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color cycle (slow)

Kistaro Windrider, Reptillian Situation Assessor

Unfortunately, I Really Am That Nerdy

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Inventing a game: Möbiatus
color cycle (slow)
kistaro
So while in my usual Shrine of Ideas- y'know, sitting on the john- I thought up this idea for a cool pencil-and-paper game. Playing it against myself shows that, as I feared, the start of the game is far too slow to hold intrest, because the board is too large for the piece movement and starting position- both need to be fixed. I'd like ideas.

The game is called "Möbiatus", named after the unusual topology of the board. It can be simulated with two parallel boards on a flat sheet of paper, but it's more visually interesting this way.

This is a pencil-and-paper sort of Checkers from outer space. The topology of the board, which starts out confusing, gets weirder as the game progresses. The goal is to capture or immobilize all opponent pieces. The game must conclude within 70 move-pairs.

To set up the game, you'll need uniformly double-sided graph paper (cutting along the lines on one side cuts along the lines on the other- most good graph paper is like this), a pair of scissors to cut it, tape to join the board, and a differently-colored pen for each player.

Firstly, construct the board. Cut a 5x31 grid-square strip of the graph paper, then twist it into a Möbius strip (and tape it that way), carefully lining up the squares. Allow a one-square overlap- if you prefer to tape it without the overlap, cut it 5x30. (I want a smaller board, but anything less than a 6:1 ratio can't easily be twisted into a Möbius strip.)

"Place the pieces" on the board. Pick any horizontal line of squares ("horizontal" means "the thin way") and put a Red dot in each (use whatever two colors you want, I'll call them Red and Blue). Even though the Möbius strip only has one side, each square has an opposite anyway- what you get by forgetting that the strip is one-sided and considering it the back side anyway. You know what I mean. Place Red circles in each square opposite to the Red dots. Make another line of Red dots and corresponding circles, then two lines of Blue dots and corresponding circles. This is the start position.

A bit of notation. A dot indicates that there is a piece of a particular color in that location. A circle indicates that there is a piece of that color in the opposite location. (This is important, because captures occur from the opposite location!) A cross indicates a singularity, left behind and opposite to every moving piece. They'll be explained later.

On each turn, a player selects one of xir pieces and makes any legal "move" with it. Legal moves are explained later. Draw the piece in its new location, and place a circle opposite to it. Cross out its old location and the location opposite to its old location; these are now singularities. If a player has no legal move, or no pieces, that player has lost the game.

Pieces "move" vaguely like chess knights, two spaces one way and then one space at a 90-angle, jumping over the interveing spaces. A piece may not, under any circumstances, land on an occupied space; these are considered blocked, regardless of which army the blocking piece is from. Piece captures are NOT made by direct placement. A piece MAY, however, move onto a singularity- sort of. A singularity is a sort of contracted hole in space- if a piece would land on a singularity, it may land on any space adjacent to it (not diagonally). It may "slide" in this manner onto another singularity, where it "slides" again, but it must eventually come to rest. If a singularity or group of singularities (which sort of act like a single singularity) are surrounded by pieces, the move may not be made (it is blocked). A capture CAN be made from a jump onto a singularity, by sliding onto a target space.

Capturing occurs by landing on the space OPPOSITE to an opponent's piece- these are the locations marked with circles. Locations opposite to your own pieces- circles of your color- are blocked and may not be landed upon for any reason. When a piece is captured, it (and its opposite location) turns into a singularity; the piece is essentially removed form the board. The capturing piece MUST continue to make another move from the location it just moved to such that it does not move onto a location previously touched in the capture-chain. These are full moves, not singularity-style slides; again, please note that it is explicitly forbidden to touch one of the singularities you just created in your capture. If the piece would have no such move (all locations blocked, or the only way out would be to hit a location twice), it may not make the capture. This extra move may be a capture; it is quite possible for intricate chains of captures to occur.

And that's it. The last player with pieces, or with legal moves, wins the game.

Proposed rule changes:
Mandatory captures? This could, at the very least, be a variant.

It's sort of like Checkers, but written as only an alien ever could. What sorts of strategies could possibly emerge by such a bizarre set of rules- with captures that only occur at a distance (thirty spaces away), each move changing the topology of the game board in two places (two singularities- remember to make the one on the flip side!), and the potential for ridiculous multiple captures, I don't know how it will play out.

I do know the game needs a lot of work. The opening to the game is far too slow; knight moves aren't good enough. I like the way the Möbius strip works, and the way singularities work. (The origin of the "singularity on the flip side" rule, by the way, was so there wouldn't be a safe space on the board opposite to a previously occupied location. It also invalidates two spaces a move, forcing the game to an earlier conclusion). The physical difficulties of playing on a Mobius strip aren't actually too terrible- but it's possible to play it on two sides of a flat sheet of paper, as long as one remembers to do a left-right flip when moving over the edge, or even on two parallel boards. It might be easier to see that way, but it's more fun on a Möbius strip.

It needs work, and I'd love suggestions. Especially playtesting, because my only opponent so far is myself.


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I'm confused.. but it sounds interesting.. i think!

OH MY GOSH. That is the coolest single idea for a board-game I have ever heard in my entire life, and I was obsessed with creative board-games when I was younger. That's... that's just SO COOL!

I insist that you friends-lock this post to lower the likelihood of random passerby stealing and patenting the idea.

I want it in public, though. I don't intend to make any profit of any sort off this- it's just a pencil and paper game. You're right, though, that Public Domain is too liberal. I'll be shoving a Creative Commons license on it...

I'm glad you like the idea, this is sort of the reaction I was hoping for. ]B=8D

The game is a work in progress; I'm worried about the symmetry of capture. There is no direct way to threaten an attack such that your piece won't be immediately captured. The answer is zugswang- a chess term meaning being forced to move because you can't pass- as the board gets more and more crowded, but I'm not sure how well that really works. (My playtesting consists of one game...) I do know that the same-side blocks work out really well and get really interesting, though.

I wonder if the game would be more interesting if captures were mandatory? That's an availible variant. Also, I've added a rule: you may not hit the same location twice during an attack, even though those spaces are now singularities. It makes attacking a bit more strategic.

Actually, I think mandatory attacks combine well with that rule change- I need to experiment. If only I had an opponent...

Wait, no capture problem at all!

Ooh! I just realized the captures can be plenty asymmetric. Consider a capture over a singularity. A piece a knight away from the edge of a singularity (but not adjacent to it) can capture something adjacent to that singularity (singularity-group, that is) on the opposite, but cannot itself be cauptured by that piece. And that's the strategic bit I was looking for!

I was also totally obsessed with games in any form when I was younger. I just never grew out of it. The third floor of my house has three non-attic rooms: my bedroom, my bathroom (nonfunctional), and my "playroom." The latter takes up most of the floor; it's really big, with a ping-pong table along one edge, a minature pool table in a corner, a big table in the middle (placed under the low-hanging light fixture for safety "don't get a concussion" reasons), and shelving around every single inch of wall except by the ping-pong table. About 1/3 of the walls are stuffed with books, up to the ceiling. The remaining walls are stuffed with games...

Lest you worry, that's only a small fraction of the books in my house. There's a moderate shelf my my bed, the family room has bookshelves on every wall, to the ceiling, all full, there are boxes of books in the basement that we haven't yet managed to get the shelf space to unpack, there are bookshelves in every single non-bathroom room of my house, and they're all crammed full...

Sounds like it's shaping up to be a fun game! We'll have to play it sometime, if y'like.

Also, I give thee points for having the game titled with a non-gratuitous diæresis/umlaut/two-dots-above-a-letter.

Ideally, singularities should be marked with a hole punch.

Hee! Would be cool, except I use small enough graph paper that the paper would disintegrate. But yeah, that would get the point across!

As you probably guessed, singularities are a less-than-perfect way of dealing with previously filled locations on what is essentially a board game in pencil and paper. I've found, though, in my playtesting, that they really do make for interesting sorts of moves, once the game gets underway enough that one has to consider how badly one's move will allow the opponent to suddenly dash across the entire board...

This game sounds like a lot of fun, but to deal with the complexities of marking peices that've moved, it might work best if you could get it computer-generated, though that'd make it rather hard to check out all of the board easily. Either that or provide the world with lots of graph paper ^_~

Thought! When landing in a singularity, one lands on an adjacent square on the oposite side, rather than the current one because they function as holes in space. They're the ultimate short cut. This also could make pairs extremely effective since every peice makes its own singularity (especially if they follow the peices instead of simply staying there). Each peice would be the other's gateway to escape, and at the same time, protection against attack.

Eh, graph paper tends to be plentiful for people who like pencil-and-paper games!

The board isn't as confusing as it might seem, really. Having the circles marking pieces on the opposite locations makes it pretty easy to keep things straight. It is a bit awkward to write on, though.

I thought about your singularity-warpthrough idea, but I don't think it would work out very well. I'd have to change the opening position, firstly; that isn't too terrible by any stretch, of course, but consider that with this opening position and the singularity flip rule, the first move would immediately allow a rather nasty sort of multiple capture by the second player, no matter what the first move made is.

But I also think it is likely to detract somewhat from the strategy of the game even if the opening position did not have this vulnerability. It makes it too easy to get across half the board- remember, the flip side is just thirty spaces ahead. The game needs some form of faster movement, but this would essentially make blockades worthless and it would be a zero-defense game of carnage.

There are always ways to balence these things. One thought could be starting the peices farther apart and complicating the where of a singularity. Perhaps if two singularities overlap, they could be used as a gateway, but only then? To balence this out and simultaniously speed/slow the game, you could also have the peices arranged so that every other peice is on the oposite side from eachother starting, so in effect there are two game fronts, or one multi-locational front?

Remember that when a piece leaves a square, it by definition makes a singularity in two locations: its location and its opposite location. This is so that there are never legal squares opposite a singularity, where a piece would be uncapturable without a bit of rules buggery I don't want to try to figure out.

I am seriously considering a different starting layout: a line of Red pieces, then a line of Red pieces OPPOSITE to it, then twenty-nine blank spaces, then Blue, then Blue on the opposite. That gets the game to a much more interesting starting position- by the time combat starts as the rules stand, the board is already mostly one big singularity.

This is a game that seems to lend itself well to multiple legal starting positions.

Actually, for a 5x30 strip, count 28 lines, not 29. Oops.

Also, a 3x18 strip leads to a faster and not interesting game; I'm just deciding whether to start with nine pieces (three rows) per side together, six pieces (two rows) per side together, or six pieces per side apart (the layout I just suggested in the above post). Variations ahoy!

Narg, I've screwed it up royally- 29 lines gets you back to where you started. Let's try 14 empty lines...

Replying to myself just one more time, I of course meant "faster and not uninteresting," rather than what I posted. I'll observe, though, that 4x24, a balance between the two, may be better yet- the restricted horizontal movement in the 3x18 makes the board feel really cramped and small, and I think that's probably because it is. Again, though, interesting...

From all you're saying 4 or 5 wide is probably best. I definately like the idea of two sets on oposite sides from eachother though. that could work out rather well.

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