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Subject: Classic versus modern games rss

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David Buckley
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From another thread:
milomilo122 wrote:

[EDIT] Another key point: game design has only recently become a subject of serious study by large numbers of people. It would be a great surprise to me if that didn't result in considerably better games. Certainly, everything I've seen in my (coming on 20) years of designing abstract games suggests that's absolutely the case. We just know more now.

I thought this might be an interesting topic for discussion. A natural counter might be to point out that many older games are the product of centuries of evolution and are the games that have been passed on through multiple generations, but ultimately the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Let's talk about Chess:

On paper there is a lot to dislike about Chess. It features a small but noticeable first player advantage. Draws are a frequent occurance from club level upwards but particularly at master level, some of these draws are uneventful, in decisive games the loser is often the player who plays the better Chess for 90% of the game but makes the first serious mistake. BUT No other game has captured my imagination the way Chess has and kept me interested for such a long time and here's the thing. I don't think this is JUST because it has a large active place and body of instructive literature. There are several modern abstracts I play and enjoy but I don't think I've played any to rival Chess. Perhaps I just haven't found the right ones or Perhaps I lack the imagination to realise how awesome they could be given the same extrinsic advantages Chess enjoys.

Now I realise that not everyone is as enamoured with Chess as I am but I don't think it's pure historical happenstance that Chess (and Shogi and Xiangqi) have acquired so much popularity. Whatever serious study has to say about game design, there are lots of intangible things it will necessarily struggle to account for. What ultimately defines a good game are the vagaries of human psychology, which is incredibly complex. Chess might look like a bad game on paper but it has a great deal of appeal to a large number of people.

Chess (and relatives) aren't the only older games I find somewhat appealing. Hnefatafls, Draughts, Mancalas, Fanorona, Hex, Pente, Backgammon and Go all have a nice character to them. OK, Hex and Pente may not be that old but they're not that new either and Hex has a timeless feel to it that makes it tempting to believe that some ancient culture somewhere in the world could have played it. Overall I don't see a strong correlation between age of a game and my opinion of it.

I am somehow reminded of a scene from desperate housewives in which Andrew complains "Why do we have to eat cuisine all the time. Why can't we just have food". Modern designs somehow have a tendency to feel more sophisticated but not necessarily more appealing.

Anyway, enough about my personal preferences. What about yours? How old are your favourite abstract game(s)? Are there any recent inventions you think would be your favourites, if only they had the same extrinsic advantages as Chess? Which ones? Do you feel like games are getting better and better?
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I don't know that the greatness of Chess necessarily negates that guy's point. It may be so that designs these days are, on average, better than the ones of old. However, Chess has stood the test of time. It's been through the fire, and survived. Many, many games have not. Compare modern designs to Alquerque, for example. Those advances in modern game design start looking a little better.

Maybe some of the current crop will survive the test of time like Chess did. We just need to wait a few centuries to find out.
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big_buddha wrote:
I don't know that the greatness of Chess necessarily negates that guy's point. It may be so that designs these days are, on average, better than the ones of old. However, Chess has stood the test of time. It's been through the fire, and survived. Many, many games have not. Compare modern designs to Alquerque, for example. Those advances in modern game design start looking a little better.

Maybe some of the current crop will survive the test of time like Chess did. We just need to wait a few centuries to find out.

I agree that the greatness of Chess in itself doesn't negate Nick's point. In fact I'm not sure anything I said really does. I was mostly stating that the best games of centuries ago (not just Chess) hold as much interest for me as the best games of today and asking how others feel about it.

Ok. Let's talk about Alquerque. I have played this on Brainking and concluded that it is basically broken but I bear in mind that no complete account of the rules for that game have been found. The Brainking version is simply an attempt at a reconstruction. Furthermore, I did like the overall feel of Alquerque and felt that there was potentially a good game there, with some tweaking. Indeed it almost certainly inspired modern Draughts thus adding further weight to my point that the classics are a product of centuries of evolution.
 
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Buckersuk wrote:
BUT No other game has captured my imagination the way Chess has and kept me interested for such a long time and here's the thing. I don't think this is JUST because it has a large active place and body of instructive literature.
Possibly interesting thought experiment:

Imagine that Shogi instead of Chess was the dominant chess-family game around the world, with zillions of English language books and literature, clubs in every city, various magazines and newspaper columns, frequent tournaments, Shogi appearing often in films, TV, literature, Shogi is frequently used as metaphors and imagery in advertisements (like Chess knights often are in our current world), etc etc. I.e. you grew up immersed in Shogi instead of in Chess. You've played Shogi most of your life and it's your favorite game. When you travel to other cities in any country, you can always find Shogi players and clubs if you feel like playing. You've invested years playing and learning Shogi, studying its strategy and tactics, which you enjoy and have internalized.

As an adult, you discover Chess, a relatively obscure chess-family game played mostly only in one country on the other side of the world. A few English language books about it exist, and it has a small fanbase who praise it.

Do you think that you'd decide that Chess is clearly better than Shogi, and that it captures your imagination more than Shogi?
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christian freeling
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Buckersuk wrote:
Chess might look like a bad game on paper but it has a great deal of appeal to a large number of people.
I suppose this is because our society is pervaded by it. Chess as a symbol. I don't think it looks all that bad on paper but admittedly there's something very arbitrary about the structure of most chess variants, and Chess is no exception.
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russ wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
BUT No other game has captured my imagination the way Chess has and kept me interested for such a long time and here's the thing. I don't think this is JUST because it has a large active place and body of instructive literature.
Possibly interesting thought experiment:

Imagine that Shogi instead of Chess was the dominant chess-family game around the world, with zillions of English language books and literature, clubs in every city, various magazines and newspaper columns, frequent tournaments, Shogi appearing often in films, TV, literature, Shogi is frequently used as metaphors and imagery in advertisements (like Chess knights often are in our current world), etc etc. I.e. you grew up immersed in Shogi instead of in Chess. You've played Shogi most of your life and it's your favorite game. When you travel to other cities in any country, you can always find Shogi players and clubs if you feel like playing. You've invested years playing and learning Shogi, studying its strategy and tactics, which you enjoy and have internalized.

As an adult, you discover Chess, a relatively obscure chess-family game played mostly only in one country on the other side of the world. A few English language books about it exist, and it has a small fanbase who praise it.

Do you think that you'd decide that Chess is clearly better than Shogi, and that it captures your imagination more than Shogi?

No I don't. I think it's unlikely that i'd view Chess as anything more than an interesting curiousity. Edit: I'm less sure what my answer would be if you'd replaced Shogi with Go, or some other game that is nothing like Chess, in your thought experiment.


Now my turn to propose a thought experiment let's imagine that Shogi and Go were invented this decade. Neither game has acquired a significant fanbase and no strategy guides have been published. What rating do you think you'd give them? Are there any modern abstracts you think could have filled the void for you, given the right external factors?
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christianF wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
Chess might look like a bad game on paper but it has a great deal of appeal to a large number of people.
I suppose this is because our society is pervaded by it.

Undoubtedly that is part of it but my contention is that it isn't the whole of it.
 
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Buckersuk wrote:
Now my turn to propose a thought experiment let's imagine that Shogi and Go were invented this decade. Neither game has acquired a significant fanbase and no strategy guides have been published. What rating do you think you'd give them? Are there any modern abstracts you think could have filled the void for you, given the right external factors?

When I learned Go, I really didn't know much about it or that it was thousands of years old, etc. So its external factors (history, tradition, literature, large player base, etc) actually did not influence my impression or cause me to try it! At the time, I wasn't even much into abstract strategy games (ancient or modern). Yet Go strongly struck a chord in me immediately and I played it obsessively, along with several friends who learned it at the same time. I was immediately impressed by how easy it was to learn the rules, yet how clearly surprisingly deep it seemed in terms of strategy and tactics. I still remember our early first games, and all the aha-effects we kept having. Go is the game which made me realize that I can deeply enjoy abstract strategy games, instead just playing them occasionally for a change of pace (as I did with Chess). So I suppose that I'd have liked Go very much even if it wasn't already a classic.

(Of course if "current me" discovered "newly-created Go", it might be that "current me" is now so immersed in so many diverse abstracts that "newly-created Go" might get lost in the crowd of all those other abstracts, and I might not even try it... But I can only suppose that if I did try it (e.g. because an enthusiastic friend taught it to me and others and we all played a few games, as historically happened), then I would have been impressed.)

Shogi, on the other hand, actually did turn me off for years, because of the kanji barrier to entry, and because I wasn't so into chess-family games. (I enjoyed Chess casually but never played it very seriously or very often.) E.g. a friend once taught me Xiangqi, and I was "meh" at the time, and I was put off by the confusing (to me) piece labels. So if Shogi was a newly created game which I stumbled upon, I probably would not have felt the impulse to pursue it further, just like I don't explore 99% of the chess variants out there (and I don't pursue Shogi variants which introduce new piece types with new kanji symbols).

I pursued Shogi further only because I kept hearing so much praise for it, which finally tipped me over the edge, as I began to feel like I really should try it out, just because it was one of the few great classics which I'd still not tried. But once I did try it, I quickly thought it was very cool and fun! It exceeded my expectations.

So if they were newly invented and if I tried them, then I think I'd rate both highly. Whether I'd rate them 10, I can't say for sure. (They are the only 2 games I currently rate 10.) Part of my appreciation of them includes the large body of literature, the history, the large player community, etc.

In that sense, part of the "value" and attraction of a game is indeed its meta-value which comes from a large player base, providing more opportunities to play with more diverse people, more opportunities to learn more about the game, a big body of literature, online play sites, clubs, tournaments, etc.

No matter how good I think a game is, if there's no one else to play it with, then I won't play it (since I can't play it). So if Go and Shogi were newly created obscure modern games which almost no one else was playing, then I wouldn't really have the opportunity to play them much nor to appreciate them very deeply.

This seems a very real practical reason why games with a long history and large player base successfully get more players hooked, and keep surviving and growing. There's clearly a snowball effect which is relevant.

(To be clear: Of course it's necessary that the game actually be good and have depth, otherwise the literature and tournaments etc wouldn't be possible.)
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Buckersuk wrote:
russ wrote:
Buckersuk wrote:
BUT No other game has captured my imagination the way Chess has and kept me interested for such a long time and here's the thing. I don't think this is JUST because it has a large active place and body of instructive literature.
Possibly interesting thought experiment:

Imagine that Shogi instead of Chess was the dominant chess-family game around the world, with zillions of English language books and literature, clubs in every city, various magazines and newspaper columns, frequent tournaments, Shogi appearing often in films, TV, literature, Shogi is frequently used as metaphors and imagery in advertisements (like Chess knights often are in our current world), etc etc. I.e. you grew up immersed in Shogi instead of in Chess. You've played Shogi most of your life and it's your favorite game. When you travel to other cities in any country, you can always find Shogi players and clubs if you feel like playing. You've invested years playing and learning Shogi, studying its strategy and tactics, which you enjoy and have internalized.

As an adult, you discover Chess, a relatively obscure chess-family game played mostly only in one country on the other side of the world. A few English language books about it exist, and it has a small fanbase who praise it.

Do you think that you'd decide that Chess is clearly better than Shogi, and that it captures your imagination more than Shogi?

No I don't. I think it's unlikely that i'd view Chess as anything more than an interesting curiousity. But if I didn't know anything like Chess previously it might be altogether different story.

Now my turn to propose a thought experiment let's imagine that Shogi and Go were invented this decade. Neither game has acquired a significant fanbase and no strategy guides have been published. What rating do you think you'd give them? Are there any modern abstracts you think could have filled the void for you, given the right external factors?

I am quite sure I woud still love Go. It has a modern design feel to it, and its depth shows in a few plays. It would grow as big as Hex, or likely larger, fast - even if invented today imho.

I would see Shogi as an interesting chess variant due to the drop rule. But probably not more than that.

Cultural heritage and richness - standing the test of time - means a lot to me. As well as the appearance of the game (tactile feel, visual, sound, probably even smell). Thus, when thinking about newer games, I am therefore slower to be attracted to great games without a physical presence. An example would be Catchup where I have to buy an app or download a pnp board and use my old go stones. It is a great game but lack of material/physical presence slows (but does not prevent) my attraction.

All my ramblings above can be shortened to: to fill the void of games like Chess and Go a modern game sould for me ideally have an ancient, timeless, discovered-not-designed feel to it. And a great physical presence to it.

Depending on what you call "modern abstracts" I could think of: Hex, Tak, Salta, Trax, Twixt, Homeworlds, Santorini (i.e. the org version), and ZÈRTZ.

While I love chess variants it is difficult to come up with a modern variant that would replace the games that inspired the development of the modern variant. I.e. it is difficult to imagine a better modern chess if Chess did not exist at all! To pick a modern chess'ish game but different one could think of Navia Dratp but redesigned without the manga theme using wooden shogi or chess like pieces.
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I think the popularity of chess is purely historical. I also think that the popularity of Western (or International) Chess is purely political/historical.

There are technically better (i.e. not having problems that chess has) systems out there, but they do not have that big a following. You can find chess players nearly everywhere. You can find go players everywhere in East Asia. You can find xiangqi players everywhere in China, changgi players in Korea, shogi players in Japan.
Try to do that with any other abstract.

Purely historical. And the circle is impossible to break now. (And also unnecessary, since chess is not a bad game and replacing it is not necessary. It is well possible to also play other abstracts, some even have quite a following. No need to kill the chess scene.)

(I have zero interest in chess).
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The Player of Games wrote:
While I love chess variants it is difficult to come up with a modern variant that would replace the games that inspired the development of the modern variant. I.e. it is difficult to imagine a better modern chess if Chess did not exist at all! To pick a modern chess'ish game but different one could think of Navia Dratp but redesigned without the manga theme using wooden shogi or chess like pieces.
I forgot about Hive. May fit the bill.
 
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The Player of Games wrote:
The Player of Games wrote:
While I love chess variants it is difficult to come up with a modern variant that would replace the games that inspired the development of the modern variant. I.e. it is difficult to imagine a better modern chess if Chess did not exist at all! To pick a modern chess'ish game but different one could think of Navia Dratp but redesigned without the manga theme using wooden shogi or chess like pieces.
I forgot about Hive. May fit the bill.

What is chess-ish about Hive?
 
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Objective: kill king piece (admittedly by surrounding instead of replacement)
Pieces moves differently depending on type.
To me Hive has a destinct chess-feel without being a chess game.
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The Player of Games wrote:
Objective: kill king piece (admittedly by surrounding instead of replacement)
Pieces moves differently depending on type.
To me Hive has a destinct chess-feel without being a chess game.

There are quite a few games where you have to kill an enemy "king" piece. But this might originate from chess, not sure about that.
Pieces moving differently seems to be the norm rather than the exception.
I would say: No board/undefined playing area, no killing of enemy pieces, and a variable set up make it very un-chessy. Other non-chessy points would be the circumstancial movement of pieces (depending on the positioning of other pieces), Variable powers (demobilization power by the beetle, which arguably also introduces a third dimension).

Spoiler (click to reveal)
One could argue that most abstract games are variants of chess or go. But that is a bit like arguing that all economic games are a bit like Monopoly, or that all wargames are a bit like Risk.


I can see why you feel that way, but I would say that the non-chessy parts outnumber the chessy ones by far.
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I'd say that Hive is often compared to Chess and has the Chess-like aspects of winning by killing a specific goal piece, and various movement abilities, but I also agree that it has various dissimilarities with Chess (e.g. not being able to kill other pieces). Overall, it is closer to Chess than most games. E.g. Hive seems clearly more Chess-like than Go, Hex, Trax, GIPF, etc.

Technically it doesn't have variable setup; every game starts the same (empty board/space) and only player decisions determine all following game states. To call this variable setup seems weird to me, like saying Go or Trax or Hex has variable setup.

I'm not sure whether pieces moving differently is a norm rather than exception. There are an awful lot of abstracts where all pieces are the same...
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russ wrote:

Technically it doesn't have variable setup; every game starts the same (empty board/space) and only player decisions determine all following game states. To call this variable setup seems weird to me, like saying Go or Trax or Hex has variable setup.

I get the argument and partially agree. "Variable setup" might be a little misleading.
Hive has the rule that the queen needs to be placed as one of the first three pieces. I would refer to that part of the game as "setup". But I can see how one could disagree with that.
Also, setup (or starting moves, if you prefer) in Hive start with an empty plaaing area, as opposed to the fixed setup in chess. I see quite a lot of difference there, even if you choose not to call Hive "variable setup".
 
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I've given this subject so much thought I feel overwhelmed by all the stuff I want to say. I should write an essay. For now I'll give an example of the progress I was talking about:

Connect6

N-in-a-row games are old, there's a lot of them, some of them have been studied pretty extensively, but nonetheless nearly all have a fundamental flaw (preserved from game to game through centuries) that manifests itself when the players become skilled: large turn order advantage.

This was only rectified in recent decades. Pente does it a little (and creates a less pure n-in-a-row experience in the process), but Connect6, invented in 2003, does it in a principled and general way that completely solves the problem. It's a pure, incredibly balanced n-in-a-row game with a high meaningful branch factor and gobs of tactics (I emphasize tactics because that's were n-in-a-row games generally shine)

It's hard to deny Connect6 is waaaaaay better as a tournament game than any of it's "old guard" n-in-a-row predecessors.

And because the solution it uses (the 12* turn rule) is principled and fairly general, we can apply that principle in all kinds of situations.

It's one of many tools we have now that designers of old either didn't have or didn't think to apply. For example (even just continuing to confine ourselves to the issue of balance), Christian has written an essay about balancing protocols. A lot of the stuff discussed there wasn't available to designers of old.

Generally speaking, it seems designers of old weren't even *thinking* about balance in a principled way, instead making whatever-works patches when it became clear a game showed an imbalance. You can get to great games that way, but doing it that way seriously restricts/slows down what one can do as a designer.

And that's just for balance considerations. We have new and principled ways of thinking for every phase of game design.

Another big one: coldness. The concept of coldness is a new principle, and it turns out be central and vital to understanding what makes for a good combinatorial game. Nobody knew anything about it before the 20th century. That's one of a grab bag of useful insights that came from formal game theory.

Another big category of new knowledge: our knowledge of human cognition, aspects of which I've relied on heavily to design my own games - here's an example I wrote about recently where I designed a game with knowledge of an important property of visual perception called Perceptual Binding. No one had any idea visual perception worked that way until a couple of decades ago.

I could go on at annoying length, but I'll stop there. I get worked up about this subject. I'm frustrated by what I perceive to be a stupefying ignorance about the real and major progress game designers have collectively made. That progress is so large and so evident to me I'm discombobulated others don't see it.

I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades. Just as strongly, I believe even better games are yet to come.

More generally, to reiterate Christian's and elaborate on my original point: it's rare that large numbers of humans collectively start working hard on something without making major progress. Even if one knew nothing about the subject but that a lot more people are working on games now, that alone would make it very likely that new games tend to be significantly better than old games.
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I totally agree that we have more knowledge and there are new excellent ideas like the 12* movement protocol.

But:
milomilo122 wrote:
I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades.

Are you serious that Slither (I suppose you mean Slither among others, since it's your highest rated game and I recall you often cite it as your favorite game) is greater than Go, Shogi, and Chess?

To be clear, I don't mean to dis Slither (and I'd be asking the same question regardless which modern game you named as the best). I like Slither and think it's a good game, indeed better than most abstracts ... But to me it's not greater than Go, Shogi, and Chess. That's a very high bar!

Since you used the plural, what other games from the last couple decades do you think are better than Go, Shogi, and Chess?

(Or did you perhaps mean that they have surely been invented, but not yet widely recognized, including by you? I.e. you don't have any particular games in mind?)
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russ wrote:
I totally agree that we have more knowledge and there are new excellent ideas like the 12* movement protocol.

But:
milomilo122 wrote:
I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades.

I have my guesses, but I don't think expressing them is particularly useful because the ultimate proof only comes from a large player base over time.

So it's in this sense that I want to consider what I've said:

Quote:
(Or did you perhaps mean that they have surely been invented, but not yet widely recognized, including by you?

Unfortunately, I suspect new games are unlikely to obtain the necessary player base and tradition, no matter how good, consistent with my beliefs that a) historical context is critical to whether a game can obtain those things and that b) now's a bad time for obtaining those things.

So there may never be a way to settle the question with anything like hard evidence. My beliefs are ardent despite this!


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These arguments about the "greatness" are impossible to solve unless definitions are clearer.

a) Are we talking about the game in its pure form? Only the game, nothing else? (Of course, no game exists in that form).

b) Or are we talking about a game that has a scene, a following, has its own literature, an elaborate history, appears in anecdotes, is deeply ingrained in cultural references of all sorts? (Games only exist in that form).

If a), then rigid discipline is necessary and every argument to demographics, history etc. needs to be annulled.

If b), the argument is already decided.

Also, "greatness" would need to be defined very rigidly. Otherwise it is all just rhetorics, or individual (subjective) opinion.
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russ wrote:
I totally agree that we have more knowledge and there are new excellent ideas like the 12* movement protocol.

But:
milomilo122 wrote:
I ardently believe the greatest abstract games yet invented have been invented in the last couple of decades.

Are you serious that Slither (I suppose you mean Slither among others, since it's your highest rated game and I recall you often cite it as your favorite game) is greater than Go, Shogi, and Chess?

To be clear, I don't mean to dis Slither (and I'd be asking the same question regardless which modern game you named as the best). I like Slither and think it's a good game, indeed better than most abstracts ... But to me it's not greater than Go, Shogi, and Chess. That's a very high bar!

Since you used the plural, what other games from the last couple decades do you think are better than Go, Shogi, and Chess?

(Or did you perhaps mean that they have surely been invented, but not yet widely recognized, including by you? I.e. you don't have any particular games in mind?)
I think it's clear to most of you that I was mainly involved in a personal mission: make better weapons for those excellent players. Amid a lot of collateral damage I made Grand Chess, which is arguably better than Chess, and Dameo, which is arguably better than International Draughts.

Edit:
But the square version of Emergo, for lack of a 'better' qualification, is good enough to support a similar player base as Draughts and a create similar rating range.
And for the record, I consider Io to be far better than Othello.
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milomilo122 wrote:

So there may never be a way to settle the question with anything like hard evidence. My beliefs are ardent despite this!

And to elaborate a touch more: I liken my belief here to our understanding of Evolution:

Nearly all evidence for Darwin's theory is circumstantial, because we don't know how to do controlled laboratory experiments to create new species, etc.

Nonetheless, there's so much circumstantial evidence it's getting silly to consider other possibilities.
 
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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:
Dameo, which is arguably better than International Draughts.

To me this is a prime example, which is top of mind because I've studied Dameo in relation to other Draughts variants over the last ~14 months.

I can't "prove" Dameo is a better tournament game than International Draughts, but it doesn't take too much study of the subject to conclude that to assume otherwise is nutty.
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Quote:
On paper there is a lot to dislike about Chess. It features a small but noticeable first player advantage. Draws are a frequent occurance from club level upwards but particularly at master level, some of these draws are uneventful, in decisive games the loser is often the player who plays the better Chess for 90% of the game but makes the first serious mistake. BUT No other game has captured my imagination the way Chess has and kept me interested for such a long time and here's the thing. I don't think this is JUST because it has a large active place and body of instructive literature. There are several modern abstracts I play and enjoy but I don't think I've played any to rival Chess. Perhaps I just haven't found the right ones or Perhaps I lack the imagination to realise how awesome they could be given the same extrinsic advantages Chess enjoys.

Now I realise that not everyone is as enamoured with Chess as I am

I don't enjoy chess.

It feels too constrictive and as you point out, it's more of a "the first to make a mistake loses" type of game. Whereas Go and Tak feel not restrictive, but fluid in making new patterns and more "I did not win because I did not find the better move to make at various times", a more positive feeling: It feels more free as well.

Perhaps a major difference is: Chess pieces always start the same. Whereas Go and Tak the board pieces add over time and create different patterns.

I remember the first time I saw Go as a kid and immediately knew I'd like the pattern forming that it makes. Tak for a modern game is really impressive to me.
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Russ Williams
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Buckersuk wrote:
Are there any modern abstracts you think could have filled the void for you, given the right external factors?
I realized that I forgot to answer this last part of your question, sorry!

I like Arimaa a lot, and if Go, Shogi, Chess didn't exist, I'd probably be trying to play Arimaa more. I think it is a good game with an interesting variety of strategies. One year I watched several top tournament games and was struck how one game was a bloodbath with so many pieces killed, and another game was a slow smothering with few or no captures, where one player managed to continually restrict the opponent's forces more and more. It has multiple piece types which sort of scratches that chess-like itch, but they are more regular and simple, so it doesn't fully scratch that chess-like itch. So realistically, I think my answer would be Arimaa.

I like several GIPF games a lot (TZAAR, GIPF, DVONN especially) and would surely be playing them more too in this alternate universe. Amazons is cool, and Catchup, and currently I'm enjoying Bug a lot. I also like Trax a lot, although I am fairly lame at it. Looking at my play logs for abstract games, I've also played a lot of Hive, Blokus, Patchwork, Quoridor, Pentago, Rumis, Volcano, Hex, Lines of Action, Palago, RED, Yavalath, Havannah, Homeworlds, Gipsy King, Quads, Blam, SEVEN, Pent-Up, etc etc etc. It's hard to say whether any of these would feel like they have the same remarkable variety and aha-surprises and strategic depth that I find in Go and Shogi, although I certainly enjoy them.

Shogi's drop rule + chess-style movement creates a wonderful combination for me which I've not found in modern games. (Well, except modern Shogi variants, ha!) (And I know Navia Dratp has it, but I've not played it, and find its physical design off-putting.)

Go is even more magical since it creates such variety and aha-surprises without even "hardwiring" it in with multiple types of action (drop or move) or multiple piece types, just placing identical stones back and forth -- "emergent" complexity that's implicitly there rather than explicitly hardwired in.

---

Or maybe nothing would "fill the void" in the same way, and I would just enjoy a variety of modern abstracts (like I enjoy a variety of euros and a variety of wargames) without having one or two particularly special "lifestyle" games, and I might not be conscious of or bothered by the lack of a special game.
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