 05/24/10 at 10:48:02, Fritzlein wrote:
Indeed, a portion of this very thread is filled with my skepticism of Christian Freeling's claims that he (or anyone) can know in advance of playing and developing expertise at a game what will become of that game in the long run.
If that was my claim I'd share your scepticism. What will become of a game is different from how a game will behave in the long run. Some excellent games would behave perfectly, in that players can keep discovering new ideas and strategies with increasing insights, not unlike say Chess or Go. Nevertheless nothing will ever 'become' of them. Arimaa might be in that position, and without doubt the fast majority of my games too. I'd be glad (albeit dead) if two or three can still be found in wiki, half a century from now.

So I never predicted Hanniballs 'future'. I just predict that it will behave properly in the long run, gamewise. And I gladly admit that some finetuning has been going on as the result of playtesting, and that I'm not out of the woods yet. Playtesting has only just begun and my neck is still on the block.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on May 24th, 2010, 1:39pm

on 05/24/10 at 11:42:52, christianF wrote:
So I never predicted Hanniballs 'future'. I just predict that it will behave properly in the long run, gamewise. And I gladly admit that some finetuning has been going on as the result of playtesting, and that I'm not out of the woods yet. Playtesting has only just begun and my neck is still on the block.

It may be that the only thing we disagree about is what you claim to be able to know about a game prior to playtesting.  :)  As the evidence from playtesting Hanniball trickles in, I keep interpreting it as proving you wrong, whereas you keep interpreting it as proving you right!  Perhaps I simply don't know what you mean for a game to "behave properly in the long run".  Also I am not sure what you mean by "finetuning" rules, presumably as opposed to making fundamental changes.

My thought about what makes a rule change superficial or fundamental is the extent to which it would invalidate the expertise of grandmasters.  Let me use chess to illustrate.  An example of a trivial rule change would be changing between a 50-move drawing rule and a 100-move drawing rule.  If the Russians all played with one rule and all the Chinese played with the other rule and their respective champions got together to play a match, the better player would win regardless of which rule was in force.  A moderately significant change would be randomizing the opening setup, as chess960 does.  The top players will be similar in strength, but a specialist in one would likely gain a couple hundred rating points of "home-field advantage" over a specialist in the other.  A fundamental change would be replacing the queen on each side with a second king and requiring double checkmate for victory.

Since I haven't played Hanniball myself, it isn't clear to me which of your several rule changes were "finetuning", except for one.  Changing from three actions per turn to four actions per turn was fundamental.  If all the Russians played 3-step Hanniball and all the Chinese played 4-step Hanniball, and their respective champions played each other, the winner would be whoever got to play with familiar rules.  It wouldn't even be close.

So what does that prove?  It might be that your introduction of a fundamental rule change proves nothing because you didn't need to make the change.  (I believe you implied this earlier.)  But suppose for a moment that 4-step Hanniball is playable at an expert level whereas 3-step Hanniball does not behave properly in the long run.  Would that not disprove your ability to know in advance of playtesting how a game will behave?

At some point, I will no longer be able to fence with you verbally about Hanniball without becoming good at the game myself.  At that point I will have to retire from the debate even if I am not persuaded of your thesis.  Nevertheless, regardless of how you and I variously interpret the data, I salute you for inventing Hanniball out in the open and reporting candidly on its progress.  That is courageously done.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 24th, 2010, 2:50pm

on 05/24/10 at 13:39:27, Fritzlein wrote:
It may be that the only thing we disagree about is what you claim to be able to know about a game prior to playtesting.  :)  As the evidence from playtesting Hanniball trickles in, I keep interpreting it as proving you wrong, whereas you keep interpreting it as proving you right!  Perhaps I simply don't know what you mean for a game to "behave properly in the long run".  Also I am not sure what you mean by "finetuning" rules, presumably as opposed to making fundamental changes.

To get an idea across you have to exaggerate to some degree. Grand Chess is a good example of a game that supports my claim. Some opening weakness might have emerged that I missed, but I saw none. Given that why would Grand Chess not behave similar to Chess?
HanniBall is another matter because the mechanics are quite new and the interaction is very complicated. That makes its long term behaviour much harder to predict.
But I can predict that if no fatal flaw is found the game wil be rich in strategies and tactics.
Outlines of both the possible flaw and at least the tactical richness have by now emerged. The possible flaw is that the 'catenaccio' approach might prove to strong. But it's not even clear which player has the better chance of getting the ball more or less savely surrounded into his own ranks in the opening stage.

But you're right that I didn't get it 100% right.



on 05/24/10 at 13:39:27, Fritzlein wrote:
Since I haven't played Hanniball myself, it isn't clear to me which of your several rule changes were "finetuning", except for one.  Changing from three actions per turn to four actions per turn was fundamental.

Yes, that was less than a week after its genesis. Good fundamental change!



on 05/24/10 at 13:39:27, Fritzlein wrote:
But suppose for a moment that 4-step Hanniball is playable at an expert level whereas 3-step Hanniball does not behave properly in the long run. Would that not disprove your ability to know in advance of playtesting how a game will behave?

Or would it 'prove' it? It's not provable is it, but it might suggest it: I changed it because the four moves version is the smallest that supports grabbing a ball, shooting it to an opponent, capturing the opponent and getting rid of the ball, in one turn. Kind of the essence of HanniBall capture.



on 05/24/10 at 13:39:27, Fritzlein wrote:
At some point, I will no longer be able to fence with you verbally about Hanniball without becoming good at the game myself. At that point I will have to retire from the debate even if I am not persuaded of your thesis. Nevertheless, regardless of how you and I variously interpret the data, I salute you for inventing Hanniball out in the open and reporting candidly on its progress. That is courageously done.

Thank you, it's always a pleasure to read your comments, and I'd sure welcome you at iGGC :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on May 24th, 2010, 4:46pm

on 05/24/10 at 14:50:20, christianF wrote:
Or would it 'prove' it? It's not provable is it, but it might suggest it: I changed it because the four moves version is the smallest that supports grabbing a ball, shooting it to an opponent, capturing the opponent and getting rid of the ball, in one turn. Kind of the essence of HanniBall capture.

So, it might suggest that your intuitions are highly informed by minimal playtesting.  This puts you at the opposite end of a spectrum from those who can't see flaws in their favorite games despite a mountain of evidence.  But even if so, the ability to intuit game behavior with no playtesting whatsoever would be off the end of the spectrum.


Quote:
To get an idea across you have to exaggerate to some degree.


Quote:
Thank you, it's always a pleasure to read your comments, and I'd sure welcome you at iGGC :) .

I, too, enjoy reading your comments (when you aren't manipulating your audience through intentional exaggeration :P), and enjoy trying to glean principles of good game design from you.  Your writing is always lively and laced with insight.  Although I insist that no one can know how a game will behave prior to playtesting, I also don't go to the opposite extreme of saying that generating random rules and playtesting is likely to create good games.  Obviously people like yourself somehow manage to generate more sound game ideas than other would-be game inventors, and there must be a reason for it.  Thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2010, 2:20pm

on 05/24/10 at 16:46:59, Fritzlein wrote:
So, it might suggest that your intuitions are highly informed by minimal playtesting.  This puts you at the opposite end of a spectrum from those who can't see flaws in their favorite games despite a mountain of evidence.  But even if so, the ability to intuit game behavior with no playtesting whatsoever would be off the end of the spectrum.

I surrender myself to the mercy of the court.

Let's go for the minimal playtesting then. My latest 'finetuning' concerning the restrictions on the knight's move made the game slightly less positional and slightly more tactical. Not the way I would have gone naturally, but it would have been no problem ... if it had solved the problem.
But it hasn't.
So there's no need to divert from the previous version.

The problem is catenaccio, because it is both boring and successful. It doesn't violate any rules and it hasn't led to draws, even to a substantial percentage of wins, but it's not the way the game wants to be played: victory comes like popping a pimple, a huge mass progressing ever so slowly, and then suddenly poof.

I've been pondering this for a couple of hours now, looking for a generic solution without arbitrary parameters ::) and I think I've found one.

But I'm going to sleep over it to make sure.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 26th, 2010, 4:18am

on 05/25/10 at 14:20:44, christianF wrote:
But I'm going to sleep over it to make sure.
I slept over it.

There's a Shogi proverb "if you find a good move, look for a better one" and it applies to rules too.

The whole problem was centered around the ball and the definition of 'obstruction'.  I once praised Greg Magne's definition as 'perfect' and it was indeed, if perfect is defined as 'without the currently known defects'.
The unknown defect being catenaccio.

So a new obstruction rule emerged that implicitly includes the current one.
If Fritzlein would ask me how, my explanation would suffer from retrospectively applied logic. In hindsight every step makes sense. Of course not every step in the actual process did. Maybe I just got lucky.

For the new obstruction rule it is necessary to define the ballsquare as 'the square where the ball is at the beginning of any given turn'.
The squares of the goals cannot be ballsquares (because there would be no next turn).

Around the ballsquare, there are rings:
The first ring consists of the squares one king's move away from the ball.
The second ring consists of the squares two outward king's moves away from the ball.
The third ring consists of the squares three outward king's moves away from the ball.
...
The 'N'th ring consists of the squares 'N' outward king's moves away from the ball.
Goalsquares are excluded, implicitly as ballsquares, explicitly as ringsquares.

The obstruction rule:
If at the beginning of his turn a player finds that on any one ring (the first, second, third ...) the number of opponent's pieces is more than half the number of squares of that ring, then the opponent commits obstruction and the player is entitled to send one of his pieces off the board.
Barring the keeper, this may or may not be one of the pieces causing the obstruction. If a non-obstructing piece is sent off, then the opponent, on his next turn, will have to undo the obstruction himself, or risk having another piece sent off next turn.

The most important difference with the current obstruction rule is that it is defined in terms of rings around the ball rather then in terms of access by an 'open' route, given enough steps to get there.

In the new definition, the number of defenders that is allowed, shrinks with closer proximity to the edges or the corners.

Centerfield there's no problem: with four defenders on the first ring a player doesn't even have enough pieces left to violate the second, unless the ballsquare is on the b- or h-column, where the second ring has at most eleven squares.

A ball in the corner has three squares on the first ring, five on the second and seven on the third. That's one, plus two, plus three possible defenders.
It is not possible to distribute these over the three rings in such a way that an opponent's access to the ball is completely obstructed.

Along the side it's a similar story. The best columns to push catenaccio would still be the b- and h- column. Along the left and right center, you can put four defenders on the first ring, five on the second. But this still is far to 'loosely packed' to deny an opponent access the way the current style catenaccio can.

Implicitly the old style obstruction test has become obsolete.

Though generically defined, the actual test a system has to perform would be on the first three rings, or four if you want to cover every eventuality (a player could put 5 pieces on the 4th ring of a cornersquare).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by gatsby on May 26th, 2010, 6:29am

on 05/26/10 at 04:18:26, christianF wrote:
A ball in the corner has three squares on the first ring, five on the second and seven on the third. That's one, plus two, plus three possible defenders.
It is not possible to distribute these over the three rings in such a way that an opponent's access to the ball is completely obstructed.


But it is four possible defenders on the fourth ring, and it is indeed possible to distribute the ten pieces of a player over the four rings to commit obstruction:

. . . . . .
x x x x . .
. . . x . .
. . . x . .
. . x x . .
O x x . . .
 | | | |
 | | | 4th ring
 | | 3rd ring
 | 2nd ring
 1st ring

O -> the ball in the corner
x -> pieces

(Pasting the diagram on Notepad will help)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on May 26th, 2010, 6:57am

on 05/26/10 at 06:29:32, gatsby wrote:
But it is four possible defenders on the fourth ring, and it is indeed possible to distribute the ten pieces of a player over the four rings to commit obstruction:

. . . . . .

Didn't you put 7 defenders on the 3rd ring? (at least this is what I see after pasting to Notepad)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on May 26th, 2010, 7:34am
I like the "font=courier" and "/font" tags.


. . . . . .
x x x x . .
. . . x . .
. . . x . .
. . x x . .
O x x . . .
 | | | |
 | | | 4th ring
 | | 3rd ring
 | 2nd ring
 1st ring

O -> the ball in the corner
x -> pieces


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 26th, 2010, 7:43am
Gatsby is right. It would appear that the new rule does not fully include the current one. So some more  ::) is required. Suggestions are welcome :) .

Of course demanding that both definitions be used and both tests required is less than elegant.

It is worth noting that in Gatsby's example all 10 initial fieldpieces are required. Having one piece captured renders the given example impossible.
Also, keeping up such an arrangement may prove quite a puzzle.

At the same time this type of arrangement is possible elsewhere too, for instance on the side:

In this example the left side is the edge of the board, and only 9 pieces do the trick (2 on the first ring, 4 on the second and 3 on the third).

x x x .
. . x .
. . x .
o . x .
x x x .
. . . .
. . . .


It's even possible on the on the b-and h-columns (left side edge: 4 on the first ring, 5 on the second).

x x x .
. . x .
. o x .
. x x .
x x . .


One possibility is to change the maximum number of pieces per ring from "not more than half" to "less than half".
This would reduce the maximum on rings with an even number of squares with one piece, while not affacting rings with an odd number of squares,
Of the three example above, it would only change one though, so this isn't what we're looking for (though it's always worth to keep in mind).

So we're not looking for a bandaid solution. We're looking for one definition that covers both previous ones.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 26th, 2010, 8:01am

on 05/26/10 at 07:43:29, christianF wrote:
So some more  ::) is required. Suggestions are welcome :) .

This is turning into a pretty big "nutshell"  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 26th, 2010, 9:29am

on 05/26/10 at 08:01:14, MarkSteere wrote:
This is turning into a pretty big "nutshell"  :)

I described the problem in a nutshell, I never said it was one, whatever that might mean.

Systemwise the solution is simple: test on both definitions. One test is already implemented, and the new one is even simpler to implement (according to Arty).
Rulewise this is less than elegant, that's why I feel one definition covering both criteria would be preferable.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 26th, 2010, 9:36am

on 05/26/10 at 09:29:20, christianF wrote:
I described the problem in a nutshell,

And that would be the precise nutshell to which I was referring.  It's growing like Pinocchio's nose  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 26th, 2010, 11:09am

on 05/26/10 at 09:36:59, MarkSteere wrote:
It's growing like Pinocchio's nose  :)

Hi Mark, glad you're enjoying the proceedings so much. Seems like I didn't quite make it with my 'predictable behaviour' claims. I clearly misjudged the catenaccio approach :P .

Are there extenuating circumstances?
At the core of the game there's a simple 'king's move / knight's move' scenario, but the interaction is very complex. So it was a difficult monkey to judge to begin with.
Predicting the behaviour of say Grand Chess or Dameo is simpler because there are earlier games one can rely on, or your own Oust, which is a stroke of genius, or Cage, where the 'entrance into an endgame' aspect is immediately apparent (wasn't there a rule change in Cage?  - gridlock if I remember correctly? :) ).

At the same time I don't think the problem is any bigger than implementing both criteria and calling the first one 'obstruction' and the second one 'shielding'.

They're not illegal, both are red card offences, and may cost you a piece just like any other bad move. This soon learns you to keep an eye on them. They may even be committed as an actual sacrifice if a player can manage a threat to score despite any piece being sent off.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 26th, 2010, 1:12pm

on 05/26/10 at 11:09:15, christianF wrote:
Hi Mark, glad you're enjoying the proceedings so much.

:D  Sorry, not to be celebrating your dilemma.  Just goading you a little.  I've committed at least my share of folly in the game design business, retracting flawed games on occasion.


on 05/26/10 at 11:09:15, christianF wrote:
or your own Oust, which is a stroke of genius, or Cage, where the 'entrance into an endgame' aspect is immediately apparent (wasn't there a rule change in Cage?  - gridlock if I remember correctly? :) ).

Thanks re Oust and yes re Cage gridlock, my folly :D  In a contrived position, a giant diamond of like colored checkers around the center, the checkers couldn't move inward.  Fortunately a tiny fix was available to straighten out the game.  There isn't always.  

The problem was kind of a "typo" in the game's geometry.  Cage was trying to be a valid game, but I wasn't letting it at first.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 27th, 2010, 6:37am

on 05/26/10 at 13:12:23, MarkSteere wrote:
:D  Sorry, not to be celebrating your dilemma.

Thanks, I'm in sheer desperation.


on 05/26/10 at 13:12:23, MarkSteere wrote:
Cage was trying to be a valid game, but I wasn't letting it at first.

We seem to have in common that you perceive a game as a spirit whose accomodation is the inventor's goal :) .

HanniBall has the spirit of a soccer game and should first and foremost be fun. A single dominant strategy, however successful, has no place in that equation.
Another nights sleep brought no single gereric rule so I'll go for the double.

This means that the current obstruction rule remains in place and the new one, governing piece density and distribution around the ball, is added under the name shielding.

Obstruction
If a player on his turn finds a position in which he has at least one piece other than a Keeper, and not one of his pieces can reach the ball in any number of moves, then the opponent has committed obstruction and the player to move may remove one of the opponent's pieces from the board as his first move. This may or may not be a blocking piece.
If the obstruction is still in place at the beginning of the blocking player's next turn, it is up to him to undo the obstruction, or risk having yet another piece removed.

Shielding concerns only the 9x13 fieldsquares, not the goals.
Definition: the 'ballsquare' is the square where the ball is at the beginning of any given turn.

A piece's or a square's distance to the ballsquare is measured as the smallest number of king's moves to get from there to the ball.
Squares with equal distance to the ballsquare lie in 'rings' around it. A ring is an odd sized 'square of squares'. The first one (R1) is 3x3, the second one (R2) 5x5, then (R3) 7x7 and so on. Rings may be truncated, the remainder being outside the board.

Shielding
If a player on his turn finds a position in which on any particular ring the opponent's pieces occupy half the number of squares of that ring or more then the opponent has committed shielding and the player to move may remove one of the opponent's pieces from the board as his first move. This may or may not be a shielding piece.
If the shielding is still in place at the beginning of the shielding player's next turn, it is up to him to undo it or risk having yet another piece removed.

Very similar to obstruction. The penalty may or may not be given. It would be silly, for instance, to send a piece off at the cost of a move, when a player has a win in four moves.

In terms of visualizing, obstruction is easy to spot as long as there are still Lions and Elephants in the game: only a complete seal off, orthogonally and diagonally, constitutes obstruction.
In the (probably rare) event of a player having only Horses left, the opponent may cause obstruction with an enclosure that is open to a king's move, but inaccessible for Horses. The systems (Zillions, iGGC) signal such cases of obstruction.

Concerning shielding, please note that I've finetuned it by changing the maximum number of pieces per ring from "not more than half" to "less than half". This reduces the maximum number of like colored pieces on rings with an even number of squares with one piece, while not affacting rings with an odd number of squares.

To understand the implications, let's see how piece density and distribution is affected in R1, R2 and R3, going from the field to the edges and corners:

http://i45.tinypic.com/9v8acn.gif
*
R1 #sq (#pmax)
R2 #sq (#pmax)
R3 #sq (#pmax)
d5
8 (3)
16 (7)
24 (11)
c5
8 (3)
16 (7)
17 (8)
c4
8 (3)
16 (7)
11 (5)
b5
8 (3)
11 (5)
15 (7)
b4
8 (3)
11 (5)
10 (4)
b3
8 (3)
7 (3)
9 (4)
a5
5 (2)
9 (4)
13 (6)
a4
5 (2)
9 (4)
9 (4)
a3
5 (2)
6 (2)
8 (3)
a2
3 (1)
5 (2)
7 (3)

In actual play shielding in the center hardly amounts to more than checking the first ring. It's nearer to the edge and corner that a more thorough check is required.

To make visualisation easier the first two rings around the ball (and therewith implicitly the third) will be highlighted in lighter shades inward towards the ballsquare.

Where the rule against shielding does not prevent obstruction, thanks Gatsby for pointing that out, is guarantees a structure around the ball in which at least half the number of squares from any distances are available for invasion.
Towards the edges and the corners, the number of like colored pieces allowed around the ball shrinks considerably (note: though mainly a problem of the player in possesion of the ball, the opponent may also commit shielding!). And catenaccio needs, if nothing else, a ball that's near the edge and sufficient 'piece density' around it, to proceed.

So rather than facing a dilemma, I think the rule against shielding effectively puts an end to the one problem HanniBall turned out to have after its launch at iGGC (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 28th, 2010, 8:37am
The rule against shielding will be implemented soon at both iGGC (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html) and Zillions (http://www.zillions-of-games.com/cgi-bin/zilligames/submissions.cgi/12098?do=show;id=1735).
Highlighting the rings may take a bit longer because it may require a change in the interface.

The alternative can be to make the rings part of the ball. Moving the ball would then imply moving the rings, and the highlighted squares would cover other pieces, requiring a rewrite of the whole position.

To get around this, only the lines between the squares could be highlighted. The ball would then look something like this:

http://i49.tinypic.com/s16fc5.gif

And in the initial position it would look like this:

http://i48.tinypic.com/egekgh.gif

The problem is that the rings will go over the edge of the board. To solve this, Ed will employ only two horizontal and two vertical lines ...

http://i45.tinypic.com/zss2ns.gif

... (using one pair for each shade of yellow) and project the required ringlines with them for every possible square.
Bit of work, but easier than changing the interface.

Predicting behaviour
This is the epilogue I added to a late arrival (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/a-late-arrival):

[color="#0000aa"]Playtesting for a week or two at iGGameCenter (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html) revealed that the game's tactics satisfy its spirit. However, a not anticipated problem emerged, in terms of strategy. Arty Sandler was the first to formulate it:

"Get the ball (black can get to it first), bring it to the left or right backfield and build a 'narrow passage' along the b- or h-column where you keep the ball save from invasion by a knight's move. To get in, the opponent would need a Lion or an Elephant, and a lone invader runs the risk of being captured.
Now here's the puzzle: move the whole narrow passage towards the opponent's side, taking the ball along, till you're close enough to the opponent's goal to make a break for it with a Lion and the ball.


That's it in a nutshell. It's been coined catenaccio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catenaccio), and though it revealed no inconsistency in the rules, it wasn't the way the game wants to be played. It clearly needed a rule to limit the number of pieces and their distribution around the ball.
Thus the rule against shielding (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=21#shielding) emerged.
[/color]

The point being that I did 'feel' the game's behaviour the way it now has become apparent, in it's immediate movements and interaction with itself, but missed the emergence of a strategy that clearly is not 'in the game's spirit'.

I think with the rule against shielding the rules have now 'accomodated the game's spirit' adequately.

As an afterthought, note that shielding can be used in a tactical way. A player can leave the ball in a position where not he, but his opponent commits shielding.
Of course shielding is only considered at the beginning of any given turn, and when a player finds that his own pieces commit shielding at the start of his turn, it is up to him to undo it in the course of his own moves.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2010, 9:00am
I'm vicariously relishing your patient, understanding audience  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2010, 9:09am
My ashes would be blowing out of a cold charcoal pit by now.  lol

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 29th, 2010, 9:49am

on 05/29/10 at 09:09:59, MarkSteere wrote:
My ashes would be blowing out of a cold charcoal pit by now. lol
Mine are not, on the contrary. I  have enjoyed many of the subject related comments here and I think the 'audience' has shown a fair share of patience with me, as well as providing some much appreciated help in shaping HanniBall's rules :-* .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 30th, 2010, 1:54pm
Controversy rules  >:(

The chat at iGGC suffered overload, so at least HanniBall is capable of causing controversy.

Several alternatives were suggested and I was subtly remembered that my previous attempt at a fix failed miserably. Not surprisingly so, because it didn't address the problem, just shifted the game in slightly less positional surroundings. I had jumped at a solution just like some of the chatters today, and I jumped back rather quickly.

I believe the rule against shielding does precisely what it has to do: it regulates both density and distribution of like colored pieces around the ball in a generic way. Yet Arty's suggestion to simply disallow three like colored pieces in a straight and unbroken line might work too. Or it might not, I haven't had time to let it sink in yet.

The rule against shielding doen't prevent obstuction, but it might prevent a special 'undetectable' kind of obstruction Arty came up with:

http://i45.tinypic.com/x0u43c.png

The system wouldn't detect 'obstruction' here because there's a black horse in the ranks, and if it would move, the position is open king's move wise.
But the horse can't leave its position.

The readers here are evidently good puzzlers, so here's a puzzle:
Can a similar indirect obstruction be constucted with the shielding rule in place? In the example white is two pieces over the limit on the first ring.

Arty had another interesting example: it is a shielding situation on R8 and it certainly doesn't look like shielding:

http://i45.tinypic.com/20joc4j.png

Here it is important to realize that shielding and obstruction aren't forbidden: they're red card offences, so black could lose a piece here.
No big deal, if your pieces are in this position you're probably so bad at the game that you're quite used to losing pieces.
I don't really see the probem arising, and if it does I don't really see the problem, period.

Generally: the difference between disallowing something and making it a 'red card' (that is: allowed but punishable) is that in the latter case the offence can be made on purpose.
Like not minding the punishment if it gets you two pieces in a scoring position.
And the punishment in turn is an option: like not capturing a piece at the cost of a move, because you have a win in four moves.

So they're part of the possible tactics.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 30th, 2010, 3:05pm

on 05/30/10 at 13:54:40, christianF wrote:
Generally: the difference between disallowing something and making it a 'red card' (that is: allowed but punishable) is that in the latter case the offence can be made on purpose.  Like not minding the punishment if it gets you two pieces in a scoring position.  And the punishment in turn is an option: like not capturing a piece at the cost of a move, because you have a win in four moves.

Your nutshell is growing, Pinocchio  :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on May 30th, 2010, 7:41pm

Quote:
Yet Arty's suggestion to simply disallow three like colored pieces in a straight and unbroken line might work too


Well, it's not about "straight and unbroken line" but any group of orthogonally adjacent pieces of the same color. So "L"-shaped group of 4 same-colored pieces will be punished too. I also got an idea to include the Ball into the counting. So putting three pieces orthogonally adjacent to the Ball (either directly or forming a "chain", touching the Ball) can be punished too. In general, this rule punishes "clustering together", which is the "core" of the Catennacio.


on 05/30/10 at 13:54:40, christianF wrote:
The readers here are evidently good puzzlers, so here's a puzzle:
Can a similar indirect obstruction be constucted with the shielding rule in place?

Yes :) It took me a minute to construct it.

http://i45.tinypic.com/208b88m.jpg

I forgot to put other white pieces on this image so put one white Lion somewhere on the board.

The position does not fall under the "shielding rule":

1st ring - 3 squares, 1 black piece - no shielding
2nd ring - 5 squares, 2 black pieces - no shielding
3rd ring - 7 squares, 2 black pieces  - no shielding
4th ring - 9 squares, 1 black piece - no shielding.

Both white horses cannot move. The white Lion cannot reach the Ball. So this is a clear "Obstruction", which won't be detected with the current algorithm.

By the way, my variant of "shielding" rule "punishes" this position - Black player formed a group of 4 pieces. Removing one of them either opens the way to the Ball or unblocks one of the white horses.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 2:13am

on 05/30/10 at 15:05:37, MarkSteere wrote:
Generally: the difference between disallowing something and making it a 'red card' (that is: allowed but punishable) is that in the latter case the offence can be made on purpose.
Like not minding the punishment if it gets you two pieces in a scoring position.
And the punishment in turn is an option: like not capturing a piece at the cost of a move, because you have a win in four moves.


Your nutshell is growing, Pinocchio  :D


I'm not sure what you mean nor what your 'pinocchio' association means, but it is evident that you're enjoying youself in your own way.

The remark I made about disallowing something or to make it a 'red card' offence is a general remark and might be worth thinking about, even by a brilliant inventor such as you, because, frankly, I don't think you quite understand.
We're still eagerly awaiting your insights regarding the game, instead of constantly repeating your smallminded remarks from the sideline :-* .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 2:32am

on 05/30/10 at 19:41:55, Arty wrote:
Well, it's not about "straight and unbroken line" but any group of orthogonally adjacent pieces of the same color. So "L"-shaped group of 4 same-colored pieces will be punished too. I also got an idea to include the Ball into the counting. So putting three pieces orthogonally adjacent to the Ball (either directly or forming a "chain", touching the Ball) can be punished too. In general, this rule punishes "clustering together", which is the "core" of the Catennacio.

Ah, three max.

I must admit that your solution has the lure of simplicity and I can't see anything wrong with it just now. I'll have to chew on this one a bit more, but you might be on to something.

Implicitly, my concern is the best possible accomodation of the game's spirit, not the best possible preservation of my ego, you can understand that Mark, can't you? ???

So I'll consider it for a few hours and see how it feels.

Up front, and especially for Mark: it should still be a red card offence.
If you disallow it, the system would disallow it at every move, i.e. a square the occupation of which would violate it, would not even show up as a target square for the selected piece. The game would thus be hampering itself.

As it is, the system checks the position after submitting and doen't prevent the player from violating it at any stage, but simply gives the opponent the right to punish it.
The opponent may find reasons to violate it despite the punishment, as pionted out previously. Sacrificing a piece that way is no different from sacrificing a piece in chess.
Likewise an opponent may choose not to accept the sacrifice (for instance if he has a win in four).

All much simpler and more 'fluid' and far more interesting than disallowing the configuration.


on 05/30/10 at 19:41:55, Arty wrote:
I also got an idea to include the Ball into the counting. So putting three pieces orthogonally adjacent to the Ball (either directly or forming a "chain", touching the Ball) can be punished too.


You're aiming at a rule that implies obstruction, right? With your rule, the only possible obstruction configuration would be around a ball in a corner. Making the ball a 'piece' would prevent that configuration from going unpunished, right? :)

With a bit of luck this may turn out to be the one generic rule I was looking for to cover both obstruction and shielding.
One rule against 'clustering'.

Does making the ball a 'piece' in Arty's concept really prevent obstruction as it appears to do?
'Prevent' in the sense that every form it can take will be punishable?
I sincerely hope so.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on May 31st, 2010, 4:07am

Quote:
You're aiming at a rule that implies  obstruction, right? With your rule, the only possible obstruction configuration would be around a ball in a corner. Making the ball a 'piece' would prevent that configuration from going unpunished, right?

Unfortunately, this rule doesn't include all kinds of Obstruction. With the Ball on A2 and two pieces on C3 & B4, an opponent's Horse cannot reach the Ball. So if this is the only kind of pieces the opponent has then the situation is Obstruction. Besides that it seems so that my variant includes all other kinds of Obstruction.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 5:58am

on 05/31/10 at 04:07:44, Arty wrote:
Unfortunately, this rule doesn't include all kinds of Obstruction. With the Ball on A2 and two pieces on C3 & B4, an opponent's Horse cannot reach the Ball. So if this is the only kind of pieces the opponent has then the situation is Obstruction. Besides that it seems so that my variant includes all other kinds of Obstruction.


Let's first establish that the shielding rule does require the obstruction rule too.

The 'cluster' rule is much simpler and seems for all intents and purposes to lead to a similar spreading.
Moreover, if indeed your variant includes all other kinds of obstruction, it will allow the formulation of a much simpler obstruction rule, that systemwise only needs to kick in after all king's move fieldpieces of either side have vanished.
And that's not the most common of situations, most likely.

For the Zillions machine it would mean less checks and more speed too (although branch density makes HanniBall a tough case for computers, regardless).

So let's go for it :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 31st, 2010, 6:41am

on 05/31/10 at 02:13:52, christianF wrote:
I'm not sure what you mean nor what your 'pinocchio' association means, but it is evident that you're enjoying youself in your own way.

The remark I made about disallowing something or to make it a 'red card' offence is a general remark and might be worth thinking about, even by a brilliant inventor such as you, because, frankly, I don't think you quite understand.
We're still eagerly awaiting your insights regarding the game, instead of constantly repeating your smallminded remarks from the sideline :-* .

Right on all counts, Christian, especially about not understanding. :)  I barely made it through the original rule sheet, never mind the cappucino, red flags, and "punishment" for naughty players.  By the way, "penalty" might be a better word choice.  A game is supposed to be fun, not punishing.

I totally apologize for the "sideline" commentary.  Somehow I can't resist goading you but believe me there's no malice at heart.  It's really just the volume of the current, epic rule set I'm commenting on.  It's like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

I do believe you'll get it all straightened out, whatever it takes.  I wish I could help but I'm incapable of focusing on voluminous rules.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 7:10am

on 05/31/10 at 06:41:09, MarkSteere wrote:
I totally apologize for the "sideline" commentary. Somehow I can't resist goading you but believe me there's no malice at heart. It's really just the volume of the current, epic rule set I'm commenting on. It's like the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

I do believe you'll get it all straightened out, whatever it takes.  I wish I could help but I'm incapable of focusing on voluminous rules.
No harm done, and closer investigation will show that the 'volume' here and the 'rules' are two different things.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 31st, 2010, 7:51am

on 05/31/10 at 07:10:22, christianF wrote:
No harm done, and closer investigation will show that the 'volume' here and the 'rules' are two different things.

I won't even consider conducting any sort of "investigation" until at least 12 consecutive hours transpire without any increasingly voluminous version updates.  I'm still waiting for the dust to settle.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 8:00am

on 05/31/10 at 07:51:46, MarkSteere wrote:
I won't even consider conducting any sort of "investigation" until at least 12 consecutive hours transpire without any increasingly voluminous version updates.  I'm still waiting for the dust to settle.
I reluctantly admit we share a certain sense of humor too. "Cappucino, red flags, and 'punishment' for naughty players" that was funny, and of course you're right: I meant 'penalty'.

But all the updates concerned only one problem: cappuccino ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on May 31st, 2010, 8:16am
I must admit that I still don't know how to write that word :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 31st, 2010, 9:52am

on 05/31/10 at 08:16:34, Arty wrote:
I must admit that I still don't know how to write that word :D
Europe and soccer go back a long way. I even remember catenaccio (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catenaccio) from the time it was actually played. It was finally wiped off the scene by the Dutch with their system of total football (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Total_Football) that should have brought them the '74 world cup.
It didn't >:(

It led to the dutch definition of soccer: "Soccer is a game between 2x11 players and Germany wins".

Barring South America, the rest of the world was still oblivious of it at the time I think.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2010, 7:23am

on 05/31/10 at 07:51:46, MarkSteere wrote:
I won't even consider conducting any sort of "investigation" until at least 12 consecutive hours transpire without any increasingly voluminous version updates. I'm still waiting for the dust to settle.
It did, quite unexpectedly. Whereas I feel that shielding would have solved the problems, Arty came up with a rule against 'clustering' that has a similar effect, but with a less 'mathy' character, as he put it. The advantages are:

1. The rule is simpler.
2. It implicitly covers "king's move" obstruction, so the obstruction rule, not to mention the algorithm checking it, can be simplified too. For the Zillions machine this is definitely a plus.

So HanniBall now behaves as intended: as a soccer game that's fun to play despite considerable depth ;) .
It has a nice selection of very novel tactics as well as great variety in the ways they interact.
You're all invited to play at iGGC (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 1st, 2010, 8:30am

on 06/01/10 at 07:23:17, christianF wrote:
So HanniBall now behaves as intended

[Resetting 12 hour timer...]

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2010, 8:51am

on 06/01/10 at 08:30:25, MarkSteere wrote:
[Resetting 12 hour timer...]
In the meantime we're eagerly awaiting 'Mad Queens' ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 1st, 2010, 9:20am

on 06/01/10 at 08:51:54, christianF wrote:
In the meantime we're eagerly awaiting 'Mad Queens' ;)

There was never a flaw in Mad Bishops, Christian.  I've changed the starting setup a couple of times, a 100% cosmetic change.  I've also released Mad Rooks, essentially a cosmetic variation as well.

http://www.marksteeregames.com/Mad_Rooks_rules.pdf

Not that I've never released a flawed game.  I have.  But Mad Bishops isn't one of them, and I've retracted the ones that were.  If you want to pick on an MSG flawed game, you've got some waiting and hoping ahead of you.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2010, 9:48am

on 06/01/10 at 09:20:28, MarkSteere wrote:
There was never a flaw in Mad Bishops, Christian.  I've changed the starting setup a couple of times, a 100% cosmetic change.  I've also released Mad Rooks, essentially a cosmetic variation as well.
Are we getting paranoid?
I never said anything about a flaw in Mad Bishops, although the thought may bother you, and I'm fully reassured about Mad Rooks now that you've called it a 'cosmetic' variation.

In fact it's hardly even that, see grids (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/key-concepts#grids) :P

So when are we going to see Mad Queens?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 1st, 2010, 10:36am

on 06/01/10 at 09:48:34, christianF wrote:
So when are we going to see Mad Queens?

A brief history of Mad Bishops:

In January I designed Flume, kind of a simplification of Dots and Boxes.  Instead of two types of "tokens" - line segments and colored boxes - you only have one.  Stones.

http://www.marksteeregames.com/Flume_Go_rules.pdf

This led to a brief flurry of interest in combinatorial game theory and exposure to the ultra simple games the theorists work with - combinatorial games, as strictly defined, such as Clobber.

Soon I needed to have a combinatorial game of my own, which has so far turned into three: Jostle, Colonnade and Mad Bishops (or rooks, but not queens).

http://www.marksteeregames.com/MSG_abstract_games.html

Normally a combinatorial game wouldn't pass muster at MSG and I had to bend some long standing rules to make it happen.  Mad Bishops in particular - I rejected it and came back to it at least twice.  Turns out it's a rather typical combinatorial game with quick and dirty play.

Christian, I don't know where you're going with the "Mad Queens" but if you're saying I'm a stupid designer, this would seem to contradict your statements from earlier in the discussion:

"or your own Oust, which is a stroke of genius"

"even by a brilliant inventor such as you"

I understand, you're frustrated over the Hanniball debacle.  Christian, I was just having a little fun.  I don't want to become the target of your wrath.  I should probably just butt out of the discussion and let you work out your Hanniball issues in peace.  Sorry  :(

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2010, 11:52am

on 06/01/10 at 10:36:20, MarkSteere wrote:
I understand, you're frustrated over the Hanniball debacle. Christian, I was just having a little fun. I don't want to become the target of your wrath. I should probably just butt out of the discussion and let you work out your Hanniball issues in peace. Sorry  :(

Debacle no less, now you're really funny. Hanniball is excellently accomodated, thank you.

One thing about consistency: you seem to have some compulsory need to rub people the wrong way. No problem with me, they often deserve it (none of your 'targets' here implied).

But style then dictates that you should also be able to take 'a little fun', shouldn't you? ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 1st, 2010, 3:14pm
Quite right, Christian.  Mad Queens it is.  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 4th, 2010, 2:40am
Oops, strategy ...

One of the criteria for a game to be called a 'strategy game', according to mindsports (http://mindsports.nl), is that there should be "advantageous sub-goals" to be achieved, as "calculable singposts along the way".

So I had characterized HanniBall as leaning towards the tactical. It seems I was a bit off the mark there too. Not that it's suddenly grandmaster stuff, but I'd like to give an example of such a 'calculable sub-goal'. Courtesy of Arty Sandler who introduced is as an extreme form of the 'new' catenaccio.

The 'new' catenaccio, curbed by Arty's rule against clustering, is a strategy among strategies, instead of being a pain where the sun don't shine.

This extreme form is called "Launchpad strategy". Consider this, a bare bones example:

http://i49.tinypic.com/28jdy13.gif

The 'launchpad' is formed by the Elephant with Ball and the Keeper: the Elephant shoots the Ball to the Keeper, and the Ball can ricochet all the way to b8 or g8.
The Horse on h12, together with the Keeper, shields the ball against knight's moves, so to enter, you'd need king's moves.

The threat is to shoot the Ball to say g8 and go running with the Lion towards the white goal. But you can't make it with the three moves left, so with enough defensive pieces nearby, the black Lion would be left stranded on the doorway, and vulnarable to capture. But white must always measure his defense: if the Lion cannot be captured it's a big danger so close to the goal.

Or the threat is to shoot the Ball to b8, where the white Lion shouldn't be in the first place (on the ricochet line). After that Horse b12 can capture and even get rid of the ball.

The opponent's goal is a freezone against capture, so a white piece on square 'X' would come in handy to break up the launchpad, but what piece?

Not a Horse, although it always can hop from 'X' to 'O' if the latter is vacant. But it can't access the ball.
Not an Elephant because it's way to slow and a piece on g14 leaves it way away from the ball.

So it should be a Lion: in the current situation a Lion could hop to 'O', grab the Ball (capturing the Elephant in the process), move bach to 'O' and shoot the Ball (or move with the Ball) back into the goal.

So black would be advised to get a piece on 'O', but then g14 must be vacated lest clustering would occur.

So put the Elephant that is on g14 to 'O' and white's Lion needs three moves to get to the Ball. That's risky unless you can get the Ball out of the way.
To do that white might use the 'black' launchpad against its owner and ricochet the Ball via the black Keeper to a place where it is least accessible for black and most accessible to white.
There's a lot to consider.

An attacking Lion on a safe spot is is a real thorn in the side of this kind of black strategy, but the drawback is that white must do without that Lion in the center, where Lions are most at home. It implicitly weakens the defense.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 7th, 2010, 2:00pm

on 06/01/10 at 10:36:20, MarkSteere wrote:
I understand, you're frustrated over the Hanniball debacle.  Christian, I was just having a little fun.


According to the current stats (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/topplayed30.html), HanniBall has been played more often the last 30 days (although it hasn't even been there for 30 days), than Oust, HexOust, Mad Bishops, Tanbo, Atoll, Cephalopod and Dipole taken together. If that's a debacle, the question is for whom ::) .

Just having a little fun ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 7th, 2010, 4:15pm

on 06/07/10 at 14:00:12, christianF wrote:
According to the current stats (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/topplayed30.html), HanniBall has been played more often the last 30 days (although it hasn't even been there for 30 days), than Oust, HexOust, Mad Bishops, Tanbo, Atoll, Cephalopod and Dipole taken together.

Well, of course.  :)  It's a brand new game by the famous Christian Freeling - one which uber programmer Arty put a lot of work into, developed complex animation for, and ultimately salvaged.  It's not a dowdy, combinatorial game like Mad Bishops.  I almost wanted to play Hanniball.  

Hex Oust had it's own little chart topping stats for its first couple of months at iggc.  Have I caught you misleading the readership with statistics, Christian?  :D

You don't pose the faintest challenge to me, Christian, and you never will.  We have two completely different design approaches.  You intuit depth of play and clarity and so on with, by your own admission (on bgg), no particular regard for originality.

"I never invented to be commercial or even original."

I, in polar opposition, strive for original architecture, with little or no regard for quality of play.  It's a minor miracle that any of my games have taken root, considering my unconventional design approach.  I'll take what little popularity I can get.  But it's going to take a lot more than Hanniball before you even get close to doing what I do.

I hope your games are popular, Christian, since that's your goal.  If all your games are outstanding, then I commend you for that.  It seemed like one of two of them didn't find their way onto any of the favorite CF games lists though.

I designed all but two of my games in the last seven years.   That's a lot different from half a century.  Let's keep some perspective on the timeline, shall we?  And in the statistical analyses.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 7th, 2010, 5:16pm
I'll bet you even money that Hex Oust beat all Christian Freeling games combined during its first couple of months on iggc.  So what?  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 8th, 2010, 4:02am

on 06/07/10 at 16:15:27, MarkSteere wrote:
But it's going to take a lot more than Hanniball before you even get close to doing what I do.
I know, with you up there being original and me down here having fun, no chance I'd say
;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 8th, 2010, 6:33am

on 06/07/10 at 17:16:27, MarkSteere wrote:
I'll bet you even money that Hex Oust beat all Christian Freeling games combined during its first couple of months on iggc.  So what?  :)
That, if true, would at least be fully justified: I consider Oust a stroke of genius, while you consider HanniBall a debacle ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 7:43am

on 06/08/10 at 04:02:32, christianF wrote:
I know, with you up there being original and me down here having fun, no chance I'd say

I couldn't have put it better myself.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 7:54am

on 06/08/10 at 06:33:38, christianF wrote:
you consider HanniBall a debacle.

No I don't.  I think it had a glitch, what I call an infinity problem, that in this case took the form of ball hoarding or some such.

I think you created a debacle when you kept triumphantly announcing your final solution, and two hours later it's broken again.  Save the champagne until you get through a day without revisions.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 8th, 2010, 8:00am
We have a tradition here in the Arimaa community of mutual respect and sportsmanly behaviour. I, for one, believe that this kind of ugly posturing, putting other people's work down just to massage one's own ego, has no place here. Especially not from some gatecrashing troller who has not played even a single game of Arimaa.

I'm sick to the back teeth of this and I say it stops now. Who's with me?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 8:30am

on 06/08/10 at 08:00:16, megajester wrote:
I'm sick to the back teeth of this

I'm sorry.  Did I get something on your back teeth?  lol

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 8:58am
Don't look now, but the topic is "Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games."  I'd say that gives Christian Freeling some latitude in determining the content of the topic.  If he's chosen to banter with a fellow designer of at least equal stature, I don't see that as entirely inappropriate.  Nobody's forcing you to read this particular topic about and guided by Christian Freeling (even though this happens to be the only active topic in the Arimaa forum).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 8th, 2010, 10:15am

on 06/08/10 at 07:54:33, MarkSteere wrote:
I think you created a debacle when you kept triumphantly announcing your final solution, and two hours later it's broken again.  Save the champagne until you get through a day without revisions.

There may be some misunderstanding here about the content of the thread. I made a claim about being able to predict some games' behaviour, others doubted that on very reasonable grounds.

Then the 'inventing process' actually happened when my mind wrapped itself around the idea of a Jeson Mor (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/jesonmor.html) for grown ups. HanniBall came together in a couple of nights, between going to bed and going to sleep.

I came out into the open with it immediately, to show the process 'live'. Initial parameters like boardsize and number of moves per turn were changed quite quickly, something I could have done before coming into the open, but that was counter to the idea. The idea was to put myself in a vulnarable position regarding my claims.

Obstruction was spotted by the viewers, and Greg Magne defined it in the way the algorithms still check it. It immediately became a 'red card' offence.
JDB had a stroke of genius when he suggested a generalization of the 'shots at the keeper' rule.
Apart from that, the game was still very much the same as the one I perceived.

Then a year went by in which nothing much happened, pending playtesting.

Playtesting proved me wrong. That was the vunarability implied in the process. It demanded I do everything 'live'.

So I stumbled over the 'catenaccio' strategy, first with a suggested change that was in no way related to the problem, then with a solution that was made redundant by a simpler solution with a similar effect, provided by Arty.

So I don't think I made the process a debacle, I was following the rules of complete transparancy, even if the light didn't shine favorably on my claim.

Meanwhile HanniBall is great fun and I'm very satisfied with its behaviour. You see Mark, I do take games seriously. I don't always take inventors quite that seriously, including myself  :) .


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 10:20am

on 06/08/10 at 09:38:34, Arimabuff wrote:
That one is beyond the pale,

Speaking of beyond the "pale", Arimabuff...  :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by FireBorn on Jun 8th, 2010, 10:28am

on 06/08/10 at 08:00:16, megajester wrote:
We have a tradition here in the Arimaa community of mutual respect and sportsmanly behaviour. I, for one, believe that this kind of ugly posturing, putting other people's work down just to massage one's own ego, has no place here. Especially not from some gatecrashing troller who has not played even a single game of Arimaa.

I'm sick to the back teeth of this and I say it stops now. Who's with me?

Agreed. We don't need the bad vibes. And you're giving abstract game inventors a bad name.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 10:56am

on 06/08/10 at 10:15:16, christianF wrote:
I made a claim about being able to predict some games' behaviour, ...

The idea was to put myself in a vulnarable position regarding my claims....

the game was still very much the same as the one I perceived...

I was following the rules of complete transparancy, even if the light didn't shine favorably on my claim.

Christian, you're a very highly regarded designer with a gift for making games people like.  Nobody expects more from you than that.  

I believe you.  You can intuit characteristics of the as yet unplayed game.  You can tame the spirit.  But as some have pointed out, one can never foresee everything, as was clearly borne out with Hanniball.

You seem to have enshrined yourself in a house of claims.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Forum Admin on Jun 8th, 2010, 12:33pm
Mark, thank you for following up your needling of Christian with positive remarks as well.  A generally negative tone in posting won't win you any friends, but it also won't get you banned from the Arimaa forum.  What will result in banning is vulgarity and personal attacks, such as you have routinely employed in other forums, including your inexcusable abuse (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.abstract/browse_thread/thread/d1bbc6f753f8eaf5#) against one of our own (ocmiente) in rec.games.abstract, when you invited us to discuss Arimaa there rather than here.  If we were more proactive, that exchange alone would be sufficient grounds for banning you from arimaa.com.

I have deleted your vulgar post in this thread.  With contributing members of the Arimaa community, we tend to be very patient, but that doesn't extend to uncivil non-Arimaa debates which have migrated here.  Therefore, this is your last warning.  Please keep it clean while you are on arimaa.com, or go elsewhere.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 1:56pm
Ok  lol  

Well, thanks for being a good sport about it.  With ocmiente, who's fault was that?  I didn't invite anyone to mislead the group.  You don't go to rec.games.abstract and try to perpetrate a hoax.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by FireBorn on Jun 8th, 2010, 2:35pm
I couldn't see Thomas' posts, but from what you quoted it didn't sound like he was purposefully attempting to mislead. He seemed to believe what he was saying, and just because you don't agree with him doesn't make him a stupid liar.

I don't think anyone cares enough to perpetuate a hoax about the "pureness" of an underground board game that can be easily refuted just by looking at the rules, especially if he's not even the inventor.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Jun 8th, 2010, 3:18pm
Fireborn,

After my exchange with Mark on rec.games.abstract I felt that leaving my posts up there wasn't worth it.  I figured that the way usenet works, the posts wouldn't be deleted everywhere, but that I would try. They are gone from google's site.  However, you can google 'Arimaa Grandmaster Society' and find the
entire thread (http://www.gamesforum.ca/showthread.php?t=500093).  

If anyone other than Mark can see that I lied, or tried to perpetuate a hoax, I'd appreciate the reality check.  I still don't see it.

If you're interested about the Arimaa forum quote mark sites,  Fritzlein's entire response can be read in response #11 (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1236541162;start=0#11) of this same forum topic thread.

I am sorry to everyone here that I was foolish enough to even respond to Mark's post on rec.abstract.games.  If I had known then what I know now, I would not have done it.  Mark's behavior appears to be fairly consistent, and well documented on rec.games.abstract and other forums.

<EDIT> just updated the hyperlinks to look neater... learn something new every day  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jun 8th, 2010, 4:26pm

on 06/08/10 at 15:18:01, ocmiente wrote:
I am sorry to everyone here that I was foolish enough to even respond to Mark's post on rec.abstract.games.

I did my best to address the substance of Arimaa's alleged drawishness in this post (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=talk;action=display;num=1274916361).  I have no wish to be insulted and abused, so I didn't cross-post to the rec.games.abstract thread.  Everyone, including Mark, is welcome to disagree with the substance of my findings, but hopefully in a civil fashion.  I suggest we move any discussion of the role of Arimaa's repetition rule in preventing draws to the linked Arimaa forum thread, so that it doesn't further hijack this Hanniball thread.

Unfortunately, the discussion of anti-social behavior must take place wherever the behavior arises, and thus will inevitably hijack threads.  Hopefully the need will not arise in this thread any more, so that Christian can get back to reporting on his progress with playtesting and fixing Hanniball, and discussing whatever that implies with respect to his claims that kicked off the whole discussion.  ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2010, 5:46pm

on 06/08/10 at 14:35:10, FireBorn wrote:
I couldn't see Thomas' posts, but from what you quoted it didn't sound like he was purposefully attempting to mislead.

I was willing to give Thomas the benefit of the doubt and let the whole thing slide. But then he came back to brag that yes, of course he knew what superko was and that superko was why the draw column was zeroed out for the past couple years at the Arimaa server.  It was clearly a tee hee/gotcha/well I was technically telling the truth kind of thing.

The problem was that Thomas had been essentially saying that Arimaa's natural resistance to draws is so great that there hasn't been a draw in years on the Arimaa server.  I was grudgingly going to take him at his word until someone turned up Arimaa's superko inconvenient truth.  Then, after he got busted, Thomas was saying, Oh well, in my opinion, draws would only be at about 1%, blah blah blah blah blah.  That's why Thomas is here, and no longer at rec.games.abstract.  Now he's running around trying to delete posts from usenet.  Consciousness of guilt?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jun 8th, 2010, 7:21pm
Mark, your latest post is based on an unstated assumption that if Thomas was wrong, then all your cursing and insults were justified.  Compared to your egregious assumption, any errors that he might or might not have made are not even worth discussing.  I simply won't debate on that basis.

If you can't discourse courteously, eventually no one will want to discourse with you at all.  The only reason I am engaging you even to the extent that I am is on the hope that you might desire to behave differently in the future than you have in the past.  If you still feel, to the contrary, that the way you treated Thomas was perfectly justifiable, it is only a matter of time before your sense of justice leads you into behavior that the Arimaa community won't tolerate.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arimabuff on Jun 8th, 2010, 10:34pm

on 06/08/10 at 10:20:34, MarkSteere wrote:
Speaking of beyond the "pale", Arimabuff...  :D

Lame...

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2010, 4:02am

on 06/08/10 at 16:26:10, Fritzlein wrote:
... so that Christian can get back to reporting on his progress with playtesting and fixing Hanniball, and discussing whatever that implies with respect to his claims that kicked off the whole discussion.  ;)


Preliminary evaluation of the games I've played and seen has shown no need to fix anything further. Arty's solution to the problem he showed in the first place is simple and effective (rules (http://www.iggamecenter.com/info/en/hanniball.html)).

I don't expect HanniBall to harbor anymore 'unspirited' behaviour - it now feels as what I 'saw' and tried to accomodate.

What it implies? Well, hopefully I didn't do too bad. The core is still very much the game that solidified last year.
I missed catenaccio as a strategy, that was bad.
I suggested a fix that was hardly related to the problem, that was very bad.

But all in all we're talking one major discrepancy between what I perceived and what now is HanniBall. And for a totally new kind of interaction of four kinds of pieces based on only two kinds of moves, that wasn't too bad I think.

It has resulted a game that hopefully gives the kind of intelligent fun that many people appreciate, and I'd like to thank you all for participating in what has been a very interesting journey :) .

P.S. I think Arty's solution of the problem of catenaccio strategy, a strategy he formulated and empoyed in the first place, is so valuable to HanniBall that I've offered him a shared copyright of the game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2010, 6:12am

on 06/08/10 at 19:21:43, Fritzlein wrote:
Mark, your latest post is based on an unstated assumption that if Thomas was wrong, then all your cursing and insults were justified.

There's no moderator at rec.games.abstract, and no end to ignorant buffoons forwarding retarded agendas there.  Cursing and insults are the only available tools to eject them.

The only thing you have to fear in rec.games.abstract is your own stupidity, which understandably can be terrifying for some.  The asinine statements you make are the ammunition that's used to bounce you out of the group.  Along comes Thomas, dragging a family sized sack of grenades.  "Hi guys.  Where do I put this?"

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2010, 6:32am

on 06/09/10 at 04:02:11, christianF wrote:
I don't expect HanniBall to harbor anymore 'unspirited' behaviour - it now feels as what I 'saw' and tried to accomodate.

Oh Lord.  14 pages of spirits and claims.  Enough already.


on 06/09/10 at 04:02:11, christianF wrote:
P.S. I think Arty's solution of the problem... is so valuable to HanniBall that I've offered him a shared copyright of the game.

And rightfully so.  Arty dragged your cindered butt out of the coals.  End of story.  No more visions of grandeur.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jun 9th, 2010, 7:28am

on 06/09/10 at 06:12:06, MarkSteere wrote:
There's no moderator at rec.games.abstract, and no end to ignorant buffoons forwarding retarded agendas there.  Cursing and insults are the only available tools to eject them.

Is it a mystery how your hostility has swelled the ranks of people who don't want to converse with you to include many, many more than the "ignorant buffoons" you have specifically targeted?  If I choose not to respond to your next expression of general contempt, will you interpret it as yet another victory in your campaign to silence the unworthy?  Do you not expect your attitude to eventually alienate everyone, leaving you talking only to yourself?  If, ultimately, you are banned from the arimaa.com, will it only prove in your mind how far superior you are to the paltry community that would not tolerate your behavior?

I would be happy if you would adhere to some community norms, including generally respectful behavior, but I am not sure what core values exist within you that I can appeal to.  You justify your abuse of Thomas as being necessary to stop him from talking.  What is it that you treasure apart from winning your arguments and silencing your opponents?  If nothing, then there is no reason for you to behave differently in the future than you have in the past, and I don't see what I could do to influence the inevitable outcome.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2010, 7:41am

on 06/09/10 at 06:32:15, MarkSteere wrote:
No more visions of grandeur.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on Jun 9th, 2010, 8:08am

on 06/09/10 at 04:02:11, christianF wrote:
P.S. I think Arty's solution of the problem of catenaccio strategy, a strategy he formulated and empoyed in the first place, is so valuable to HanniBall that I've offered him a shared copyright of the game.

:) Thank you!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on Jun 9th, 2010, 8:29am

on 06/09/10 at 06:12:06, MarkSteere wrote:
Cursing and insults are the only available tools to eject them.

No, they are not. Cursing and insults are _always_ the indicator of inability to prove something in a conventional way. Of course, the one, you are trying to prove, can be really dumb (I am talking abstractedly now, not referring to anyone) but it doesn't change the reason for "cursing and insults" - inability to prove. No matter whether you are not smart enough to find another way to explain something or your "opponent" is too dumb to understand you. There is no real "OR" there but both statements are true.

So by "cursing and insults" you don't show the correctness of your words but show your inability that I mentioned above. Other people are not that stupid, Mark. They can read comments from both sides and make their own conclusions. If you think your opponent makes silly points you can just express your point of view and then ignore him. So other people will be able to compare your wit with your opponent's foolishness. Instead you give them the right to compare your opponent's foolishness with your exaggerated aggressiveness multiplied by your inability to explain something (that reduces your wit in their eyes). This comparison is not in your favor. And will never be.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2010, 10:18am

on 06/09/10 at 08:29:12, Arty wrote:
Cursing and insults are _always_ the indicator of inability to prove something in a conventional way.

Arty, you're putting me in a tough spot.  I never like to argue with my favorite programmer.  :)

But... I won't deny you a fair argument.  You just dedicated two paragraphs to arguing against something I didn't say.  I never said that cursing and insults are the only way to prove someone wrong.  Obviously not.  

What I said is that cursing and insults are the only way to eject someone from an unmoderated forum.  Banning me from the Arimaa forum wouldn't prove anything either.  But if I became totally obnoxious, that would be the moderator's only recourse to restore civility to the group.  What's my recourse when somebody becomes totally obnoxious in rec.games.abstract?  I don't have a button to push like the Arimaa forum moderator - unless it's your button.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on Jun 9th, 2010, 10:32am

on 06/09/10 at 10:18:31, MarkSteere wrote:
Arty, you're putting me in a tough spot.  I never like to argue with my favorite programmer.  :)

Arguing and falling out are two different things ;)


Quote:
But... I won't deny you a fair argument.  You just dedicated two paragraphs to arguing against something I didn't say.  I never said that cursing and insults are the only way to prove someone wrong.  Obviously not.


I didn't argue, Mark. I just said that "cursing and insults" are the _result_ of something, not a _tool_ for something. The latter sounds more like an excuse. I also said what other "tool" you can use to stop someone's stupidity:


Quote:
If you think your opponent makes silly points you can just express your point of view and then ignore him. So other people will be able to compare your wit with your opponent's foolishness.


This tool works way better than "cursing and insults", which show your own weakness. You've been lucky to meet people who don't answer your "cursing and insults" with a similar thing. What would you do in such case without the "moderator" button? Continue with endless attempts to make your "cursing and insults" stronger than the opponent ones? Your "tool" won't work in this case. Which means that your tool is not that good as you may think of it :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2010, 11:34am
All this discussion of cursing and insults is a little out of place here in the Arimaa forum.  Rec.games.abstract uses a wild West protocol, one that was in place long before I got there.

I like rec.games.abstract simply because of its name and because it's a place to announce my games.  Not much else even goes on there beyond that.  Not directing this at Thomas, but the occasional nitwit wanders into the group, and has to be bounced.  When it's closing time at the bar and you just need five more minutes to go back to your table and finish your drink, no.  Out.  Now.  

Bouncing isn't elegant or justifiable or rational or any of these lovely things that we all aspire to be.  It's just, you've abundantly demonstrated that you're intellectually retarded and that there's a much more appropriate place for you to be - the BoardGameGeek abstract games fourm.  Leave now.  No further discussion required.

To me that's how it works at rec.games.abstract.  If I'm doing it wrong, then I'm doing it wrong.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2010, 12:28pm
Of course I'm curious what the interested viewers make of HanniBall. The unusual capturing tactics, not to mention the strategical use of the 'ricochet', require some getting used to (something even I can predict :) ).

The fastest signposts can be found in games against any of the slightly more seasoned players, some of whom have a nice bag of tricks already, to baffle a beginner :o .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2010, 3:32pm

on 06/09/10 at 12:28:38, christianF wrote:
Of course I'm curious what the interested viewers make of HanniBall.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jun 9th, 2010, 9:30pm

on 06/09/10 at 11:34:25, MarkSteere wrote:
All this discussion of cursing and insults is a little out of place here in the Arimaa forum.

I rejoice in your implied willingness to behave differently here than you do elsewhere, even though your reason for doing so is explicitly not that you respect your fellow forum participants.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 9th, 2010, 10:19pm
In our teens my brother and I tried and tried to make a chess-football hybrid, and never came up with anything workable. In the end I had personally concluded that football's involving chance elements and simultaneous movement makes it impossible to realise as a turn-based abstract strategy game.

Of course introducing a "ball" concept is relatively easy, but then it's very hard to make it feel anything like football. A bit like the drinks machine making tea in the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, you come up with something almost, but not quite, entirely unlike football. :)

So I have immense respect for anyone who actually manages to pull it off. Looking at Hanniball it seems it really does capture the ebb and flow of a football game while still having a chess-like requirement for strategic understanding and not just tactical analysis.

So hats off to you Christian! (and Arty)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 10th, 2010, 2:11am

on 06/09/10 at 22:19:22, megajester wrote:
So I have immense respect for anyone who actually manages to pull it off. Looking at Hanniball it seems it really does capture the ebb and flow of a football game while still having a chess-like requirement for strategic understanding and not just tactical analysis.

So hats off to you Christian! (and Arty)

Thank you megajester, I think your characterization hits the bulls-eye :) .

It may have something to do with the fact that it didn't start out as a football game, so I was shielded from any preconceived 'requirements' I might have had if I had set out that way.

But it set out as a 'Jeson Mor for grown-ups' and in that process turned out to have a 'soccer spirit'.
Ironically the capturing mechanism contributes in no small way to this, while at the same time being 'not very football like', as Schachtelhalm, one of the players at IGGC, remarked.
That's true, and that's the irony: I would never have come up with this particular mechanism if I had set out to make chess/soccer.

I was wondering about the 7 draws (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/game114.html) in the games till now, and found out 5 of them were achieved by two particular players. I think this somewhat diminishes the statistical relevance (in as far as some 80 games do have any statistical relevance).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 10th, 2010, 6:27am

on 06/09/10 at 21:30:04, Fritzlein wrote:
I rejoice in your implied willingness to behave differently here than you do elsewhere, even though your reason for doing so is explicitly not that you respect your fellow forum participants.

When did I explicitly state that??  The problem you guys are having with me and rec.games.abstract isn't cursing and insults.  The problem is rec.games.abstract's code of standards, apparently an unfamiliar concept here.  Baseless accusations, fanciful claims, and an orgy of self-importance are the order of the day here in the Arimaa forum - none of which is tolerated by me or anyone else in rec.games.abstract.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 10th, 2010, 6:53am

on 06/10/10 at 02:11:50, christianF wrote:
I was wondering about the 7 draws (http://www.iggamecenter.com/stats/game114.html) in the games till now, and found out 5 of them were achieved by two particular players. I think this somewhat diminishes the statistical relevance (in as far as some 80 games do have any statistical relevance).

Current Hanniball stats at iggc:
Number of wins by the 1st player (excluding quits): 39
Number of wins by the 2nd player (excluding quits): 31
Number of draws: 7

Hannibal has attained a 10% draw rate in its first month at iggc and you think that's statistically irrelevant??  You don't just toss out statistical data because you don't like it.  The two players in question are undoubtedly more skilled and therefore more pertinent to a statistical analysis than the other players in the sample, simply because they've played the game at least 5 times.  If you want to toss out data, toss out the one time players.  Then see what happens to Hanniball's already alarming draw rate.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 10th, 2010, 7:18am

on 06/09/10 at 06:32:15, MarkSteere wrote:
Visions of grandeur ...


on 06/10/10 at 06:27:50, MarkSteere wrote:
Baseless accusations, fanciful claims, and an orgy of self-importance ...


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Arty on Jun 10th, 2010, 7:20am
5 Hanniball games have been ended by a draw because raza had to leave and he asked to finish a game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 10th, 2010, 7:44am

on 06/10/10 at 07:20:57, Arty wrote:
5 Hanniball games have been ended by a draw because raza had to leave and he asked to finish a game.

Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is often the best ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 10th, 2010, 10:20am

on 06/10/10 at 07:18:42, christianF wrote:
Mark Steere wrote: "fanciful claims"

Christian, nobody does the fanciful claim quite like you.  You constructed a house of tattered claims and now you have to live in it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 10th, 2010, 12:03pm

on 06/10/10 at 10:20:31, MarkSteere wrote:
Christian, nobody does the fanciful claim quite like you.  You constructed a house of tattered claims and now you have to live in it.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 10th, 2010, 2:24pm

on 06/10/10 at 12:03:05, megajester wrote:
zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

15 pages of self-flagellation.  It's a story of love and endurance.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 11th, 2010, 6:57am

on 06/10/10 at 14:24:50, MarkSteere wrote:
15 pages of self-flagellation. It's a story of love and endurance.

And as far as I'm concerned, it has reached its conclusion. I thank all the contributors :-* .

Mark, it's lonely at the top, you're so high that mere humans can't hear you. You really should try to shout louder, use more bold, more capital letters, more exclamation marks!

Don't worry about your current inventor's block, it'll pass and then we'll all suffer the consequences ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 11th, 2010, 7:26am

on 06/11/10 at 06:57:32, christianF wrote:
Don't worry about your current inventor's block, it'll pass and then we'll all suffer the consequences ;) .

Ok  lol

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 20th, 2010, 5:03am
It so happened that life went on. I stopped pursuing new games, so therse recent additions (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=27) are mainly solidified loose ends.
With one exception (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=29).

As you all know, a squaregrid with one set of diagonals is topologically equivalent with the hexgid:

http://i47.tinypic.com/2dl8awo.gif

While considering the board of Alquerque in a different context, I noticed that this grid, too, is obtained by removing half the diagonals from the square grid, albeit half of both directions intead of all in one direction.

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/queryd1.gif

This led to the question whether these 'twins' might have some properties in common, and that of course led to 'connection' and games like Hex, Twixt and Crossway. So here is Query (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/side-dishes/more-games-by-cf?start=29).

As far as I could check it's new (quite surprisingly so), and the name Query doesn't show up at BBG either so I expect no complaints on that front.
The rules are what you'de expect: Black and White take turns to put one stone on a vacant intersection of the board. Black begins by putting one stone, after which White is entiteld to a swap.
White tries to connect the upper and lower side of the board, Black the left and right side, following the lines of the board. The cornerpoints belong to both sides.

Not an 'invention' actually, more something I stumbled over accidentally.

Is it a fun game? I don't know. I can predict Mu (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-field/470-mu)'s behaviour because it's a self explanatory organism. Here I've got no clue except logic.
I'm not attempting a formal proof here, but it would seem that one connection excludes the other, and that mutual blockade is impossible. Clearly there are strong and weak points, eights and fours, and within both sets there will probably be stronger points nearer the center, weaker points going outward. So there's a good chance the swaprule fits properly.

I must admit to the absence of any 'feeling' regarding the game's behaviour, just that it's finite and one will win. That's the one who was smarter and that's what makes it a game ;D .


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Polyfractal on Jun 20th, 2010, 7:09am
Oh boy this thread is something else. :D  

Gonna make some popcorn and read through the whole thing

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 20th, 2010, 8:00am
Very interesting.  Nice work, Christian.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 20th, 2010, 10:05am

on 06/20/10 at 08:00:10, MarkSteere wrote:
Very interesting.  Nice work, Christian.
Thanks, most of the work was making the graphics :) .

'Nice' is an open question too. Michael Howe posted (http://boardgamegeek.com/article/5176118#5176118) a critical question at BGG:

"Query has c-8 and c-4, so I'd be concerned that the former would be so much more important than the latter as to unbalance the game. Players would play on almost all of the c-8 before playing on any of the c-4. Can you give us a sample problem where c-4 play is critical?"

I don't know the answer: one might consider a vacant four with adjacent alternating eights 'critical'.

http://i45.tinypic.com/2rpsbvq.gif

There are two players and a probably decent swap, no imbalance there. If eights are more important, then players should try to do without fours and see where it leads. My guess is: into fours, eventually.
But my guess is as good as Michael's. I never played it and I won't for the forseeable future due to work on a draughts project.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 20th, 2010, 10:51am

on 06/20/10 at 10:05:52, christianF wrote:
Thanks, most of the work was making the graphics :) .

All of the work was making the graphics.  Hex works on a wide variety of tessellations, including this one (from an old file):

http://www.marksteeregames.com/pictures/Octagon_tessellation.jpg

That Hex also works on the octagon/square tessellation rotated 45 degrees, ala Query, should be little surprise.  I'm not sure if this "discovery" warrants a renaming of Hex, but...

You see, I happen to know a thing or two about connection games.

 MSG connection games (http://www.marksteeregames.com/MSG_connection_games.html)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 20th, 2010, 10:59am

on 06/20/10 at 10:51:15, MarkSteere wrote:
You see, I happen to know a thing or two about connection games.

MSG connection games (http://www.marksteeregames.com/MSG_connection_games.html)
That's what I was hoping for, I wasn't (and still am not) sure if I had anything new here. I was aware of a load of similar ideas, but I don't keep track all the time. Thanks :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 28th, 2010, 7:06pm
New MSG game: Fractal, a Hex variant

http://www.marksteeregames.com/pictures/Fractal.jpg

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Jul 1st, 2010, 8:46am
Cool. Since it uses a hexagonal board, maybe even Havannah would work on a fractal board with a larger base.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 1st, 2010, 5:01pm

on 07/01/10 at 08:46:02, omar wrote:
Cool. Since it uses a hexagonal board, maybe even Havannah would work on a fractal board with a larger base.

Thanks, Omar  :)   Fractal seems to be making quite a splash.  I thought Cage was more interesting but, as usual, my public disagrees.

This is the second time since I released Fractal a couple of days ago that someone has recommended its board for Havannah.  You're raining on my parade, Christian  :)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 2nd, 2010, 4:06am

on 07/01/10 at 17:01:14, MarkSteere wrote:
You're raining on my parade, Christian  :)

It's all relative, you might as well be parading in my rain :)

I think Fractal introduces an interesting new concept that might find wider applications, so you'll always be the first one to think of it, whatever games it may turn up in. Consider it sunshine  ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 2nd, 2010, 4:32am
P.S. Concerning Query, Michael Howe informed me about Wayne Schmittberger who, in a c-7 c-4 game decided to allow a choice each turn between two c-4 and one c-7.
I think that would be an excellent idea for Query: two c-4 or one c-8.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 2nd, 2010, 6:34am

on 07/02/10 at 04:06:22, christianF wrote:
Consider it sunshine  ;)

It's decided then.  Fractannah!  :D

It won't be the first time we've shared a game board in some sense.

http://lh3.ggpht.com/_3-aqNd-9ATA/TA7Bf31FD7I/AAAAAAAAAyw/o44PpxheKeA/s720/100_2546.jpg

Havannah is printed on the backside of Hexboard's Atoll board.

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_3-aqNd-9ATA/TA7C-mvZFVI/AAAAAAAAAzM/hlsSQQyEvVQ/s800/100_2560.jpg

Atoll front / Havannah back.

http://lh4.ggpht.com/_3-aqNd-9ATA/TA7BgfiEu4I/AAAAAAAAAy0/1zdYGN_zU6o/s800/100_2547.jpg

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by leo on Jul 10th, 2010, 12:21pm
It reminds me that I once made an applet to play on a board that could be fractally expanded "from within", so to say, as players split connections between nodes. When the maximum recursion depth was large or infinite, there was a zoom command on the mousewheel to see the finer details. At the time I searched the web if the concept existed but found nothing similar. I can't believe nobody had come up with it before.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 10th, 2010, 2:31pm
Small world  :)

A connection game would be confusing if you had to zoom in and out to follow a path.  It'd be hidden information, or obscured information - something that would reduce clarity.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 10th, 2010, 2:43pm
Like what's that stacking game where you have to remember what type of checkers are in the stack since you can't tell from the side?  That wouldn't be a fun game for me.  I can't even remember what it's called, never mind what checkers are in a stack.  That's like remembering where the spots are on blank dice.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by leo on Jul 11th, 2010, 1:45pm
It seemed to fail as a connection game indeed, even with a limited recursivity. Fractals make pretty pictures but are basically about endless repetition, something best left to computers. It might work as a pattern building game but I haven't tried hard enough.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 30th, 2010, 9:34pm
Cage flaw

Daniel Schultz discovered a flaw in Cage.  There were no legal moves available in the following scenario: A ring of 8 stones around the center, arranged red, blue, red, blue...

I relaxed the rule constraints a tad to allow for a legal move in that situation.  See Figure 5.

http://www.marksteeregames.com/Cage_rules.html

Daniel played the Cage program about 50 times before this special position occurred to him, so it wasn't real obvious.  I don't see how any problems could exist in Cage now but that's how I felt about the original version.  So, stay tuned I guess  lol

The new version allows a new type of move but it doesn't disallow any old move types, so it's a superset of the old version.  There's a larger tree and there should be a correspondingly richer gameplay.

Yeah it's a little embarrassing when flaws turn up, but at least a fan discovered it and broke it to me gently.  I didn't have to learn about it from the usual YIPPEE I PROVED MARK STEERE WRONG!! public announcement.  

Bottom line, an outstanding game just became a little more outstanding.  I took the downloadable Cage program off my website for now, but hopefully Thomas Plick will agree to incorporate the change into his program.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 11th, 2010, 3:50pm
Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symple-560)

Here (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symple-560)'s what occured to me last friday (oct 8th), just before falling asleep (when else ;) ).
http://i51.tinypic.com/3026fyv.gif (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symple-560)

Of course there's a little story attached. It started with a mail by Zick that I quote here, in part, with his permission:

Quote:
You are among the most cluesome abstract gamers/designers I know.
I have been thinking a lot about a certain class of games recently and I want to share my thoughts with you, hoping for feedback.

There is the family that got started with Star, moved on to Superstar, *Star, and YvY. The games of this family share a pattern, namely:

a) you score by taking certain fields and
b) imposing a tax: the more groups one has in the end, the more is subtracted from the score.

I have three issues with these games:

1. So far, the scoring fields have been placed on the edge of the board. That seems somewhat arbitrary, and games have taken counter-measures in order to bring the center back into play.

2. The bigger the number of scoring fields, the more filling in has to be done. Smaller numbers seem more convining.

3. There is dead group removal, i.e. groups without ontact to an edge do not enter the result. This seems somewhat arbitrary, too, and is along the line of bringing the center back into play, but at least not punishing it.

I have long thought of a remedy. My proposal is the following: (...)


And there followed a number of proposals that I couldn't really set my mind to, because it was otherwise occupied. So part of my answer was:


Quote:
Concerning Superstar and YvY, they don't matter all that much. A bit forced, both of them. I'm sure there's something better on the same general idea, but you'll have to find it without me :)


But Zick had struck a chord and I could hear the whisper I mention in my answer: there must be a simpler, better deeper game on the general principle. I was also reluctant unless you consider this cooperative:


Quote:
A generalized connection/counting game. I'll put it where I did put the idea of linear movement in Draughts, after inventing Bushka. Might take 15 years though :)


A reference to the 15 years it took before a shotgun marriage between Bushka and Croda resulted in Dameo.

It should be clear I had no high hopes or expectations, nor any plans to wrap my mind around it. But it did, and drifting in the twilight between going to bed and falling asleep, I saw 'bacteria in a petri dish' like Phalanx, and groups one needs for growth, but not too many, because there's a penalty .... and suddenly it became too simple. And my last thought was ... "could it really be so simple? what's wrong ...".

The next day I was fortunate enough to suddenly remember I had had a thought of sorts ... and reconstruct it. Here's another telling except from our correspondence, the mail I sent after I remembered:


Quote:
> In other words, I am at the limit of design without heavy playtesting. I cannot achieve what I want. A telling experience.

You asked for it, so don't complain if this works ;-)

(...)

First question obviously: is there something wrong?


In between the above rules, be it that I gave both players the right to use both options, instead of either the one or the other. That was Zick's suggestion and rightly so: it pushes the game from the tactical to the strategical.

Here's Zick's latest comment, after I posted the rules:


Quote:
Hi Christian,

Having many groups is not a dilemma in this game. The more groups you have, the more you can grow. If a group has sufficient space for growing, it hurts only to start it on the last move.

The real dilemma is: how long to start new groups, instead of growing  them. And then: _not_ connecting groups, because a smaller number of groups grows your own territory more slowly.

A lot of strategy appears in how to claim territory, of course. That is why it telegraphs to be a deep game.


Amen  8)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Oct 12th, 2010, 7:51am
Thanks for sharing this with us Christian. Funny how these ideas come right when you're about to fall asleep. I've had similar experiences many times. When I was younger I used to jump out of bed and try them out right away. Now adays I just sleep on it and trust that if it's a good idea I'll be able to recall it in the morning :-)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 12th, 2010, 8:29am
Interesting game!

I find the near sleep state very exciting since I am able to "play music" in my head, i.e. spontaneously improvising, which I'm not capable normally.

This might interest some of you:


Quote:
Sitting in the warm sun after a full lunch and feeling somewhat somnolent, Dalí would place a metal mixing bowl in his lap and hold a large sthingy loosely in his hands which he folded over his chest. As he fell asleep and relaxed, the sthingy would fall from his grasp into the bowl and wake him up. He would reset the arrangement continuously and thus float along-not quite asleep and not quite awake—while his imagination would churn out the images that we find so fascinating, evocative, and inexplicable when they appear in his work…” —from Provenance is Everything, Bernard Ewell


http://www.arthurmag.com/2010/06/25/diy-magic-dropping-the-sthingy -by-anthony-alvarado

edit: I don't get the url working. If I use url tag, it works in preview but not after posting. Just copy-paste without the space.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by aaaa on Oct 12th, 2010, 8:51am
Off-topic, but is your given name really "Christian" with just one 'a' or is it the more Dutch-like "Christiaan" and you anglicized it?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 12th, 2010, 9:28am

on 10/12/10 at 08:51:49, aaaa wrote:
Off-topic, but is your given name really "Christian" with just one 'a' or is it the more Dutch-like "Christiaan" and you anglicized it?
The latter.

I was thinking, a long time ago, what would have happened to Christian Dior if his name had been Christiaan Dior ::) .

By the way, is it really 'aaaa' or 'aaaaa' ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Oct 12th, 2010, 11:28am
Interesting idea. It took a few times through reading the rules to understand what they meant - so it might benefit from more examples.  I think I've got it now, but that was my first impression.  

I was also wondering how to actually play this.  It would be easy enough on a computer, which could track which groups had already been added to.  On a physical board, it seems like a third color (let's say red) of stones would be helpful, used temporarily from the beginning to the end of a turn, making it easy to tell which groups had been added to - and where - on that turn.  When the turn is complete, the red stones would be replaced by white or black.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 12th, 2010, 11:32am

on 10/11/10 at 15:50:10, christianF wrote:
Of course there's a little story attached.

Of course.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 12th, 2010, 11:37am

on 10/12/10 at 11:28:00, ocmiente wrote:
Interesting idea. It took a few times through reading the rules to understand what they meant - so it might benefit from more examples.  I think I've got it now, but that was my first impression.  

I was also wondering how to actually play this.

Welcome to the club. I haven't tried yet, but looking back at how we played havannah, the first year or so ... like riding a bicycle for the first time :D

I hope actual play will provide some examples. There's dilemma's all over the place, and Go-like territory control seems essential (with less of an edge/center division). A strategy game by the looks of it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 12th, 2010, 3:41pm
Here's Zick's comment again, after I posted the rules:


Quote:
Having many groups is not a dilemma in this game. The more groups you have, the more you can grow. If a group has sufficient space for growing, it hurts only to start it on the last move.

The real dilemma is: how long to start new groups, instead of growing  them. And then: _not_ connecting groups, because a smaller number of groups grows your own territory more slowly.

A lot of strategy appears in how to claim territory, of course. That is why it telegraphs to be a deep game.


I haven't played it yet, but then, that's what this thread is about in the first place, so I'll give it a shot.

Just to get an idea, suppose both have started 3 groups, i.e. isolated stones, and now white starts to grow while black starts 2 more groups. We get the following count in the subsequent moves:

4: (0) - (-4)
5: (3) - (-5)
6: (6) - (0)
7: (9) - (5)
8: (12) - (10)
9: (15) - (15)

Now white has 3 groups of 7 and black has five groups of 5. There are 46 stones on the board and white has gloomy prospects because from this point on black can outgrow him 2 points a turn and, should white start new groups, follow suit.

So obviously one shouldn't start growing too early.

If one starts too late however, the opponent's growth will hinder the above assumed 'free growth' strategy. One of the tactical goals will indeed be to cover territory in such a way that one eventually can grow 'inward', whereas the opponent would be forced to start a new group to prevent it, preferably a group with little prospect on growth or connection - were talking a fairly crammed board here already.
The kind of position that signals the endgame in which connections may pay off more than growth in itself, despite the implied loss of growing options in subsequent turns.

Just to elaborate, suppose both have started 7 groups, i.e. isolated stones, and now white starts to grow while black starts 2 more groups. We get the following count in the subsequent moves:

8: (0) - (-8)
9: (7) - (-9)
10: (14) - (0)
11: (21) - (9)
12: (28) - (18)
13: (35) - (27)
14: (42) - (36)
15: (49) - (45)
16: (56) - (54)
17: (63) - (63)

Now white has seven groups of 11 and black has nine groups of 9. There are 158 stones on the board.
That's fairly crammed on a base-8 board, and it is unlikely that a game would develop according to these numbers, because stones get in the way of the presumed 'free growth'.

Starting new groups on a base-n board may indeed be a good strategy up to turn 'n' or thereabouts.

I also presume two stages, sprouting and growing, although the rules leave either option open at any turn.

Symple Square
A usual thought, on this occasion put forward by Frans Faasse (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/) in a mail just after this publication, is translation to another grid. The Go board for instance, or any odd numbered square board of sufficient size. All things being equal, a 'group' then is: one stone or two or more like colored orthogonally connected stones.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 15th, 2010, 12:13pm
The old link to Symple is redundant, here's where we are now:

Symple
http://www.mindsports.nl/images/stories/arena/hex_symple/symple_d01.gif (http://www.mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/)

Symplex
http://www.mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/symplex_d01.gif (http://www.mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symplex/)


Now here's the thing. This thread is about my claim to, sometimes, be able to predict a game's behaviour. You can read how this started. Zick wrote:

Quote:
I have been thinking a lot about a certain class of games recently and I want to share my thoughts with you, hoping for feedback.

There is the family that got started with Star, moved on to Superstar, *Star, and YvY. The games of this family share a pattern, namely:
a) you score by taking certain fields and  
b) imposing a tax: the more groups one has in the end, the more is subtracted from the score.

Suspecting, as I did, a simpler and more fundamental game at the core of the principle.
Despite his thinking, and despite my reluctance to do so, the game, in an unguarded moment, came to me. It embodies the thematic hallmark:

Quote:
A player's score is counted as the number of stones he has placed on the board minus two points for every separate group.

with, basically, a single rule:

Quote:
On his turn a player may either put a stone on a vacant cell, not connected to a like colored group, or grow any or all of his existing groups by one stone.

Barring Hex, you can't get much simpler than that. I've yet to play it, but I already mentioned the dilemma:

Quote:
The dilemma is, to a substantial degree, how long to create new groups and when to start growing them. More groups are needed to be able to grow faster in the subsequent turns, but every new group starts at -1, and too many groups will eventually affect the score in a negative way in the endgame.

Think about it, when to start? My calculated guess is with a move near the square root of half the board. A 169 board? around move 9 or 10 (if you dare).

Before that there's the placement strategy: you can place the stones dumb, so you can also place them better. Initial placement affects the growth potential of both players. Or you can start to grow or place just one more before you do - that moment always comes.
After that, strategy is shifting to tactics. Keep the groups isolated with as many 'liberties' to grow as you can realize, to maximize growth and minimize the opponent's potential, but take into account that towards the end it will at a certain point be advantageous to connect groups, especially those with limited potential for growth.
There's a lot of positional play there, and many means to combine the many moves at one's disposal.

This game is quintessential (that is: it is the basic game around said principle), very simple, very organic, very 'fast' and very deep. The only factor that's difficult to establish without actual play, is the first move advantage. A swap just may be enough in the square game, but I'm not sure about the hexgame.

Anyway, I'm surprised at the lack of comments (barring the one by Mark who feels that stories are his prerogative).
Too symple perhaps ??? .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 17th, 2010, 9:47am
Symple can now be played (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section) at MindSports.

Just register, add it to your prefs, and you're ready to go.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 17th, 2010, 12:05pm

on 10/15/10 at 12:13:04, christianF wrote:
Anyway, I'm surprised at the lack of comments (barring the one by Mark who feels that stories are his prerogative).
Too symple perhaps ??? .


Don't be discouraged for not getting comments. This is quite a small community after all, and the timing of post might have affected that also.

Sure it's hard to say anything without playing. There is not much rules to discuss so it is quite abstract.

Personally, these kind of games are what I value most. The emergent properties that stem up from trivial rules make the game feel universal. Unfortunately I'm not very good at getting involved in a new game, and have lately been fascinated by Arimaa, shogi and restarted playing go, not to mention reading the book on checkers AI, Chinook, history.

It was crucial that you have the game as playable now. I hope people will try it out. Even if they won't, know that there are people that have huge respect for designers such as yourself. I also like to read how the games evolve, as in this thread. Thank you for those valuable posts.

[offtopic] Personally, one type of game that I might myself someday innovate, is a game which main purpose is to modify its rules. A combination of stack based programming language (higher-order combinators) + self-modification of the stack. Though queue might fit better.[/offtopic]

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 17th, 2010, 2:43pm

on 10/15/10 at 12:13:04, christianF wrote:
Now here's the thing. This thread is about my claim to, sometimes, be able to predict a game's behaviour. You can read...

Someone please douse me in gasoline and take away the pain.

Title: cable to any odd sized grid
Post by christianF on Oct 17th, 2010, 3:19pm

on 10/17/10 at 14:43:06, MarkSteere wrote:
Someone please douse me in gasoline and take away the pain.

Then who would be out there in the woods, chasing games, while I'm sitting on the porch enjoying the occasional one that comes to me? ;)

Now there's a thread at BGG, no Mark, not started by me (and neither was this one for that matter) where players interested in something new under the sun discuss Symple and Byg (by Nicholas Bentley).
Something really new in terms of mechanics, applicable to any odd sized grid.

It's called Byg (P)review of Symplex (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/574830/byg-preview-of-symplex).

Symple was conceived as a hexgame. The hexgame is now called 'Symplex'.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 17th, 2010, 11:25pm

on 10/15/10 at 12:13:04, christianF wrote:
Anyway, I'm surprised at the lack of comments

Is the lack of comments from the Arimaa community about Symple any more surprising than your lack of comments about the new Arimaa material evaluation function that was recently proposed, the new Arimaa analysis tool that was recently developed, the Arimaa game that was recently submitted for critique, the Arimaa festival that is currently being planned, the outcome of the recent Arimaa Postal Mixer and Arimaa World League season, or anything else in any of the other Arimaa threads?  I do not take it amiss that you find nothing in any of dozens of Arimaa threads in the Arimaa forum to be worth your time to read and respond to; do you nevertheless feel slighted by us?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 18th, 2010, 1:05am

on 10/17/10 at 23:25:04, Fritzlein wrote:
Is the lack of comments from the Arimaa community about Symple any more surprising than your lack of comments about the new Arimaa material evaluation function that was recently proposed,

Yeah Christian.  Way to hijack a forum.

Btw guys, congrats on Games magazine Abstract of the Year.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 18th, 2010, 2:09am
To be clear, I am glad that Symple is being discussed and examined.  I have nothing against Symple, and nothing against posting about Symple in the off-topic section of the Arimaa forum.  I was merely asking what Christian meant by expressing surprise at the lack of responses.  Is the relative silence a failure of the community's courtesy?

Probably there some other reason he let us know that he expected something different from us; I should have asked what that reason was in a less loaded way.  Instead of asking, "Did you mean this criticism that your words seem to imply?", I could have simply asked, "Why are you surprised?"  Then Christian could have responded without having to dispute any words that I have put in his mouth.

It may explain (although perhaps not excuse) the sharpness of my previous post that I haven't recently been spending twenty hours per week on Arimaa as I have done in prior months.  I find it difficult to respond to all the posts that are worthy of a response.  I would like to spend more time on Arimaa, but I have been pulled in other directions.  That makes me rather sensitive to an implication that I have been allocating my attention poorly.

On the other hand, I quite likely hold the all-time lead in Arimaa forum posts that have not been responded to.  I understand the disappointment of floating an idea that no one pays any attention to.  I know how short a leap it is from being disappointed to sharing that disappointment along with an implication that I had hoped for better.  Having gone down that path many times myself, the wisest thing I could have done was probably to silently learn from Christian's comment without responding to it at all.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 18th, 2010, 5:20am

on 10/18/10 at 01:05:36, MarkSteere wrote:
Yeah Christian.  Way to hijack a forum.

Hijacking a thread titled "Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games"?
A clear example of misdirected 'Markasm' I'd say. Don't worry, I know you're far too intelligent to mean what you say. ;)
So am I, sometimes.


on 10/18/10 at 02:09:53, Fritzlein wrote:
To be clear, I am glad that Symple is being discussed and examined.  I have nothing against Symple, and nothing against posting about Symple in the off-topic section of the Arimaa forum.  I was merely asking what Christian meant by expressing surprise at the lack of responses.  Is the relative silence a failure of the community's courtesy?

Probably there some other reason he let us know that he expected something different from us; I should have asked what that reason was in a less loaded way.  Instead of asking, "Did you mean this criticism that your words seem to imply?", I could have simply asked, "Why are you surprised?"  Then Christian could have responded without having to dispute any words that I have put in his mouth.

It may explain (although perhaps not excuse) the sharpness of my previous post that I haven't recently been spending twenty hours per week on Arimaa as I have done in prior months.  I find it difficult to respond to all the posts that are worthy of a response.  I would like to spend more time on Arimaa, but I have been pulled in other directions.  That makes me rather sensitive to an implication that I have been allocating my attention poorly.

On the other hand, I quite likely hold the all-time lead in Arimaa forum posts that have not been responded to.  I understand the disappointment of floating an idea that no one pays any attention to.  I know how short a leap it is from being disappointed to sharing that disappointment along with an implication that I had hoped for better.  Having gone down that path many times myself, the wisest thing I could have done was probably to silently learn from Christian's comment without responding to it at all.


Fritzlein, you're excused for the sharpness of your first post regarding this subject. Let me assure you I didn't mean to criticize anyone. Why should I? I usually have an excellent time here, not in the last place because of your comments that have always been serious and insightful.

No I was surprised. Symple appears to be the quintessential implementation of a somewhat obscure theme first embodied in Star. I use quitessential for games of which the basic idea can implemented without any diversions from it: Go, Hex, Y, Checkers, Emergo, to name a few.
It's not a value judgement, but it is a significant feature.

Symple doesn't have the 'special cells' that Zick presumed (i.e. the edges in Star).
Symple is applicable to any odd-sized grid, even a single line.
Symple has new mechanics, a new dilemma, and basically has but one rule.
As a bonus that may appeal to Mark, it's finite. It's also fast, ending between 20 and 30 moves or so, depending on boardsize.
The minimum number of stones to completely fill a board with one color, following the rules, isn't trivial and shows something of the dilemma the game raises.

Symple is not a construction like Chess variants or Arimaa (again: no value judgement implied), it's an organism. A new simple organism with deep implications. Like finding a new species.

The rules where perceived as described. The 'hanging matter' of balancing the first move advantage has been resolved.

Now did I or did I not publish this game, for you all to enjoy, and describe it's nature, before playing it?
Did I need to playtest it? No, because I can see the game's fundamental simplicity and the dilemma emerging from it.
I trust simplicity.

Did I worry about the first move advantage?
I did mention possible solutions like a swap, which Zick was doubtful about, a 3-move swap, which Ed was doubtful about, and komi, which I was doubtful about. But I wasn't worried because I go from the premiss that if the system is sound, the rule will be there. Remember that Mark, next time you 'can't find the rule' ;) .
And the rule, when it came, was none of the above.

I would expect players to be glad that game inventors do what they do, even if they cannot understand the way they do it. Or don't believe it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by qswanger on Oct 18th, 2010, 8:32am

on 10/18/10 at 01:05:36, MarkSteere wrote:
Btw guys, congrats on Games magazine Abstract of the Year.


Whoa, I must have missed something. Did Arimaa win Games Magazine abstract of the year (this year)?  ???  My subscription ran out and so I don't remember the timeline for their awards anymore.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 18th, 2010, 10:54am

on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
Hijacking a thread titled "Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games"?

No, Christian.  Hijacking a forum entitled "Arimaa" with a thread entitled "Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games."


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
No I was surprised [that nobody cares about Symple].

Christian, I didn't want to critique your game for two reasons: 1) I already pick on you too much, and 2) I didn't want to subject myself to the Symple rule sheet.  But now you've forced my hand.


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
Symple has new mechanics, a new dilemma, and basically has but one rule.

This is your idea of "but one rule" ???:

"A short clarification: top-left black has grown one group (the marked stone). Now he may not grow the leftmost group at the cell marked 'X', because the other group would have two new adjacent stones.
Top-right a similar situation, but now black may still grow the rightmost group at the cell marked with a white spot. He connects to an already grown group, true, but no original group has grown more than one stone.
In the center, the marked white stone connects three groups, turning the 'local score' from -3 to +2 (see: object). No further stones may be added to the resulting group in this turn, and of course he now may only grow one stone at it in his next turn.
At the bottom white has grown the marked stone. Now cells marked 'X' are off limits, and the cell marked with a white dot is still optional for growth."

Hex has one rule.  Tic-Tac-Toe has one rule.  Complycated has way more than one rule.


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
As a bonus that may appeal to Mark, it's finite.

You've complied with a building standard.  There's no bonus for that.  Cephalopod uses the exact same object but Cephalopod has architecture.

http://www.marksteeregames.com/Cephalopod_rules.pdf


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
It's also fast, ending between 20 and 30 moves or so, depending on boardsize.

Again, not a bragging point.  Your game is scalable and therefore meets a building standard.  


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
Symple [is] an organism. A new simple organism with deep implications. Like finding a new species.

Lean forward slightly so I can christen you with a dense rubber mallet labelled "reality check".

As far as quality of play, I'm sure Symple is a lovely game.  My grade for Symple's architecture: F-.  The reasons for the F are innumerable.  The minus is for this:

"If, and only if, neither player has grown yet, then black on his turn may use both the above options in the above order: he may place a stone, therewith creating a new group, and he may grow any or all of his other (!) groups."


on 10/18/10 at 05:20:09, christianF wrote:
Remember that Mark, next time you 'can't find the rule' ;) .

Now I'm being mentored by Christian Freeling.  What next??  Christian, Symple crawled up onto your porch not for fear of getting bagged by big game hunters, but because nobody else wanted it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 18th, 2010, 11:48am

on 10/18/10 at 10:54:34, MarkSteere wrote:
No, Christian.  Hijacking a forum entitled "Arimaa" with a thread entitled "Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games."

You're invariably funny ;D, but for your information, I didn't start this thread, Omar did. That's a reality check.


on 10/18/10 at 10:54:34, MarkSteere wrote:
This is your idea of "but one rule" ???:

"A short clarification: [...]

"On his turn a player may either put a stone on a vacant cell, not connected to a like colored group, thereby creating a new group, or grow any or all of his existing groups by one stone. A stone connecting two or more different groups is considered to have grown all off them. No group, considered at the beginning of the player's turn, may grow more than one stone in that particular turn."

That's the rule. Of course you know the difference between a clarification and a rule.
You may have missed the 'hanging matter' of the first move advantage, but that problem was considered from the very beginning. It became the one exception: as long as no growth has taken place, black is entitled to use both options in one turn.

Apart from that, I love you :-* keep hunting and caging, and if you ever happen to visit the Netherlands, I'd be more than pleased to welcome you on my metaphorical porch.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 18th, 2010, 12:33pm

on 10/18/10 at 11:48:22, christianF wrote:
Apart from that, I love you :-* keep hunting and caging, and if you ever happen to visit the Netherlands, I'd be more than pleased to welcome you on my metaphorical porch.

And I you  :D  I may visit the Netherlands again someday.  It's my favorite country.  If there's an Oust tournament or something, which one can't rule out (since it's the world's best modern game) I'll be there, invited or otherwise.  You'll have to promise not to throw your boa constrictor on me though  :D.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 18th, 2010, 12:52pm

on 10/18/10 at 12:33:29, MarkSteere wrote:
And I you  :D  I may visit the Netherlands again someday.  It's my favorite country.  If there's an Oust tournament or something, which one can't rule out (since it's the world's best modern game) I'll be there, invited or otherwise.  You'll have to promise not to throw your boa constrictor on me though  :D.

It's a Burmese python, and somewhat difficult to throw ;D .
http://i34.tinypic.com/259bn8y.jpg

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 18th, 2010, 12:56pm
Holy [something that would certainly be deemed "vulgar" by the moderators]!!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 20th, 2010, 11:58am
Those of you who know Zickzack (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/user/Zickzack), yours truly included, value his opinions on games highly. Here (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/5678716#5678716) is his latest post in the thread he started about Byg and Symple at BGG in connection with our current game (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Symple1287573635.html) at mindsports.

The first game (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Symple1287345883.html) ended in a win for Zick - he had been playtesting with iGGC's Arty Sandler and some friends, discovering, among other, the importance of the second line.
It was my first game and I'm happy not to be slaughtered completely, but I waited way to long with a 'prevention growth' that would have taken out black's option to both place and grow.
Moreover, my opening stones around the 3rd and 4th line were misguided.

The game ended, typically, in the twenty-some moves. I resigned because I had clearly lost.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 21st, 2010, 3:17am

on 10/20/10 at 20:49:53, SpeedRazor wrote:
@ Mark Steere:  
... you wouldn't be able to stop yourself.

Maybe it comes with the territory. Sometimes inventors are so familiar with the implications of their new finds that they tend to forget that players implicitly are not. Mark and I despise the sloppy reading of rules that sometimes shines through in comments. Yet both of us have been known, occasionally, for sloppy writing.
I like to hate Mark, but I don't hate to like him.

Sometimes, too, there's misunderstanding, such as Fritzlein's suspicion that my first Symple post implied criticism on the members of this forum, which was not intended. In retrospect I can see it may have given that impression though.

That I don't post in other fora at Arimaa isn't because I don't have an interest in the game. I do have an interest in Chess, as an inventor, but I am such a poor player that my contributions to a Chess forum would be a waste of effort and time, both on my side and the readers' side. Same holds for Arimaa and quite a few other games. I'm at my end, offering my contibutions as best I can.

I'm copying a summary of sorts I made the BGG forum.

- Symple was conceived the 8th of October, as an organism and as the fundamental implementation of the 'Star theme'. It presented itself with the implicit plroblem of the first move advantage, and a strong sugestion that a swap wouldn't solve the problem.
- I found the rule that solves any imbalance resulting from a first move advantage shortly after.
- I played my first game (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Symple1287345883.html) the 17th of October, not to playtest the organism, because I can see it move and it moves well, but to get a feel for it, because I am curious as hell.
- So I did exactly what so seems to upset some posters because they cannot imagine how that can be: find the game and describe its character before making a single move.

Here's the summary -  this was October 16.


Quote:
Zickzack:
At the moment, I do not think either game can be balanced by the pie rule. Consider the following approach: Swap any first move. Place single stones as long as your opponent does, and start growing when he does. You will start growing from one group more which is a major advantage.

And that was an excellent point. I've always argued that if the system is sound, the rule will be there. Emergo, like Symple a quintessential game, provides a beautiful example: when the idea emerged, all it needed was its entering protocol, and we found its entering protocol. Symple also provides its own opening protocol:


Quote:
Christian:
White starts, so he's the one that initially finds a board with an equal number of groups (stones as yet).
For him nothing changes: he may start growing any time he sees fit.
Black on the other hand initially faces positions in which he's one group (stone as yet) behind, so he cannot start growing without having white one group up.
So I've given black (and only black) the right, if he decides to grow first (and only then) to both create a new group and grow all the other (!) ones.
This way if players grow on subsequent turns, they will always start with the same number of groups.

Posted fresh from the brain.


Quote:
Zickzack:
It sounds good. But it  is powerful and I fear it may be more than enough to balance White's first move advantage. In other words, I'd rather play Black now.

That was spotted very good and argued accordingly, but there's a twist Zick initially missed, and noticed shotly thereafter:


Quote:
Zickzack:
Assume we are at move 8. Noone has grown so far. So, we have 8 White groups and 7 Black groups on the board. Black grows now and adds the extra-move. After that, White has 8 single stone groups, whereas Black has 7 groups of 2 stones and 1 single stone group. Since Black can still place single stone groups on the board until he has reached the desired number for growing, this is likely in Black's favor.

So, White has waited too long. At what move should White grow in order to prevent Black from doing so? At move 1, it is not possible. At move 2, it gives a one double stone group facing an opponent with a single stone group and the right to move. In the discussion of the three move swap protocol, I have argued that this is lost. Likewise, will Black wait until White can pull a growth on him or will Black secure the extra points and the increased options of the groups grown due to the balancing rule?

Symple is a double Chicken now. The first is when to grow first for the sake of either using or, well, disabling the balancing rule, and the second is inherent in the game mechanism itself - when do you have generally enough groups to grow from?

In any case, we can infer that the balancing rule succeeds at balancing the game. And the result is an extra twist. Since the extra rule "empowers" judgment respectively skill in the growth phase - that is where the result of the first chicken game will show -, I argue it gives an even better game.

So it's not a swap in the traditional sense, but it still offers a similar choice. We go from a white first move advantage which was difficult to compensate, to a black advantage that can implicitly be 'trimmed down to size', forcing black to either cash in early, grabbing the advantage as far as it goes in terms of points, or having it taken it away altogether.
The difficult point being 'how early'.
Not a metarule, but a rule rendering a similar result within the game itself, and every bit as organic as the game itself.

It also illustrates that 'placing (an isolated stone) after growing' does indeed occur. In the engame this may also be the case: an isolated stone (adding '-1' to the score), may prevent a connection between two opponent's groups (which would add '+3' to the opponent).

P.S. This really is my last game. Half my life embedded between Havannah and Symple feels too satisfactory to risk having "little more than half my life" embedded between Havannah and something ornamental 8) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 21st, 2010, 8:09am

on 10/20/10 at 20:49:53, SpeedRazor wrote:
BTW:  I've never heard of you before 

Now you have  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 21st, 2010, 8:17am

Quote:
Zickzack:
Symple is a double Chicken now.

[shaking head]  Just when I thought the Symple discussion was winding down...

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 21st, 2010, 9:15am

on 10/21/10 at 08:17:39, MarkSteere wrote:
[shaking head]  Just when I thought the Symple discussion was winding down...

If members care to look beyond the inventor's questionable character and outrageous claims, I'd be surprised (!) if it would :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 21st, 2010, 11:16am

on 10/21/10 at 03:17:49, christianF wrote:
P.S. This really is my last game. Half my life embedded between Havannah and Symple feels too satisfactory to risk having "little more than half my life" embedded between Havannah and something ornamental 8) .

I've tried to quit design a few times, mainly because it always leads to conflict on the Internet.  Now I seem to have embraced the conflict, but I still think of retiring because I'll probably never top the games I already have and I don't want to add substandard games into my portfolio.

In any case, I don't really have the option of retiring.  I can make it at most a couple of months before I'm drawn back into musing about design concepts - eyes closed, feet up, perfuming the breeze with smoldering California green,....   Ahhhhhhhhhhhh  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 21st, 2010, 12:39pm

on 10/21/10 at 11:16:56, MarkSteere wrote:
In any case, I don't really have the option of retiring.
Nor do I think you should - wait till you're bordering on 8-square like me :D .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 22nd, 2010, 12:37pm
Here's a game where we're attempting a more or less coherent newbie strategy:

Benedikt Rosenau (DE) - christian freeling (nl) (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Symple1287573635.html)

White 5 is a growing move, where Benedikt grabs 4 points and prevents black from using his first growth privilige, both good for white.
However, black is now one group up and can afford (to a degree) to postpone growth: if white grows first, he'll still be one group down.
At move 13 white considers further growth undesirable, because black threatens to grow too, and with 13 groups the first growing action usually allows several combinations that give the first player to grow the initiative. White's reasoning is that black may have ample compensation that way for giving up the one group he is up. So he rather takes the initiative, at the cost of black being one group up now.

And that where we are at the time of posting this: the start of the growing phase where our feeble attempts at opening strategy are presumed to pay off.

Edit 1:
At white 18 black has caught up thanks to his extra group, but it's not just a growing race: white has the better position, securing more 'territory' to grow in.

Edit 2:
The game ended in a white victory in 26 moves, which was slightly more than was needed for clarity on the score, and far more than was needed to conclude on a white victory. Since players may pass, and since no advantageous invasion is possible anymore (the last being black 25 that costs black one point, but would have costed him 3 had white connected), both can just fill in, so the go-concept of 'chinese count' is applicable.
The difference is that in Go 'chinese count' includes stones on the board on top of vacant points (japanese count), whereas here it includes vacant points on top of stones.

The applet counts stones minus twice the number of groups. Since the filling in doesn't connect any groups, white gets 16 points on top of the 130 already present, black gets 4 on top of the 113 he managed.

146-117 and congrats Zick :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 25th, 2010, 4:15am
Symple Numbers (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/D1010.html#24)

I'm not an expert, actually not even a layman, in graph theory, but for those who are, Frans Faase (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/) has implemented a program (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/SympleNumberSquareGraph_20101024_cpp.txt) for calculating Symple Numbers (def.) (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/D1010.html#14) for graphs of the form Pn (path graphs) and PnxPm (square grid graphs).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 25th, 2010, 2:24pm
Someone suggested that Symple was an "homage" to me.  It does't matter if is or not, but now I feel bad about judging the game too harshly.  The minus has to be there because of the balancing rule, but maybe it should be a D- or a C-.  If it's any consolation, I hate two of my own games almost as much as Symple.  

Why am I such a game hater?  I didn't used to be.  When I first started, I was designing in a total vacuum.  I never played games or knew anyone who did.  I even didn't know what "abstract strategy games" were.  I just knew about a handful of classics.  One day I found out about Reversi and I was smitten.  Had no desire to actually play Reversi but I did design Quadrature, my first game.  One day I got into a move cycle, something I didn't even know was possible in Quadrature, and it was an awful, terrible moment in my life.  From that point forward, no more draw susceptible games.

In my vacuum, the only things that mattered were robustness and architecture - design interest.  Quality of play was never an issue because people would be thrilled to have something other than Chess, Checkers, and Backgammon.  At age 33, I had still never heard of Go or Hex or any commercial abstract games other than Othello/Reversi.

Whenever I hear someone say "I used to be totally naive," my first thought is "Used to be?"  I'm still naive and I'm still designing in a vacuum, but I set a very high standard for myself.  I don't know if there are even ten games, not of my own design, that I like.  There's slim chance of obtaining a reassuring response to the question, "Hey Mark, what do you think of this game?"

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 26th, 2010, 7:53am

on 10/25/10 at 14:24:51, MarkSteere wrote:
Someone suggested that Symple was an "homage" to me.  It does't matter if is or not, but now I feel bad about judging the game too harshly.  The minus has to be there because of the balancing rule, but maybe it should be a D- or a C-.  If it's any consolation, I hate two of my own games almost as much as Symple.
 
But not quite as much, I hope. I'd like Symple to be unique in at least that respect. It's not a homage, actually, I hadn't planned it. It drifted upwards while I was drifting downwards, and there was this small overlapping window, but large enough to remember it next day. The window, that is - took a couple of minutes to realize what had been in it.
But you may consider it a homage, no sarcasm implied. Anyone capable of dreaming up HexOust and Atoll can count me among his admirers.


on 10/25/10 at 14:24:51, MarkSteere wrote:
Had no desire to actually play Reversi but I did design Quadrature, my first game. One day I got into a move cycle, something I didn't even know was possible in Quadrature, and it was an awful, terrible moment in my life.  From that point forward, no more draw susceptible games.

I consider inventing another game one of the best things one can do with Reversi ;D .


on 10/25/10 at 14:24:51, MarkSteere wrote:
In my vacuum, the only things that mattered were robustness and architecture - design interest. Quality of play was never an issue.

What we have in common, apart from a questionable character and annoying claims, is that we're not really players. But then, there's a lot of players out there who aren't really inventors and I think we serve them better than vice versa ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 26th, 2010, 10:18am

on 10/26/10 at 07:53:09, christianF wrote:
 
But not quite as much, I hope. I'd like Symple to be unique in at least that respect.

lol you're a funny guy, Christian.


on 10/26/10 at 07:53:09, christianF wrote:

But you may consider it a homage, no sarcasm implied. Anyone capable of dreaming up HexOust and Atoll can count me among his admirers.

Thanks  :)


on 10/26/10 at 07:53:09, christianF wrote:
I consider inventing another game one of the best things one can do with Reversi ;D .

:D  Yes, now looking back, Reversi seems to have lost some of its luster, though not nearly as lusterless as the fifty year old Twixt.


on 10/26/10 at 07:53:09, christianF wrote:
there's a lot of players out there who aren't really inventors and I think we serve them better than vice versa ;) .

An atheistic amen to that.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 6:45am
About a parameter

The 'Star' theme is about points for stones, but a penalty on groups. On an odd-sized grid the counting is of the general form "number of (such and such) points, minus '2n' points for every group", where 'n' is integer, though usually restricted to natural. Because of the odd number of points, the final score cannot be equal.

Symple is about territory control consequently has to deal with invasions, in particular invasions in the endgame. Why the endgame?

- In the opening, placing a single stone is not 'invasion', but a claim on territory
- The middle game is a growing stage where neither can afford to take a break by placing a single stone.

So invasions start when the advantage of further growth is petering out. In this stage players will have vacant territory surrounded, and good play is aimed at shaping this 'territory' (between quotes, because territory is formally defined as 'stones minus') in such a way that invasions won't pay of.

In Symple we currently play with n=1, and the minimum size for a group to pay off is two stones: for the owner it counts neutral, but it snatches 2 point from the opponent.
So invasions don't need much space to be successful. Placing a single stone is in fact without risk: if it can't grow it costs the owner 1 point (getting 1 for the stone, but losing 2 for the group) but it also takes 1 point from the opponent.

This means that the board will grow rather full. Of course, formally the game ends when the board is full, but in actual play vacant territory completely surrounded by one player, and safe from invasion, may be counted as if competely filled (that's not a rule, but a consequence).

In fact 'n' is a parameter for the risk and reward of an invasion, and for the 'openess' of the final position.

- Set n=0 and every stone pays off and the board fills up completely.
- Set n=1 and a single stone won't hurt or harm either player. So between reasonable players the board won't fill up completely, and 'chinese count' can be used.
- Set n=2 and placing a single stone becomes disadvantageous, unless at least one stone can be grown at it, in which case it becomes neutral. Only when at least two stones can be grown at it, does it become advantageous.

So setting the parameter at 2 will be an option in the mindsports applet. It isn't an arbitrary choice either: it is the minimum number at which invasions face an intial penalty, and are not without risk.

Shaping territory in such a way that invasions become less attactive is easier with n=2 than with n=1, and consequently the vacant territories to which it applies, will be larger and the board in the final position will show significant vacant territories (that need not to be filled up, because chinese counting leads to the same result).

Finally, here's an idea for wannabe inventors: What if the parameter were set to a negative number?

In other words: what if the count were of the general form "number of (such and such) points, plus '2n' points for every group", where 'n' is natural? Obviously connecting groups would be disadvantageous.

I'm satisfied with Symple, but I'm sure there's a game there, somewhere. Have fun :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 27th, 2010, 10:12am

on 10/27/10 at 06:45:03, christianF wrote:
Finally, here's an idea for wannabe inventors...

Please, don't encourage them.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 27th, 2010, 10:34am
I don't understand. Just after Forum Admin has declared that one should not bait people to violate forum rules, we get a disrespectful notion of "wannabe".

From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wannabe
A "wannabe" (slang for "want to be") is a person with an ambition to be someone or something that they are not. The term is mildly pejorative, intended to convey the foolish nature of the desire due to the incompetence of the "wannabe" to accomplish the goal.

Of course, it could be that the above definition does not capture what you meant. I would just hope that you clarified it. Mark's comment "don't encourage them" supports my understanding that there is hint that others are not as capable to design good games.

All this is in good spirits. I am just baffled, that's all.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 11:24am

on 10/27/10 at 10:34:57, clojure wrote:
Of course, it could be that the above definition does not capture what you meant. I would just hope that you clarified it.

Indeed it doesn't. To me it would seem that requiring any skill starts with the intention to do so. Hence 'wannabe'. Don't you think you're just a bit overly sensitive and making an uncalled for stand for the feeble-minded? For those who's opinions are so difficult because opinions are so easy? For those who think having thoughts qualifies as thinking?
Are you their spokesman?


on 10/27/10 at 10:34:57, clojure wrote:
Mark's comment "don't encourage them" supports my understanding that there is hint that others are not as capable to design good games.

All this is in good spirits. I am just baffled, that's all.

Baffled? I made a suggestion regarding a theme for a game. Am I missing something?

P.S. You may actually harbor the opinion that game inventing is not a skill. I won't comment on that.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 27th, 2010, 11:25am

on 10/27/10 at 10:34:57, clojure wrote:
I don't understand. Just after Forum Admin has declared that one should not bait people to violate forum rules,

The offensive post was amateurish.  One must be a master baiter.


on 10/27/10 at 10:34:57, clojure wrote:
Mark's comment "don't encourage them" supports my understanding that there is hint that others are not as capable to design good games.

It's more than a hint.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 11:43am

on 10/27/10 at 11:25:52, MarkSteere wrote:
It's more than a hint.

It's a bait ;D .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 27th, 2010, 11:55am

on 10/27/10 at 11:24:45, christianF wrote:
Indeed it doesn't. To me it would seem that requiring any skill starts with the intention to do so. Hence 'wannabe'.


Ok. I was just wondering why not use a word that is not loaded with negative connotation.


Quote:
Are you their spokesman?

I'm no-one's spokeman, not even mine. I just pointed out what felt controversial in the light of the post previous to yours, i.e. Forum Admin's.


Quote:
Baffled? I made a suggestion regarding a theme for a game. Am I missing something?


Maybe I don't know how to use "baffled" at the right context. It didn't reference the totality of your suggestion to try out finding out a game -- only the "wannabe" usage.


Quote:
P.S. You may actually harbor the opinion that game inventing is not a skill. I won't comment on that.


My take on this is that in traditional sense, it is a skill. But personally I feel that everything is just a discovery; i.e. one explores the space of possibilities. It doesn't mean I don't value inventors/discoverers. Inherently nothing has absolute value. I just prefer some things, and I do prefer to see skilled inventors over non-skilled.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 12:17pm

on 10/27/10 at 11:55:53, clojure wrote:
I'm no-one's spokeman, not even mine. I just pointed out what felt controversial in the light of the post previous to yours, i.e. Forum Admin's.

The moderator's action was directed against a member who addressed another member personally, in a fashion that "borders on baiting someone to say something that would violate the posting guidelines".

Could you please explain how that reflects on my post?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 27th, 2010, 12:34pm

on 10/27/10 at 12:17:55, christianF wrote:
The moderator's action was directed against a member who addressed another member personally, in a fashion that "borders on baiting someone to say something that would violate the posting guidelines".


Sure, I did consider the difference before posting. The attack with targeting specific person is more visible and concrete but to me the spirit of what Forum Admin was saying was that one should not attack anyone, by mentioning someone specifically, or as well by having more abstract way to categorize the object of disrespect.


Quote:
Could you please explain how that reflects on my post?


Your post doesn't necessarily fulfill the criteria what Forum Admin said in concrete terms. Also your intention wasn't to hurt anyone's feelings, as you said. I wanted only you to dis-ambiguate the word "wannabe".

But in general, I don't think Forum Admin would approve if someone says bad words about a subset of people even when not mentioning anyone by name. If I'm wrong here, please correct me.

Anyways, let's leave this interplay and concentrate on your interesting game design musings.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 12:39pm

on 10/27/10 at 12:34:21, clojure wrote:
But in general, I don't think Forum Admin would approve if someone says bad words about a subset of people even when not mentioning anyone by name. If I'm wrong here, please correct me.

Al Qaeda springs to mind. Note that I'm not mentioning "He who must not be named".

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 27th, 2010, 12:49pm

on 10/27/10 at 12:39:42, christianF wrote:
Al Qaeda springs to mind.

Osama Bin Laden is alive and Pat Tillman is dead.  Not that I care about Pat Tillman, a victim of his own ego.  Sit the ____ down, shut the ____ up, and wait for backup to arrive, just like everyone else in the unit.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 1:08pm

on 10/27/10 at 12:34:21, clojure wrote:
Anyways, let's leave this interplay and concentrate on your interesting game design musings.


If we were to do that, we'd notice that Symple was conceived in a few seconds, in a small window while drifting off to sleep. I published it before playtesting and described its character.

The only thing playtesting suggests is to set the parameter '2n' at n=2.
The mechanism is new and the game is of a profound strategical depth, very Go-like but much faster and, because there's no capture, without any ambiguity in the rules.

So maybe we'd better not concentrate on them ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 27th, 2010, 2:08pm

on 10/27/10 at 13:08:51, christianF wrote:
Symple was conceived in a few seconds,

I've had that experience with a lot of designs, including Oust.  Once I considered the boundary conditions, that the board starts out empty and ends with only one color of stones on it, the solution instantly materialized.  

The Oust concept did require a couple of quick run-throughs on a tiny board.  I had to allow singletons adjacent to enemy groups because there are no-legal-moves positions without that.  I also had to add the reiterative kill.  Otherwise it was an automatic first kill win.

My sudden design experiences are wildly outnumbered by failed design attempts that can span weeks or months.


on 10/27/10 at 13:08:51, christianF wrote:
The mechanism is new and the game is of a profound strategical depth, very Go-like

You realized Symple's profound depth after playing it for three weeks??  :)  

May I call upon designers to, in specific terms, abandon the tiresome, epidemic Go comparisons?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 27th, 2010, 2:50pm

on 10/27/10 at 14:08:45, MarkSteere wrote:
You realized Symple's profound depth after playing it for three weeks??  :)  

May I call upon designers to, in specific terms, abandon the tiresome, epidemic Go comparisons?


Yes to the first. You didn't with (Hex)Oust? It's organic simplicity points to a field of strategical and tactical refinements to be unveiled in prolongued play, even if beginners, yours truly included, cannot see the full extend of them. It's in the nature of the organism.

Concerning the second, sorry :-/, you're right, frequent (mis)use has made it less of a recommendation, if at all.

Let me elaborate on the first in this specific case. Obviously white would have an advantage if no balancing mechanism were present. Symple is balanced by a new one: black gets a privilige that counterbalances it, but to a shifting degree. At any time white can decide to insert a growing move to keep black from cashing in his privilige. If he does so too early black will have the advantage white used to have - being one move ahead - at almost no price. If he does so too late, he doesn't at all, because black will cash in. Of course black wants to cash in as late as possible. There's the first dilemma for both.

The second dilemma is when to stop placing stones and to start growing. This moment, in actual play, is something of a black hole: the games are circling around it and the precise center must be derived from their orbit.

The point being: there is such a center, albeit not so precise as a black hole, but indeed something to zoom in on, in prolongued play. Deeper knowledge of tactics may help, but the presence of a timing dilemma is clear in this game, in every single game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 27th, 2010, 7:30pm

on 10/27/10 at 14:50:50, christianF wrote:
[Oust (hex hex)'s] organic simplicity points to a field of strategical and tactical refinements to be unveiled in prolongued play,

Yes, that is happening.  Oust gradually reveals new tactics to the extent that its gameplay becomes counterintuitive after a hundred or so plays.  You want to avoid killing, almost no matter what, in the opening game now.  This is diametrically different from how the opening play was in the first few weeks.  Strategy has grown a lot with no obvious limit in sight.

I'm not sure what you mean by organic, though from the context I'm interpreting that as a fundamental concept embodied in a minimal rule set.

There's a sente in Oust, something I've become aware of after playing it over 200 times.  Play can end in as little as three moves, and there's a clear distinction between Black play and White play in the first several moves.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 28th, 2010, 2:56am

on 10/27/10 at 19:30:24, MarkSteere wrote:
I'm not sure what you mean by organic, though from the context I'm interpreting that as a fundamental concept embodied in a minimal rule set.

Close enough, but usually an 'organical' game is also homogeneous. Chess games for instance are much more 'mechanical'.

That being said, to me it's a way a game 'feels'. Despite being non-homogeneous, the interaction of the three fieldpieces in Hannibal felt a bit 'organical'. But that quality wasn't enough to pinpoint the game in one go, only to see the core of the system, and some rules in the final version, though well-considered, are arbitrary. Symple is much easier. I wasn't even seriously looking for it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 28th, 2010, 1:05pm

on 10/27/10 at 14:08:45, MarkSteere wrote:
May I call upon designers to, in specific terms, abandon the tiresome, epidemic Go comparisons?

Oh dear, I tried to get it back in, even invoking your spirit, but the genie is out of the bottle (http://boardgamegeek.com/article/5721682#5721682) :o .

On another note, this thread started around my claim to sometimes be able to perceive a new game and see what it holds for a hypothetical future in a world where it would be played extensively. Obviously this is not a claim that takes its commercial success or lack thereof into account, as some posters assumed.

There was a lot of scepticism and general disbelief, and among the best argued answers was one of Fritzlein that I quote here in part:


on 03/08/09 at 18:30:08, Fritzlein wrote:
I'm intrigued by Freeling's claim that he (unlike normal people) can tell from the rules of an abstract strategy game whether or not the game will be good.  He explicitly says that he doesn't need to be able to play at a grandmaster level to know what it will feel like to play at a grandmaster level.  He begs us to take his word on four or five of his games that haven't yet been proven to be excellent games, and offers us Havannah as evidence because he knew it was a great game decades before a serious gaming community embraced Havannah and uncovered the glory that he knew all along would be waiting.

I have argued in other threads in this forum precisely that one can't tell a great game just from its rules. You must play to know. Arimaa is fabulous because of its emergent complexity, and by definition, emergent complexity can't be obvious from the start. If you can see something on the surface, it is not emergent. I can't believe that anyone, even a "game whisperer" could have foretold the intricacies of the camel hostage strategy from the bare rules of the game. The way we play and talk about Arimaa today would be impossible without the accumulated experience of the community.

On the other hand, Freeling has so many acute insights into why rules make a game good or bad that I can't quite dismiss his claim to supernatural powers. Just because I can't judge a game from its rules (and just because I have read a ton of trash from self-styled experts trying to judge a game based on its rules) doesn't mean that it is wholly impossible. Given that Freeling will not profit monetarily if we believe him or suffer if we disbelieve, I am convinced that his motive is exactly what he says it is: he wants to leave his mark on the world by sharing what he knows.

I'm surprised he doesn't call himself Cassandra, gifted with prophecy but cursed that no one will believe him. But he does put his faith in generations. He believes that time will tell. I suppose prophesy is like emergent complexity: if other people could judge your claims to be true at the time you made them, then you wouldn't be a prophet.


This was more of a 'benefit of the doubt' than I got from most other posters. I was somewhat surpised, therefore, by the agressive answer I got from the same source after posting the freshly conceived rules of Symple.
Or of the annoying small-minded rebuke about the use of the word "wannabe" by Clojure.

My surprise is this: I offer a new game of which I, and by now not only I,  think its a great game.

Does anyone say "hey thanks, we love games and this appears to be a great game"? No, good chance Clojure didn't even read the rules, let alone try to understand them.

No I'm treated agressively or annoyingly and none or my critics has the greatness of mind to say that Symple may well be an example of how I sometimes perceive games - as I said I did.

With Hanniball it was easy to try to refute my claim - it's part chesslike and that part is mechanical rather than organical. So its more of a constuction than a self-explanatory organism, and it needed some fixing.

Now try Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/). The best strategy for my critics, I suggest, is showing that it's not a great game.
Or keep your silence.
But then, you're doing that already ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by clojure on Oct 28th, 2010, 5:02pm

Quote:
Or of the annoying small-minded rebuke about the use of the word "wannabe" by Clojure.


I apologize for the "wannabe" question, now explicitly since it seems my efforts to explain reasons for it were not enough for neutral judgement.


Quote:
My surprise is this: I offer a new game of which I, and by now not only I,  think its a great game.

Does anyone say "hey thanks, we love games and this appears to be a great game"? No, good chance Clojure didn't even read the rules, let alone try to understand them.


For the record, I did give you respective and positive message after you wondered why no-one paid attention to Symplex. Now, I'm withdrawing myself from this thread since it's getting too personal for my taste.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 28th, 2010, 5:34pm

on 10/28/10 at 17:02:04, clojure wrote:
Now, I'm withdrawing myself from this thread since it's getting too personal for my taste.
Says someone who was 'baffled by my disrespectful notions', although these clearly weren't disrespectful, and clearly not directed at a specific person. You just couldn't resist.

But delicate sensitivities are anybody's prerogative, so be my guest.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 28th, 2010, 5:48pm

on 10/28/10 at 13:05:13, christianF wrote:
Oh dear, I tried to get it back in, even invoking your spirit, but the genie is out of the bottle (http://boardgamegeek.com/article/5721682#5721682) :o .

That was a pretty major "edit", Christian.  Your justification for the Symple/Go comparison here replaces your apology for said comparison from yesterday.  The edit function is for typos and such, not to erase and diametrically change what you already said.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 28th, 2010, 6:01pm

on 10/28/10 at 17:34:37, christianF wrote:
But delicate sensitivities are anybody's prerogative, so be my guest.

Man, ease up on clojure  :)  He gets out of bed, takes a bath, and he's baffled before breakfast.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Oct 28th, 2010, 7:53pm

Quote:
Now try Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/). The best strategy for my critics, I suggest, is showing that it's not a great game.
Or keep your silence.
But then, you're doing that already ;) .


Symple is not a great game because it hasn't been around long enough, not many people have played it, there are no strategy books about it, there's no evidence that the first or second player doesn't have some huge advantage, and the best penalty value for extra groups is still not well understood.  


Quote:
But delicate sensitivities are anybody's prerogative, so be my guest.


Yes, quite true.  


Given time, Symple might turn out to be a great game - but it's nowhere close yet.  

For me personally, I thought it was an interesting rule set.  It's not the kind of game that appeals to me though.  I think Go is a truly great game - but I don't play it very much.  Any game that requires adding things up to determine the winner doesn't excite me as much as games like Chess or Arimaa.  Maybe that's why you're not getting as much feedback about Symple as you did for Hanniball?  That is, HanniBall is more Chess like than Symple is - and Arimaa players in general might be more interested in games that have more Chess-like qualities?  I don't know.

For myself, I'm wrapped up in understanding Arimaa, and don't have a lot of time to spend learning about all of the new ones that come out - but I do enjoy reading about new games.

So, yes, thanks very much for creating the game.  Looks interesting.  Might be a lot of fun.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 28th, 2010, 8:32pm

on 10/28/10 at 19:53:04, ocmiente wrote:
Any game that requires adding things up to determine the winner doesn't excite me as much as games like Chess or Arimaa.

Precisely.  Thank you.  The need for a calculator in a game is an aesthetic Hiroshima.


on 10/28/10 at 19:53:04, ocmiente wrote:
Maybe that's why you're not getting as much feedback about Symple as you did for Hanniball?

Yes, and if I may speak for the readership, I think we all need a little breather after our last euphoric celebration of prophetic claims come true.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2010, 1:55am

on 10/28/10 at 20:32:20, MarkSteere wrote:
The need for a calculator in a game is an aesthetic Hiroshima.
I hadn't anticipated you'd need one ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2010, 2:08am

on 10/28/10 at 19:53:04, ocmiente wrote:
Symple is not a great game because it hasn't been around long enough, not many people have played it, there are no strategy books about it ...
Yes precisely what most people need to come to a conclusion, and I don't, that's the point of my claim isn't it?


on 10/28/10 at 19:53:04, ocmiente wrote:
...there's no evidence that the first or second player doesn't have some huge advantage, and the best penalty value for extra groups is still not well understood.
Not understanding the implicit balancing effect of black's conditional privilige, and not understanding the reasoning in About a parameter (http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=other;action=display;num=1236541162;start=270#280), may have the same cause ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2010, 2:20am

on 10/28/10 at 18:01:28, MarkSteere wrote:
Man, ease up on clojure  :)  He gets out of bed, takes a bath, and he's baffled before breakfast.
The hallmark of mediocrity is to always shift the focus from the content of a message to discontent about the manner in which it is delivered.
It's not bad to be mediocre, it's implicit in the existence of different levels of skill in whatever man does, and all of us excell at it one way or the other.
But its bad to feel that mediocrity should be the measure of all things.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 29th, 2010, 2:34am

on 10/29/10 at 02:08:48, christianF wrote:
Yes precisely what most people need to come to a conclusion, and I don't, that's the point of my claim isn't it?

"I'm great enough to know when my claims of greatness are valid."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2010, 2:46am

on 10/29/10 at 02:34:59, MarkSteere wrote:
"I'm great enough to know when my claims of greatness are valid."
Ah, 'no sarcasm implied' eh? I thought I'd lost you ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 29th, 2010, 3:34pm

on 10/29/10 at 02:20:33, christianF wrote:
The hallmark of mediocrity...

Looking back I think the Baffled One may have gotten short changed here.  His dashed circle suggestion for the Flume rule sheet was very helpful.  Flume is an important game in my portfolio, and just in a general sense.  Way too many people were having trouble with the rule sheet.   Clojure's dashed circle is much more intuitive than the green check that it replaced.

The fact that clojure formulated a complaint against Symple with an alleged incomplete understanding of the game does not subtract from his credibility for me.  *I* don't have a thorough understanding of Symple.

Christian, here's what happened.  Nobody responded about your game, and you ran out of patience and demanded to know what the problem was, essentially.  Then, when people reluctantly came forward to accommodate your request, you berated them.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 29th, 2010, 4:03pm

on 10/29/10 at 15:34:37, MarkSteere wrote:
Christian, here's what happened.  Nobody responded about your game, and you ran out of patience and demanded to know what the problem was, essentially.  Then, when people reluctantly came forward to accommodate your request, you berated them.

Yes, quite so. It's a bit annoying that when I honestly explain how I invent games, I encounter loads of scepticism and disbelief for doing so. Then, when I find a game off the top of my sleepy head, without so much as touching a stone, and present it, I would think it makes a good case. Of course the game must still prove itself, but some things are as easy to predict, game technical, as predicting Hex will have a winner. Like Hex, Symple is strategically deep by the nature of the organism. Predicting its general behaviour is as easy as predicting Hex's general behaviour. It is also balanced. What more does it take?

It seems that my honesty is taken for arrogance. Know then that I'd rather seem arrogant than be hypocritical.

Obviously too, the Arimaa forum tends to favor Arimaa type games, so this thread has become a bit of an anachronism. And Clojure is right, it's getting to personal, being about inventors rather than games. That's getting a bit boring so let's call it a day.

Thanks all for contributing and have a good life :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 29th, 2010, 5:55pm

on 10/29/10 at 16:03:35, christianF wrote:
Like Hex, Symple is strategically deep by the nature of the organism. Predicting its general behaviour is as easy as predicting Hex's general behaviour. It is also balanced. What more does it take?

Ok, without discussing inventors or whatever, I'll try to specifically answer your question.  Primarily it takes being robust and I believe that's what's missing from Symple.  I believe there's a false premise in your question, What *more* does it take.  Yes the game is balanced between beginners who've played the game like ten times.  What happens when it turns into 100 times or 1000 times.  The "balancing rule" will no longer be adequate to balance the game.  Now it'll be a complex tweakfest like Go Moku.  That's my suspicion anyway, based on the fact that it needs a balancing rule in the first place.  What simple mechanism that now balances the game soon will not.

Sometimes people won't like your game as much as you anticipated.  And some other times people will like it more than you expected.  I was, and still am, really enthused about Cage but I perceived a lukewarm reaction to it initially based on one or two comments from people.  Now, I'm getting some positive feedback.  Some people elect not to play it again.  One guy said I should consider a variant where the outer two rows (shells) should already be vacant since that would speed things up quite a bit, not a bad idea at all.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 29th, 2010, 7:58pm

on 10/29/10 at 19:40:50, SpeedRazor wrote:
Good night to this thread.  

Good night :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 29th, 2010, 11:38pm

on 10/29/10 at 22:47:52, SpeedRazor wrote:
Neither one of these trolls EVEN KNOWS THE RULES OF ARIMAA

That's patently false.  I know for a fact that Christian knows the rules of Arimaa.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Oct 30th, 2010, 2:37am

on 10/29/10 at 23:38:34, MarkSteere wrote:
That's patently false.  I know for a fact that Christian knows the rules of Arimaa.

LOL very witty :)

I know what you're trying to say SpeedRazor, but seeing as Christian has already indicated he's not going to be pursuing this thread any further, I vote we just let it die peacefully and give it a decent burial.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 30th, 2010, 11:59am

on 10/28/10 at 13:05:13, christianF wrote:
On another note, this thread started around my claim to sometimes be able to perceive a new game and see what it holds for a hypothetical future in a world where it would be played extensively. Obviously this is not a claim that takes its commercial success or lack thereof into account, as some posters assumed.

There was a lot of scepticism and general disbelief, and among the best argued answers was one of Fritzlein that I quote here in part:
[...]

This was more of a 'benefit of the doubt' than I got from most other posters. I was somewhat surpised, therefore, by the agressive answer I got from the same source after posting the freshly conceived rules of Symple.
[...]

Does anyone say "hey thanks, we love games and this appears to be a great game"?

I am glad that you have clarified that you are not merely "surprised", but in fact offended that the Arimaa community is not engaging with Symple, and that you feel we owe it to you to take up your latest game in order to see how great it is.  I see that I wasn't misinterpreting your tone when I responded aggressively.  In fact I was right on the money in inferring that you thought the Arimaa community was not giving you the respect you deserve for inventing another brilliant game.  Thank you for making it explicit what you think you are due.


Quote:
No I'm treated agressively or annoyingly and none or my critics has the greatness of mind to say that Symple may well be an example of how I sometimes perceive games - as I said I did.

In the case of Hanniball, you demonstrated in full view of everyone that you can't perceive how a game will play until you have playtested it, and specifically that a major rule change may be required on the basis of playtesting.  If you could do what you claim, you would never have to do more than introduce minor tweaks, but for Hanniball you had to fundamentally change the mechanic, and that after engagement by a relatively small group of people for a relatively short period of time.  It was good of you to have the courage and candor to reveal the process to everyone.  Unfortunately, at the conclusion of the process, you blithely concluded that you had proved your claims about your own abilities, when in fact the opposite had occurred.  In this context it is highly ironic to fault others for lacking "greatness of mind".

My opinion of Symple, which you may think justified or unjustified as you choose, is that it might be a far superior game to Hanniball, and indeed might be a superior game to Arimaa.  I don't know.  I haven't investigated it and I am not qualified to comment on it.  I did, however, take the time observe the evolution of Hanniball closely.  Because of that experience I am quite convinced that you, Christian, also do not know whether or not Symple is a great game.  My opinion of you, which you my think justified or unjustified as you choose, is that  you do not know in advance of playtesting.  If Symple is taken up seriously by a large community of players, it might be busted by the community, after which it would become unplayable without a major rule change.

I am not saying that you are not the greatest abstract strategy game designer of all time.  I am not saying that Symple is not the greatest abstract strategy game of all time.  What I am saying is that your inflated claims of your own powers are tiresome.  Furthermore, your feeling that the Arimaa community owes you something with respect to Symple that it is failing to give you is manipulative and unjust.  The more you assert that we must pay attention to you, the more you can expect that the attention you do get from us will be negative attention, particularly since you are not offering to support Arimaa in any way.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 12:45pm

on 10/30/10 at 11:59:13, Fritzlein wrote:
I am glad that you have clarified that you are not merely "surprised", but in fact offended that the Arimaa community is not engaging with Symple, and that you feel we owe it to you to take up your latest game in order to see how great it is.

A word in defense of a fellow designer.  Christian is known for releasing games people like and so has earned credibility.  If you like his games, you do owe it to him to fairly thoroughly evaluate his latest one, not as Arimaa community members, but as players of Christian Freeling games.  It doesn't matter that the discussion happens to be taking place here in the Arimaa forum.  It is in the off topic subforum.

Don't offer a blaze response like, Well I'll see if I can get around to reading the rule sheet some time next week.  That's BS.  You don't have an obligation to *like* the game, but you really do need to at least read and understand the rulesheet, in a timely manner.

When a designer feels he isn't being treated fairly, this can lead to backlash, the prerogative of the artist.


on 10/30/10 at 11:59:13, Fritzlein wrote:
What I am saying is that your inflated claims of your own powers are tiresome.  

Bingo.  When someone throws a party in your honor, they don't expect you to show up with a toothbrush and provisions for seven months.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 30th, 2010, 1:11pm

on 10/30/10 at 12:45:15, MarkSteere wrote:
Bingo. When someone throws a party in your honor, they don't expect you to show up with a toothbrush and provisions for seven months.
Yes, somehow the fat lady never showed up, but I don't want to appear impolite, so I'll contact posters whose comments deserve a fair answer privately.

I'll leave you with this final public thought though. Mark's Atoll is a great game. Anyone who is only slightly familiar with Hex can see that.
Like Hex it needs a balancing factor. Provided there are cells that are 'sufficiently bad' to start with, a swap will work in a game of this type.

Does anyone actually have to play Atoll to see that? Is anyone able to explain how it could not be a great game?

The irony is that Mark's scoresheet at iGGC shows 21 losses and 2 wins. Does that mean anything?

Now I'll stop being a troll in a thread that has my name in the title ;) .
Again, thanks for contributing and have a good life!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 30th, 2010, 1:20pm

on 10/30/10 at 12:45:15, MarkSteere wrote:
A word in defense of a fellow designer.  Christian is known for releasing games people like and so has earned credibility.  If you like his games, you do owe it to him to fairly thoroughly evaluate his latest one, not as Arimaa community members, but as players of Christian Freeling games.  It doesn't matter that the discussion happens to be taking place here in the Arimaa forum.  It is in the off topic subforum.

Yes, Christian has great credibility as a game designer.  His past successes incline me to believe that his latest offering is more likely to be a great game than a game invented by someone with no track record or a poor track record.  Yet Christian has staked his claim to credibility not on the fact that he has invented games in the past that have proven to have strategic depth, most notably Havannah, but rather that he knows how Symple will turn out.  You shared my astonishment, at least according to your response:


Quote:
You realized Symple's profound depth after playing it for three weeks??

Note that Christian didn't back away at all from his claim to foreknowledge, only from his comparing Symple to Go.

I have been playing Arimaa for over six years, and have learned enough about its strategy to fill a book.  We have over a hundred active players and a database of over 150,000 games played on arimaa.com.  Ratings span over eight class intervals.  Yet in spite of all this evidence, the claim I make for Arimaa is that is has the potential to be a great game.  Arimaa hasn't developed any problems yet that would cut off the seemingly-infinite strategy learning curve, but that could change.  It is not too late for Arimaa to be busted.

My interest in this thread was from the beginning based on my curiosity as to whether there is a way to know in advance what games are great, with an eye to applying that evaluation method to Arimaa.  Is there a shortcut to many people playing a game quite seriously for a prolonged time?  The case of Hanniball gave me a satisfactory answer to the negative.  I was never motivated by wanting to try out all the latest abstract strategy games, or even to try out all the Christian Freeling games.  I don't see why I would have given cause to anyone to believe that I was.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 30th, 2010, 1:24pm

on 10/30/10 at 13:11:07, christianF wrote:
Does anyone actually have to play Atoll to see that? Is anyone able to explain how it could not be a great game?

Yes, I would have to play it to see it.  I can't tell just from the rules.  It could prove not to be a great game if the strategic learning curve runs out at some point.  I don't see how anyone can know that the strategic learning curve will never run out.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 2:11pm

on 10/30/10 at 13:11:07, christianF wrote:
Like Hex [Atoll] needs a balancing factor.

No, Christian, I can't allow you to make a fallacious point and run off.  The pie rule is a simple, generic, ugly-but-extremely-useful rule that can be applied to any game, including Symple.  I know, I know.  Symple doesn't need it, right?  You want to know a game that really doesn't need it as much as Hex?  Atoll.

Byg, Symple, etc. are based on an unstable, divergent principle. If they're in the same class as Go Moku, only worse, which I strongly suspect, advancing skill will always be accompanied by advanced tweaking of the balancing rule set. Your special balancing rule, the Nagasaki of Symple, makes the the pie rule look like a firecracker in comparison.


on 10/30/10 at 13:11:07, christianF wrote:
The irony is that Mark's scoresheet at iGGC shows 21 losses and 2 wins. Does that mean anything?

lol It means that, like you, I don't play the game.  I *make* the game!

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 2:16pm

on 10/30/10 at 13:24:42, Fritzlein wrote:
[Atoll] could prove not to be a great game if the strategic learning curve runs out at some point.  I don't see how anyone can know that the strategic learning curve will never run out.

Not to put too fine a point on it Fritzlein, but in this case Christian is right and you are wrong.  Because Atoll is extremely robust and crudely scalable, you will *never* wring out Atoll.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Oct 30th, 2010, 3:38pm

on 10/30/10 at 14:16:12, MarkSteere wrote:
Not to put too fine a point on it Fritzlein, but in this case Christian is right and you are wrong.

Wrong about what?  I didn't say that Atoll wasn't a great game, or that it was not robust, or that it was going to run out of strategy.  I said that one can't tell it is a great game from the rules alone.  That is what Christian asserted, and what I disagreed with.  You have more experience with Atoll than just knowing the rules, and presumably bring that experience to bear in evaluating its quality.  (And now that I read more carefully, even Christian tries to bring in familiarity with Hex as an aid to being able to evaluate Atoll.  There is a gray area in my "no playtesting" criterion if massive playtesting of one game is relevant to evaluating another, newer one.)

Are you staking out the position that it is possible to tell a great game just from its rules, without playtesting?  If so, then it is humorous that the two people in this Forum who believe that it is possible to know without playtesting each often think that they get it right and the other guy gets it wrong.  Or how else do you explain the fact that the two of you can disagree about the quality of games when you both know all the rules?

Bringing it from the general to the specific, you were a vocal critic of Hanniball throughout its vogue.  Is it not fair to say you thought Hanniball had serious problems that Christian was not aware of just from the rules, and became aware of only as it was being playtested, because it was being playtested?  And therefore that you believe Christian didn't demonstrate, in the case of Hanniball, the ability he claimed to have?  And finally, if Christian doesn't have this ability, you are the only one around here who does?

I'm just curious to know on exactly what points we disagree.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 5:38pm

on 10/30/10 at 16:29:53, SpeedBump wrote:
You do understand that you come off as a jerk. A Jerk.  

Welcome aboard, SpeedBump.  One can never have too many psychotic fans, apparently.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 6:13pm

on 10/30/10 at 15:38:42, Fritzlein wrote:
I'm just curious to know on exactly what points we disagree.

It is possible to know just from looking at the rule sheet for some games, such as Atoll (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Atoll_rules.pdf), that the strategic potential is unlimited.   Just logically, any sort of "winning strategy" in Atoll would translate into first move advantage.  We know enough about the strategic depth of Hex to extrapolate that to the "convoluted" Atoll.  Bump the board up to the next larger size and boom, the once superior strategy isn't looking so superior any more.  I've lost track of how many people have told me Atoll is a better game than Hex.  

There's always room for a better strategy in Atoll.  The only question is, "How good are you?".  The answer to "How robust is this game?" should be evident from the rule sheet alone.

Too much ado is made of the pie rule.  It's a very simple concept.  One player should not start the game with the dual advantage of both first move and best move.  It should be first move and sufficiently bad move to compensate for the sente advantage that the first move provides.  Boom.  Done.  You made the starting point as fair as possible, and sufficiently fair that the better player will probably win.  Quick and dirty, but very effective.  The pie rule is clearly defined.  It's used once at the beginning and then forgotten about.  It's not an arbitrary, ridiculous baloneyfest that's the base point for an endless tweakfest.

Edit: "the the. to too"

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 30th, 2010, 6:48pm
Christian, I hope you don't mind my posting your question here in what has been up until now an active discussion of your game, Symple.  I don't understand what you're asking, but maybe the other participants in the discussion can be of help.  In any case I see no reason to suddenly take the discussion offline.

"Hi, I just sent a message to Fritz(lein) about a difference between the pie rule and a swap (???) I never realized before. It emerged because Symple features a pie rule, but not a conventional swap. Do you want me to elaborate? (Put the same question before F)."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 8:21am

on 10/30/10 at 19:37:51, SpeedRazor wrote:
You wear an muscle shirt, even turning up the right shoulder.

Studying my picture, are you?  Classic psychotic obsession.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 9:22am
Christian, I'm going to make one more attempt to bring the discussion back online.  Yes the group did go a little "dog pack" on you but you instigated that by ignoring repeated warnings to stop talking about your claims, from me and others.  My challenge to you: don't use the word claim again in this thread.  

One can naturally expect to find loyalty to Arimaa in a forum entitled "Arimaa".  Don't mention Arimaa if there's a risk of your comments being misinterepreted.  Like I said earlier, we are in the off topic subforum.  There's no requirement to include Arimaa in the discussion.

In any case, I am absolutely not willing to discuss Symple with you privately.  The topic of Symple does not in itself hold my interest, though I have found the public debate about it entertaining.  


"I think the thread has become a waste of time. I would appreciate to
continue discussing the arguments with Fritz, who is concerned with
their content rather than their source, and with you, Benedikt, Ed and
whoever is interested in abstract game design.
But to be interrupted time and again by a dogpack that due to
misdirected loyalty bites at anything that is perceived to be an attack
on Arimaa, and almost anything is, is tiresome.

Oh, yes, a swap is a special case of the pie rule, the foremost case
too, because it can be applied to a large number of two-player abstracts.
A pie however can be extended to more than two players, a swap cannot.
When applied to more than two, the element of 'timing' enters the
equation. I'll explain what I mean by that later. For the moment I'll
leave it at the fact that a swap doesn't work for Symple, the problem
being that there appear to be no obvious 'bad cells'.

This also reflects on your answer to my statement that Atoll needs a
'balancing factor', and that a swap fits it perfectly. You said:

------
"No, Christian, I can't allow you to make a fallacious point and run
off.  The pie rule is a simple, generic, ugly-but-extremely-useful rule
that can be applied to any game, including Symple.  I know, I know.
Symple doesn't need it, right?  You want to know a game that really
doesn't need it as much as Hex?  Atoll.

Byg, Symple, etc. are based on an unstable, divergent principle. If
they're in the same class as Go Moku, only worse, which I strongly
suspect, advancing skill will always be accompanied by advanced tweaking
of the balancing rule set. Your special balancing rule, the Nagasaki of
Symple, makes the the pie rule look like a firecracker in comparison."
-------

I see no disagreement in the first paragraph: as you said "You want to
know a game that really doesn't need it as much as Hex?  Atoll.",
therewith implying that it does need one. _That's_ the balancing factor
I was talking about.

In the second paragraph you lose me, but that's the point I'd like to
discuss in the first place, but later. Just staking out the context."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 11:50am
"Since you decline a private exchange of ideas, I suggest we go elsewhere. Last October 5, Benedikt started a thread at BGG.."

Ok, I'm agreeable to a change of venue.  I no longer post at bgg as a matter of policy.  Rec.games.abstract is really the best place to discuss abstract games IMO.  The yahoo group abstractgames is barely alive but that would probably work too.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 12:35pm
I started a topic for you in rec.games.abstract entitled "Christian Freeling".

http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.abstract/browse_thread/thread/fcef5852dc96d784#

No moderator, no dog pack.  There was a dog pack but that's a story for another time  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 6:16pm
Symple Newsflash:

"Note: In the first version of the game the 'group penalty' was set at 2 rather than 4, which leads to the possibility of..."

BOOM!!  What did I say about the tweaking ???  Do you believe me now ???

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 31st, 2010, 6:32pm

on 10/31/10 at 18:04:05, SpeedRazor wrote:
Christian:  please take back your thread; I promise I won't bother you anymore.

Fair enough, and you won't bother anyone if you focus on content instead of displaying ignorance. Here's something about the balancing rule.

A kiss is still a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, but a swap ain't a pie  ???

The first quote is copied from Byg (p)review of Symple(x) (http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/574830/byg-preview-of-symplex), by Benedikt Rosenau.


Quote:
The current rule for Symple is that Black gets an extra (sub-)move for planting a new stone, if and only if he grows first. In other words, if Black decides to grow and he is first at that, he may grow all his existing groups and start a new one.

Assume we are at move 8. Noone has grown so far. So, we have 8 White groups and 7 Black groups on the board. Black grows now and adds the extra-move. After that, White has 8 single stone groups, whereas Black has 7 groups of 2 stones and 1 single stone group. Since Black can still place single stone groups on the board until he has reached the desired number for growing, this is likely in Black's favor.

So, White has waited too long. At what move should White grow in order to prevent Black from doing so? At move 1, it is not possible. At move 2, it gives a one double stone group facing an opponent with a single stone group and the right to move. In the discussion of the three move swap protocol, I have argued that this is lost. Likewise, will Black wait until White can pull a growth on him or will Black secure the extra points and the increased options of the groups grown due to the balancing rule?

Symple is a double Chicken now. The first is when to grow first for the sake of either using or, well, disabling the balancing rule, and the second is inherent in the game mechanism itself - when do you have generally enough groups to grow from?

In any case, we can infer that the balancing rule succeeds at balancing the game. And the result is an extra twist. Since the extra rule "empowers" judgment respectively skill in the growth phase - that is where the result of the first chicken game will show -, I argue it gives an even better game.

Benedikt does in fact explain the balancing principle adequately, but I had to understand the use of 'Chicken' from the context. Moreover, there are other opinions to be taken into account, for instance this one of Mark:


Quote:
Byg, Symple, etc. are based on an unstable, divergent principle. If they're in the same class as Go Moku, only worse, which I strongly suspect, advancing skill will always be accompanied by advanced tweaking of the balancing rule set. Your special balancing rule, the Nagasaki of Symple, makes the the pie rule look like a firecracker in comparison.

I attribute the comparison with Go Moko to Mark's somewhat eccentric sense of humor and his reference to 'divergence' to not quite seeing black's privilige working as a pie-rule.
Not a swap, a pie-rule, despite the fact that wiki (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pie_rule) treats them as one and the same. So what's the difference? This is what wiki says:


Quote:
The rule gets its name from the divide and choose method of ensuring fairness in the division of pie between two people; one person cuts a pie in half, then the other person chooses which half to eat.

You have to eat it too, obviously :P but what I'm getting at is the order 'divide and choose'. A slightly different protocol allows to reverse the order. One person moves the knife over the pie, from side A to side B. Both can say 'cut' at any moment, but the piece chosen must be at the 'A' side. It doesn't matter who yields the knife, other than that the person doing so can refrain from saying 'cut', and simply cut.

The result of this 'choose and divide' protocol is the same: both get about half the pie. But there are two differences:

a: The element 'timing' is introduced.
b: The protocol works for any number of participants: 'n' people can divide a pie in 'n' pieces that all converge around about the same size.

We're concerned with the first one, because the 'timing' aspect is exactly what guides Symple on two different levels:

1: When to stop placing isolated stones and start growing.
2: When to either cash in or prevent black's privilige.

How to place and where to grow is a different matter. These are strategical and positional aspects and I'll leave them outside the equation for now.

Both 1 and 2 are different for white and black. Without 2, white would have the advantage, but still neither can start too early because the later the start, the bigger the impact of the first growth and the stronger the initiative. An early start has little enough impact to allow the opponent to postpone growing for another move, or even two, and reap the fruits of an extra group or two in the subsequent turns.
Within that context, black can't very well start first, because he would be one group down, allowing white one stone extra in every move in the foreseeable future.
So white can wait to see the impact of his 'first stake' ripe to its full potential. But even without 2 he cannot wait forever, because the very impact of the first strike will at a certain point surpass the advantage of white's extra group if black decides to go for it. This converges to a certain area of moves, beyond which white's advantage diminishes.

The balancing mechanism
The balancing mechanism of Symple a clear convergence too. As long as no growth has taken place at either side, Black may both place stone and grow all other groups. So this is something black can cash in, and white can prevent. What's the timing?

If black grows on his second move, both will have two groups, that is white has two stones and black has a stone and a group of two stones. For white this is almost as advantageous as a situation without black's privilige, so black won't do that.
From black's point of view he'd rather cash in as late as possible. Having an equal number of groups and a strong initiative is precisely what constitutes white's advantage without 2, so he would like to do that.
But he can't wait that long, because white can grow at any turn, depriving black from his advantage. He's worse off than without 2, but it's better than leaving black exploit his privilige.

So black must cash in fairly early or not at all, grabbing a small initiative with an equal number of groups. This converges to a certain area of moves, beyond which white can grow and take a small initiative in return for black now having 'the move', that is: an equal number of groups on his turn.

Both 1 and 2 are converging, though to what specific area's remains to be seen. At the moment cashing in or its prevention on the 19x19 board appears to be around move 4-5, while the main 'pie' - when to start the growing phase - hovers around move 10-15. Still somewhat unclear, but naturally converging. There is no doubt whatsoever that black's prerogative impicitly evens out any first move advantage, as Benedikt explicitly mentioned, considering it evident, and no 'tweaking' will be required. Symple is complete and consistent.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Oct 31st, 2010, 6:37pm

on 10/31/10 at 18:16:02, MarkSteere wrote:
Symple Newsflash:

"Note: In the first version of the game the 'group penalty' was set at 2 rather than 4, which leads to the possibility of..."

BOOM!!  What did I say about the tweaking ???  Do you believe me now ???
Not below the belt Mark, the parameter was open from the start, in fact a point of discussion from the very beginning of Star. It has no relation to the balancing principle. The applet allows players to experiment with either 0, 2 or 4, but 4 is the best value, and not arbitrary, for the reasons given.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 11:06pm

on 10/31/10 at 18:37:17, christianF wrote:
Not below the belt Mark,

Sorry, but times of crisis call for masterful baiting.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Oct 31st, 2010, 11:25pm

on 10/31/10 at 18:32:10, christianF wrote:
I attribute the comparison with Go Moko to Mark's somewhat eccentric sense of humor

Christian, the following paragraph from the Symple rule sheet tortures me.

"There's one exception to the above. If, and only if, neither player has grown yet, then black on his turn may use both the above options in the above order: he may place a stone, therewith creating a new group, and he may grow any or all of his other (!) groups."

This is not my "eccentric sense of humor" talking.  I had to cover my eyes when I cut and pasted it so I wouldn't accidentally read it again.  Please stop comparing your unequal goals rule to the innocuous pie rule.  It's so unfair to the pie rule.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 1st, 2010, 2:39am

on 10/31/10 at 23:25:18, MarkSteere wrote:
This is not my "eccentric sense of humor" talking.  I had to cover my eyes when I cut and pasted it so I wouldn't accidentally read it again.  Please stop comparing your unequal goals rule to the innocuous pie rule.  It's so unfair to the pie rule.
Lol, your ignorance has a quality all its own ;D .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 1st, 2010, 6:20am
Here's the first Symple variant (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/D1010.html#31). It's an interesting idea that leads to an even more explosive branch density and a far more tactical game, in which positional play in the opening bears less weight on the growing phase, because players are free to shift the focus to 'local issues'. Feels like fun :) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by FransFaase on Nov 1st, 2010, 7:59am
I think that Christian might be right that the game (Super Symple) becomes more tactical. Now that I have thought a little more about the game, it really feels like a very different game. The strategy of enclosing groups of your opponent is complete absent in Super Symple, which means that the other method for gaining an advantage, creating territory, becomes the focus of the game. I guess that that would makes the dominance of corners and the sides much more greater than with Symple (like in Go). I also guess it becomes easier to connect groups (and/or prevent your opponent from connecting), which might make the moment of connecting more critical. And then there is this nasty thing in the end, that if you end up with too few groups and a too large territory, you face the possibilty of an invasion. I don't know if this shift in focus makes it a far less strategical game, because creating territory is a strong strategical principal.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 1st, 2010, 8:35am

on 11/01/10 at 06:20:08, christianF wrote:
Here's the first Symple variant (http://www.iwriteiam.nl/D1010.html#31).

"Only if you can create a group of three stones, there is some gain. That group has a negative score of one, but you take away three points of your opponent, creating a net score of plus two..."

brb, I need a calculator

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 1st, 2010, 8:49am

on 11/01/10 at 08:35:34, MarkSteere wrote:
brb, I need a calculator

Enter 2 x 3 - 4 and next "="

P.S. the net effect of a group of 'n' stones is '2n-4', but that borders on math and may be a bridge too far ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 1st, 2010, 9:48am
Symple borders on math and may be a bridge too far.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 1st, 2010, 10:59am

on 11/01/10 at 09:48:48, MarkSteere wrote:
Symple borders on math and may be a bridge too far.
That's inherent to the 'Star' theme isn't it, which is based on getting points for (such and such) stones, but paying a penalty for every group.

I wouldn't know how to find a game on a theme, while avoiding the theme, but maybe you can help out ??? .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Nov 1st, 2010, 3:01pm
Christian, I responded to both of your private messages to the e-mail address you included, but for some reason my letters both bounced.  Here is one question I included that might as well be discussed publicly:

You say

"A pie however can be extended to more than two players, a swap cannot."

Are you sure that swap can't be extended to more than two players?  I don't play any multiplayer abstracts, but my imagination is failing me here.  Why can't a three-player game be balanced by giving the second player the option to swap with the first, and the third player the option to swap with the second player, or if necessary with either of the other two?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 1st, 2010, 3:33pm

on 11/01/10 at 15:01:16, Fritzlein wrote:
Christian, I responded to both of your private messages to the e-mail address you included, but for some reason my letters both bounced.  Here is one question I included that might as well be discussed publicly:

You say

"A pie however can be extended to more than two players, a swap cannot."

Are you sure that swap can't be extended to more than two players?  I don't play any multiplayer abstracts, but my imagination is failing me here.  Why can't a three-player game be balanced by giving the second player the option to swap with the first, and the third player the option to swap with either of the other two?
Yes, I hadn't considered that. The point I wanted to illustrate is that a pie may involve 'timing' and a regular swap doesn't.

The rule that tortures Mark's eyes, nothing more than given black a one time conditional opportunity to combine both options, how weird can it get :), works as a pie and is implicitly balancing. Which is very fortunate, because a swap doesn't work in Symple.
But as I've always said: "if the system is sound, the rule will be there".

Regarding a multi player pie, I must admit that the only thing I visualized, a long time ago, is ten children and a literal pie of around a meter or so, and a knife going slowly from one side to another, and the children who may call 'cut' at any moment. How that would translate to a multi player game is another matter. It may not be very useful I fear.

Phalanx and Mu have balancing procedures, but I never got anywhere near something resembling a swap (or a pie for that matter).

P.S. christian'at'mindsports.nl ('at' being @, but maybe I'm overly careful) should work.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 3rd, 2010, 9:55am
I've been notified, by a very dependable source, of a bug in Symple. However, the bug wasn't specified, but 'left for me to find'. The source added reassuringly that 'it shouldn't be too hard'.
My way of finding bugs is to wait till they show up. For whoever is more hasty, 'it shouldn't be too hard'.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 3rd, 2010, 11:34am
Sorry to hear that about the bug.  Is it a bug where there are no legal moves available or is it an algorithm for first player win?  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 3rd, 2010, 11:44am

on 11/03/10 at 11:34:58, MarkSteere wrote:
Sorry to hear that about the bug.  Is it a bug where there are no legal moves available or is it an algorithm for first player win?  
I have no clue whatsoever, but lots of time. I'll wait in ambush till it shows up :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 3rd, 2010, 8:50pm
Does the guy want to antagonize you for some reason?  Why not just say what the bug is so you can deal with it?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 4th, 2010, 2:43am

on 11/03/10 at 20:50:58, MarkSteere wrote:
Does the guy want to antagonize you for some reason?  Why not just say what the bug is so you can deal with it?
I found the game unintentionally, and the balancing rule effortlessly (I know, you think its an orang-utan, but at least I found it effortlessly ;)). That may seem very unfair to someone who is searching intentionally and far from effortlessly.

Then I spam about the game, 'prematurely' and in 'unlikely places', hijacking threads at bgg such as the one that covers the 'star' theme in the first place (not started by me), the very thread about the game itself (also not started by me) and the thread that bears my name (started by Michael Howe).

Like you once accused me of hijacking this thread  ;)

Anyway, I don't want to bother anyone with a game they failed to invent.
And the bug may be located elsewhere.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 4th, 2010, 8:01am
Alright.  I didn't understand that, but that's ok.  I've grown surprisingly comfortable with not understanding things in life  :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 5th, 2010, 3:30pm
Today I visited a thread (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.abstract/browse_thread/thread/ba8398206c08fdfd/3d2db64144c5a2b6#3d2db64144c5a2b6) started by Nick Bentley at google rec.games.abstract about a game design contest.

One of the suggested themes struck a chord and at 11:11 pm I posted an interest in competing, should that particular theme be chosen. At 12:43 pm I posted the rules of what had emerged in an hour or so, from combining elements of Symplex and Hexade. The Validation box above the submit button read "Whingi" and that sounded like a good name.

So here is Whingi (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/whingi-560). An applet will soon be available for playtesting.

Of course this is not invented at all according to what many would consider abstract game inventing etiquette ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 5th, 2010, 6:25pm

on 11/05/10 at 15:30:14, christianF wrote:
Of course this is not invented at all according to what many would consider abstract game inventing etiquette ;) .

It suits me fine  :)  It's the naming that's problematic.  Symplex is a venereal disease and whingi is the first part of whingi and whiney, something toddlers get when they have to do number two.

Christian, as a friend, you  must consult with an American before naming your games.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 6th, 2010, 3:12am

on 11/05/10 at 18:25:42, MarkSteere wrote:
It suits me fine  :)  It's the naming that's problematic.  Symplex is a venereal disease and whingi is the first part of whingi and whiney, something toddlers get when they have to do number two.

Christian, as a friend, you  must consult with an American before naming your games.
There are those would would feel that to be fitting for my work, but thanks, I'll reconsider.

Naming can be tricky. "Flume", is in dutch perceived as "Fluim", the dutch word for  "Phlegm" :P .

Edit 1: thus far Symplex has become Symplehex (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symplehex-566).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 6th, 2010, 8:11am

on 11/06/10 at 03:12:30, christianF wrote:
Naming can be tricky. "Flume", is in dutch perceived as "Fluim", the dutch word for  "Phlegm" :P .

Oh great.  Now you tell me   :-[

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 6th, 2010, 8:39am
[quote author=MarkSteere link=board=other;num=1236541162;start=345#352 date=11/06/10 at 08:11:47]
Oh great.  Now you tell me   :-[/quote]
It's only Dutch, I've checked German too: phlegm is "Schleim" there, and nothing like Flume means anything in German.

And ... I've decided on Lhexus (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/lhexus-560) for the latest arrival.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 7th, 2010, 2:58pm

on 11/06/10 at 08:39:40, christianF wrote:
And ... I've decided on Lhexus (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/lhexus-560) for the latest arrival.
Not a tweak either, here's the first game (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Lhexus1289152326.html).

Remember, valid configurations may not overlap: any stone may only be counted in ONE configuration.
The counter just counts stones on the board: in case of a tie in the number of valid configurations, the player with the lesser number wins.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 10th, 2010, 11:54am
From the recently rewritten epilogue of the essay this thread is about:

Quote:
The second wave
I neither intended nor expected to invent more games, but I did. Hanniball (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/hanniball-531) and YvY (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/yvy-555), in 2009, were still co-inventions, giving testimony to a reluctant restart, but then Query (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/query-548) happened, and Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/), which is not only a quintessential strategy game, but the cradle of a new meta-mechanism. Or actually, that was Symplehex (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symplehex-566), because the hexversion preceded the square one. Anyway, the 'symple mechanism' almost instantly found its way, in slightly different forms to fit their respective housing, in Lhexus (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/lhexus-560), Charybdis (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/charyb-568) and Charybdis Square (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/569-charyb-square).
Come November 2010 there was no denying: I may be able, someway sometime, to stop inventing games, but intentions and expectations to that effect don't seem to work very well. I don't hunt for games, but occasionally one gets too close, and when I smell prey I can't resist. There's no effort involved, no fumbling with pieces and boards, and no interference in my much appreciated daily routine, so who am I to intend, expect or complain?
I'm a game whisperer, nolens volens.

Here's how I invented them. (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 10th, 2010, 1:32pm

on 11/10/10 at 11:54:05, christianF wrote:
I don't hunt for games

This would tend to imply that you have either more good games or a higher percentage of good games than the lowly hunter.  Are either of these verifiable assertions?  Are there no turkeys running wild on the Freeling estate?


on 11/10/10 at 11:54:05, christianF wrote:
I'm a game whisperer,

Just as long as you're not the other kind of whisperer mentioned in that other forum  :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 10th, 2010, 2:03pm

on 11/10/10 at 13:32:50, MarkSteere wrote:

Quote:
I don't hunt for games ...

This would tend to imply that you have either more good games or a higher percentage of good games than the lowly hunter.  Are either of these verifiable assertions?  Are there no turkeys running wild on the Freeling estate?

To be fair, Lhexus and Charybdis were triggered by a contest, so it was a 'hunt' if you like.
Lhexus took an hour or so. I withdrew it from the competion because it didn't quite fit the one provisional theme it was meant to fit, and modifying the theme to fit the game seemed too much of a reverse procedure.

Moreover the theme had switched to "othelloish, but less crappy than othello". Charybdis took me a day and mainly shaped itself during the long daily walk in the woods with my husky and two raccoon dogs. No boards, no pieces, no turkeys ;) .

And not much of a hunt either because the 'symple' mechanism provided a good base.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 10th, 2010, 2:05pm
I only hunt in the sense of searching for new discoveries, new principles, new architectures.  I'm not greedily rubbing my hands together, striving for "the next Blokus".

My technique doesn't feel brutish to me, though it may seem so to Christian.  It might if my end goal were popularity.  Of course I'm happy when people like my game.  I'm not immune from that.  But popularity is not a design imperative.

Oddly, I end up making good games in spite of myself.  Bold, refreshing architecture can sometimes lead to bold, refreshing gameplay.  Cephalopod (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Cephalopod_rules.pdf), case in point.

Edit: Cephalopod url

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 10th, 2010, 3:07pm

on 11/10/10 at 14:05:24, MarkSteere wrote:
Oddly, I end up making good games in spite of myself.  Bold, refreshing architecture can sometimes lead to bold, refreshing gameplay. Cephalopod (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Cephalopod_rules.pdf), case in point.
Certainly one of you best games in terms of originality and architecture, and I can see the infinite intricacies of a finite game here. I can even see players completely absorbed in them. But I'm not much of a player to begin with and the visual dexterity required might in my case easily result in catatonia ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 11th, 2010, 11:47am
Benedikt Rosenau, a well known expert on abstract games, characterized Symple as "Go on speed".

He was wrong: this (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/sygo/) is Go on speed.

It is also my entry at the Official Abstract Game Design Contest (http://groups.google.com/group/recregamescombinatorial/browse_thread/thread/7e7a797725397f56?hl=en#) at Recre.Games.Combinatorial.

As anyone following the invention proces that started with Symple can check: after I realized I had failed to apply the Symple mechanism to the most important candidate in the field of territorial games, the game took me a day.

No fumbling with pieces and boards involved. That's not provocative, that's how it happened 8) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Nov 11th, 2010, 12:25pm

on 11/11/10 at 11:47:47, christianF wrote:
No fumbling with pieces and boards involved.

Welcome to my world, Christian.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 27th, 2010, 8:09am
Sygo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/sygo/) is up and running @ Mindsports.

To play: Mindsports Players Section (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Nov 30th, 2010, 4:21am
So it's once again time to call it a thread. In the preface of "How I invented games and why not" it says:

Quote:
I was only gradually to find out that knowing how some games will behave on the highest level is not a frequent quality, even among dedicated players. Moreover, the kind of identification involved is limited to a small class of games that I would label 'organisms' rather than mechanisms. Chess games in particular lack these qualities.


Of my subsequent games, Hanniball is part organism and part construction - the latter aspect made it somewhat difficult to spot the main bug.

YvY wasn't thought trough properly and ended up consistent, and even 'new' in that it combines a relative theme (counting points) with an absolute one (sudden death), but somewhat forced and 'artificial'.

Query is number whatever in a large family of square connection games, so who cares.

The latest wave consisted of Symple (square & hex), Lhexhus (inconsequential), Charybdid (hex & square) and Sygo.

All of them were based on the meta-mechanism that came to me one night while dropping of to sleep, and found it's way into Symple. The realization that it was indeed a meta-mechanism with a range of applications came sometime later.

All of them were simply conceived without the help of boards, pieces or testplaying. Barring setting the 'group penalty parameter' in Symple to '4', none of them underwent any change.

My prediction:
Symple is a true strategy game for the thoughtful planner, but lacks what Mark J. Thompson in his leading article (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml) calls 'drama'. It's like a big ship, slowly heeling one side or the other, with little tactical leverage to turn the tables, once the hard to spot tipping point has been passed.
Symple is very much a square game - the hexversion's tactical means are even less decisive.

Lhexus is ornamental.

In Charybdis the 'symple mechanism' has been aplied to an 'othelloish' theme. There are two different square versions, but hexversion is the main one here. The 'wild' nature of Othello has been reigned in her by the 'no capture by placement' rule, and the negative feedback of capture: capture means less groups which means less growth in the subsequent turn. More of a strategy game than Othello itself.

Sygo was what it was all about, in retrospect. It is the symple mechanism applied to the 'othelloanian' form of Go that I already used in Medusa and Lotus.
It is my first game that means anything since Dameo in 2000.

And the last game I have posted about in this thread. Don't bother about my predictions and have a good life ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Dec 3rd, 2010, 12:12pm
Christian, thanks for sharing your game design process with us in real-time. I've quite enjoyed reading this. It's quite rare to be able to experience the thought process of the game designer while the game is being designed. Many times I was reminded of when I was working on the Arimaa rules. I too would have some idea strike me just as I was about to fall asleep and would excitedly jump out of bed to go test it. I'm glad this thread could preserve some of the thought process that went into designing your latest games. Perhaps they will go on to become as popular as Havannah; only time will tell.

I'm sure you will continue to design more games and I hope you will continue to share your experiences with us. But please start another thread so we don't hit the max message limit on this one :-)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Dec 4th, 2010, 3:46am

on 12/03/10 at 12:12:15, omar wrote:
I'm glad this thread could preserve some of the thought process that went into designing your latest games. Perhaps they will go on to become as popular as Havannah; only time will tell.

I'm sure you will continue to design more games and I hope you will continue to share your experiences with us. But please start another thread so we don't hit the max message limit on this one :-)


Hi Omar, thanks, but I fear I'm quite empty at the moment. This latest wave was all about Sygo, in the end, although Charybdis may be a fun game.

I got two Sygo games running at mindsports at the moment:
christian freeling - Benedikt Rosenau (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1290866564.html)
christian freeling - Tristan Parker (http://mindsports.nl/cgi-bin/Arena/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1291037249.html)

I'm glad I could write down the rules in a couple of minutes, without so much as touching a stone, and see the games running without any bugs in sight.

I predict Sygo will be a lasting game: it is simple, deep, and has a good balance between strategy and tactics - unlike Symple, that is heavy on the strategic side, but light on the tactical one.

But then, time will tell indeed: I wouldn't rob Fritzlein of an argument. My audience was keen enough to criticize my claims when Hanniball needed a fix and there's no need to acknowledge anything now, despite the number of games that emerged in a couple of weeks and their quality.

You see, I can't prove anything, can I? And if one tries very hard, it is possible to fail to see that Sygo is a great game. So I'm glad you at least answered in a friendly way, and frankly, I had not expected anything but silence  from my critics. You go for the kill when the prey is wounded, every pack animal knows that.

Besides, anyone can be a game inventor and know precisely how it is done - and my way is clearly impossible.
And my predictions mean nothing, because "who can predict the future" ;) .

I certainly won't be starting any new threads: I'm quite done with fora for the time being :P .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Dec 9th, 2010, 7:03am
Oh well, this one rolled out accidentally. It's not a strategy game, rather a tactical funny ;D

Monkey Trap has an obvious affinity with Walter Zamkauskas' Amazons (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/amazons-516), but the board is 8x8, it has half the number of pieces and less 'dropping' options, because in Amazons the number of combinations of a move and a 'shot' largely exceeds the number of combinations of a (move and) 'drop' and move in Monkey Trap.
It is designed to be a fast fun game for the younger ones.

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/monkey_trap_inpos.gif


Here is the board with the pieces in the initial position. White begins. Turns alternate. On his move a player must move one of his monkeys, queenwise.

A monkey may not move onto or over a square that is occupied by another piece or a coconut ...

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/coconut.gif
a coconut


... and must leave a coconut on the square it starts from or any intermediate square.

First player to get stuck loses.

Monkey Trap © MindSports (http://mailto:info@mindsports.nl)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Dec 9th, 2010, 7:08am
The coconut bears a striking resemblance to its predecessor token.   :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 11th, 2011, 7:00am
InSight (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/insight-575)
InSight is a combinatorial quickie between two players, here called Player One and Player Two.

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/insight_d01.gif (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/insight-575)

Rules
The game is played on a square 7x7 board. Player One makes an initial position, using 4 white and 3 black (red) men, satisfying the condition that no two men occupy a same row or column. The diagram shows one possible position. It is now black's turn.

Player Two next decides whether he will play white or black. If he chooses white, then it's Player One's turn to move, if he chooses black, then it's his turn to move. Turns alternate and moving is compulsory. On his turn a player must place a new man satisfying the following conditions:

1. The man may not be placed orthogonally adjacent to a like colored man.
2. The man must have at least one like colored man horizontally or vertically 'in sight' (i.e. 'having an unobstructed view of').

Object
If a player cannot make a legal move he loses the game.

InSight © MindSports (http://mailto:info@mindsports.nl)
The process (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#insight) of invention.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 20th, 2011, 7:16am
I've developed a liking for combinatorial quickies. So here's another one, actually my entry in the R.G.A. Stacking Games Contest (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.abstract/browse_thread/thread/3d7d1849463cb271/ca5401bd47d32149).

The charm of these games is that they're immediately accessible in terms of mechanics and object. If they're fun to play and intruiging for combinatorial games theorists, and spawning a few puzzles maybe, they may last.

So I hope this one will last at least as long as there are checkerboards and checkers.

Grabber
http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/grabber_inpos.gif (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/grabber-578)

Grabber © MindSports (http://mailto:info@mindsports.nl)
The process (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#grabber) of invention (or lack thereof ;) ).

Other games I've invented since Monkey Trap and InSight:
Trounce (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/trounce-574)
Jump Sturdy (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/576-jump-sturdy)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Jan 21st, 2011, 2:11pm
Wow, your pace of inventing is really picking up steam :-)

Thomas Foy had mentioned a stacking variant of Arimaa a while back. Here is the thread:

http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=talk;action=display;num=1273854806;start=12#12

Combining some of the ideas I like from this without ever play testing any of it here is a stackable Arimaa variant you can enter in the contest.

Gold player starts with 37 gold checkers and Silver player starts with 37 silver checkers. Gold places his checkers on the first two rows. Checkers may be stacked on each other. Some squares may be left empty. There is no limit to the height of a stack. At least one square must have a single checker. Single checkers are like the rabbits in Arimaa. The stacked checkers are like the stronger pieces with their strength determined by stack size. Silver then places the silver checkers in the two closest rows. All the usual rules of Arimaa apply. There is one additional rule. A single checker can jump on to an orthogonally adjacent stack (one or more) of friendly checkers to create a taller stack. Doing so requires all 4 steps of a turn.

Lets call it "Arimaa Stack" :-)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jan 21st, 2011, 2:48pm

on 01/21/11 at 14:11:21, omar wrote:
Combining some of the ideas I like from this without ever play testing any of it

Gosh, inventing games is so easy!  ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 22nd, 2011, 8:43am

on 01/21/11 at 14:11:21, omar wrote:
Wow, your pace of inventing is really picking up steam :-)

I believe I've just run out of steam. Looking around in my head there's a peasant lack of stimulus. Grabber's 5 seconds invention was an unsolicited cherry on the cake :)


on 01/21/11 at 14:11:21, omar wrote:
Thomas Foy had mentioned a stacking variant of Arimaa a while back. Here is the thread:

http://arimaa.com/arimaa/forum/cgi/YaBB.cgi?board=talk;action=display;num=1273854806;start=12#12

Combining some of the ideas I like from this without ever play testing any of it here is a stackable Arimaa variant you can enter in the contest.

Gold player starts with 37 gold checkers and Silver player starts with 37 silver checkers. Gold places his checkers on the first two rows. Checkers may be stacked on each other. Some squares may be left empty. There is no limit to the height of a stack. At least one square must have a single checker. Single checkers are like the rabbits in Arimaa. The stacked checkers are like the stronger pieces with their strength determined by stack size. Silver then places the silver checkers in the two closest rows. All the usual rules of Arimaa apply. There is one additional rule. A single checker can jump on to an orthogonally adjacent stack (one or more) of friendly checkers to create a taller stack. Doing so requires all 4 steps of a turn.

Lets call it "Arimaa Stack" :-)

Generalized Arimaa - Thomas has suggested a very valid idea that should be considered carefully I think. I like the initial dilemma of how many singles to use, and the number and the size of the stacks, and how to adapt to the first players choice when you're second.

A word of caution: always consider an idea outside the context in which it emerged. Arimaa may put demands on its generilazation, but the reverse may also be true.

The step up rule for instance is only for singles, so only a single can save the day for a piece in need of reinforcement. And at a fairly heavy price: not only does the player lose one potential winner, but he does so at the cost of a full term.
Obviously a 'step down' rule would enable a player to spawn singles in unlikely places, so I'm all for the step up, but it feels as if non-singles might want to come to each other rescue in a like manner.
Of course that could also spawn singles in unlikely places (left behind ones) and maybe that should be disallowed. But it is a bit stange that only singles should be allowed to enforce a piece, not another piece.

Finally I feel I must quote Mark with regard to another entry:


Quote:
I'm calling for a little designer effort in this case and for all entries. I want to see a decent rule sheet with some graphics and some examples. And a brief outline of what to expect from the gameplay.
If you expect a bunch of people to invest their time evaluating your game, you have an obligation to invest some time in the game yourself up front.


I'd be very pleased if you did, and I hope you can put it up somewhere in the Arimaa site before February 9th.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Jan 22nd, 2011, 9:09am

on 01/21/11 at 14:48:38, Fritzlein wrote:
Gosh, inventing games is so easy!  ;)


LOL; yes it's quite easy to invent rules; not quite the same as inventing a game :-)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Jan 22nd, 2011, 9:39am
Thanks for the additional info Christian. I'm glad Mark added those requirements; otherwise it would be very hard to evaluate the entries and you could get too many untested entries.

Although it is very tempting for me to play test this, I won't have much time to do it right now. It's easy to make up rules based on gut feel, but that doesn't mean the game is any good. For me the only real way to tell is by playing it. I'd like to open it up to the Arimaa community to try it out and give feedback on how this plays out. It would probably require some tweaks. Maybe it would be OK to allow non-single pieces to jump on adjacent stacks or to allow stacks to split. If anyone is interested feel free to make a stackable variant of Arimaa and submit it to the contest.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:04am

on 01/22/11 at 09:39:56, omar wrote:
Although it is very tempting for me to play test this, I won't have much time to do it right now. It's easy to make up rules based on gut feel, but that doesn't mean the game is any good.


Playtesting has two sides to it, and the first one is to check for bugs. That wouldn't seem to hard here. I can see no bugs in the variant you suggested, and my own suggestion regarding exchange of power between pieces will probably not add to clarity to begin with. Just something that crossed my mind.

The other side is whether the game is worth playing. That's different for different games and for different players, so to figure that out playtesting it yourself is of limited significance. The only way is to kick it into the open and maybe lobby for it if you're convinced of its value. But I don't need to tell you how much effort that may require.

Fortunately it's not a requirement for the contest: bugfree and clear will do and the feedback may be valuable for its own sake.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jan 26th, 2011, 12:03pm
I already have two miniature chess games that are build around the "Atlantis effect", a gradual disappearance of the playing field that will eventually strip one king or the other from refuge, namely Shakti (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/shakti-550) and Caïssa (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/caissa-519).
These games, in their small and rather eccentric way, provide a tactical playing ground for some rather revolutionary ideas, and both have proven their merits over the years.
Now playing around with the 'offspring' idea of Mark's game Monkey Queen (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Monkey_Queen_rules.html) has rendered a third:

http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/sidedishes/moregamesbycf/cyclix_d01.gif
Cyclix (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/cyclix-580)

For now it's only the bare rules, I'll add some examples later and an applet will be provided in due time.

Cyclix © MindSports (http://mailto:info@mindsports.nl)
The process (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#cyclix) of invention.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Feb 1st, 2011, 8:22am
I discovered a grain of sand in the machinery of Cyclix. It comes with the territory: chess variants are exercises in arbitrariness to begin with. They're usually mechanical rather than organical. They don't come together, you have to put the elements together like a watchmaker.

Playing around with it, Cyclix turned out the be something of a streetfight. You hit a lot and take a lot, and things can become rather chaotic. Close combat, an unclear strategy, except maybe in very general terms, lots of tactical leverage and lots of sacrifices.
That's to be expected when the pieces are immediately returned to the player making the 'sacrifice'.

At a certain point I noticed that the pieces were hampered by the increasing number of holes. The holes are meant to hamper the king - that's the whole 'Atlantis' idea. They may hamper pieces to a degree, and they do in Shakti.
But not in Caïssa, where a piece may carry its tile along to land on a square that doesn't have one - the problem isn't new and the choice may go either way, depending on the nature of the interacting elements.

The Cyclix king is stronger than Shakti's, because in Shakti a king in check is restricted to adjacent squares. But Shakti's pieces are less in number and not too strong either. So I had already decided not to restrict Cyclix' king that way.

The Cyclix king is also more often forced to take a piece that gives check because pieces are easily and readily 'sacrificed' for instance to force a king to 'draw holes' around itself. But that may not always affect the king's escape routes negatively, and at a certain point the number of holes may hamper the pieces to a degree that feels annoying, especially if the king finds a long jump as a loophole.

So with the implicit exception of the king, I've given pieces the right to take along the tile they occupy if moving to a square that doesn't hold one, as in Caïssa. It gives the pieces greater flexibility and introduces new tactical goals, for instance 'stealing' tiles close to the opponent's king.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Feb 24th, 2011, 9:11am
We've embraced a project of Greg Schmidt at mindsports:

The Axiom Universal Game System Project
http://mindsports.nl/images/stories/axiomlogo.jpg (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/axiom)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Feb 27th, 2011, 9:29am
Monkey Queen (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/581-monkey-queen) and Grabber (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/grabber-578), both contestants in the RGA Stacking Contest, can now be played turnbased at mindsports.nl (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section) as well as downloaded as Axiom games (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/axiom) (these work stand alone, no interface required).

The Axiom version of Grabber lends itself excellently for solving a number of puzzles that are implied (if players choose to cooperate, which is simple since Axiom allows you to play both sides) such as:

Shortest possible game
Longest possible game
Max pieces in final position
Min pieces in final position
Max # of prisoners (16 most likely)
Max stack height
Shortest game resulting in total elimination of one color

When Axiom plays against itself, games typically end between 10 and 20 moves.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Feb 27th, 2011, 7:55pm
I downloaded and tried out Hex and Grabber. The interface looks and feels just like ZoG. Very nice. Did Greg develop this? Is there a project page of Axiom? Any plans to do Havannah?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Feb 28th, 2011, 4:57am

on 02/27/11 at 19:55:23, omar wrote:
Did Greg develop this? Is there a project page of Axiom? Any plans to do Havannah?

Yes and yes:
http://games.groups.yahoo.com/group/axiom-system/

and maybe in time. The only bots that actually play havannah use MC/UCT. The traditional alpha/beta search using an evaluation function doesn't work too well for lack of a reliable evaluation function.

Maybe a good MC/UCT bot can be linked up, but I'm no expert in that field. Or any field except inventing abstract games for that matter :P

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Feb 28th, 2011, 11:22am
Cameron Browne started a thread at R.G.A (and a similar one at R.G.C. - but I'm not a member) called Games that stretch MCTS (http://groups.google.com/group/rec.games.abstract/browse_thread/thread/112faea2b5217b60#). There are some interesting observations there (though few conclusions), one of which is that uniform finite games are more 'susceptible' to MCTS. Arimaa would seem to be out of the woods where Havannah is in dangerous waters :)

I got a reply that was posted at R.G.C. by way of its author, Benedikt Rosenau (Zickzack at BGG and iGGC). Here's a
Quote:
Symple by Christian Freeling has a kind of contract stage, too. After that, ridiculously high branching factors can and will appear.
In real games, 10^12 or 10^15 are possible. Yet, that stage is easy on the human mind.

Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/symple-572) owes its existence to the fact that Benedikt reminded me on an old and faint smell. The smell that Star (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_(board_game)) and Superstar (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/superstar-552) and YvY (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/yvy-555) and *Star (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/*Star) all suck, not because they're bad games, but because they miss the elusive target, the essence of the theme. They were all off the mark, but what was the mark I missed twice? I had more or less given up on that, and if Benedikt hadn't been so persistent I'd probably left it at that.

I'd give *Star the highest credits in the above company, so I can't really blame Craige for saying *Star is what those other games wanted to be (http://ea.ea.home.mindspring.com/*Star.html). But it's off target all the same.

I've described Symple's arrival elsewhere (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#symplehex). Even Benedikt thought of the target in terms of a connection game, because Star is a 'connection game'. That's why we were shooting in the wrong direction. The theme is 'group penalty', and connection is a way to dress it. But not the most simple way, not the quintessential (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/key-concepts#quintessential-games) way.

Generic
Symple is more generic than the above mentioned 'group penalty' games because it doesn't have 'special cells' to connect. There's Occam's Razor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor) for you. Squares/cells are simply squares/cells and groups are orthogonally connected stones of one color.
Symple goes right to the heart of the 'group penalty' theme by asking how many groups you want when on your turn you may either:

- grow every one of your existing groups by one stone, or ...
- ... start a new group by placing a single stone,

in the knowledge that every stone counts, but every group has an 'existence penalty' of 4 points.

I consider a couple things to be obvious:
1. Everyone here can figure out the dilemma posed by this protocol.

2. It suggests a paradigm of a division between an 'opening stage' where players place single stones and a 'growing phase' in which the seedlings are brought to bloom.

3. The first player has an advantage: if the second player grows first, he's a group (and thus a source for growth) behind, if he doesn't, he's equal in groups but behind in initiative.

I can't very well argue against the first The second isn't hardwired and there's a paradigm shift of sorts going on in Sygo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/sygo/), so I'll leave it at that for now. The third one was undeniable and a swap doesn't work because there are no 'bad cells' to start with - the price of being generic. Bummer.

Of course those who have followed the birth of the 'Symple protocol' know it has a happy ending: the protocol itself gave the tool, the 'contract' Benedikt is referring to, to balance any advantage.

4. The protocol is itself generic and may be applicable to games that have the growth of groups as part of their mechanics.

5. Symple is a highly organic uniform finite game, the kind that is considered (at least in Camerons thread) to be 'susceptible' to MCTS. Keeping Benedikt's remark in mind I doubt that.

Symple is also rather 'predictable' in its behaviour. I've played one or two games and I can see considerable refinement of its modest tactics and considerable deepening of its bottomless strategic considerations.

Great?
Do I think Symple is a great game? No, I think it's an interesting game and better than any of the other 'group penalty' games. Actually Symple is what *Star wanted to be ;) .

What Symple lacks (as does *Star) is drama, in the sense of Mark Thompson's leading article Defining the Abstract (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml). I've compared Symple to a big ship slowly heeling to one side: by the time it's clear which way, there's little tactical leverage to turn the tables.

And my scale ends with 'great', it doesn't start with it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Mar 3rd, 2011, 11:34pm
Thanks for the link Christian.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 4th, 2011, 9:59am

on 03/03/11 at 23:34:06, omar wrote:
Thanks for the link Christian.

To be fair, I had hoped for somewhat more elaborate comments, but with the championship running I can imagine many posters here have more pressing matters on their mind :)

Anyway, I'll probably come back to that, but I've got some ad hoc news I'd like to share.
Dave Dyer has implemented  Crossfire at Boardspace.net (http://boardspace.net/english/about_crossfire.html).
http://boardspace.net/images/crossfire-small.jpg (http://boardspace.net/english/about_crossfire.html)

It's a beautiful board, breathing ancienty (wholly unjustified but highly appreciated) and it comes with an AI to play against on different levels. Of course live play against another human player is also possible.

Dave writes
Quote:
Crossfire is a minimalist stacking game by Christian Freeling.  It's played on a "snowflake" shaped board with hex connectivity. It's a game so simple and elegant, it doesn't need a separate rules page.

I've thanked Dave for that and asked him to mention Sid Sackson's Focus as the source of this simplicity and elegance.

At the same time I should mention that Crossfire has by some been discarded as a "Focus clone". Apart from the question whether a translation of a game to a different grid automatically makes it a clone, I disagree.

The 'twist' that characterizes the game - replacing the artificial ceiling of a stackheight of 5 by a natural ceiling defined by a cell's number of neighbors - is of major strategical and tactical relevance. Aiming large stacks at low capacity cells is an estabished part of both strategy and tactics and provides fixed 'focuspoints' for both, that are totally absent in Focus.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Mar 26th, 2011, 4:48pm
We've given the ArenA (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena) and the Pit (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit) a much needed facelift :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Mar 27th, 2011, 11:58am

on 03/26/11 at 16:48:04, christianF wrote:
We've given the ArenA (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena) and the Pit (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit) a much needed facelift :D

Lookin' good... 8)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 1st, 2011, 3:04pm

on 03/27/11 at 11:58:05, megajester wrote:
Lookin' good... 8)

We'll pull it through somewhat more extensively, new applets and all (Draughts, Dameo and Bushka have been updated accordingly now).

Meanwhile I still plan to elaborate on why Symple is an important game, although I still haven't played it more than two or three times, just after its discovery.

As far as playing is concerned, I prefer Sygo, which is far from quintessential, but it features capture and offers more drama. And it illustrates the strength of the symple mechanism.

A particularly interesting game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1299157008.html) between Rendong You and me ended in a 181/180 score, with yours truly at the short end.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Apr 3rd, 2011, 11:55am

on 04/01/11 at 15:04:39, christianF wrote:
Meanwhile I still plan to elaborate on why Symple is an important game,  

Again??

Edit: Toned down but still slightly incredulous.  I'll be famous too someday...  like a hundred years after I'm dead.  That's the nice thing about games.  When it's your turn, it's really your turn.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 4th, 2011, 3:35am
Restyled till now, with new and better applets: Draughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/draughts/), Dameo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/dameo/), Bushka (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/bushka/), Hexdame (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/hexdame/) and Emergo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/emergo/).

Next weekend we'll presumably restyle Go, Sygo and Symple.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Apr 5th, 2011, 9:54am
In my case I'd be roasted alive.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 10th, 2011, 4:22am
The new Symple applet is ready, please have a look:
Ed van Zon (NL) - Benedikt Rosenau (DE) (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Symple1289066427.html)

Also, my reflections on Symple have crystallized:
About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple)

Did something change? Yes, it was rather arrogant of me to try to set a fixed penalty, where the choice of penalty has such a profound impact on the game. So the group penalty can be set from 2-32 prior to a game and will be displayed accordingly.

Any other reflections? Yes, I've played less than ten games (the reason being that I prefer Sygo, and I'm also playing Havannah quite a lot to keep my wits in shape for next year's challenge). The story (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#symple) of Symple's genesis is well documented.

Symple shows what this thread was about in the first place: I invented the game without touching a stone, and predict how it will behave.
Some games allow one to do that. It's not even very difficult. You only need a deep (if not obsessive) interest in the workings of organic mechanisms.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 25th, 2011, 2:27pm
The mindsports update is progressing nicely.
In the process we've also published a work in progress called On the Evolution of Draughts Variants (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants).

Thought I'd mention it :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Apr 25th, 2011, 11:07pm

on 04/25/11 at 14:27:17, christianF wrote:
The mindsports update is progressing nicely.
In the process we've also published a work in progress called On the Evolution of Draughts Variants (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants).

Thought I'd mention it :)

Looks good  :)  Thanks for including Cage in that.

Couple of nitpicky points:

* "Draughts are the youngest" --> is the youngest

* "Checkers basically took of on an 8x8"  -->  took off

* "columns reaching the back row have to sit it out unless capture"  --> unless captured?  Not sure what you're trying to say here but it seems grammatically incorrect.

* "We have not listed the backdraws"  --> drawbacks

* "move into a direction" --> move in a direction

* "One may argue that the the increasing"  Syntax.

* "With 30 stones each" --> men each?

* "but it must end the move on the behind" grammar







Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Apr 26th, 2011, 2:16am
Thanks, I don't consider that nitpicking but useful comments.

The Cage section isn't complete yet (lacking a couple of examples). Same holds for a couple of traditionals. More applets will be added by and by and they will be used for examples too, rather than more diagrams.


on 04/25/11 at 23:07:31, MarkSteere wrote:
* "columns reaching the back row have to sit it out unless capture"  --> unless captured?  Not sure what you're trying to say here but it seems grammatically incorrect.


Pieces that reach the backrow cannot move in Stapeldammen: movement is forwards only and there is no promotion. However, they can be forced to make a capture (capture being mandatory, and forwards as well as backwards). Such a capture will (unless it also ends on the backrow) bring them back 'in the field'.

This is unusual and aesthetically questionable, but the strategical implications are quite fascinating.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 2nd, 2011, 1:52pm
Ingo Althofer (http://www.althofer.de/index.html) posted this at the LG forum:


Quote:
"Richard Lorentz is the father of Havannah bot Wanderer_c. For three weeks, Richard was my guest at Jena University. We had a wonderful time."

Prof. Richard Lorentz - Jena, April 2011 (http://www.althofer.de/richard-lorentz.html)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 5th, 2011, 7:20am
The Frisian Daughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/501-frisian), Turkish Daughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/502-dama_t) and  Armenian Daughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/503-tama_a) sections are, if not complete, at least reasonably informative now.

Frisian uses the 10x10 International applet, but in 'frisian mode', whereby pieces that are captured orthogonally are highlighted the same way as those captured diagonally.

Turkish and Armenian use the Dameo applet, but in 'vacuum cleaner' mode, whereby captured pieces are removed in the process of capture. Like a dog on a cookie trail.

These applets will shortly be available for turnbased play too.

The Go and Sygo applets already are available for turnbased play, and they've been updated too now. Here are two games in the new outfit:

Go: Alexander Dinerchtein - Rob van Zeijst (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/go/57-example-game)
Sygo: Rendong You - Christian Freeling (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1296040448.html)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 10th, 2011, 3:15pm
The column checkers section of the "Evolution" is taking shape. Please have a look at the new Bashni (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/column-checkers/486-bashni) applet - is that a nice applet or is that a nice applet :D .

Except for Lasca, all column checkers games (Bashni, Stapeldammen, Emergo, Hexemergo, Grabber) can now be played at mindsports.
Hexemergo will soon have a new applet in the new 'house style' too, and Lasca will not take long either.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 23rd, 2011, 6:16am
Guess what, the new Lasca applet (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/609-lasca) is ready. No build-in 'legal' yet, so you'll have to abide by the rules, but a nice display (we think).

Shogi has a new applet too (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/shogi/465-example-game). The western symbols may seem difficult at first, but the effort is well worth the reward ;)

This thread has drifted somewhat off topic I fear, as I have drifted away from inventing games. I merely acknowledge the fact, there's no plan or ambition either way. Meanwhile I recommend interested readers to have a closer look at Symple and Sygo. The first is a game more worthy of contemplation than would seem to be the case, the second is a great game. Be sure you belong to those who can later say "I told you so!"

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 24th, 2011, 3:35pm

on 05/23/11 at 06:16:58, christianF wrote:
...I have drifted away from inventing games.

Me too.  I still muse over game concepts during idle moments like while I'm driving or getting massaged by a brutal Chinese lady, but I'm not throwing myself into design.  It's summertime.  Time to be outside riding a bicyle, or inside practicing tenor sax.  


on 05/23/11 at 06:16:58, christianF wrote:
[Sygo] is a great game.

A claim I have no doubt of, however oft repeated.  Trouble is, there are a lot of "great games" out there now.  We're in the middle of a great game explosion.

In my case, I try to make my games robust.  This in itself doesn't make a game great.  It's just that *if* the game turns out to be great, like Oust, you know you won't have a problem with draws since draws were designed out from the outset.  [Oust is naturally finite.  No bs ko type rules are needed.]  And you won't have a problem with first move advantage since it's extremely scalable.  Oust can be played on *any* board, even or odd sized.

Oust rule sheet:
 http://www.marksteeregames.com/Oust_rules.pdf

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2011, 5:10am

on 05/24/11 at 15:35:14, MarkSteere wrote:
Trouble is, there are a lot of "great games" out there now.  We're in the middle of a great game explosion.

In my case, I try to make my games robust.  This in itself doesn't make a game great.


In my opinion the criteria for a great game have been excellently summarized by J. Mark Thompson in his short essay Defining the Abstract (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml).

If put against these criteria, Symple and Hex fail, although I've argued otherwise by leaving 'drama' out of the equation, because neither lacks clarity or depth or decisiveness. Sygo on the other hand meets all criteria Mark Thompson considers essential.

Of course Mark's criteria may not be everybody's, but they are clear and concise, which suits me well in a realm where all criteria are inherently subjective and arbitrary.

Maybe 'AI resistance' would nowadays qualify as an additional essential criterion.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 25th, 2011, 10:04am

on 05/25/11 at 05:10:30, christianF wrote:
In my opinion the criteria for a great game have been excellently summarized by J. Mark Thompson in his short essay Defining the Abstract (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml).

The celebrity of Mark Thompson's article seems to have taken on a life of its own, inexplicably.  It's a lovely, well written document, but little more than a rehash of pre-existing definitions.  


on 05/25/11 at 05:10:30, christianF wrote:
Of course Mark's criteria may not be everybody's, but they are clear and concise, which suits me well in a realm where all criteria are implicitly subjective and arbitrary.

Mark Thompson's criteria are themselves subjective and arbitrary.  There are objective, measurable quantities in games such as skill level, draw rate, and first move advantage, as well as the inter-dependencies among these quantities.

No game has more drama than Oust, at least that I've ever played.  As far as decisiveness, all of my games are finite-decisive.  You can't get more decisive than that.  There certainly could be a tie in Sygo though, right?  Conspicuously absent from the Sygo rule sheet is any mention of draws.  Ignoring draws won't make them go away.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2011, 12:13pm

on 05/25/11 at 10:04:17, MarkSteere wrote:
There are objective, measurable quantities in games such as skill level, draw rate, and first move advantage, as well as the inter-dependencies among these quantities.

Mark's essay is not an attempt at completeness.
Skill level, as a criterion, reveals itself better with an increasing player base.
Given the importance of first/second player advantage I'm a bit surprised that a very intricate balancing system as featured in Symple and Sygo draws so little response (I'm not saying it gets little attention, judging from the view count). Your bashing it may not have helped. Then again, some like disagree with you, so the reverse may also hold.
Your dislike of draws is well documented. However, not everybody agrees that draws should be impossible in great game. Draughts players even consider them essential! Out of necessity :P .


on 05/25/11 at 10:04:17, MarkSteere wrote:
There certainly could be a tie in Sygo though, right?  Conspicuously absent from the Sygo rule sheet is any mention of draws.  Ignoring draws won't make them go away.
Sygo is not draw proof. Also, none of the traditional great games is draw proof. Draws are not an a priori problem. In Draughts it's clearly an a posteriori problem.

In Sygo draws will never be a problem, but ironically we've come very close (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1299157008.html) in one game.
You were right about the rule sheet, but wrong about the 'conspicuously' - I actually thought I'd mentioned it (I now have).
Of course the possibility of neutral points was mentioned, which impicitly allows for a draw.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 25th, 2011, 1:35pm

on 05/25/11 at 12:13:03, christianF wrote:
Given the importance of first/second player advantage I'm a bit surprised that a very intricate balancing system as featured in Symple and Sygo draws so little response

You haven't really proved or even made a strong case as to why Sygo is so extraordinarily balanced.  You've demonstrated semantic wizardry worthy of Cameron Browne, but nothing that speaks of logic, so far.


on 05/25/11 at 12:13:03, christianF wrote:

Your bashing [Sygo] may not have helped.

lol, Now it's my fault Sygo's a dud.

Newsflash: Me not liking a game isn't a red flag for anyone.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 25th, 2011, 2:25pm

on 05/25/11 at 13:35:17, MarkSteere wrote:
You haven't really proved or even made a strong case as to why Sygo is so extraordinarily balanced. You've demonstrated semantic wizardry worthy of Cameron Browne, but nothing that speaks of logic, so far.

My case for Sygo's balancing mechanism can be found in About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple) - it's the same mechanism. Your comments till now had little to do with logical arguments, but a lot with mockery, sloganism and misrepresenting content. I guess that's more of a personality issue though. It must be hard to escape Mark Steere when he's inside ::) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 25th, 2011, 6:23pm

on 05/25/11 at 14:25:56, christianF wrote:
It must be hard to escape Mark Steere

It's not too difficult.  One could, for example, suddenly change the topic from Sygo to The bad personality of Mark, the bad guy. Whenever you're finished "escaping", lol, reality and I will still be here, patiently waiting.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 27th, 2011, 7:02am

on 05/25/11 at 18:23:47, MarkSteere wrote:
One could, for example, suddenly change the topic from Sygo to The bad personality of Mark.
I've been waiting for any content oriented commentary, but to no avail. That, for the time being, isn't much of a problem because I've booked my seasonal room at Hotel Lethargy. That means taking care of bare necessities, the animals up front. Here are some pics of my raccoon dog couple and two of their offspring, held by my son Falco, who just today finished his last High School exam.

http://i56.tinypic.com/5127a1.jpg
This is me and Woolfie, a white male born here in 2005. He's extremely relaxed as long as he's not handled (like here) and he's a dedicated father.

http://i55.tinypic.com/1zfr7eh.jpg
This is Daisy, a wildcolored female born in a zoo in Bayern in 2010. She was unexpectedly tame when we got her last year, 13 weeks old at the time.

http://i55.tinypic.com/25fq648.jpg
Here is Falco with the one white pup and one of the remaining six wild colored ones. We'll keep the white one because it's a male and male's are easier to keep because they don't have trouble in the mating season. Female's have induced ovulation, meaning they don't get out of heat unless they're 'served'. And they can get very moody and agressive if that doesn't happen.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 28th, 2011, 2:34pm

on 05/25/11 at 10:04:17, MarkSteere wrote:
Conspicuously absent from the Sygo rule sheet is any mention of draws. Ignoring draws won't make them go away.

Just a detail: you were right about the rules. However, in the ArenA Sygo is introduced (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena#territory) thus (and was all te time):

Quote:
Sygo wouldn't have existed without Symple. Now that it does, please note that it doesn't have ambiguities in its rules, and no cycles. However, it does have some more room for "seki", local stalemates in terms of groups capturing one another, in which vacant points aren't counted. It is intrinsically balanced by the "symple mechanism", but unlike Symple, it can end in a draw. Sygo is "Go on Speed".

So it was and is, however unimportant, one of the first things mentioned.

Saying that logical arguments are "semantic wizardry" isn't a very stong bid, don't you think? And saying Sygo's a "dud", whatever that may be, doesn't seem much of a logical argument. Surely you can do better than that, even if it means actually contemplating content.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 28th, 2011, 6:38pm

on 05/28/11 at 14:34:26, christianF wrote:
Saying that logical arguments are "semantic wizardry" isn't a very stong bid, don't you think?

Semantic sorcery? ???

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 29th, 2011, 10:07am

on 05/28/11 at 18:38:59, MarkSteere wrote:
Semantic sorcery? ???
My point exactly. Sloganism without addressing the issue.

Here's an interesting summary of your views on Symple as posted at rga, March 14/15. Let's start with my claim.

Quote:
christian:
Symple has a balancing mechanism that is much more sophisticated in its workings than a pie, because it will in the long run implicitly converge to a 50/50 rate. No other mechanism I know has this feature.


Quote:
Mark Steere:
Christian, you can't possibly be claiming that Symple is the "perfect game". Mine eyes perceive it but it's too outlandish a claim, even from you, for me to process.
The mythical perfect game would never have unbearable kludges such as Symple's:
(1) "There's one exception to the above. If, and only if, neither player has grown yet, then black on his turn may use both the above options in the above order: he may place a stone, therewith creating a new group, and he may grow any or all of his other (!) groups."
and:
(2) "A player's score is counted as the number of stones he has placed on the board minus four points for every separate group."

Let's have a closer look at these "unbearable kludges".
(1) is addressed in the paragraph "Countering a-symmetry with a-symmetry" in About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple). Here's what it says:

Quote:
A first move advantage, or occasionally disadvantage, constitutes a basic a-symmetry in almost any two player abstract game. It may be taken for granted (Chess, Draughts), compensated for (Go), or negotiated by means of a pie (Hex). Of these, the compensation given in Go is most repulsive: a means to an end and a disregard for style. Taking it for granted is no option in Symple, and a pie isn't applicable: there may be better and worse opening moves, but is there one so bad as to be rejected? The first move still gives the advantages mentioned above: either the initiative in growing, or an extra group.

"If the system is sound, the rule will be there". That's a deep truth I've relied on throughout my career as a game inventor. Symple's balancing rule is another clear example. It uses its own mechanism to negotiate the advantage using a sliding rod principle. Normally players on their turn may either start a new group or grow all their groups present on the board. Here's the conditional exception:

* If, and only if, neither player has grown yet, then black on his turn may use both the above options in the given order.

So both players have their finger on the switch: black to cash in his prerogative, white to prevent it.
Let's first look at this from white's position:

Quote:
If white grows on his second move, he will have one group of two stones and black will have one stone, black to move. For black this is almost as good as having the first move without any compensation for his opponent. So white must wait if he wants his compensation for terminating black's prerogative to grow. But how long?
Now let's first look at this from white's position:

Quote:
If black uses both options on his second move, he will have one stone and one group of two stones and white will have two stones, white to move. For white this is almost as good as having the first move without any compensation for his opponent. So black must wait if he wants the advantage of his prerogative to grow. But how long?
"See the beauty?" it says. Not if you're Mark Steere, so much is clear.

(2) is the very THEME of the game, which is "group penalty". The one thing in your comment that justifies it to a small degree is the specific height of the penalty, here indicated as "4".
As I've said before, that was arrogant. The height of the penalty is itself a parameter whose value determines a gradual shift in strategy. But that's not addressing the main point. The main point is that you don't seem to recognize Symple's theme in the first place, treating it as if it were some undesirable byproduct.

As for "the perfect game", that's your interpretation of my words. I claim that Symple in the long run will impicitly converge to a 50/50 rate and that no arguments concerning the first/second move advantage, or lack thereof, can be given.

For the record: Symple is a finite drawless game, one of a multitude, and as such completely determined, including the winner according to God's Algorithm. But everybody knows that. And that's what I said at rga:

Quote:
christian:
I never said it was perfect.
And sure enough:

Quote:
Mark Steere:
Aha! My logic finally penetrated. Better late than never.
Thus I was "cured" from a misconception I never had, by Mark's penetrating "logic":

Quote:
Mark Steere:
Neither Symple, Sygo, nor any other abstract game has "exactly a 50/50 win rate by design" - something Gamer-man correctly characterized as both mythical and mystical, and something I clearly demonstrated with my logic.
You demonstrated common knowledge concerning finite perfect information zero-sum games. And however unintended: Symple, in a hypothetical world where people would play it on a large scale, would inevitably converge to a 50/50 drawing rate. It's hard to recognize a black swan if you've always claimed that "all swans are white and I'm always right".

After this theme was left alone for a month it resurfaced in april:

Quote:
Mark Steere:
If you look back you'll see that all of my unflattering comments about your games have been defensive reactions to your outlandish claims about said games. As in "Oh come on. You gotta be kidding me."
Which outlandish claims?

Quote:
Mark Steere:
You're still mad because I logically demonstrated that Symple is not a perfect game as you claimed. 
I said quite the contrary: Symple lacks one essential feature to make it even a great game, let alone "perfect".

Quote:
Mark Steere:
I'm not initiating topics like "Hey does everyone appreciate how crappy Christian's latest game is?"
Oh yes, you do. First you kill it, later you may or may not try to find out what it is.

Quote:
Mark Steere:
It's said that all babies are cute and cuddly but they aren't always. Imagine a mom demanding that people acknowledge how beautiful her ugly baby is.
Ugliness is in the eyes of the beholder.

Quote:
Mark Steere:
Stop perpetrating hoaxes as a means of self glorification. Everyone has to bear the weight of that burden.
You seem really upset about something to the point of losing contact with reality.

Quote:
Mark Steere:
Btw, I believe that Symple has a sophisticated balancing mechanism.
But that fact alone does not rocket Symple to dizzying heights for me.
Well have a look at that, the "unbearable kludge" has suddenly turned into "a sophisticated balancing mechanism", and then in this very thread on May 25: "You haven't really proved or even made a strong case as to why Sygo is so extraordinarily balanced." It's the same mechanism. Your logic may be unassailable, even unperceivable, but its consistency is clearly not.

Quote:
christian:
Is Symple a great game?
Not according to J. Mark Thompson's criteria in his leading article "Defining the Abstract" - criteria I happen to agree with. Symple is all about strategy, with tactics in a peripheral role. There's no capture and limited drama.
Outlandish claims? Self glorification? I don't think so.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2011, 11:52am

on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
Symple has a balancing mechanism that is much more sophisticated in its workings than a pie, because it will in the long run implicitly converge to a 50/50 rate. No other mechanism I know has this feature.

What does that even mean?  In the "long run"?


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
I claim that Symple in the long run will impicitly converge to a 50/50 rate...

Yep, got that.  Still have no idea what you're talking about.


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
and that no arguments concerning the first/second move advantage, or lack thereof, can be given.

No, of course not.  Sign post ahead:  "Now Entering the Freeling Zone"


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
Symple, in a hypothetical world where people would play it on a large scale, would inevitably converge to a 50/50 drawing rate.

Ohhhhh.  So this is what you've been carrying on about all this time.  On an infinitely large board, Sygo would have no move order advantage.  So what??  Tons of games are like that.  Any crudely scalable game, such as Checkers, whose move order advantage (i.e. first move advantage or second move advantage) is alleviated by a shift to a larger board size, will converge to zero move order advantage at infinity.  This is your big claim to fame for Sygo??


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
It's hard to recognize a black swan if you've always claimed that "all swans are white and I'm always right".

Black swans.  White swans.  Red herrings.  This is the "logic" we were promised?  Sygo is a white pigeon.


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
First you kill [my game]...

I didn't kill Sygo! lol  If Sygo is dead, that's the law of the jungle.  Get a grip.


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
Well have a look at that, the "unbearable kludge" has suddenly turned into "a sophisticated balancing mechanism"...

I was trying to throw you a bone to appease your ongoing Sygo tantrum.  A lot of good that did...


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
"You haven't really proved or even made a strong case as to why Sygo is so extraordinarily balanced."  

And you still haven't.


on 05/29/11 at 10:07:47, christianF wrote:
It's the same mechanism. Your logic may be unassailable, even unperceivable, but its consistency is clearly not.

Christian, your logic is consistently non-existent.  You're a celebrated game inventor, and decidedly not a scientist.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by robinz on May 29th, 2011, 11:54am
Er, why do we have a long thread devoted almost solely to an argument between 2 people who have, as far as I can tell, never played a game of arimaa? Sure, this is the "off topic" forum, so if others were contributing I'd have no problem with this thread - but can you two please consider taking your arguments elsewhere?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 29th, 2011, 12:21pm

on 05/29/11 at 11:54:57, robinz wrote:
Er, why do we have a long thread devoted almost solely to an argument between 2 people who have, as far as I can tell, never played a game of arimaa? Sure, this is the "off topic" forum, so if others were contributing I'd have no problem with this thread - but can you two please consider taking your arguments elsewhere?
Yes, it would seem that way, wouldn't it? And I would indeed welcome content related input. As far as interest is concened, the view count speaks for itself. As far as the topic is concerned, Omar started this thread because of my views on game inventing, so I feel entitled to give my views on game inventing on the risk of you or anyone having "a problem" with it.
And what exactly might that problem be, I wonder, if you can simply skip the topic?
I consider Arimaa a great game, by the way, so your attempt at suggesting we're here at its expense is rather curious.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 29th, 2011, 12:53pm

on 05/29/11 at 11:52:17, MarkSteere wrote:
Ohhhhh.  So this is what you've been carrying on about all this time.  On an infinitely large board, Sygo would have no move order advantage.  So what??  Tons of games are like that. Any crudely scalable game, such as Checkers, whose move order advantage (i.e. first move advantage or second move advantage) is alleviated by a shift to a larger board size, will converge to zero move order advantage at infinity.
No Mark, you're twisting my words again. Symple and Sygo will inevitably converge to the middle on a standard Go board. And yes, neither is likely to be played extensively enough to validate that claim. And yes, on smaller and smaller boards anything will crumble, Go, Havannah, Oust. So don't argue the obvious.

In a way I can well understand Robinz. Concerning your other 'refutations' I rest my case because the readership, if not very vocal, certainly is intelligent enough.

And Robinz, I will probably post now and again, and I can't really avoid being corrected by Mark ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on May 29th, 2011, 1:18pm

on 05/29/11 at 12:53:29, christianF wrote:
And Robinz, I will probably post now and again, and I can't really avoid being corrected by Mark ;)

No, you can't avoid Mark responding to your posts here, but you could avoid cutting and pasting arguments that are going on elsewhere so that they continue here rather than there.  Although I can see the temptation to try to move a debate from an unmoderated forum into a moderated one, the moderator won't necessarily be thrilled.  :P

Robinz, although I, too, wish that feuds that started elsewhere would not be imported into the Arimaa forum, my experience with Arimaa gives me a certain sympathy for Christian and Mark.  I realize as I had not previously done, that the circle of people in the whole wide world who take any interest in new abstract stragety games is quite small.  Even that small group of people can't agree what makes a game worth playing.  The upshot of a small and fractured community is that, if anyone were to take a reasonable list of features of "the perfect abstract strategy game" and invent a new game that had every feature on this list in greater measure than any game in history, this new, perfect game would be largely ignored.  Sad, but true.

Part of the reason a fight about games that aren't Arimaa is taking place in the Arimaa forum is that there is no good place for it to happen.  Here we have civil, active, high-quality discussions.  Is there another abstract games forum that beats us on all these counts?  I know the Arimaa forum doesn't seem like much in larger scheme of things, but it is special for its niche.

My promotion of Arimaa has evolved over time in that I have become less eager to trumpet what is wrong with its classical competitors such as chess and shogi.  Also I have tried to become more frank that the virtues of Arimaa are contingent, and may evaporate under further scrutiny.  Arimaa appears drawless, balanced, infinitely deep, computer-resistant, dramatic, generative of distinctive playing styles that all may succeed, etc.  But every single one of these virtures may prove false in the long run.  Therefore I try to be less strident about the virtues of Arimaa, and show due respect for classic games which, however much flaws are now peeking through, nevertheless have withstood withering examination without breaking.

If some game inventor seems over-eager to extoll the virtues of his own game, or if some game inventor seems to delight in criticizing games that are not his own, and if above all they wish to be noticed rather than ignored and forgotten, I can identify, because I have felt the same way about Arimaa, of which I am not even the inventor!  If the discourse remains civil, confined to the off-topic thread, and not too provocative in assertions that Arimaa players should be diverting their attention to other games, I can skim it and move on untroubled.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2011, 1:28pm

on 05/29/11 at 11:54:57, robinz wrote:
Sure, this is the "off topic" forum

Exactly.


on 05/29/11 at 11:54:57, robinz wrote:
so if others were contributing I'd have no problem with this thread - but can you two please consider taking your arguments elsewhere?

Speaking of non-contributions, would you kindly consider butting out?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2011, 1:34pm

on 05/29/11 at 13:18:10, Fritzlein wrote:
you could avoid cutting and pasting arguments that are going on elsewhere so that they continue here rather than there.

Good point.  Don't run away from an rga discussion to hide under Omar's skirt.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 29th, 2011, 2:54pm

on 05/29/11 at 13:34:23, MarkSteere wrote:
Good point.  Don't run away from an rga discussion to hide under Omar's skirt.
Nice way to put a good observation. Omar might not be thrilled by every twist and turn this thread has taken, but he has never voiced any objections and I feel quite welcome here. I'm particularly pleased with Fritzlein's comments, both on the thread in general and on Arimaa.

The one thing I find missing is someone pointing out what is wrong with the balancing mechanism around which the current discussion revolves. The "let's look at this from white's/black's point of view" part.

Because if there's nothing wrong with it, then it works as a "high resolution" pie-principle, no longer dependent on considering the relative advantages of one particular opening move or another, as in Hex. And the result in the hypothetical "long run" will converge to a 50/50 rate. Why? Suppose it deviates to one side, what will the other side learn from that, with both having a finger on the sliding rod?

Of course the mechanism is restricted to games that employ the opening protocol of Symple and Sygo, so its applicability is limited, but its very existence is not - and I would naturally see that recognized.
The relative merits of its inventor are less of an issue for me.



Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by robinz on May 29th, 2011, 5:28pm
Sure, I could just ignore your argument - and have been doing so for a while. You're right that it's not really any concern of mine. I just find it strange that the two of you seem to be choosing this forum in particular to be having it. Is there really nowhere else to discuss the merits of various games? Boardgamegeek would seem an obvious example of a better forum (or rather set of forums) than this one, and no doubt there are others...

I'd have no problem with this discussion whatsoever if it involved any members of the arimaa community - but, to this relative outsider, it looks like a simple feud between two people who aren't actually members of that community. This is the only reason I question whether it belongs here. Of course, if everyone disagrees, by all means continue, and I will just ignore.

PS - I very much respect both Chirstian and Mark as designers of interesting abstract strategy games. But I find it rather unedifying to see the kind of childish sniping at each other that occurs here.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 29th, 2011, 7:08pm

on 05/29/11 at 14:54:27, christianF wrote:
The one thing I find missing is someone pointing out what is wrong with the balancing mechanism around which the current discussion revolves....

Because if there's nothing wrong with it, then it works

The Arimaa forum bears no responsibility for disproving your unintelligible, outlandish claims.  I don't even know what you're claiming at this point.  I only know it's outlandish, whatever it is.


on 05/29/11 at 14:54:27, christianF wrote:
And the result in the hypothetical "long run" will converge to a 50/50 rate.

Meaning what??


on 05/29/11 at 14:54:27, christianF wrote:
Suppose it deviates to one side, what will the other side learn from that, with both having a finger on the sliding rod?

For any given board size, Sygo is a win for Player 1 or Player 2.  The more skilled players become, the more move order advantage there will be at that given board size.  Sygo is no different from Checkers in this regard.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 30th, 2011, 6:10am

on 05/29/11 at 19:08:44, MarkSteere wrote:
The Arimaa forum bears no responsibility for disproving your unintelligible, outlandish claims. I don't even know what you're claiming at this point. I only know it's outlandish, whatever it is.
Don't bother, it's something about a balancing mechanism.

Quote:
Mark Steere:
Btw, I believe that Symple has a sophisticated balancing mechanism.
But that fact alone does not rocket Symple to dizzying heights for me.
You believe? ???


on 05/29/11 at 19:08:44, MarkSteere wrote:
Meaning what??
To restate the obvious: it means that the move protocol and its balancing mechanism will in a hypothetical world with a large player base have these games naturally and inevitably converge to a 50/50 win/lose overall score at the highest level of play.


on 05/29/11 at 19:08:44, MarkSteere wrote:
For any given board size, Sygo is a win for Player 1 or Player 2.  The more skilled players become, the more move order advantage there will be at that given board size.  Sygo is no different from Checkers in this regard.
Regarding the first: you demonstrate common knowledge.
Regarding the second: You're wrong. The convergence takes place regardless of the "truth" that is locked in the gametree. But please keep trying not to understand if that makes you feel better.
Regarding the third: Ask Jonathan Schaeffer or compare branch density. Or try to make English of this:

Quote:
Finite and drawless - so who has the advantage?
Symple is a finite abstract perfect-information zero-sum game and as such completely determined. That means that the truth - in this case a white win or a black win - is locked in the gametree. To determine which of the two it is, it might as well be locked in a black hole.
Symple's branch density is unreal. Say at some stage both players have twelve groups and each group has eight growing points. Then the first player has 8^12 growing options followed by 8^12 by his opponent and we're one move onwards.

So there's not much to prove. Hex, without the pie rule, is a proven win for the first player. Checkers is a proven draw. In Chess you can't prove anything, but the arguments that white has an 'advantage' are questioned by few. Few, too, doubt that Draughts is a determined draw, although it is not proven.
What makes Symple different is that you can't even argue one way or the other, because the sliding principle of black's prerogative converges to a balancing point in terms of black's taking it or white's preventing it, regardless of the truth hidden in the gametree.

About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple)

P.S. "The one thing I find missing", I said in a previous post, "is someone pointing out what is wrong with the balancing mechanism. The 'let's look at this from white's/black's point of view' part."
And I still find it missing. Please have a shot at it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 30th, 2011, 10:28am

on 05/30/11 at 06:10:22, christianF wrote:
Mark Steere: "Btw, I believe that Symple has a sophisticated balancing mechanism."

You believe? ???

In the sense of giving you the benefit of the doubt while having no idea what you're talking about, yes.  As I said yesterday, I threw you a bone in rec.games.abstract in a foolish attempt to appease the latest flare-up in your months long Symple tantrum there (which has now merged into your Sygo tantrum here).  

Christian Freeling's tantrum flare-up in rec.games.abstract: "Since you apparently have a need to criticize everything I do, and to make everything I say suspect, I'll refrain from participating in any contest if you are." . . . "Your particularly ignorant comments on Grabber and Symple show a different attitude."


on 05/30/11 at 06:10:22, christianF wrote:
Hex, without the pie rule, is a proven win for the first player. . . . What makes Symple different is that you can't even argue one way or the other, because the sliding principle of black's prerogative converges to a balancing point in terms of black's taking it or white's preventing it, regardless of the truth hidden in the gametree.

What a stupendous crock.  Consider my "belief" in anything relating to Sygo rescinded.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 30th, 2011, 12:03pm

on 05/30/11 at 10:28:07, MarkSteere wrote:
What a stupendous crock.  Consider my "belief" in anything relating to Sygo rescinded.
Taking note of the quality of your argument I sincerely hope so.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on May 30th, 2011, 4:57pm

on 05/30/11 at 06:10:22, christianF wrote:
To restate the obvious: [Sygo's] move protocol and its balancing mechanism will in a hypothetical world with a large player base have these games naturally and inevitably converge to a 50/50 win/lose overall score at the highest level of play.

Baloney.  You claim Sygo is scalable.  So play Sygo on a tiny board and watch how quickly play diverges from "a 50/50 win/lose overall score at the highest level of play."  You ducked the exact same argument in the exact same debate in rec.games.abstract.  Where will we find you next?  Iago?? lol

Board size, skill level, and move order advantage are related quantities.  Using my own Hex Oust as an example, there might be a slight statistical advantage in moving first at the current board size of 7.  At Game Site X, Hex Oust win/loss/draw = 349/328/9, and most of those games were size 7.  If move order advantage ever does become an issue in Hex Oust, we can bump the board up to the significantly larger size 8, which should totally clear up move order advantage for years of advancing skill.

There's a trade-off between game length and move order advantage.  A couple of points of move order advantage may be deemed tolerable when faced with moving up to a larger, longer-playing board.  There's certainly no call to increase the board size every time a half point of statistical advantage is suspected.

Games are governed by laws - laws which haven't been even slightly perturbed by Sygo.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on May 30th, 2011, 5:37pm

on 05/30/11 at 16:57:13, MarkSteere wrote:
Games are governed by laws - laws which haven't been even slightly perturbed by Sygo.
A good summary of your arguments. Nothing beyond common knowledge and nothing I wouldn't acknowledge right away.
The short answer would boil down to repeating that you've not addressed the question: what is wrong with the reasoning in the "Countering a-symmetry with a-symmetry" paragraph in About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple), in particular the white's/black's point of view part? (assuming that you understand the move protocol of course)

Is that so hard a question (for anyone)?
And if the reasoning is right, what would then be the conclusion?

A long answer might attempt to show which presumptions lead you to draw a wrong conclusion from factual correctness. But that may take more than a paragraph. Consider it written, but let's give it some time lest the thread gets overheated.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by RonWeasley on May 30th, 2011, 8:27pm
I haven't been following this recent discussion very closely, so I have nothing to contribute.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2011, 10:41am
Before I go to the matter at hand, a summary of the context may be in place.

- Omar started this thread and whatever happens with it is his call alone. I'm grateful he did and I hope the views expressed in it will be interesting enough to justify its existence. If you can find nothing of interest, just move on, it's a thread, not a threat.

- Since it's an off topic thread please note that I feel the host game is a great game. Most readers will know by now that I consider J. Mark Thompson's Defining the Abstract (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml) an excellent quick reference of what makes a great game, and Arimaa certainly meets all criteria mentioned in the article. Personally I find "AI-resistence" a great plus, nowadays, and Arimaa as far as I know still has a good score in that field too. Nevertheless I don't actually play it. Consider this: I don't play Grand Chess either. I'm not going to invest a large effort to get from bad to mediocre (and failing at even that, most likely).

- The thread was initiated because of How I invented games and why not (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not), which was supposed to wrap up my work and explain how it came to be. My claim to be able to predict the behaviour of certain games from the rules was shown certainly not to extend to all abstract games, as could have been predicted without the gift of prophecy.
On the other end of the spectrum are games the behaviour of which can be predicted by anyone. Not necessarily in terms of strategy, but in terms of the general nature of the fight, the outcome, and the possible problems regarding move order advantage. Take Hex or Dan Troyka's Breakthrough.
The conclusion must therefore be that my claim wasn't all that special. Yet it's a slippery slope and two of my respected critics have recently voiced comments regarding the subject:

on 05/29/11 at 13:18:10, Fritzlein wrote:
Part of the reason a fight about games that aren't Arimaa is taking place in the Arimaa forum is that there is no good place for it to happen.  Here we have civil, active, high-quality discussions.  Is there another abstract games forum that beats us on all these counts?  I know the Arimaa forum doesn't seem like much in larger scheme of things, but it is special for its niche.

My promotion of Arimaa has evolved over time in that I have become less eager to trumpet what is wrong with its classical competitors such as chess and shogi.  Also I have tried to become more frank that the virtues of Arimaa are contingent, and may evaporate under further scrutiny.  Arimaa appears drawless, balanced, infinitely deep, computer-resistant, dramatic, generative of distinctive playing styles that all may succeed, etc.  But every single one of these virtures may prove false in the long run.
Then again, they may not, and I wholeheartedly hope so. But my 'powers of prediction' don't extend that far.

The other one is from Rozencrantz at recregamescombinatorial@googlegroups.com (http://recregamescombinatorial@googlegroups.com). It was send to me by Benedikt Rosenau.
The subject matter was posted by João Pedro Neto:

Quote:
How can we use the terms natural/artificial for games, in general?

One way to look at this is to relate naturalness to simplicity. Simple games like Hex, Tic Tac Toe or, perhaps, Go, seem almost like discoveries, rather than inventions. But the fact that Hex was only "discovered" in the 1940s does give us pause to ponder.
.....
A third way to try to make sense of this separation between natural and artificial, is to look into the game's history.

Games like Chess, Go, Mancala and Checkers have evolved through centuries, absorbing gaming experience into their progressive adaptable rules. As in biological natural selection, these games are more like species, with their life trees, their historical compromises, their multiple branches (cultural instead of biological).
Highlighting by me.

To which Rozencrantz replied:

Quote:
This [third way] is the only one that makes sense to me. In my mind all games are artificial, because they are made, but if an argument is to be made that one is more natural than another, one that has formed through accretions and incremental changes has a better claim than one that springs fully formed from the head of Christian Freeling.

Different opinions on the same subject. Fritzlein treads thoughtfully and carefully. Considering that it took the drawmargin of International Draughts about a century to manifest itself as problematic, this seems a wise approach. João noticed what I've said all these years, some games are discoveries rather than designs, and Rozencrantz takes a considered sceptical view regarding 'discoveries'. Hex is such a discovery and for that very reason sprang identically from two different minds. Havannah, though more a lucky design than a discovery, also came fully formed. So did Reversi, Oust, Breakthrough and LOA to name a few more - how is time supposed 'shape' these games, one wonders.

[edit]Even Checkers complies. Sure, variants have been formed over the ages. As it happens Benedikt Rosenau and yours truly recently published On the Evolution of Draughts Variants (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants) on that very subject. But, barring balloted openings, Checkers itself didn't change. You really can't go anywhere else on a diagonal grid with a short range king.[/edit]

Yet generally speaking Rozencrantz has a point of course. Games made by design have a good chance to be altered by design.

- Regular readers know the "wrap it up" part was premature. I unexpectedly came up with a bunch of games in the context of a design contest. Symple and Sygo are of special interest in the above context, because one is by discovery and one by design. Both of them have predictable behaviour in the same sense that Hex or Breakthrough have it. I claim no more that that they are interesting, not in the last place because of a new move protocol and an additional high resolution pie-principle that does not depend on the relative merits of one opening move or another.

- I'm 64, with an unobstructed view of Mount Doom. Every time I light a joint I feel the Eye of Mordor swaying may way - it didn't find me yet though :) What I'm saying is: I really don't care too much about the future. I present my work at mindsports and discuss it ... well, here, actually. I love to care for my animals, enjoy life, and certainly feel no part of any 'game designers contest'. I entered one, true, but I hadn't anticipated that it would be like Hotel California.
I feel compelled however to answer to misrepresentation of my words or work, although without much pleasure.

So my next post will address the issue of Symple's balancing mechanism and maybe get some insight into why a simple question - what's wrong with my reasoning regarding it - is so elaborately ignored ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Jun 1st, 2011, 12:21pm

on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
...The conclusion must therefore be that my claim wasn't all that special...


Sid Sackson made a similar claim. (http://www.webnoir.com/bob/sid/zetlin.htm)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by SpeedRazor on Jun 1st, 2011, 4:12pm
Do Not Feed The Troll

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 1st, 2011, 4:31pm

on 06/01/11 at 16:12:43, SpeedRazor wrote:
Do Not Feed The Troll
SpeedRazor, assuming you mean me, is that a fair comment? Did I offend you in any way, or discuss anything off topic?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 2nd, 2011, 12:56am

on 06/01/11 at 16:31:56, christianF wrote:
SpeedRazor, assuming you mean me, is that a fair comment? Did I offend you in any way, or discuss anything off topic?

Maybe he's just telling you not to feed "the troll."  ;)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 2nd, 2011, 2:35am

on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
I'm 64, with an unobstructed view of Mount Doom. Every time I light a joint I feel the Eye of Mordor swaying may way

It's been nearly a month since you last reminded us of your impending "doom".  You must be a real barrel of monkeys at home.    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz


on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
[I] certainly feel no part of any 'game designers contest'.

Why, because you lost?


on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
I entered one, true, but I hadn't anticipated that it would be like Hotel California.

You got out of it about what you put into it.


on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
I feel compelled however to answer to misrepresentation of my words or work, although without much pleasure.

What got so misrepresented?


on 06/01/11 at 10:41:13, christianF wrote:
a simple question - what's wrong with my reasoning regarding it - is so elaborately ignored ;) .

Yes, the bizarre question about your presumed faulty reasoning.  I can't say I would be shocked beyond belief if there was something wrong...

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 2nd, 2011, 2:41am

on 06/02/11 at 00:56:49, megajester wrote:
Maybe he's just telling you not to feed "the troll."  ;)

Trolls are people too.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 2nd, 2011, 3:37am

on 06/02/11 at 02:41:02, MarkSteere wrote:
Trolls are people too.

So are drug addicts, but that doesn't make you want to hug them and pet them and squeeze them and call them George now, does it? It makes you want to send them to rehab.

But point taken, I will try to be nice to trolls in future.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 2nd, 2011, 7:38am

on 06/02/11 at 03:37:24, megajester wrote:
So are drug addicts, but that doesn't make you want to hug them and pet them and squeeze them and call them George now, does it? It makes you want to send them to rehab.
The Netherlands have a rather curious legal system that allows one to buy small quantities of pot in so called "coffeeshops". How the coffeeshops get the big quantities they need to provide the small ones, is considered a mystery not worth inquiring into too emphatically (except by the tax authorities).
The use of pot is very common here, and not considered a big deal. Only recently has driving under the influence been declared an offence - in fact since there's a quick test available.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 3rd, 2011, 9:45am
A good friend of both Ed van Zon and me, Gerard Dijkman, astrologer extraordinaire, died yesterday. It's becoming a trend. We're from the "People try to put us down, talking 'bout my generation" generation but there's hardly any need to push it, nowadays.
He was extremely well-read, erudite and funny, and an alcoholic, and that's what did him in. Now the rest of us who ruled in the seventies make arrangements to go to the funeral together and talk about old times and who's most likely to go next. The last one will know for sure :)

I'll be back later.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 3rd, 2011, 11:10am

on 06/03/11 at 09:45:36, christianF wrote:
A good friend ... died yesterday. It's becoming a trend ... make arrangements to go to the funeral together ... who's most likely to go next.

Anything else we can talk about besides Mt. Doom and old people dying?


on 06/03/11 at 09:45:36, christianF wrote:
I'll be back later.

Well, yeah, if you're still alive.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 7th, 2011, 5:53am
To keep this on target, what I'm saying about Symple's and Sygo's move order advantage balancing mechanism is that, given a regular boardsize, it isn't possible to argue one way or another. I'm not talking about "the truth" because the truth, although known to exist for any move in any position in any two-player abstract perfect information game, cannot be determined.
I'm not claiming a revolution here either. The pie in Hex goes a long way in the same direction.

Gametrees
The truth of any game is contained in its gametree. If all possible legal positions and how they result from one another are mapped, the result in terms of win and loss can be tracked backwards from the leaves, leaving the remaining connections as draws, should these be possible. Only relatively small games have been completely mapped: Tic-tac-toe, minimancala, awari, fanorona, checkers, to name a few.
Here's the minimancala gametree (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/minimancala-567). It has two leaves. It also has cycles and is thus called 'infinite'. Some games, like Hex or Othello, don't and are thus called 'finite'. Most dominant games, Chess, Go, Draughts, Shogi, Xiangqi, have cycles in their respective gametrees. Saying that ‘finite games rule’ is like Castro saying ‘communism rules’.

In the gametree of any size Hex (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Hex_%28game%29) the truth of every position is win or los. Hence any move in any size Hex is always winning or losing, never 'advantageous'.

Truth and the human condition
But that doesn't help a human player when faced with an opening move in 19x19 Hex and having to decide whether or not to swap. Here we already have a case where it is difficult to 'argue one way or the other'. The relative merits of a move cannot be considered in terms of 'perfect play', because that would be based on complete access to the gametree, and nothing would be 'relative' anymore.
Humans would have to rely on a multitude of imperfect games between 'consistently high level players' with that particular opening move to get to the 'most likely' result.
That is true for any opening move, so given enough high level matches the 'most likely truth' of each and every move would emerge.

Convergence and divergence - a timeline
More importantly: the overall results of each particular move will eventually drift away from 50/50, not converge on it, because the move is either winning or losing and that fact will eventually 'shine through' in the results.

In this world Hex probably isn't played extensively enough to become 'problematic' on 19x19. Players make mistakes and the 'truth' may favor one player or the other several times during a game without the players being aware. And where the result of any particular opening would eventually diverge from an equal score, it initially will converge on it because that's the very point of a swap. Divergence only takes place once its intricacies have been extensively explored.

A high resolution refinement
Suppose extensive play would eventually have zoomed in on the truth of every one of the 181 opening moves in 19x19 Hex, then a refinement could be introduced in the form of a 3-stone swap. Now players would have to zoom in on the truth of more than 20 million positions. That would mean that the procedure would hardly get beyond the ‘convergence’ stage. That subjected to extensive play each of the positions would eventually diverge from an even result towards ‘the truth’ has become meaningless in view of the sheer number of positions to be considered. Arguing one way or the other would be impossible for a large subset of the 20 million plus positions.

The balancing mechanism of Symple and Sygo is of a much higher resolution, and that by nature, not by 'amplification' as in the 3-stone swap in Hex. It's not a swap: white is white and black is black and at no time a switch is offered. A further difference is that it is based on the timing of an action rather than an initial choice.
Note: it is inherently based on the move procedure of both Symple and Sygo: you either place a single stone, thus starting a new group, or you grow any or every one of your groups present on the board by one stone. To understand the balancing mechanism, one must be familiar with
the move procedure and the inherent dilemma as set out in About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple).

The obvious revisited
Since one poster clearly wrestled with the balancing mechanism I'll try a step by step explanation.
In Symple white has the move order advantage so we counter this inherent a-symmetry by giving black a compensation.
The compensation is this: Black may once, and conditionally, place a stone and grow every one of his groups.

If this compensation were unconditional, Black would have the advantage. Usually (not always) when one player decides to start growing his 'groups' (as yet single stones) instead of placing new ones, this gives an initiative that incites the other, at least to a degree, to follow suit.
If Black simply awaits White's initiative, he can follow suit and have an extra group.
If White doesn't grow, Black can eventually decide to cash in his option himself and have a large initiative with an equal number of groups.
So giving the compensation unconditionally doesn't solve the problem.

Pushing the button
The condition under which Black may cash in his compensation is that neither player has grown yet. This means that White can grow first anytime and therewith take Black's compensation from him.
Or that Black can grow first anytime and thus cash in his compensation.
Both players are faced with when to 'push the button'.  

Now we get to the point where I fail, where some succeed, to see any lack of clarity. It is copied directly from About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple):


Quote:
Let's first look at this from white's position:
If he grows on his second move, he will have one group of two stones and black will have one stone, black to move. For black this is almost as good as having the first move without any compensation for his opponent. So white must wait if he wants his compensation for terminating black's prerogative to grow. But how long?


Quote:
Now let's first look at this from black's position:
If he uses both options on his second move, he will have one stone and one group of two stones and white will have two stones, white to move. For white this is almost as good as having the first move without any compensation for his opponent. So black must wait if he wants the advantage of his prerogative to grow. But how long?

Both players have a clear disadvantage if they push the button too early. However, with the impact of the compensation rising with the number of stones placed, pushing too late will at some point, and not more than a few moves away, give the opponent a clear advantage. So timing is of the essence.

This I put up with the question what , if anything, was wrong with the reasoning. Here's an intesesting reply by dr. Sheldon Cooper of finitegames.nut:

Quote:
Yes, the bizarre question about your presumed faulty reasoning. I can't say I would be shocked beyond belief if there was something wrong...

It shows that the author is waiting for someone else to validate or refute the argument, which I find striking.
Yet, at the same time, I'm honored by his well meant comments, because he considers Symple and Sygo important enough to spend some considerable time on them.

Household announcements
I thank the readers and the posters because I'll leave for now and the foreseeable future. Some readers may have noticed that it wasn't the stacking games contest I can't get out of, so rigorous measures are necessary ;-)
If we have new implementations at mindsports.nl I'll let you know though.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 7th, 2011, 9:58am

on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
I'm not talking about "the truth"

That much is clear.  


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Saying that ‘finite games rule’ is like Castro saying ‘communism rules’.

I knew there'd be something about me in here, though I never imagined I'd be branded a communist! lol  "Finite games rule" is my motto at Christian's game site, MindSports.  Finite games, unlike communism, really do rule.


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Any move in any size Hex is always winning or losing, never 'advantageous'

What?? Plenty of moves in Hex are advantageous.  In perfect play, moves are winning and losing.  In imperfect play, moves are advantageous and disadvantageous.  This applies to Hex and to all other games, from which, once again, Sygo is not exempt.


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Truth

If only.


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Given enough high level matches the 'most likely truth' of each and every move [in 19x19 Hex] would emerge.

Boy that's a lot of emerging truth.  Are we assuming unlimited player IQ's now?  One loses track of all the surreal parameters.


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
More importantly: the overall results of each particular move will eventually drift away from 50/50, not converge on it, because...

...because nothing "converges" in games!  Games are inherently divergent.  All games.  Including Sygo.  The similarity of that word to psycho can no longer be ignored.


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Divergence only takes place once its intricacies have been extensively explored.

Divergence takes place from the word go, and never lets up.  Pastafarianism is the only thing I can think of more absurd than this convergence/divergence nonsense you've whipped up, Christian.  You used the words true and truth eight times in this one post.  This is like my housekeeper droning on about the truth of the gospel.  

Show of hands: Is anyone buying this "convergent Sygo" nonsense?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 8th, 2011, 12:32am
Hello everyone who's just joined us, yes, right now we're watching Mark Steere's back garden and... Oh there he is, he's coming out now. Might he be about to mow the lawn perhaps?... No he's setting up some mannikin of some sort, or is it a scarecrow?... No it's a straw man... And a very handsome straw man if I say so myself, a worthy addition to any vegetable allotment... Ah but what's he doing now? He's pulling... is that a baseball club, out of his bag? And he's... he's... BEATING THE STRAW MAN OH IT'S SO BARBARIC I CAN'T WATCH... STRAW... EVERYWHERE... HE'S SHOUTING, SHOUTING PROFANITIES AT IT... DEMANDING IT ANSWER HIM... OH, THE STRAWMANITY!


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Players make mistakes and the 'truth' may favor one player or the other several times during a game without the players being aware. And where the result of any particular opening would eventually diverge from an equal score, it initially will converge on it because that's the very point of a swap.

An equal score, eh? You don't suppose he could be talking about accruing or losing advantage in imperfect play, hmm?


on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
Any move in any size Hex is always winning or losing, never 'advantageous'


on 06/07/11 at 09:58:27, MarkSteere wrote:
What?? ... In perfect play, moves are winning and losing.

Oh for pity's sake, you're not supposed to agree with the straw man! Come on Mark, we know you can do better!


on 06/07/11 at 09:58:27, MarkSteere wrote:
Plenty of moves in Hex are advantageous. ... In imperfect play, moves are advantageous and disadvantageous. ... Show of hands: Is anyone buying this "convergent Sygo" nonsense?

OK if I accrue an advantage, and then give it back again, we've returned from our short sojourn into the realm of asymmetry to "converge" to the point where it's a straight 50/50 that either of us will win.

So no if we're talking about perfect play. And yes if we're talking about imperfect play.

It's actually fairly obvious what he's talking about where if you stop to think about it for two seconds. But that wouldn't give us any ammo now would it?

Sorry hang on just one second... Yes... Yes I believe that was Mr. Steere's mother calling from the kitchen to tell him to clear up all the mess he's made with his straw man...

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2011, 8:31am

on 06/08/11 at 00:32:20, megajester wrote:
we've returned from our short sojourn into the realm of asymmetry to "converge" to the point where it's a straight 50/50 that either of us will win.

You've sojourned into the realm of the surreal, converging to a dank, dark place reeking of methane, and sounding of faint, muffled Dutch conversation.


on 06/08/11 at 00:32:20, megajester wrote:
It's actually fairly obvious what he's talking about...

...when you inhale deeply and drift off in a methane rush.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 8th, 2011, 11:05am
Megajester: "Sometimes I have the advantage and then later I don't.  Therefore Christian Freeling's claim that 'Sygo converges to 50/50 in the long run' makes perfect sense."

Brilliant.  How do you do it?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by megajester on Jun 8th, 2011, 2:49pm

on 06/08/11 at 11:05:21, MarkSteere wrote:
Megajester: "Sometimes I have the advantage and then later I don't.  Therefore Christian Freeling's claim that 'Sygo converges to 50/50 in the long run' makes perfect sense."

Brilliant.  How do you do it?

It's one thing to take something somebody said and make a straw man out of it. It's quite another to use something that person never actually said.

It's brilliant. How do you do it?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Eltripas on Jun 8th, 2011, 11:48pm
Board games. Serious business.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2011, 1:49am

on 06/08/11 at 23:48:35, Eltripas wrote:
Board games. Serious business.

Only when people make outlandish claims and then other people mindlessly jump on board with said outlandish claims.

Christian and Nanojester are barely capable of formulating a sentence, never mind a coherent logical premise.  This is why I have to argue both sides.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Fritzlein on Jun 9th, 2011, 2:04am

on 06/09/11 at 01:49:32, MarkSteere wrote:
Christian and Nanojester are barely capable of formulating a sentence, never mind a coherent logical premise.

That's not vulgar, but it is a personal attack.  If it were a first offense, I would warn you myself.  If it were a second offense, I would ask Omar to warn you.  In this case, however, given your long history of abusive posts, I hope that Omar, having warned you before, will now ban you from the Forum.  Unfortunately, he will probably just warn you again.  Oh, well, if a warning will get you to merely ridicule what people say rather than ridiculing people directly, I will go back to gritting my teeth and not responding to your posts.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2011, 6:12am

on 06/09/11 at 02:04:31, Fritzlein wrote:
That's not vulgar, but it is a personal attack.
I don't mind being attacked in person all that much (not that I see the point of it), but criticizing games should be done in a fair spirit, and it should at least make some sense.

Here's unfair:
When I say "I'm not talking about "the truth" because the truth, although known to exist for any move in any position in any two-player abstract perfect information game, cannot be determined.", I'm talking about the game theoretical proof that all these games are completely determined. What's taken out is: "I'm not talking about "the truth", and the reply is "That much is clear", referring to a whole different meaning of the word.

Here's no sense (just one example of a recurring theme):

on 06/07/11 at 05:53:41, christianF wrote:
In the gametree of any size Hex (http://www.wordiq.com/definition/Hex_%28game%29) the truth of every position is win or los. Hence any move in any size Hex is always winning or losing, never 'advantageous'.

Truth and the human condition
... The relative merits of a move cannot be considered in terms of 'perfect play', because that would be based on complete access to the gametree, and nothing would be 'relative' anymore.
Humans would have to rely on a multitude of imperfect games between 'consistently high level players' with that particular opening move to get to the 'most likely' result.


The reply is:

on 06/07/11 at 09:58:27, MarkSteere wrote:
What?? Plenty of moves in Hex are advantageous. In perfect play, moves are winning and losing. In imperfect play, moves are advantageous and disadvantageous. This applies to Hex and to all other games, from which, once again, Sygo is not exempt.

That's repeating what I say while suggesting I meant the opposite! All these games are completely determined, that's common knowledge and I never said otherwise. And it's not what my claim about Symple and Sygo is about. But I'm bored with its deliberate misrepresentation. Players can either try Symple or Sygo or leave it. Opinions won't make them different games.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Jun 9th, 2011, 9:55am

on 06/09/11 at 06:12:34, christianF wrote:
I don't mind being attacked in person all that much (not that I see the point of it), but criticizing games should be done in a fair spirit, and it should at least make some sense.

Criticizing people should be done in a fair manner, and it should make some sense.

The way this was stated made me think that the writer thought, in some small way, that games deserved more respect than people.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2011, 9:56am

on 06/09/11 at 06:12:34, christianF wrote:
What's taken out is: "I'm not talking about "the truth", and the reply is "That much is clear", referring to a whole different meaning of the word.

That's why it was obviously a joke, Christian.  It's called irony.  Could you possibly be more sensitive?


on 06/09/11 at 06:12:34, christianF wrote:
I'm bored with [Sygo's] deliberate misrepresentation.

So stop deliberately misrepresenting Sygo!  Good Gordon!  Nobody's misrepresenting Sygo more than you!  First we have your outlandish claim that "Sygo converges to 50/50 in the long run."  Logic torpedo: If your claim is true in principal, then it should be true for all board sizes, including tiny boards, which it clearly is not.  You ran back to the previously unbearable Arimaa forum to duck said logic torpedo in rec.games.abstract.  Now that you're here, you're pretending not to notice that the logic torpedo has followed you.  It's still there, Christian!

Next on the Sygo ridiculous claim list is the notion that...

"Hex, without the pie rule, is a proven win for the first player. ...
What makes Symple different is that you can't even argue one way or the other"

Hogwash.  Hex was not solved, except for on a handful of small boards.  There's a difficult, complex, theoretical proof that Hex is a first player win, but nowhere in that proof is any indication of how one goes about winning.  Your argument that Sygo is actually impervious to argument is beyond absurd.  It's asinine!

This is like Cameron Browne fantasizing about human designed games vs computer designed games, as though humans had nothing to do with the computers designing games.  It's psuedo-science and it's offensive.

Christian: "Oh no, that's not what I said.  You're putting words in my mouth."

Well, why don't you start making sense, Christian.  Then your "words" won't be so subject to misinterpretation.  Sygo has no mystical properties that other games such as Hex don't have.

As long as you continue to expound the magical properties of Sygo, logic torpedoes will continue to be fired.  If not here, then in Tidbits, and I don't think you want that.  Nobody likes Tidbits.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2011, 11:51am

on 06/09/11 at 09:55:39, ocmiente wrote:
Criticizing people should be done in a fair manner, and it should make some sense.

The way this was stated made me think that the writer thought, in some small way, that games deserved more respect than people.
I didn't mean to imply that I feel people don't deserve respect. I just feel that criticizing games should be done in a fair spirit. That doesn't mean other actvities should not. Neither does it mean I put games before people. If someone states that he or she cares about art, music, literature or math, would you voice the same suspicion?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2011, 12:16pm

on 06/09/11 at 09:56:55, MarkSteere wrote:
Christian:"Hex, without the pie rule, is a proven win for the first player.
...
What makes Symple different is that you can't even argue one way or the other"


Hogwash. Hex was not solved, except for on a handful of small boards. There's a difficult, complex, theoretical proof that Hex is a first player win, but nowhere in that proof is any indication of how one goes about winning.
Could it be any clearer? Where did I say Hex was solved? I said it was proved to be a first player win. You say "Hogwash. There's a difficult, complex, theoretical proof that Hex is a first player win".
Notice anything? READ what you reply to.
(P.S. It's not all that difficult either, but non-constructive, and yes, I know who gave it).

Concerning the second quote, numerous times did I say that Symple isn't different from any finite abstract perfect-information zero-sum game in this respect:

Quote:
Symple is a finite abstract perfect-information zero-sum game and as such completely determined. That means that the truth - in this case a white win or a black win - is locked in the gametree.

About Symple (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple)

That these games are proved to be completely determined doesn't mean anything for actual play - that's another thing I've referred to many times. Please stop enlightening me with common knowledge.

In Hex you can prove the result, which doesn't mean you can use the proof to achieve a win. Some games allow you to argue towards a result without anything that can be proved. I can argue Draughts is most likely a determined draw. Or that Chess most likely is not a determined Black win.
In Symple and Sygo - with the balancing mechanism in effect - I say you can't, but if you can, please do.

It's not about a mathematical proof, it's about a high resolution balancing mechanism. That in itself is the means of convergence - just like a swap is intended to seek the middle, even if 'the middle' doesn't exist in a game-theoretical sense.
It's the sheer number of positions to consider that it generates (effectively all positions before a first growing move, far more than the 20+ million of a 3-stone swap in hex19) that make that the divergence that would eventually result from exploring the intricacies of one such position, in deep over a long period of time, will never come to be. That's what I'm saying, NOT that Symple and Sygo are different in any fundamental way.

There will be another 'refutation', no doubt. My problem is that I don't say what I'm saying. ::)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by ocmiente on Jun 9th, 2011, 1:16pm

on 06/09/11 at 11:51:25, christianF wrote:
... If someone states that he or she cares about art, music, literature or math, would you voice the same suspicion?


I would have the same concern if someone stated that someone's illogical behavior toward their person was less concerning than someone's illogical behavior toward any other inanimate entity.  

I'm struggling with this thread in general.  While I appreciate your contributions, there appears to be some unwritten social rule similar to one of the Bush doctrine's "prongs" that occurs to me, i.e.:  
"Make no distinction between trolls and the people that respond to them--and hold both to account."  

I suspect that's partially what SpeedRazor had in mind, maybe... possibly... who knows.    He has more common sense than I do in not posting to this thread in a while :)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2011, 1:17pm

on 06/09/11 at 12:16:57, christianF wrote:
Where did I say Hex was solved?

I never said you did. Stop putting words in my mouth. What you did say is that reasoning can't even be applied to the question of whether or not Sygo is a first player win. And I quote, "You can't even argue one way or the other."  A magical logic shield, lol  What next??

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2011, 1:28pm

on 06/09/11 at 13:16:46, ocmiente wrote:
I suspect that's partially what SpeedRazor had in mind, maybe... possibly... who knows.    He has more common sense than I do in not posting to this thread in a while :)
Yes, I can relate to that. It's a pity though.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 9th, 2011, 2:14pm

on 06/09/11 at 12:16:57, christianF wrote:
Where did I say Hex was solved?



on 06/09/11 at 13:17:48, MarkSteere wrote:
I never said you did. Stop putting words in my mouth.
Yes, bad habit isn't it? :P


on 06/09/11 at 09:56:55, MarkSteere wrote:
Hex was not solved, except for on a handful of small boards.
So this bold reply wasn't meant to 'correct' me on this point?  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2011, 2:50pm

on 06/09/11 at 13:16:46, ocmiente wrote:
He has more common sense than I do

That much??  :D

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 9th, 2011, 2:56pm

on 06/09/11 at 13:28:48, christianF wrote:
Ocmiente wrote: "He has more common sense than I do in not posting to this thread in a while"

Yes, I can relate to that. It's a pity though.

Is it really a pity?  Your "guest" thread has already bloated to proportions that dwarf the host forum.  You remember - the Arimaa forum?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by omar on Jun 9th, 2011, 5:42pm

Quote:
Christian and Nanojester are barely capable of formulating a sentence, never mind a coherent logical premise.


Mark, I'm afraid I have to ask you to stop posting here. I have warned you before and you have again violated the posting guidelines. So please refrain from posting. Thanks.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Sconibulus on Jun 9th, 2011, 11:20pm
In response to the initial premise, I'll admit that while I can't claim to have played any piece-placement games skillfully, it does seem that black has an advantage in these games, because of the balancing mechanism in question. Basically, it feels to me as if Black has a move in hand, and loses far less from exercising his option early as compared to White, because he still gets a growth step.

Basically, it seems that White's window of success on growth-starting is much smaller than Black's, while Black also has the minor advantage of being able to be in a reactionary position in the early placement stage (assuming Black exercises the limits on the growth-starting window in order to gain the first move on White as well)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 10th, 2011, 7:01am

on 06/09/11 at 23:20:45, Sconibulus wrote:
In response to the initial premise, I'll admit that while I can't claim to have played any piece-placement games skillfully, it does seem that black has an advantage in these games, because of the balancing mechanism in question. Basically, it feels to me as if Black has a move in hand, and loses far less from exercising his option early as compared to White, because he still gets a growth step.

Basically, it seems that White's window of success on growth-starting is much smaller than Black's, while Black also has the minor advantage of being able to be in a reactionary position in the early placement stage (assuming Black exercises the limits on the growth-starting window in order to gain the first move on White as well)
That's an interesting question to which I have no immediate answer. In my games against Rendong You the button is pushed very early sometimes (the current one (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1306162773.html) is an example) but there's not much to go on yet for at least two reasons:

1. The complexity of the game itself.
2. Tactical threats early on, mainly threats to isolate and kill a particular stone or the group it is intended to form.

The first requires getting to grips, strategically, with the fast growing rate and the tactical implications. Any mistakes made may have a greater impact than the value at stake in terms of the balancing mechanism. There are as yet no strong players.
The second one may force you to grow in a local conflict whereas you'd rather place a single stone in view of the overall position. The example below has moved beyond Black's prerogative because he cashed in on the second move, but it may wel happen very early on, before growth has taken place.  

In the current game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1306162773.html) my opponent initiates a local conflict with 7. ... E8. Two moves on I felt compelled to grow for defensive reasons, and my opponent did not follow suit. My stones are fairly densely packed in the bottom left section and may yet be forced to connect (depriving me of growing options).
By placement he now has 9 groups, while I have 8. In the local conflict things look save, so I felt I should follow suit this time with placement (10. D12 that's as far as it stood when I posted this).

The game also illustrates that it isn't simply a 'placement stage' and a 'growing stage'.

Symple has no capture and suffers from these tactical disruptions to a lesser degree. But Sygo is more fun :) .

I'll ponder your remarks carefully. I don't know if you have a point, but that may very well be. I'll have to sleep on it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 11th, 2011, 3:13pm

on 06/09/11 at 23:20:45, Sconibulus wrote:
In response to the initial premise, I'll admit that while I can't claim to have played any piece-placement games skillfully, it does seem that black has an advantage in these games, because of the balancing mechanism in question. Basically, it feels to me as if Black has a move in hand, and loses far less from exercising his option early as compared to White, because he still gets a growth step.

Basically, it seems that White's window of success on growth-starting is much smaller than Black's, while Black also has the minor advantage of being able to be in a reactionary position in the early placement stage (assuming Black exercises the limits on the growth-starting window in order to gain the first move on White as well)

I've slept on it and I fear I don't see matters any different than before.

For arguments sake, let's assume Sygo's move order advantage mirrors the one of Go, say six points.

'Pushing the button' means for white that he uses a turn to grow his groups instead of placing a single stone, for black that he uses a turn to grow his groups and place a single stone.

In a more or less regular opening position, after five moves each, both would probably have claimed influence in corners and along sides, but barring tactical involvement, stones would still be wide apart.
In such a position, life and death being no issue yet, what is a single stone worth, as opposed to a 2-stone group? One point for the extra stone for sure. But there's no difference in the rate of growth, so the rest is 'influence'.
I don't know, but for argument's sake let's say that's worth one point too. So a 2-group in such a position would be worth two points more than a single stone.

Here's a table (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/sygo/615) with subsequent positions in terms of numbers and some commentary.

I'm not entirely sure of the value of the second parameter (i.e. "a 2-group in such a position would be worth two points more than a single stone"), but the general idea is clear and I don't see any difference in the 'size' of the window wherein to push the button, for white or black, nor in the weight of the decision. I also fail to see a 'reactionary position' that would work in black's favor.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 18th, 2011, 7:38am

on 06/10/11 at 07:01:09, christianF wrote:
In the current game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1306162773.html) my opponent initiates a local conflict with 7. ... E8. Two moves on I felt compelled to grow for defensive reasons, and my opponent did not follow suit. My stones are fairly densely packed in the bottom left section and may yet be forced to connect (depriving me of growing options).
By placement he now has 9 groups, while I have 8. In the local conflict things look save, so I felt I should follow suit this time with placement (10. D12 that's as far as it stood when I posted this).

The game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1306162773.html) ended after white-21 by resignation. My opponent lost a local battle after the cut-off of the black stones at E8 and E11 and secured not quite enough territory in return.

At white-19 I start a new group bottom right and black doesn't reply immediately, but even now I'm not sure it lives. You can't create eye-space by capture in Sygo. Maybe I could have gotten some life in it with one eye, supported by a seki situation around a black attacker, but black would lose (by a small margin) even if he kills it, so my opponent thought the best of it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 21st, 2011, 8:04am
For those interested in combinatorial games like Clobber (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clobber) and Konane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konane), especially from a programming point of view, here's an interesting development regarding Grabber (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/grabber-578).
Greg Schmidt of The Axiom Universal Game System Project (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/axiom) wrote this:


Quote:
Hi Christian,

I've had a little bit of time recently to revisit Grabber.  I've searched high and low looking for some issue in the programming that's creating a bias for blue and I just can't find any problems. Of course that doesn't prove that there still isn't an issue.

I now suspect that there is a strong 2nd player bias on the 6x6 grid. Here's why I say that:

1) I created the next smaller even sided version, the 4x4 (with 2 pieces, rather than 4 being removed at start of game). Axiom can solve this game. It is a guaranteed win for blue.

2) I don't believe Axiom is capable of solving the 6x6, however if I begin by first manually playing the four corners (which gives neither player an advantage), after exploring roughly half a billion positions, Axiom finds a guaranteed win for blue in 19 moves (see attached image).  

http://i55.tinypic.com/30mll35.png

I consider this to be an important result.

A few more less important observations:
a) Based on further experiments with the 6x6 where I have performed partial runs and watched the score, blue seems to take a fairly early lead and that appears largely independent of the first four moves.

b) I created a 5x5 with a vacant square in the center so that there is an equal number of red and blue pieces. Like the 4x4, only 2 pieces are removed at the start of the game although they can't be removed in a purely "balanced" sort of way. Axiom solves this game and it's a guaranteed win for red. This makes me wonder if there is some sort of parity based on even/odd board size.
Conjecture: Even size boards are a win for blue, odd sized boards are a win for red. I'm out on a limb here with that conjecture, but it seems intuitively plausable to me given these results and given that Grabber is a combinatorial game.

Once again, the 6x6 results do show a guaranteed 2nd player win for blue.

-- Greg


Grabber is basically, but not entirely, 'Konane columnified'. Disregarding boardsize and 'columnification', the differences are:

1) In Konane both players remove one man initially and under rather strict conditions, in Grabber both remove two men initially.
2) Multiple capture in Konane is restricted to the direction of the first capture. In Grabber it is not.

I mention this in case comparisons are possible. I'm not up to date in game theoretical issues regarding move order advantage in Clobber or Konane, nor of the current state of programs. Here's what I answered for a first impression (between brackets) and Greg's reply:


Quote:
[That's all very surprising indeed, not to mention counterintuitive! I'll have to let it sink in a bit, but at first glance it might even sprout additional interest in the game because this is a somewhat peculiar behaviour, isn't it?]

I think so too.

[Makes you wonder if there's an algorithm of some sorts, something NIM-like.]

Yes, I had a similiar thought, although it might be difficult to divine out by back engineering these results.

[Clobber presumably does not have this issue (or we'd have heard of it) and I don't know of any Konane programs. It would be nice to publish these results in our site at some point.]

I do wonder how many games (outside the mainstream) undergo deeper analysis. Who knows, there could be a few surprises out there waiting to be discovered? Also, I try not to draw too many conclusions from Axiom's game play because it is heuristically based. However, when it is able to solve a game, I do consider that to be a significant result.


I've asked Greg to run 4x4 tests removing two men each initially, to see if anything changes in the move order advantage.
For the same reason I've asked to run a few 6x6 tests with one man each removed. I'll keep you posted.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 21st, 2011, 1:20pm

on 06/21/11 at 08:04:11, christianF wrote:
For the same reason I've asked to run a few 6x6 tests with one man each removed.

Tweaking a combinatorial or combinatorial style game for first move advantage is like adding a fourth line to a haiku.  I think it subtracts more than it adds.  Of course it's your game and you can do whatever you want.  Just my outlook on the general topic.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 21st, 2011, 2:56pm
To get things in perspective, I've never considered Grabber as more than a combinatorial quickie.

It is a rather inconsequential game that now appears to reveal a clear bias, for no immediately apparent reason. For a game that's an interesting property, worthy of investigation.

As Greg pointed out, odd/even boardsize seems to reverse the move order advantage.
The test with 2/4 men removal are to see if the advantage stays the same or reverses. I presume the former, but then, I presumed there wouldn't be much of a move order advantage to begin with. And that was a wrong assumption too. In other words, I've got no clue. That's the interesting thing. Where does the advantage 'reside'? Is there something like a NIM-like algorithm possible?

P.S. Does anybody know why Clobber is played on a 5x6 board? Did it perhaps have a similar issue?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 21st, 2011, 3:21pm

on 06/21/11 at 14:56:18, christianF wrote:
To get things in perspective, I've never considered Grabber as more than a combinatorial quickie.

It is a rather inconsequential game that now appears to reveal a clear bias, for no immediately apparent reason.

A "combinatorial quickie" is more likely to have a problem with bias than not.  It's the simplicity, and it's also the size.  Combinatorials are expected to be small.  A 5x6 board with Go stones is typical.  I.e. very small, though there's no reason a scalable combinatorial can't be made larger - something that would probably, but not certainly, clear up the problem in this case.

A program's measure of move order advantage is also a measure of the program's strength.  Without knowing that, the stated advantage is meaningless.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 21st, 2011, 3:40pm

on 06/21/11 at 15:21:47, MarkSteere wrote:
A program's measure of move order advantage is also a measure of the program's strength.  Without knowing that, the stated advantage is meaningless.

...especially with a combinatorial, which would typically be a lot easier for a computer to evaluate than a person.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by lightvector on Jun 21st, 2011, 4:08pm

on 06/21/11 at 14:56:18, christianF wrote:
To get things in perspective, I've never considered Grabber as more than a combinatorial quickie.

It is a rather inconsequential game that now appears to reveal a clear bias, for no immediately apparent reason. For a game that's an interesting property, worthy of investigation.

As Greg pointed out, odd/even boardsize seems to reverse the move order advantage.
The test with 2/4 men removal are to see if the advantage stays the same or reverses. I presume the former, but then, I presumed there wouldn't be much of a move order advantage to begin with. And that was a wrong assumption too. In other words, I've got no clue. That's the interesting thing. Where does the advantage 'reside'? Is there something like a NIM-like algorithm possible?

P.S. Does anybody know why Clobber is played on a 5x6 board? Did it perhaps have a similar issue?


If you're really looking to see if there's a parity issue going on, it might also be interesting to examine 4x5, 5x6, and 5x7.

Who wins on 3x3, 3x4, and 3x5?




Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 21st, 2011, 4:19pm

on 06/21/11 at 16:08:01, lightvector wrote:
If you're really looking to see if there's a parity issue going on, it might also be interesting to examine 4x5, 5x6, and 5x7.

Who wins on 3x3, 3x4, and 3x5?
I've just asked Greg to run 4x5 because Axiom should be able to solve it indeed.

I'm just as curious as you are - with even for blue and odd for red, where to go on 4x5 I wonder ...

Edit: The behaviour seems to be invariable with regard to the number of men that are removed initially (i.e. 2 or 4):

Quote:
Can you run a few 6x6 tests with 2 men removed at the start instead of 4?]

Yes, still seeing a strong blue advantage which will likely turn out to be a guaranteed win. (see attached image).

http://i54.tinypic.com/fe2lop.png

[You did that 4x4 - what does 4x4 do with 4 men removed? If that's a blue win too it would suggest some invariability regarding the number of a priori removals.]

Same behavior, a guaranteed win for blue with 4 men removed.


Greg came with more interesting info that I'll have to look through first.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 25th, 2011, 7:12am
Grabber 4x5 turns out to be a blue win regardless whether 2 or 4 men are removed initially. That in itself is no surprise - it's always one or the other.

The real surprise is the a-symmetry in the first place. 5x5 is a white win and 6x6 is a blue win (regardless of the number of initial removals). Axiom 'confirms' so much by already leaning one way or the other at a very modest ply depth.

This suggests that a game on a 5x6 board is tricky either way. However, I lose against Axiom 6x6 red or blue so instead of considering the human factor - how many people play Clobber or  Konane anyway, for that matter - I'd rather understand where the a-symmetry resides in the first place.

Slow to understand as I am, I need tables. I love tables. So I've started to categorize the truth of small 2nx1 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/617), and I'll follow up with nx2 boards.
Just to see what's happening.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by Sconibulus on Jun 25th, 2011, 1:12pm
Isn't it likely that the player with the advantage varies based on the number of squares on the board, whether that number is even or odd? if this is right, 4xanything should be a win for blue, and 3x5, 3x3, 5x5 should be a win for red. (Axiom is capable of solving the game up to this size I think?)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 25th, 2011, 1:54pm

on 06/25/11 at 07:12:26, christianF wrote:
The real surprise is the a-symmetry in the first place. 5x5 is a white win and 6x6 is a blue win.

It's not a surprise to me.  I've long known of this effect which I call Nim-superposition.  In crude, generic, and non-scientific terms, a combinatorial game that ends when someone doesn't have a move is only big enough for n number of turns (for a given board size).  If n is odd, the game is a win for Player 1.  If n is even, it's a win for Player 2.


on 06/25/11 at 07:12:26, christianF wrote:
This suggests that a game on a 5x6 board is tricky either way.

No, Christian, this does not suggest anything of the sort.  As in Nim, every number is a win for Player 1 or a win for Player 2, with none of the numbers being "tricky either way".

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 25th, 2011, 1:56pm

on 06/25/11 at 13:12:38, Sconibulus wrote:
Isn't it likely that the player with the advantage varies based on the number of squares on the board, whether that number is even or odd? if this is right, 4xanything should be a win for blue, and 3x5, 3x3, 5x5 should be a win for red. (Axiom is capable of solving the game up to this size I think?)
Quite possible, and 4x5 is a blue win indeed. Except for 5x6 (most likely a blue win to) Axiom has solved everything up to and including 6x6. It would be nice if it were indeed that simple, and if it is there might be some clever proof of it.

What's interesting is that the program 'leans' towards the winning side quite early, while still at a modest ply-depth. If 5x6 and 6x7 show this behaviour too, it would mean you're most probably right.

There's one problem with the conjecture: 5x5 is a red win while the centersquare is blocked, so the number of squares was even, even then.


P.S. Arty was in the process of implementing Grabber at iGGC. I've asked him to postpone that because of the extend of the move order advantage. Interesting as that may be in itself, I think there are better alternatives for iGGC.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 25th, 2011, 2:33pm

on 06/25/11 at 13:56:49, christianF wrote:
P.S. Arty was in the process of implementing Grabber at iGGC. I've asked him to postpone that because of the extend of the move order advantage.

What "extent"?  Just because a program wrung out some small boards?  I'm sure Clobber would be just as easy to wring out at the same sizes, but people still manage to enjoy Clobber somehow.

Just program it with a range of board sizes, offering a trade-off between timeliness and move order advantage.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 26th, 2011, 12:26pm
Move order advantage in Grabber seems firmly embedded in small boards and my conjecture is that it will stay that way.

On 2nx1 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/617) and nx2 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/618) the game is definitely 'feeling blue'.

Of course the game is flexibly scalable so at a sufficiently large scale humans meet the limits of their powers of calculation, yet I feel the a-symmetry is too much of a bad thing.

Barring the discovery of a format where things even out in terms of the numbers of won/lost positions - and that's not likely, given the picture emerging from small boards - I feel Grabber is flawed.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 26th, 2011, 2:34pm

on 06/26/11 at 12:26:06, christianF wrote:
I feel Grabber is flawed.

It's your call.  An overwhelming first move advantage certainly ruins a game.  At first I thought you were just buying into the program data, but I now sense it's more than that.  As you said, Grabber was only a "quicky combinatorial" so no great loss. 

Monkey Queen (with pie) may have a slight second move advantage, though the data is insufficient to make a determination. Player 1 W/L/D= 41/45/0 at Game Site X. 

Monkey Queen rule sheet:
  http://www.marksteeregames.com/Monkey_Queen_rules.html

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 27th, 2011, 12:50pm

on 06/26/11 at 12:26:06, christianF wrote:
Move order advantage in Grabber seems firmly embedded in small boards

Move order advantage is firmly embedded in all abstract games if the board is small enough.  Rive can get away with small boards because of its massive stone recycling, e.g. 5x3x3 (29 cells).  But even Rive has its limits. 

Rive rule sheet:
  http://www.marksteeregames.com/Rive_rules.pdf


on 06/26/11 at 12:26:06, christianF wrote:
Of course the game is flexibly scalable so at a sufficiently large scale humans meet the limits of their powers of calculation, yet I feel the a-symmetry is too much of a bad thing.

The "asymmetry" you're referring to is more of a normal thing than a bad thing. Possibly even a good thing. 

I hate to see a designer bowled over by program data.  And I don't even think Greg was trying to bowl you over.  You're bowling yourself over at his expense.  I love Greg. He's done an outstanding job of programming a bunch of my games. 

MSG downloads:
  http://www.marksteeregames.com/MSG_downloads.html

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 27th, 2011, 3:24pm
It's like, "I found a ten dollar bill but I don't like it because it smells like money."  You designed a combinatorial that behaves like a combinatorial.  What's the problem?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 28th, 2011, 10:39am
Grabber is a given game, which landed out of nowhere as "Konane columnified" on my table during coffee (of course), so I don't complain. But I consider it flawed. Of the possible initial positions on a 4x3 board, three quarters is a win for the second player. I feel this shadow is a long one, falling over even sized nxn boards as well as nx(n+1) boards (and actually over all sizes, it seems).

Not that I want to discourage players: Greg's Axiom program is quite stong enough to beat me regardless of color, and at MindSports we'll keep it in the Pit just the same, but with the addition of these pages and a short commentary regarding its large move order advantage.

2nx1 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/617)
nx2 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/618)
nx3 boards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/619)

I feel it's not much of a signboard though, and I've asked Arty to consider an alternative for iGGC.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 28th, 2011, 12:53pm

on 06/28/11 at 10:39:33, christianF wrote:
I consider [Grabber] flawed.

I haven't seen anything that supports that claim.


on 06/28/11 at 10:39:33, christianF wrote:
Of the possible initial positions on a 4x3 board, three quarters is a win for the second player.

1. 4x3 is teensy.  Checkers, which is too small, has 32 squares - a lot more than 12.  Of course Grabber has the third dimension, but stacking into that space doesn't create enough extra game tree to compensate for the teensy 4x3.
2. At least 3/4 of the first moves in Hex are wins for Player 1 - at any board size.  Hence the pie rule.  No biggy.


on 06/28/11 at 10:39:33, christianF wrote:
I feel this shadow is a long one...

One day you're promoting magical games and the next you're withdrawing a seemingly normal game from iggc development because of a perceived "long shadow".  You gotta get centered.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 28th, 2011, 1:49pm

on 06/28/11 at 12:53:52, MarkSteere wrote:
You gotta get centered.

You're probably not smoking enough pot, lol.  sfffffffff.....

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 28th, 2011, 2:26pm

on 06/28/11 at 12:53:52, MarkSteere wrote:
One day you're promoting magical games and the next you're withdrawing a seemingly normal game from iggc development because of a perceived "long shadow". You gotta get centered.

You're trying to shoot an eagle while saving a sparrow - how centered can you get.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 28th, 2011, 3:07pm

on 06/28/11 at 14:26:41, christianF wrote:
You're trying to shoot an eagle

I shot down a magical phoenix, an outlandish claim about a game's behavior, because it was casting a long shadow.

The only negative thing I ever said about Sygo was that its balancing mechanism was an aesthetic Hiroshima.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 28th, 2011, 3:53pm

on 06/28/11 at 15:07:15, MarkSteere wrote:
The only negative thing I ever said about Sygo was that its balancing mechanism was an aesthetic Hiroshima.

...and that it's not my fault if Sygo's a dud, a direct response to you blaming me for Sygo's dudliness.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jun 30th, 2011, 10:49am
For those interested in Sygo, my Taiwanese opponent and I are getting better. In our new game I'm black and I'm cashing my prerogative at move 4 (growing three, placing one). Apart from previous arguments about move 4 being about right, white was trying to isolate the upper left black stone.

Black 4 simultaneously attacks white's last placed stone and white 5 came as a surprise: if I grow to keep d12 alive, I can't create a new group and the I'll be lagging behind. So I felt forced to placement of a single, while dragging the most influence from the undead stone at d12.

Local tactics are thus upsetting the vague division between a 'placement' and a 'growing' stage. To secure his grip on d12 and the upper left side, white decides to grow instead of placing a new single.

I consider d12 a sacrifice and place at g15, securing the upper left corner and taking the lead in the number of groups.

White 7 I feel is not so good. It tries embryonically to wall of the center so 8. ... j10 seemed appropriate.

White and black 8 are both growing moves, to create 'shape and body'

After these security measures, the positions seem save enough for further placements, and black 9 simultaneously attacks the white 2-group below the center.

White 10 aims to connect (often dubious because it takes away growth potential) ... I'm not sure what to do yet.

June 30, and this (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1308962018.html) is where we are.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jun 30th, 2011, 12:39pm

on 06/30/11 at 10:49:13, christianF wrote:
For those interested in Sygo,

The topic was a little fresher last year.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by RonWeasley on Jul 1st, 2011, 10:46am

on 06/28/11 at 15:07:15, MarkSteere wrote:
I shot down a magical phoenix,

No, you didn't.  Fawkes circled Hogwarts after Dumbledore was killed and was not seen again.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 1st, 2011, 12:40pm

on 07/01/11 at 10:46:38, RonWeasley wrote:
No, you didn't.  Fawkes circled Hogwarts after Dumbledore was killed and was not seen again.

Severus Steere, the half-blood inventor, go figure that ;)

Juli 1st: we're five moves onwards (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1308962018.html) and I won a tactical battle for the center, trapping two white groups without connecting my own, keeping up the potential for growth. Consolidation seems the best strategy now, while invasion at the right side ... well maybe at the right time, but I see no immediate need.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 1st, 2011, 1:42pm

on 07/01/11 at 12:40:17, christianF wrote:
Severus Steere, the half-blood inventor,

Phenomenal architecture is my reality. No conjuring necessary, though it must seem like magic to some.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 1st, 2011, 2:53pm

on 07/01/11 at 13:42:32, MarkSteere wrote:
Phenomenal architecture is my reality.
As provided by a sharp lack of intuition and a tight straitjacket of dogmatic restrictions. Uninhabitable at times, but phenomenal by definition. Your reality indeed ;D .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 1st, 2011, 6:40pm

on 07/01/11 at 14:53:53, christianF wrote:
> Phenomenal architecture is my reality.

As provided by a sharp lack of intuition

How can you look at a game like Fractal (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Fractal_rules.pdf) and ever question my architectural intuition?  Abstract game design doesn't get any more intuitive than Fractal, unless it's another MSG (http://www.marksteeregames.com/index.html) game, like Flume (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Flume_Go_rules.pdf).  Sheer architectural intuition.  You'd know that if you had any.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 2nd, 2011, 2:01am
Your journey in intuitive design oddly coincides with the path of endless tweaking. You're like Nick Bentley with Ketchup.  Explain.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 2nd, 2011, 3:46am

on 07/02/11 at 02:01:00, MarkSteere wrote:
Your journey in intuitive design oddly coincides with the path of endless tweaking. You're like Nick Bentley with Ketchup.  Explain.
Apart from there being no need to change any rule in any game of the latest wave so far, Symple and Sygo included *, I should point out that Nick's latest 'tweak' turned Ketchup (http://nickbentley.posterous.com/ketchup-30) into one of the very best games I've seen in a long time. Some ideas clarify themselves in the very process of implementation. You should know that after Monkey Queen. Of course those weren't 'tweaks' because ... well, you made them and "you don't need tweaks".

It was Nick's intuition that told him that something wasn't quite right and it is to his credit that he listened and waited for the game to reveal what it wanted.
That the eventual unfolding of the game's true nature turned out to be a simplification doesn't surprise me at all: if the system is sound, the rule will be there.

Nick also takes into account all the right criteria - not everybody always does.

P.S. Oust, Flume, Atoll, Fractal maybe, all excellent games. I'm not saying your approach doesn't coincide with a good game, every now and then.
But then, Monkey Queen? I feel something isn't quite right.
Cage? I think something is definitely wrong.
Rive? Well to keep it in Harry Potter terms, liquid boredom.
(great architecture though ;) )

P.P.S. My opponent resigned our last Sygo game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1308962018.html) on move 16.


* Come to think of it, Cyclix (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/how-i-invented-games-and-why-not/late-arrivals-a-final-whispers#cyclix) had a minor fix.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 2nd, 2011, 1:48pm

on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
Apart from not having to tweak any game of the latest wave, Symple and Sygo included...

rofl

From the Symple announcement(s):
"The only thing playtesting suggests is to set the parameter '2n' at n=2."

From the Symple rule sheet:
"Values between 4 and 12 would seem to give the most interesting play."

In other words, "What do I know? Go figure it out." lol

Hanniball was a flailing tweakfest, and after all that flailing it's still draw prone.  Haniball already has an 8% draw rate among beginners, which most everyone still is at a total game count of 124, at Game Site X.  This does not bode well for advancing Hanniball players.  


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
Rive? Well to keep it in Harry Potter terms, liquid boredom.

Jeez, I hope it isn't as bad as Grabber, which was suddenly deemed so vile it had to be yanked from Game Site X development.  Or draw graveyard Recyclix (recycled/mutilated Monkey Queen).


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
* Come to think of it, Cyclix had a minor fix.

*Ya' don't say.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 2nd, 2011, 2:21pm

on 07/02/11 at 13:48:29, MarkSteere wrote:
From the Symple announcement(s):
"The only thing playtesting suggests is to set the parameter '2n' at n=2."

From the Symple rule sheet:
"Values between 4 and 12 would seem to give the most interesting play."

In other words, "What do I know? Go figure it out." lol

Making the basic parameter optional gives players a choice in changing the character of the game. A very novel mechanism. But indeed, what do you know.


on 07/02/11 at 13:48:29, MarkSteere wrote:
Hanniball was a flailing tweakfest, and after all that flailing it's still draw prone.  Haniball already has an 8% draw rate among beginners, which most everyone still is at a total game count of 124, at Game Site X. This does not bode well for advancing Hanniball players.

Yes, quite right, Hanniball and YvY weren't part of the latest wave though.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 3rd, 2011, 9:37am
We've put Nick Bentley's game Ketchup (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/ketchup-620) in the Pit at mindsports. There's no applet yet because we've developed a substantial pipeline filled with competing priorities. But we're working on it.

P.S. Sometimes people summarize ideas accurately and concisely, like J. Mark Thompson in his 'Defining the Abstract' (http://www.thegamesjournal.com/articles/DefiningtheAbstract.shtml). I'm a great admirer of that capability, that's why I want to emphazise Nick's summary of his approach of Ketchup:

Quote:
"I was trying to design a game which is short, intuitive, unintimidating, addictive and deep. The difficulty with these criteria is that the last one is often in conflict with the first four. Deep games tend to be hard to figure out, and that quality can make them intimidating and not-addictive. But Ketchup avoids that trade-off better than most of my other games."

In the process he mentions a couple of drawbacks that J. Mark Thompson fails to mention, not so much of "depth" itself, but of the way it may present itself to a novice. I can well remember my first encounter with Go, in the late sixties (the stone age in terms of spreading a game). 'Hard to figure out' and 'intimidating' certainly came to mind.

I agree with Nick that Ketchup stikes a fine balance between depth (as yet unmeasured, here's where a good intuition may be required) and accessibility.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 6th, 2011, 8:00am
A good summary is one thing, a good metaphor is another. In trying to explain the significance of Sygo, please envision the appearance of the first helicopter.

Balancing the basic a-symmetry of Sygo's first player advantage by an a-symmetry that runs counter to it, and that is embedded in (and thus provided by) the mechanism itself, is like the tail rotor of a helicopter. Not only is the flight mechanism different (that is: the move protocol), but the same mechanism is used to balance the inherent deviation.

Apart from its working perfectly, I find that aesthetically pleasing.

Sygo is fast, so a new game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1309622648.html) between RY and me is well underway. Note that RY pushes the button on his second move, which I consider too early.

However, you can't create eyespace by capture in Sygo, so you generally need more 'body' to live. RY's invasion of the upper side, combined with the black stone on P12, forced me to invest in defensive placements in both upper corners. Now his center influence looks promising. My last move was 7. G8, strengthening the left side and eyeing the center.

Additional: Black's 8. ... M15 starts a local tactical battle in which I had to grow and attack it, or K14 would be lost. Black cannot afford placement of a single stone either so here we have a full-fledged growing battle.

Additional: Black 11 is a single placement again. Now white, in order to capture the hooked 3-group, cannot grow, because black then could connect with h14 (growing one group) and i14 (growing the other). That would be fairly fatal. So must white play 12. H14 himself.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 8th, 2011, 1:40am
After 17 turns in our latest game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1309622648.html), the cake was divided, and white is a couple of points behind. Bummer.

However, black's top group surrounds a 3x5 area. Certainly enough to get one eye, but if I can construct a seki in the other, I might just have enough to win.

Maybe black can capture the invading stone(s) while keeping enough eyespace, but it's worth a try, hence 18. I18.

Edit: On his 17th move, black should not have connected at H16, but instead should have grown both groups separately, for instance at G18 and J17, to create eyespace. As it is he has a bad shape for eyespace and only one growing option.

You can't get eyespace by capture, so building 1-point eyes is important. Eyes consisting of more points may be prone to 'seki-invasion'. Consider a group with a 1-point eye and a 2-point eye, then the latter can be invaded by the opponent. His stone cannot be captured, nor can it capture, so the opponent grabs one point and spoils two (because the vacant point in the seki is neutral). That's the general idea behind seki invasions.

So considering the score this should be interesting.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 9th, 2011, 3:02am
game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1309622648.html)
With 19. ... J18 Black threatens an eye at K19 with 20. ... J19.
If white moves 20. J19 himself, black can make a 'seki-eye' by moving 20. ... I17, because a white move at K17 would then be suicidal. Given that the remaining part of the area would now bring white no more than a seki too, white decided to allow the eye at K19 by growing both white stones. Now, if white can turn the remaining area into a seki, which appears possible (but I'm not a very good player and this is uncharted territory), he does so with at least an extra white stone. Immediate capture of the two white stones would prevent black from completing the eye, and would thus probably lose.

The growing move also  allowed white to strengthen his 'shape' elsewhere, in particular in the top right section, to prevent invasion (whether it would actually have a chance of success or not - it's uncharted territory so I'd rather be on the safe side).

Additional: after white 21, black needs both G18 and H17 to make a second eye, so white's invasion succeeded. The seki points are just enough to tip the scales.

P.S. Luis Bolaños Mures, Luigi at RGA, directed me to a page at Sensei's Library about the othellonian method of capture in Go (http://senseis.xmp.net/?ReversiGo), its advantages and problems.

The main problem is that you can't create eyespace by capture, that's why Luis' own new variant Goncrete (http://www.lifein19x19.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=45&t=4182) introduces a simple but somewhat artificial mechanism to remedy that.

That in itself isn't new either: othellonian Go variants like Medusa (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/medusa-540) and Lotus (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/lotus-538) also employ an artificial 'life insurance'.

Sygo escapes the need for anything artificial because a player can combine several moves in one turn to create eyeshape, inherently reducing the problem to proportions that fit the general strategy and tactics.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 9th, 2011, 11:13am
game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1309622648.html)
Unfortunately for white the position had a detail I had overseen: black's access to H19, making G19 his second eye. So white 22 is a formal move of recognition, and sad as it is to lose the game, the tactics were hopefully instructive.

As usual I got only myself to blame. Instead of looking better I assumed I had it figured out, and I hadn't.
I could have saved the seki by not connecting on move 21 (I17), but moving at G18 instead, at the risk of losing the two stones at J/K17.

Greed blinds, I feel like Dumb & Dumber all in one :P .

Yet  a nice beginner's game, fast and pretty clear cut in the strategic phase, where black did obviously better. Then he made a mistake at move 18, allowing me to launch a seki invasion, and I blew it at move 21.

-----------

On another note, my opponent surprised me with what I take to be the Taiwanese wiki entry of Congo (http://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%89%9B%E6%9E%9C%E7%9B%B8%E6%A3%8B), a Chess variant made by my son Demian. The game is going on thirty while its inventor is going on thirtyseven.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 10th, 2011, 1:32pm
I've assembled a few thoughts about 'othellonian capture' in Go variants, a kind of provisional overview open to additions, corrections and/or suggestions.

Please have a Go @ it: Othellonian capture in Go variants (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/sygo/621-othellonian).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 11th, 2011, 3:44pm

on 07/03/11 at 09:37:52, christianF wrote:
I agree with Nick that Ketchup stikes a fine balance between depth (as yet unmeasured, here's where a good intuition may be required) and accessibility.

We've seen charaterizations like "a flailing tweakfest" here, but as long as there's a real game to discover, tweaks may be the only way to approach a theme and a mechanism that is reluctant to unveil itself.
I thought Nick's last version of Ketchup (http://nickbentley.posterous.com/ketchup-30) made a pretty neat and balanced game, and so did Nick, judging from the title.
Fortunately there's some wisdom floating around in the abstract games community like "If you find a good move, look for a better one", and that applies to inventing too.

I admire Nick's intuition and the courage to change what "woudn't change anymore".

A slight change of perspective, a simplification actually, brought to light the more organic core of the game, because the right to conditionally move three instead if two stones now doesn't hinge on a dead count anymore, but on a specific action of the opponent.

So I thought I'd mention the final version (no sarcasm implied, I really believe so):
Ketchup 4.0 - I've changed the rules again. This is just stupid. (http://nickbentley.posterous.com/ketchup-40-ive-changed-the-rules-again-this-i)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by SpeedRazor on Jul 12th, 2011, 2:33am
When I saw your post Christian, my first inclination was "No, Ketchup is [finally] perfect!  You can't change the rules, Nick, unless you change the name!"

(Salsa? LoL)

But after reading them, I can't wait to try this variation!  In the Depth vs. Clarity debate, Ketchup was very deep ... but not so clear.  This simple new rule might even that out some.

In the Decisiveness vs. Drama debate - (earlier Christian post) - I didn't like that Ketchup seemed maybe not so balanced here.  Too decisive:  I don't want to drop any stones at all, until I can see the victory.  Think Nim.  This new rule might add some Drama to the game (and time on my clock!)

Also, incidentally, it might be construed that it was not a rule added, but taken away.

"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 12th, 2011, 7:17am

on 07/12/11 at 02:33:56, SpeedRazor wrote:
"Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away."

That's a nice quote and a deep truth. The implication is that there must be something to "take away from" in the first place.

I think Ketchup is as interesting as its process of invention. Some games pop up ready. I won't bore you with examples in my own career, but it is clear that Piet Hein and John Forbes Nash came up with the same Hex because there is only one Hex (for variants, consider the quote).

Other games may be far more reluctant to reveal themselves, either in their spirit or in their mechanics. Few doubt the spirit of Go, but after three milennia or thereabouts, people are still tweaking at its fringes to have it behave properly, even if the players won't.

There are many inventors and they make many mistakes (yours truly not excluded) and consequently there's a lot of tweaking going on.

If a notion of a new game, in terms of a theme and mechanics, leads to a solid core once "there's nothing left to take away", then tweaking may lead to that core.
Or it may not. Star, Superstar, *Star and YvY were all off the mark, and if Benedikt hadn't literally talked me into finding the core of the group penalty theme, Symple would probably not have existed. Note that Symple emerged because I took something away! As did Emergo, for that matter.

If a notion of a new game is wrong, and there's nothing to tweak towards, then you may end up with Frankenstein's monster: all seperate parts and no life of its own.
That's why tweaking has a bad reputation.

Nick's game leaves little doubt about his intuitive notion: he definitely sensed a beautiful new game, a natural organism - only thing was how to capture it, and this has been a reluctant cookie to say the least.

Now that it's all cleaned up and polished, we have a new definition of territory and new mechanics to match, and a beautiful game awaiting indeep investigation.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 13th, 2011, 10:29am
Sygo (http://ppt.cc/jGxW) in the Chinese wiki (courtesy of Dandolo).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 15th, 2011, 6:07am
We've presented Symple as a possible next AI challenge (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/symple/586-about-symple#programming) in terms of game programming, more in particular in terms of Monte-Carlo evaluation and its refinements.
Part of the reason is its branch density, but that's not all, or Medusa (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/medusa-540) could long ago have been presented as such, and Arimaa was also developed with such a feature in mind. But Medusa is a Go variant with an artificial life criterion (natural as it may feel) and is played on a sub-grid of a hexhex board that does not particularly stand out for clarity. And Arimaa isn't a uniform mechanism, which is perfectly justifyable, but not what I have in mind concerning the 'human versus computer' issue. I prefer uniform games along the lines of Go, Hex, or Havannah, to name a few.

Symple and Sygo both comply, but for the reasons mentioned below I prefer Sygo for humans and Symple for bots. Here's the part we added to 'About Symple'. There's also a reference on our homepage (mindsports.nl).

Quote:
Is Symple a programmable?
Without Symple's move protocol the game would probably fall into the same category as Go, Hex or Havannah, to name a few. The Monte-Carlo method and its refinements would provide a firm handle, as they do in the games mentioned. However, the Symple move protocol brings with it two new obstacles:

- The choice between placing a single stone and growing all groups does not seem to align smoothly with a search based on random play-outs.

- The branch density isn't of this world.

The setting of the parameter 'P' would seem to be less of an obstacle since it affects only the counting procedure and not the nature of a Monte-Carlo evaluation (though it does affect the strategic evaluation by humans).
Despite the exploding branching factor, for human players the strategical and tactical considerations differ little from those in Go, Hex or Havannah.

We promote Symple as 'the next AI challenge' for abstract games, not only because of its branch density and move protocol, but because of its simplicity.
We consider Sygo the better game for humans, but although if it may pose AI problems that equal or even surpass Symple's, Sygo isn't quintessential and neither is its theme 'group penalty', which is the cradle of the move protocol.
AI programmers should be provided with the essence, and Symple is the essence. Moreover, concerning Symple's relative lack of drama, computers don't care about it, and for humans the drama is provided by the programs' progress rather than the outcome of a particular game.

So we think Symple is THE game to consider for the abstract games AI community in the years to come. Because if they can't do it, humans can do something computers can't, and the question "how do humans do it?" remains a mystery.

And no, I'm not offering a bet this time - if at all, I'd be 75 by then and I'd have to play a lot to get to an acceptable level.
And I prefer Sygo.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 17th, 2011, 5:44am

on 07/15/11 at 06:07:00, christianF wrote:
And I prefer Sygo.
Speaking of which, here' a new game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1310558144.html) that I hope to be entertaining.

Edit: That I hope was entertaining. White 17 was a mistake in more than one sense. As a seki invasion it's a three point difference because then too, the black group lives. So its timing would have to be in the endgame - there are more pressing issues to address at this point.
Moreover it wasn't a seki: after M9 and capture at K7, the black group has two solid single eyes.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 17th, 2011, 9:41am
Ed has finished and launched the applet of Nick Bentley's new game Ketchup (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/ketchup-620), so you can play (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section) this intruiging new game at mindsports now.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 17th, 2011, 10:04am
Meanwhile Dandolo's powers of recuperation are admirable, so here's another new game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1310913150.html) of Sygo you may enjoy.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 21st, 2011, 5:20am
I've played my first game of Ketchup (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Ketchup1311006200.html) at mindsports and got crushed. Ed's strategy of keeping a large second group and the option to connect it to his main group was in effect before I fully realized my position was doomed.

This is very much a strategy game, as opposed to a tactical one. Of course I will next time try to apply such naive thoughts on strategy as I now have, as every beginner would, and get crushed again at times, no doubt. Tactics will evolve to a higher resolution as strategies deepen. This game will outgrow hexhex5 pretty soon, as far as I can see. It has an excellent balance between strategy and tactics, feels altogether organic, has a natural simplicity and a nice pace.

It is something of a coincidence that Nick and I more or less simultaneously came up with group-based territorial games that feature a new move protocol with an embedded balancing mechanism. None of them are in need of a pie, if at all able to profit from one.

It must have been in the air.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 21st, 2011, 6:24pm

on 07/21/11 at 05:20:41, christianF wrote:
It must have been in the air.

Or in the gas. 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 23rd, 2011, 2:30pm
Programming Symple
Here's an update. I've had several responses from Havannah programmers and I'll pick one by the programmer of the strongest bot, that provides a good outline.

Quote:
The main thing you need to understand about MCTS/UCT is that the basic algorithm works surprisingly well, but can be vastly improved by adding heuristics and understanding about how the game works.
The key question is not about branching factor or strategy. The key question is can we come up with heuristics that allow it to play a not horrible mainly random game, and does it even matter that the random games are horrible. My guess is that yes, we can come up with decent heuristics that allow semi-sensible move choices without needing to do much search, and that we can learn from those moves such that we can make smarter final move choices.
I think Voronoi Diagrams (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voronoi_diagram) will be a decent heuristic for early move choice, as in which area, if placed, would allow largest growth or cut off the opponent the most. I think some small local patterns will be enough to make sensible growth placements and RAVE will allow learning from these not so good placements to give good final placements. The rest will be found through the normal course of MCTS.

So that's not too pessimistic. Though the branching factor is impressive, it's not a main obstacle since the program can easily break down a sequence of like colored placements and consider them one by one.
Yet, for comparison, playing against the best bots still reveals very good programs playing mediocre games of Havannah.
I should know, because my current rank at LG is #21. How mediocre can you get? But I still beat the bots.

RAVE is a programming language able to handle huge amounts of data in a way that suits the search protocols, but that's about all I understood so far. Any insights are welcome.

Edit - I replied:

On the face of it it would seem easier than for havannah. But I'm not convinced that it indeed is. The bot would break down a multimove to individual moves and take them one by one. Humans consider them in relation, during 'processing'. Moreover the sequential approach takes calculation time for every separate move.

The Voronoi diagrams are directly linked to the value of the group penalty. 'P' determines how much space a new group must have available to grow to (at least) neutral in the final count.

I'll have to read a bit more about RAVE and the role it plays in the programs.

I'm not in any particular hurry. Symple is a game with an innovative move protocol that brings some unusual dilemmas to the world of 'simple games that are hard to program'. A real challenge as far as I can see.

It may well be that Sygo is even harder to program (tactics run a very long trajectory, you can kill a group long before it actually dies) and in that case I think programmers will figure that out themselves eventually, and hopefully find it more challenging than Go.

But Symple is the fundamental representative of its theme. Sygo isn't. And, though chess programmers might disagree, I feel advances in game programming should be made against games that are as 'basic' as possible. The only thing to learn from Chess programming is Chess programming, not how the human mind plays.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 24th, 2011, 4:22pm
Programming Symple
Here's another update. I appreciate that Timo Ewalds, programmer of Castro (a strong Havannah program) has no objection to be cited on the subject. So here he elaborates regarding my answer.


on 07/23/11 at 14:30:25, christianF wrote:
On the face of it it would seem easier than for havannah. But I'm not convinced that it indeed is. The bot would break down a multimove to individual moves and take them one by one. Humans consider them in relation, during 'processing'. Moreover the sequential approach takes calculation time for every separate move.
It is likely quite a bit harder than Havannah due to the large amount of moves. It's not quite clear yet how to represent multi-moves like this. Even still, it is quite doable to make the programs only consider a smaller subset of the moves. The true branching factor is something like the factorial of the number of groups, but if each can be considered independently, that makes it much smaller. Even if neighbouring pairs in the voronoi diagram need to be considered, that's still less than N^2, which is big but not absurdly huge. Go uses quite a few learned patterns to suggest good moves, as most of them are bad at any given time. There isn't a large set of games to learn from here, but I'd guess that patterns will work similarly well in Symple.


Quote:
The Voronoi diagrams are directly linked to the value of the group penalty. 'P' determines how much space a new group must have available to grow to (at least) neutral in the final count.
Exactly. Voronoi diagrams are not that slow to generate, and while they wouldn't be very accurate, they would give a fairly good approximation.
They would show which groups are next to each other and may be worth joining and suggesting which empty areas are big and worth attacking.


Quote:
I'll have to read a bit more about RAVE and the role it plays in the programs.
Basic UCT only uses the outcome of the random game to add experience to the tree. RAVE is based on the realisation that the win is made up of good moves even if they were chosen randomly, and so gives a bonus to making those winning moves earlier in the tree. It is good at finding moves that are good on average and encouraging them to be explored earlier. This works great in Go and Havannah and other games where moves made later on are valid earlier, and the order in which they are made has little relevance. This would not work in Chess for example.


Quote:
I'm not in any particular hurry. Symple is a game with an innovative move protocol that brings some unusual dilemmas to the world of 'simple games that are hard to program'. A real challenge as far as I can see.
As interesting as Symple is, I'm not in any hurry to work on it. I'm currently writing my masters thesis, titled "Playing and Solving Havannah". I've got a few more improvements to Castro I may put live on LG soon too. Once my thesis is done I'm planning on open sourcing Castro so others can read it, learn from it, and improve it. I'd like to encourage more discussion on a solid platform.


Quote:
It may well be that Sygo is even harder to program (tactics run a very long trajectory, you can kill a group long before it actually dies) and in that case I think programmers will figure that out themselves eventually, and hopefully find it more challenging than Go.

But Symple is the fundamental representative of its theme. Sygo isn't. And, though chess programmers might disagree, I feel advances in game programming should be made against games that are as 'basic' as possible. The only thing to learn from Chess programming is Chess programming, not how the human mind plays.
There certainly are many general purpose game playing algorithms, but it'll be a long time before they are good enough to play at human level on these harder games like Go, Havannah, Symple or Sygo. To be fair though, humans don't use a general algorithm either. We also learn game specific strategies, tactics and patterns. There are few programs that continually learn through playing more games the way humans do, but that may come one day too.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 30th, 2011, 8:11am
Here's an endgame position in Pommel (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/622-pommel), a checkers variant invented by Michael Howe of Connecticut, USA in 2010. It has two interesting features found in no other checkers variant, linear capture and compulsory alignment with opposing pieces for captains (kings).

http://i55.tinypic.com/ojp3dz.gif

Several games contributed to Pommel's emergence. Hexdame (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/hexdame/) inspired the general concept of checkers on a hexagonal tesselation. Dameo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/dameo/) inspired linear movement. Linear capture by leaping however, is unique to Pommel. Mark Steere's Mad Bishops (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Mad_Bishops_rules.pdf) inspired the "movement to align" rule for captains, the rule that eventually goes a long way in preventing the game from ending in a draw. But does it go all the way?

The game has no hard finitude: the position shown allows cycles. The question is does it have soft finitude? A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw.

Zillions gives a white (to move) win in 13 in the above position. Zillions doesn't make mistakes in establishing a win (I haven't tried to find it, the info comes from Michael).

So this position gives no clue regarding the general question of soft finitude versus no finitude. What is required to declare a game non-finite is a position where one player can force a draw against the best opposition.

A nice puzzle for those who like puzzles :)

Pommel rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/622-pommel)

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 2:58pm

on 07/30/11 at 08:11:41, christianF wrote:
A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw.

I'm not buying your "soft finitude" nonsense, Christian.  Soft finitude does exist, but only in games with a random element such as Backgammon.  Not in abstract games such as Pommel.  

One could definitely have a non-cooperative draw in an abstract game anointed "softly finite" by the intuitive one, lol, in a manner inexplicably unintuited.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 30th, 2011, 3:50pm

on 07/30/11 at 14:58:49, MarkSteere wrote:
Soft finitude does exist, but only in games with a random element such as Backgammon. Not in abstract games such as Pommel.

Since according to you it exist only in games with a random element, and since it can exist only by defining it, please enlighten us with a definition.

Since it can exist only by defining it, there's nothing to keep me from doing so in the realm of abstract games.

So I gave a definition, if only to clarify the Pommel puzzle. That the position contains cycles makes that players can cooperate to reach a draw (for whatever reason).
Your own Cage has no cycles (how could it) hence the players reach an end regardless of their intentions. I'm not sure if you understand the difference, but let's say you do.

The latter case one could call 'hard finite'. So Pommel is not 'hard finite'. In that case it must be 'non-finite' or 'soft finite'.
'Non-finite' means that there are cycles that can be enforced by one side, like keeping a king in check in Chess.
'Soft finite' means that one side can break any cycle and win.
In Jump Sturdy (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/jumpsturdy-576) a one piece against one piece game is always a win for one side, but both pieces can move sideways, so nothing prevents the players from endlessly doing so.
It's finite, unless both players cooperate to reach a draw. Soft finite by definition ... there's nothing to buy, really.

Claiming not to buy this nonsense shows the genius of showing one's intelligence by hiding it ??? .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 4:44pm

on 07/30/11 at 15:50:37, christianF wrote:
In Jump Sturdy a one piece against one piece game is always a win for one side, but both pieces can move sideways, so nothing prevents the players from endlessly doing so.

Great.  In a game of Checkers with only one checker on the board, the guy with no checkers loses.  You've made a point. 

 It's your burden to you to prove Pommel is soft finite, Christian, not the burden of others to disprove it.  It's your claim.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 30th, 2011, 4:54pm

on 07/30/11 at 16:44:57, MarkSteere wrote:
Great. In a game of Checkers with only one checker on the board, the guy with no checkers loses. You've made a point.

on 07/30/11 at 15:50:37, christianF wrote:
I'm not sure if you understand the difference, but let's say you do.
I was too optimistic there, obviously :(


on 07/30/11 at 16:44:57, MarkSteere wrote:
It's your burden to you to prove Pommel is soft finite, Christian, not the burden of others to disprove it.  It's your claim.
No Mark, it's not my claim, that was the puzzle :)


on 07/30/11 at 08:11:41, christianF wrote:
The game has no hard finitude: the position shown allows cycles. The question is does it have soft finitude?

Or are you dyslexic?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 5:22pm

on 07/30/11 at 16:54:55, christianF wrote:
Showing your genius again?

Who said I was a genius?  I thought Kris Burm was the genius. 


on 07/30/11 at 16:54:55, christianF wrote:
Or are you dyslexic?

Entirely not. 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 30th, 2011, 7:22pm
I am the inventor of Pommel.  Personally, I accept Christian's definition of soft finitude as both precise and useful.  Neither he nor I claim that Pommel has this property, despite Mark's attempt to put such words in our mouths.  I wondered about it to Christian and he wondered about it here.  I think it will be extremely difficult to prove that it does have soft finitude.  Proving that it does not only takes one counterexample, so that will be easier, although it will take analysis or a brute force search to prove that there is no forced win in the counterexample.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 7:31pm

on 07/30/11 at 19:22:57, MHowe wrote:
I am the inventor of Pommel.  
...
I think it will be extremely difficult to prove that it does have soft finitude.  

I rest my case.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 30th, 2011, 7:38pm
No, Mark, your "case" misrepresented the issue in the first place.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 8:08pm

on 07/30/11 at 19:38:03, MHowe wrote:
No, Mark, your "case" misrepresented the issue in the first place.

lol, Leave some bait for Christian.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 30th, 2011, 8:26pm
Baiting is not my game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 30th, 2011, 9:01pm

on 07/30/11 at 20:26:12, MHowe wrote:
Baiting is not my game.

I'm not asking you to leave new bait, Mike.  Just stop eating what's there.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 30th, 2011, 10:30pm
Now that was pretty funny.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 12:18am

on 07/30/11 at 22:30:03, MHowe wrote:
Now that was pretty funny.

:D  I may have been a tad hasty reading and responding to Christian's post.  Being right all the time has made me complacent.  Christian has accused me so many times of "misrepresenting" unspecified things, that if I've now finally, at long last, actually misrepresented something, I don't care.

That being said, and getting back to the subject, I love Christian's definition of soft finitude.  I think it applies perfectly to a wide variety of gambling games.  Trouble is, I've never seen an abstract game fitting the description.

Name one abstract game that has soft finitude.  And I don't mean a trivialized non-game with two pieces on the board.  If you can (truthfully and convincingly) do that, I'll stfu (on this particular topic).

Let's let Christian field this one, Mike.  With your phenomenal mastery of logical debate, and I mean that in all sincerity, you might convince me of something illogical.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by lightvector on Jul 31st, 2011, 2:09am
If by "any one player can break a cycle and win" we mean instead that "any cycle can be broken by at least one player and still win" (depending on the game, one may need a further qualification that the cycle in question is relevant to optimal play from the opening position), then a number classic games have soft finitude. To give a few examples...

5x5 go with only simple ko prohibition (no long cycle or "superko" prohibition)  is one such game. Both players may cooperate to produce longer cycles of captures and recaptures, but the optimal lines of play do not depend on any long cycles. I believe 6x6 go has been solved also, with the same conclusion. 7x7 has not been formally solved, but it is almost certain that it too has no dependence on long cycles. And on larger boards, while long cycles are possible, they are very rare in practice.

Ataxx on a wide variety of board sizes also. Both players can prolong the game indefinitely by only jumping their pieces, but this does not appear to be optimal in practice, nor is it optimal for solved board sizes, and either player can unilaterally choose to stop and eventually force the game to end.

Chinese checkers (a suitable version with rules to prevent a player from indefinitely blocking his home area) also has soft finitude as well. Cooperative cycles are possible, but obviously are not optimal play.

Arimaa is a game that appears to exhibit a property similar to soft finitude in practical play. Of course, it is not known theoretically because we don't know optimal play. But in practice, nearly all games by strong players end with a winner after a reasonable number of moves, and nearly every position occurring in practice seems to provide strong ways to make progress for at least one player. Yet, both players could cooperate to make the game last essentially forever just by shuffling pieces. Strictly speaking, the 3-fold repetition rule would prevent a truly infinite game, but would not stop a game from lasting billions of moves if the players cooperated to this end.

Chess and some of its variants, even without the "50 move rule" are still theoretical candidates, because it has not been disproven that one side or the other can force checkmate from the initial position. Although, practical evidence suggests that optimal play is more likely to lead to a draw.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 5:30am

on 07/31/11 at 00:18:05, MarkSteere wrote:
That being said, and getting back to the subject, I love Christian's definition of soft finitude. I think it applies perfectly to a wide variety of gambling games. Trouble is, I've never seen an abstract game fitting the description.
That may be because you don't understand the definition. I've never seen a gambling game fitting it.


on 07/31/11 at 00:18:05, MarkSteere wrote:
Name one abstract game that has soft finitude.  And I don't mean a trivialized non-game with two pieces on the board.
In Draughts variants, one-on-one opposition (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/draughts-dissected?start=3), be it men or kings, is one of the first things to consider. It leads to common knowledge such as generally needing at least 4 kings to trap a lone one in Draughts, 3 in Hexdame, 2 in Checkers, Croda, Dameo, to name a few.

In Checkers, depending on the position, the player who is able to take opposition may even win a one-on-one kings endgame.

Pommel is unique in that a one-on-one kings subgame is hard finite: the alignment rule makes that one of the players will have to expose his captain and the other must (!) capture. No cycles.

The unusual thing is that the position in the post that started this subject has 4 pieces and indeed does allow cycles.

http://i55.tinypic.com/ojp3dz.gif

So players can cooperate towards a draw: The "if" is necessary for soft finitude. The question remaining is the "and only if".

Zillions gives a win in 13 for whoever starts. It makes that this particular subgame has soft finitude, but it still leaves matters inconclusive with regard to soft-finitude for the game as a whole. A white swan doesn't mean swans are white.
But matters would be settled by a black swan, of course, that is: a position in which a player can force a cycle against his opponent's best opposition. Like a king in a tric-trac corner in Checkers for instance.
The problem if you don't find a forced cycle is: how do you prove it cannot exist?
The outcome doesn't affect the necessity of a rule like 3-fold: cycles may occur in a soft finite and a non-finite game alike.

Why is this interesting?
Endgames in Draughts variants are notoriously tricky. I've had the honor of working with one of the greatest endgame authorities in 10x10 Draught, Leo Springer (http://toernooibase.kndb.nl/opvraag/liddetailp.php?SpId=4104&Id=f&taal=1), whose father, the late Ben Springer (http://www.damz.nl/cms/?option=content&task=view&id=201), was world champion from 1928-1931 (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/history#strategy).
Leo made me see just how tricky endgames are, and he made a number problems for Hexdame (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/hexdame/78-more-problems) and Dameo (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/dameo/70-endgames) for which I'm ever grateful because he's so much better and faster than I am.

Knowing how tricky they are, and finally realizing the impact of compulsory alignment in endgames (I was a bit slow there I must confess, I've known square Pommel for some time without fully realizing the impact), I predict that this brand new monkey in the cage will make endgames a very rich and interesting class all by themselves.

That's why the finitude issue is important.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 7:25am
Black is black?
Here's a position, not all that different from the previous one, that may or may not be the black swan, but in any case is illustrative in terms of my previous post. I'll get to that as soon as I've finished walking with the dogs and in the meantime leave it for your consideration:

http://i55.tinypic.com/14o9kcz.gif

Done. Let's first establish that although none of the pieces are aligned with the opponent, the position is legal. It can for instance (but not only) occur after successive promotion on A6 and G4. Let's say it's white's turn.

Concerning exchange two things should be considered by the player initiating it:

1. A capturing captain isn't obliged to align, but rather obliged to stop immediately behind the jumped piece.
2. The resulting 1x1 position is hard finite and one players will win, so the initiating player must take care he's the one.

Considering that a sacifice makes no sense and barring symmetry, white has two moves available in the diagram, 1.A13 and 1.A14:

http://i55.tinypic.com/2vl3a8n.gif http://i54.tinypic.com/289htgh.gif

I'm making this up while going, I'm not sure where it leads, just intruiged and bored by sidetracking. Please correct me if I'm wrong, this isn't my forte.

1.A13?
Here black's exchange GB4 wins: 1...GB4 2.A3xC5 G9xB4
3.A6B7? B41+
3.A64? BG4+
3.A63? B49+

1.A14?
Here black's exchange G9B4 wins in a similar matter.
Conclusion: this subgame too is soft finite and gives no decisive answer regarding the game.

Another conclusion is that if a player in a one-on-one captains endgame is forced to align with an 'infield' opponent, he will lose: he can align only under cover of the boardedge, and the infielder takes the opposite end of the line.

Yet another conclusion is that Pommel, if not indeed free of draws (that's the issue here), makes draws very unlikely.
At the same time it is a real Draughts variant, so proving draws cannot occur (unless both players cooperate towards the result) would make it quite unique.
Cage (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/579-cage) is hard finite, but no Draughts variant, as Benedikt Rosenau and I argue in On the Evolution of Draughts variants (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 31st, 2011, 11:22am
Christian, Zillions almost immediately found a win in four for the new position you proposed, so you were correct that it was not the counterexample we're looking for.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MHowe on Jul 31st, 2011, 11:40am

on 07/31/11 at 00:18:05, MarkSteere wrote:
:D  I may have been a tad hasty reading and responding to Christian's post.  Being right all the time has made me complacent.  Christian has accused me so many times of "misrepresenting" unspecified things, that if I've now finally, at long last, actually misrepresented something, I don't care.

That being said, and getting back to the subject, I love Christian's definition of soft finitude.  I think it applies perfectly to a wide variety of gambling games.  Trouble is, I've never seen an abstract game fitting the description.

Name one abstract game that has soft finitude.  And I don't mean a trivialized non-game with two pieces on the board.  If you can (truthfully and convincingly) do that, I'll stfu (on this particular topic).

Let's let Christian field this one, Mike.  With your phenomenal mastery of logical debate, and I mean that in all sincerity, you might convince me of something illogical.



No worries, Mark.  Looks some some possible examples have been put forward.  And if I ever convinced you of something illogical, it would be accidental.  And if we discovered it I would retract.  Always just looking for the truth.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 11:50am

on 07/31/11 at 11:22:54, MHowe wrote:
Christian, Zillions almost immediately found a win in four for the new position you proposed, so you were correct that it was not the counterexample we're looking for.
Yes, it would, considering the ply depth. Handy tool, Zillions. Please keep experimenting or otherwise think deep and see if you can come up with a proof. I'm back to Sygo now because we've got another interesting game (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/players-section/Serve.cgi?file=Sygo1311525566.html) going, and to Havannah because the match is about a year away now and players were passing me by left and right in the ratings at LG, lately. I'm just back in the top-10 after dropping out of the top-20 recently.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 12:39pm

on 07/31/11 at 02:09:29, lightvector wrote:
If by "any one player can break a cycle and win" we mean instead that...

No, no, no, no, no.  Christian's definition of "soft finitude" is succinct, objective, and very clear.  (Did I just say that?)  There's no room for equivocation.  

"A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw."

[snip lightvector's exhaustive diatribe answering wrong question]

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 12:58pm
MS: "I love Christian's definition of soft finitude...  Trouble is, I've never seen an abstract game fitting the description."


on 07/31/11 at 05:30:58, christianF wrote:
That may be because you don't understand the definition.

It's too late Christian.  You carelessly uttered something perfectly sensible.

"A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw."

You can't take it back now and inanify it.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by lightvector on Jul 31st, 2011, 1:08pm
Actually, most of the games I presented do answer the right question, although I wasn't as clear as I could be about the definition.

A infinite cycle that neither player is willing to relent on, is in many games (such as Ataxx) considered to be a draw. Sometimes, the versions of the rule set may not explicitly state this case, of course, but the reason is precisely because it is not needed, because of this property - a draw can only be achieved by cooperation, that is, at least one player can always break a cycle to win. If the game provides no other ways to draw, then this definition, which I used, is equivalent to Christian's definition.

The statement "any one player can break a cycle and win", which I rejected, is actually the odd definition out. It would be very strange to require that for every cycle, *both* players have a way to deviate from that cycle and win. If the game contains only cycles where player A can deviate and win, but where player B would actually prefer to cycle (such as if deviating causes B to lose), then the game still has soft finitude, because cooperation is still required to achieve a draw. If player A refuses to cooperate, he can win, rather than draw.

Additionally, the definition "both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw" leaves unspecified whether this is to apply for every legal game state, or whether only from the opening game state. Interpreted the second way, it could also allow games that contain mandatory infinite cycles but where none of those infinite cycles can occur following optimal (or merely even "strong") play by the winning side from the starting position. Either definition is interesting.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 1:19pm

on 07/31/11 at 07:25:20, christianF wrote:
Cage is hard finite,

Got that right.  Hard finitude, which defaults to the simpler "finitude" in abstract games, is not a badge of dishonor.  Picture a state of the art American tank.  Brutish yet sophisticated.


on 07/31/11 at 07:25:20, christianF wrote:
but no Draughts variant, as Benedikt Rosenau and I argue

This is a potentially serious issue.  You're telling me that Cage doesn't meet the arbitrary, English language definition of "variant" by a couple of foreigners? lol

It must be a bragging point in Europe.  "My English is so good, I have to instruct Americans on proper discourse, [chortle, guffaw]."

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 2:46pm

on 07/31/11 at 13:08:14, lightvector wrote:
Actually, most of the games I presented do answer the right question,

Lightvector, it isn't:

"A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw in optimal play on a tiny board, but, if, and, but, and, if, but, but, and, if......"

It's simply:

"A game has soft finitude if and only if both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw."

Are you saying that a non-cooperative, cyclic draw can't occur in Ataxx?  Not to "put words in your mouth", Lightvector.  I'm just trying to glean some meaning from among all the buts, ifs and ands.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by The_Jeh on Jul 31st, 2011, 3:12pm

on 07/31/11 at 13:08:14, lightvector wrote:
Additionally, the definition "both players are required to cooperate to reach a draw" leaves unspecified whether this is to apply for every legal game state, or whether only from the opening game state. Interpreted the second way, it could also allow games that contain mandatory infinite cycles but where none of those infinite cycles can occur following optimal (or merely even "strong") play by the winning side from the starting position. Either definition is interesting.


You must also be careful with the word "cooperate." Two fallible players might both believe that to deviate from a cycle leads to their own loss, even if one of them actually has a forced win by doing so. In a sense, they are not trying to "cooperate," yet the game is not doing its job of judging their play. (Edit: Well, maybe it is punishing the player that could win for not seeing the win.) Presumably that is why Mark prefers hard finitude, not that I myself am attracted to it. But I know what you are trying to say by "cooperate."

Also, I would abstain from defining "soft finitude" in terms of "cycles." Endless shuffling is not "cyclical." Rather, I would say soft finitude exists if "a forced win exists from all reachable game positions, but from the initial position players could choose moves extending the game forever (for practical purposes)."

Finally, I might add that the term "soft finitude" itself does not include any hint that you are applying it only to games that are forced wins from every position. A finite game might also conclude in a draw, so you need to refer to more than just the game's finitude.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 3:38pm

on 07/31/11 at 13:19:48, MarkSteere wrote:
This is a potentially serious issue. You're telling me that Cage doesn't meet the arbitrary, English language definition of "variant" by a couple of foreigners?
Yes, we foreigners have the considered opinion that Draughts has a spirit. It's an important point indeed, so we've put it on our homepage. It's a spirit implemented one way or the other in every culture of the world.

We also have the considered opinion that compulsory capture is at the heart of its spirit. See for instance the chapters "Did Alquerque have compulsory capture?" and "I'll huff and I'll puff and I'll blow your house down" in the history section (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/history) of "On the Evolution of Draughts Variants".

Cage has no compulsory capture and no spirit. It may be considered a shuffle variant or something, but not a draughts variant. All in the best of spirits, but that's our opinion :) .

P.S. I'm surprised this comes up now. We've always stated it in the rules (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/579-cage). Allow me to
Quote:
"The absence of mandatory capture makes that the impact of captures is mainly local and their interaction in combinations all but absent. As we've argued elsewhere, compulsory capture is the soul of Draughts. A game without it is not Draughts. Cage is a forced march towards the center that can't get stuck. Like black and white marbles falling through a hole in a cone, one will eventually come out as last, and that's the winner. The important feature of the game is that it shows that a draughts type game can be decisive and drawless, but in Cage it comes at the price of loss of combinatorial power with all emphasis on strategy, a price most Draughts players are not eager to pay."

Pommel is so unique because it is a real draughts variant that appears to have soft finitude, which is very unusual for a draughts variant. Ossetian Draughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/draughts-variants/504-tama_o) is hard finite and drawless and has no compulsory capture, but it has "no legal move" as its object. It's slow and lacks combinatorial power. It's a lot like Cage in that respect, but it needs far less rules.
Stapeldammen (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/column-checkers/488-stapeldammen) is a hard finite drawless column checkers variant that has compulsory capture, even precedence of majority capture, but it also settles for "no legal move".
Pommel requires elimination. I like that.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by lightvector on Jul 31st, 2011, 4:16pm

on 07/31/11 at 15:12:10, The_Jeh wrote:
You must also be careful with the word "cooperate." Two fallible players might both believe that to deviate from a cycle leads to their own loss, even if one of them actually has a forced win by doing so. In a sense, they are not trying to "cooperate," yet the game is not doing its job of judging their play. (Edit: Well, maybe it is punishing the player that could win for not seeing the win.) Presumably that is why Mark prefers hard finitude, not that I myself am attracted to it. But I know what you are trying to say by "cooperate."

Also, I would abstain from defining "soft finitude" in terms of "cycles." Endless shuffling is not "cyclical." Rather, I would say soft finitude exists if "a forced win exists from all reachable game positions, but from the initial position players could choose moves extending the game forever (for practical purposes)."

Finally, I might add that the term "soft finitude" itself does not include any hint that you are applying it only to games that are forced wins from every position. A finite game might also conclude in a draw, so you need to refer to more than just the game's finitude.


Yes, I agree, I dislike the ambiguity in the word 'cooperate' as well, which is why I worded my original post only in terms of optimal play ("forced wins"). If there is a weaker interpretation of 'cooperate' that still works, it would be interesting. But it would almost have to include the case where both players really do believe that continuing the cycle is best, because otherwise, every deterministic game with any reachable cycle fails the definition of "soft finitude", making it less interesting of a definition than the version I gave.

I also agree that there are issues with what different rules may or may not define to be draws, which is why I again focused on just the issue of endless repetition, which is frequently (but not always) considered to be a draw in games where it is possible.

I'm a mathematician, so to me, endless shuffling is cyclical. It's just that the cycles are very very long.  ;)


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by The_Jeh on Jul 31st, 2011, 4:41pm

on 07/31/11 at 16:16:42, lightvector wrote:
I'm a mathematician, so to me, endless shuffling is cyclical. It's just that the cycles are very very long.  ;)


I'm (going to be) a mathematician, too.

Of course you're right about the endless shuffling being a cycle. On the other hand, for practical purposes, cycling every trillionth move is not the same as doing so in a humanly reasonable way.

That is, it feels right to say Arimaa is softly finite. But there are two problems. First, cycling endlessly is technically disallowed, as you mentioned. However, players can cooperate to create extremely long cycles that we term "shuffling." So, you're right, it's still a cycle, but it doesn't feel like one. Pragmatically, the repetition rule only disallows relatively short cycles.

If we admit that Arimaa is effectively "cyclic" because of shuffling, there is still another problem with calling it soft finite.  There is one known position where shuffling is optimal play: rabbits on the 4th and 5th ranks blocking each other. But it still seems wrong to take away its soft finitude status because of one exotic position that is trivially avoided. That takes us back to your optimal play considerations.

Of course, in the case of Arimaa, any hard definition of soft finitude is hard to attach to it with proof. I don't know if there's a way to reconcile what I would subjectively consider "soft finite" with an objective definition.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 4:46pm

on 07/31/11 at 15:38:06, christianF wrote:
spirit
... 
spirit
...
spirit
...
spirit
...
spirits

Cage captures my spirit.  I took the ubiquitous Checkers jump and built a minimal rule set around it.  Cage is a game of jumps, my way. 

Cage is also a game of assured annihilation.  No secondary, horse manure object of being the last to move in an impasse is needed in a well architected game such as Cage.  Does Cage capture the spirit of Checkers?  I certainly hope not. 

Compulsory capture is a game tree shrinking, unpleasant necessity in Checkers.  There'd be rampant impasses without it.  Non compulsory capture allows a larger, richer game tree.  Christian Freeling has confused the utilitarian compulsory capture rule for a hallmark of "spirit". 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 4:53pm

on 07/31/11 at 15:12:10, The_Jeh wrote:
Also, I would abstain from defining "soft finitude" in terms of "cycles."
...
Finally, I might add that the term "soft finitude" itself does not include any hint that you are applying it only to games that are forced wins from every position. A finite game might also conclude in a draw, so you need to refer to more than just the game's finitude.
Cycles can occur in soft finite as well as non-finite games, so yes, I would abstain too.
Havannah and Sygo are examples of hard finite games that can end in a draw, but the definition doesn't contadict that in any way.

Jump Sturdy (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/jumpsturdy-576) happens to be a clear example of what I consider a soft finite game, and I could give many more (but in full awareness that examples do not validate a definition, I'll give just one).

Jump Sturdy is a race game in the Breakthrough and Murus Gallicus tradition, that is you meet, eliminate a couple of opponents left and right and wait for the slaughter to allow you to try for the back row.
Eventually you may be down to one-on-one. If not, then someone must have made it.
The two remaining pieces may move sideways, but one of them has a win and it is never difficult to establish who that is.
The only way to reach a draw is if both refuse to move forwards. That's non-sensical, but legal (as so many things).

That's what brought me to the definition, and if there's a more practical and better one I'll gladly accept it. It's not that my life depends on it ;) .

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Jul 31st, 2011, 5:01pm

on 07/31/11 at 16:46:39, MarkSteere wrote:
Non compulsory capture allows a larger, richer game tree.
Not to mention a far more boring one.

The spirit of Draughts?
Here's the spirit of Draughts (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/on-the-evolution-of-draughts-variants/history#strategy), and only one of its many faces.

Can you give one face of the spirit of Cage? (it suddenly seems fitting by the way, I've always liked the name).

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Jul 31st, 2011, 5:26pm

on 07/31/11 at 17:01:13, christianF wrote:
Can you give one face of the spirit of Cage?

It's a tactical, combinatorial style game - not everyone's cup of tea, not even particularly mine. 


on 07/31/11 at 17:01:13, christianF wrote:
 (it suddenly seems fitting by the way, I've always liked the name).

Among the hundreds of Draughts variants, Cage is the only true game of annihilation.  The gulf between us wouldn't be so vast if you had an appreciation of architecture. 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Aug 1st, 2011, 2:40am

on 07/31/11 at 17:26:55, MarkSteere wrote:
It's a tactical, combinatorial style game - not everyone's cup of tea, not even particularly mine.
I showed you a 10x10 Draughts combination and here are 32 more (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/arena/draughts/61-problems). Certainly you can give one example in Cage (being a tactical, combinatorial style game).


on 07/31/11 at 17:26:55, MarkSteere wrote:
Among the hundreds of Draughts variants, Cage is the only true game of annihilation. The gulf between us wouldn't be so vast if you had an appreciation of architecture.
We appreciate architecture in a different way I feel. In my view a building should not only be admirable, but also (if not first and foremost) inhabitable. In that light the name Cage is well chosen.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 1st, 2011, 8:14am

on 08/01/11 at 02:40:18, christianF wrote:
I showed you a 10x10 Draughts combination and here are 32 more. 

Wow!  I think you've earned youself an ice cream cone, Christian. 


on 08/01/11 at 02:40:18, christianF wrote:
Certainly you can give one example in Cage (being a tactical, combinatorial style game). 

Yes, I'm sure I could, if I were so inclined. 


on 08/01/11 at 02:40:18, christianF wrote:
We appreciate architecture in a different way I feel.

lol, You don't know the meaning of the word. 


on 08/01/11 at 02:40:18, christianF wrote:
In my view a building should not only be admirable, but also (if not first and foremost) inhabitable. 

Of course.  Like Turkey Grabber.  I don't know how one "inhabits" a grabbed turkey, Christian, but...
maybe I'm better off not knowing. 


on 08/01/11 at 02:40:18, christianF wrote:
In that light the name Cage is well chosen.

Cage wasn't designed to be "inhabitable", Christian.  It was designed to be a bloody game of annihilation. 

How many (true) games of annihilation do you have, Christian? Surely you can name one.  Or is that above your architectural pay grade?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Aug 1st, 2011, 9:54am

on 08/01/11 at 08:14:50, MarkSteere wrote:
Wow! I think you've earned youself an ice cream cone, Christian.
Why should I? You either haven't looked or are incapable of admiration for the game that makes these combinations possible and the problemists who created them.


on 08/01/11 at 08:14:50, MarkSteere wrote:
Yes, I'm sure I could [give an example of a Cage combination] if I were so inclined.

Ah, yes.
But no, you can't, because the fierce beauty of the best Draughts combinations relies on (but not only on) compulsory capture. A Cage combination would have all the hallmarks of a sliding puzzle. Neat maybe, but hardly beautiful.


on 08/01/11 at 08:14:50, MarkSteere wrote:
You don't know the meaning of the word [architecture].
Actually you're right.


on 08/01/11 at 08:14:50, MarkSteere wrote:
Cage wasn't designed to be "inhabitable", Christian. It was designed to be a bloody game of annihilation. 

How many (true) games of annihilation do you have, Christian? Surely you can name one. Or is that above your architectural pay grade?
By your standards none, but then I design by different standards which for you automatically translates in inferiour standards. Not that I find your standards inferiour, far from that. It's a matter of emphasis.

Take hard finitude versus soft finitude for instance. I'm not inclined to force players to a hard wired finish if sensible play from at least one side leads to a finish.

Taking that into consideration, Trounce (http://mindsports.nl/index.php/the-pit/trounce-574) is a game of annihilation. Requiring a hard wired finish would do little more than add a possibly complicated rule to resolve a non-issue.

The point being that insisting on what you consider "pure", i.e. no draws and hard finitude, may actually mar a game.
You're a victim of dogma. It makes things simple. Just follow the rules and the game will have 'great architecture'.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 1st, 2011, 4:34pm

on 08/01/11 at 09:54:18, christianF wrote:
Just follow the rules and the game will have 'great architecture'.

If it were that simple, anyone could do it.  Even you. 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Aug 1st, 2011, 4:48pm

on 08/01/11 at 16:34:33, MarkSteere wrote:
If it were that simple, anyone could do it. Even you.
Actually that's true, though most people don't have the ambition and for good reasons. First of all it takes time, even for you. And there's not much to gain, really, it's a labor of love. On our homepage you can find this advice: "If you want to make a small fortune with abstract games, you'd better start with a large one."

Despite that, there are a lot of good inventors, and you're merely one of them. If you're in any way special it would be because you hold your criteria above all other criteria, not because your games are better. You're satisfied with what you consider 'good architecture'.

Never mind the game.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 1st, 2011, 5:00pm

on 08/01/11 at 16:48:16, christianF wrote:
If you're in any way special...

In a way I feel bad.  Here you are, striving for equality.  And here I am, knowing that isn't possible. 

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Aug 1st, 2011, 5:42pm

on 08/01/11 at 17:00:28, MarkSteere wrote:
In a way I feel bad. Here you are, striving for equality. And here I am, knowing that isn't possible.
Your interpretation is uniquely, if not predictably, 'Steere'.
What about writers? musicians? artists? Loads of good ones. How many would 'strive for equality'? A 'competition' between inventors is your personal hang-up, courtesy of your deeprooted feelings of superiority.

Thank you for considering me, but no thanks. Feel free to be as superior as you like.

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 3rd, 2011, 4:08pm

on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
Oust, Flume, Atoll, Fractal maybe, all excellent games.

Thank you.  And not "maybe" for Fractal (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Fractal_rules.pdf).  Fractal was engineered to be awesome, and it is.  It's a crime that Fractal isn't programmed anywhere.


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
I'm not saying your approach doesn't coincide with a good game, every now and then.

That's a lot of "now and then", lol


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
But then, Monkey Queen? I feel something isn't quite right.

It bothers you that I invented it.


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
Cage? I think something is definitely wrong.

For an unpretentious, combinatorial style, finite decisive game, the only thing that really could be wrong with Cage (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Cage_rules.html) would be turn order advantage, and there doesn't seem to be an issue with that.


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
Rive? Well to keep it in Harry Potter terms, liquid boredom.

Sorry you had an unpleasant experience with Rive (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Rive_rules.pdf), Christian.  In my case, Rive has turned out to be just about my favorite game.  I play it every day on the turn based game site GamesByEmail (http://www.gamesbyemail.com/).  I always make my Rive moves first, and then time permitting, I make my moves in Oust (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Oust_rules.pdf), Atoll (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Atoll_rules.pdf), and a variety of other MSG (http://www.marksteeregames.com/index.html) games which are also programmed at GBE.


on 07/02/11 at 03:46:50, christianF wrote:
(great architecture though ;) )

Yes, Rive does have great architecture.  No "though ;)" required.


Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 3rd, 2011, 10:13pm

on 08/03/11 at 16:08:35, MarkSteere wrote:
Fractal (http://www.marksteeregames.com/Fractal_rules.pdf) was engineered to be awesome, and it is.  

One example of outstanding architecture translating directly to outstanding gameplay.  

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by christianF on Aug 4th, 2011, 5:54am
GoogleGroups is seriously down, so why not.


on 08/03/11 at 22:13:27, MarkSteere wrote:
[Fractal is] one example of outstanding architecture translating directly to outstanding gameplay.
Would you have taken Oust for an example, I would have heartily agreed. Implicitly: I agree the requirements of 'great architecture according to Mark Steere' may translate directly to an excellent game.

Fractal? I have some reservations. Where's the 'architecture'? I wouldn't accuse Hex of having and architecture: once you see the idea, there's nowhere you can go except Hex. Unless you want to apply archtecture by adding something, as some have tried, unfortunately.

Fractal is much the same: the idea for the board and the name fit like a glove. But is that architecture?
The rules are much like Hex, that is, the idea shapes them. So I wonder if the concept of architecture applies at all.

Connection games are notorious for a first player advantage. I see no pie or other balancing mechanism in Fractal. That makes me wonder.

Making moving compulsory in a game where moving is never disadvantageous is something I would not lightly consider. The game is there for the players, not vice versa, and as a rule I presume players' intentions to be fair towards each other and towards the game.

I wouldn't accuse Havannah of having an architecture either. It's a lucky merger of three winning structures, that's all the architecture to it. After the rules thus emerged, Havannah turned out to have one of the smallest drawmargins in the business. That was never intentional, but it was factual.

Havannah's strategy and tactics are thus that beginners cannot reach a draw. A draw, other than base-4 or -5 hasn't happened yet. Base-8 or higher it could only result from a game between two high-ranking players. But it has never happened. Two things would happen if it did: The game would be implicitly of a very high standard, and it would be instantly famous.

Isn't that great?
Now what would your dogmatic approach regarding 'architecture' make of this? Draws being unacceptable? One can't even make a simple draw prevention rule for Havannah, so what 'solution' would you suggest?

Title: Re: Essay by Christian Freeling on inventing games
Post by MarkSteere on Aug 4th