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Subject: New Game: Eigenstate rss

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Martin Grider
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Eigenstate is a 2-player abstract strategy game with incredibly simple rules that grows in complexity as you play.

Each turn you move a piece and then add two additional eigenstates (pegs) to your pieces giving them more possibilities for movement on future turns. Land on your opponent's pieces to remove them from the board and when you've reduced them to one piece remaining, you win the game.


You can check out the rules and a 3D printer file for the pieces here: https://tinyurl.com/eigenstate (I'd really love to hear about it if you take the time to print it out!)


Design by subtraction

As you can see from the photo above, each piece has 25 holes, and all but the center space correspond to a possible move for that piece (relative to the center). Each piece only starts with a single movement peg, facing forward.

This design was a direct result of my playing a lot of The Duke and Onitama, and realizing that I wanted to make a game with similar movement mechanics. This was back in the summer of 2016, and at the time I was doing a project where I tried to come up with a new game idea every day. This game was the result of one of those ideas, and because of that project, I know the precise date I came up with the idea. (2016-03-28, and it's outlined in vague terms in this blog post) I wrote again about the idea once I'd built the initial prototype, (and started thinking about it as a game system) about a month later, on 2016-04-25.

I'm extremely happy with the current simplicity of the game rules, but as usual, it took a lot of playtesting and experimenting to get there. After the initial idea about pieces that gain additional movement possibilities over time, I had a lot of different ideas about how the game should play. But first I had to make a prototype.



I bought some cribbage pegs online, and then spent a couple of afternoons in my friend Lloyd's garage with his drill press. Once I had a physical prototype, I started playing versions of the game wherever I could, often with pretty wildly different sets of rules.

Ideas that were interesting, but didn't quite work included: allowing piece rotations; action point allocation for placing pegs and moving around the board; using the checkmate mechanic from Chess; using different colored pegs for different movement mechanics; recycling (repurposing) the pegs you capture from your opponent; forcing your opponent to put pegs in their remaining pieces when you capture one (with the end-goal to make them fill up a piece); and all kinds of ideas related to scoring based on the number of pegs in your control. Some of these were more complicated than others, but all of them resulted in a far more complicated game than the game as it exists today.

Notably, in this period of floundering around, I sat down with Patrick Leder (at GlitchCon a local game development conference here in MN), and also Nick Bentley (at Gencon 2016). I don't think either of them were all that impressed, and around that time, I basically shelved the game for about a year after that.



In the summer of 2017, I signed up for a table to show my games at the Twin Cities Maker Faire. Most of my games are for touchscreens, so faced with the prospect of a 10-foot table mostly empty but for a couple of phones and an iPad, I decided to lay out Eigenstate. This meant I had to explain it to people very quickly. Without referring to my notes, and pretty much off the cuff, I decided on the simplest possible rules I thought would produce a playable game. Essentially you only needed to remember to do two things on your turn, move a piece, and place some pegs. (I decided on two.) It was just piece elimination, the easiest possible win condition to explain. I'd playtested variations on each of these rules separately, but never in that combination, and again, always as part of a more complicated ruleset.

I was a bit surprised by how well the game played with those simple rules. The game was played a bunch of times throughout the day, with really positive reception. I think if there is any part of the design I'm still looking for specific feedback about, it's the victory condition. Capturing your opponent's pieces is fine, but it doesn't feel very unique.


Theme

In quantum physics, the term eigenstate refers to the possible movement of a particle. It's a bit more complicated than that, of course, (and honestly, I have only a slippery grasp on the concept), but once I hit upon quantum physics (and in particular using the uncertainty principal as a metaphor for movement in the game), I began hunting around for suitable quantum physics terms. I think there's a cool extended metaphor about each of the pieces being particles in a system, and the players competing to observe their opponent's system first. How moving your own particles (pieces) helps you observe that system is left as a thought exercise for the player.

It's worth noting that the rules as written don't really reflect this metaphor, and I'm not sure they will (other than some flavor text) in the final version. As with the idea itself, I know when I came up with the name, on 4/26/2016.




Happy announcement

I am very pleased to be able to announce that Eigenstate is slated for publishing by Adam's Apple Games. Adam has already 3d printed some additional copies of the game, and it's being playtested internally. It will probably get a kickstarter later this year sometime.

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Stephen Tavener
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Interesting!
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Russ Williams
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Looks fun. I think games where you gradually improve/enhance/evolve your pieces are interesting. Good luck with it!


FWIW it is rather reminiscent of Stlts, which was suggested to play with corks and pushing pins into the corks to enhance their movement ability (somewhat differently from how your pegs work), also with a goal of eliminating enemy pieces.

(I played a virtual version of Stlts long ago and since then have been gradually collecting corks until I have enough to play...)
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I had to click just to see how one would implement quantum physics (determinable only statistically due to the Heisenberg uncertainty principle) into an abstract strategy game (completely determinable, when considering only combinatorial games). Of course, your game does not focus on this aspect, but I can see where your choice of topic is coming from.

The game sounds quite interesting to me, and I like the idea of the pieces becoming stronger during the course of the game (even though this very aspect does not seem to have a good quantum-physics explanation).

I am just wondering whether the first player might have a huge advantage: What would your reaction be if I moved my leftmost piece forward one space, then adding pegs to allow to move '2 forward' and '2 forward 1 right' in subsequent turns? The two rightmost pieces (from your point of view) could be killed instantly as soon as you move them forward, limiting your choices to only 3 pieces in the first turn already.
 
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Martin Grider
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russ wrote:
Looks fun. I think games where you gradually improve/enhance/evolve your pieces are interesting. Good luck with it!

Thanks!

russ wrote:
FWIW it is rather reminiscent of Stlts, which was suggested to play with corks and pushing pins into the corks to enhance their movement ability (somewhat differently from how your pegs work), also with a goal of eliminating enemy pieces.

Huh. I hadn't seen Stlts before. I've been collecting games that do similar things since I made the prototype. I found a cheap copy of Octi.
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Martin Grider
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charrm wrote:
I am just wondering whether the first player might have a huge advantage: What would your reaction be if I moved my leftmost piece forward one space, then adding pegs to allow to move '2 forward' and '2 forward 1 right' in subsequent turns? The two rightmost pieces (from your point of view) could be killed instantly as soon as you move them forward, limiting your choices to only 3 pieces in the first turn already.

I haven't noticed a first-player advantage at all, but it's something that both Adam (the publisher) and I are trying to quantify in our playtesting.

In the games I've played, developing position has felt pretty important. In a 6x6 game, it'll always take at least two turns before you can threaten the back row. Perhaps obviously, one of the most interesting decisions in the game is where to place your pegs. It's sort of a "rookie mistake" to load up one of your pieces with all the pegs, and then attack with that piece, as you are most likely going to lose it, and leave your opponent with a significant material advantage.
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grid wrote:
Notably, in this period of floundering around, I sat down with Patrick Leder (at GlitchCon a local game development conference here in MN), and also Nick Bentley (at Gencon 2016). I don't think either of them were all that impressed

Heh. I hope I mentioned this at the time: these sorts of games aren't really my style in the first place. I'm not fan of Onitama, nor The Duke, nor Octi. So I was a tough audience.
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Martin Grider
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mrraow wrote:
Interesting!

Special thanks to Stephen for making Eigenstate playable via Ai Ai!
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Adam Rehberg
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Great post Martin! I wanted to pop-in and say hello here. I'm Adam of Adam's Apple Games, the publishing company that has signed Eigenstate. I'm working closely with Martin to develop the concept for manufacturing, and currently have copies of the game out for first player win rates, total moves, and play time over a statistically significant amount of games. Let me know if you are interested in helping with this testing and I'll do what I can to send out a 3D printed prototype.

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Martin Grider
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I haven't (yet) officially updated the PnP rules doc, but I'm probably going to do that pretty soon. Mainly with 2 big differences:

1. I removed all rules pertaining to placement of pegs. There are no longer any restrictions about needing to place them adjacent to other pegs. (Tested this in about 30 games at GenCon, and yet again, less rules are better.)

2. To address hypothetical end-game stalemates, I added an alternate endgame condition. (To be clear, I don't think this would really happen between players who weren't trying to break the game, but it's probably worth addressing just in case.) The section reads: "Goal: If you reduce your opponent to just one piece remaining, you win the game. Secondary goal: In a game where both players have exactly two pieces remaining, a player may instead win the game by filling one of their remaining pieces with pegs."

I also simplified the writing quite a bit and added a FAQ. I'm curious about feedback about either of these points.
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Nick Bentley
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grid wrote:

1. I removed all rules pertaining to placement of pegs. There are no longer any restrictions about needing to place them adjacent to other pegs. (Tested this in about 30 games at GenCon, and yet again, less rules are better.)

I just went to look at the rules in the Google doc, and the adjacency restriction remains. Am I looking at the right doc?

(I find the rules very easy to understand. Well done, imo)
 
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Martin Grider
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milomilo122 wrote:
(I find the rules very easy to understand. Well done, imo)

Thank you!!!

I did just now update the PnP rules. (If you see v1.1 at the top, those are the updated ones.) Since you just read the old ones, I'd be especially interested in your thoughts on the updated version.

Awe hell, they're short enough, I'm just going to reproduce them here:

Quote:

Eigenstate (rules v1.1)

Setup
Each player selects a color and takes all 6 pieces of that color (on a 6x6 board) and sets them on the row of the board closest to the player. Each piece has a peg in the center representing its position on the board, and one additional peg facing forward, (or in the hole next to the center peg, but on the other side from the controlling player). All pegs in a piece other than the center peg represent the possible moves for that piece.

Gameplay
On a player's turn, in this order, if they can, they must:
1. Move one of their pieces.
2. Then place 2 pegs in any of their pieces.

Capture
When a piece moves onto another piece, the other piece is removed from the game.

Goal
If you reduce your opponent to just one piece remaining, you win the game.

Secondary goal: In a game where both players have exactly two pieces remaining, a player may instead win the game by filling one of their remaining pieces with pegs.
 
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Martin Grider
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I'm definitely also looking for feedback on the new FAQ portion of the rules:

Quote:
FAQ

Piece Movement
- Yes, pieces can jump over any other pieces.
- Yes, you'll need to place a peg behind a piece's center peg before it can move backwards.
- Yes, you can capture your own pieces. (Though it's almost certainly a bad idea.)
- Yes, you must move (if you can) before you place your pegs on your turn. If you can't move (in the unlikely event that all the pegs on all of your pieces correspond to spaces off the gameboard), you may still place pegs on your pieces.

Peg Placement
- No, there are no restrictions on peg placement. (Well, okay, they have to be placed into your own pieces, and only into pieces that have not yet been captured.)
- Yes, you can place your two pegs on different pieces on the same turn.
- No, you do not need to place either of the pegs on the piece you just moved.
- Yes, you can put the first new peg on a piece into its corner space, giving it a diagonal jump move.

Are there any questions you think remain un-addressed? Is everything here crystal clear? Anything confusing?
 
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I don't think the piece movement should go in the FAQ. I think in should go in the rules about movement. That's important, imo.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I don't think the piece movement should go in the FAQ. I think in should go in the rules about movement. That's important, imo.

Also, I think you should provide an illustrated example move. Also an illustrated example of an illegal move.
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milomilo122 wrote:
I don't think the piece movement should go in the FAQ. I think in should go in the rules about movement. That's important, imo.
FWIW I agree strongly. When supplied rules come with a FAQ, it tends to give me a negative impression: "WTF? You already knew the rules were unclear or incomplete, but instead of fixing the rules, you just appended a FAQ?"
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One more thing: it might not be totally obvious to some readers whether the pegs represent absolute positions on the board or positions relative to the center peg. Might want to be more explicit about this.
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I don't think the piece movement should go in the FAQ. I think in should go in the rules about movement. That's important, imo.
FWIW I agree strongly. When supplied rules come with a FAQ, it tends to give me a negative impression: "WTF? You already knew the rules were unclear or incomplete, but instead of fixing the rules, you just appended a FAQ?"

Hmmmm. This is good feedback!

FWIW, we will definitely have illustrations and examples in the final rule book. I left the ones we do already have out of this because the "art" is currently terrible, and obviously not final. But you're right, they should be in there.

I do think there's a big difference between the game "rules" and what I think of as "clarifications". (Currently there is stuff about how pieces move in the Setup section, which is obviously a terrible place for it!) I'll definitely work on this some more... but russ, you are arguing against having a FAQ at all. I guess I'm curious how other folks think about that.

Is having a FAQ in your rulebook inherently bad practice?
 
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grid wrote:
Theme

In quantum physics, the term eigenstate refers to the possible movement of a particle...

Ah, so that's where the name comes from. When I played it with Stephen earlier in the year, I remember thinking, "Oh, eigen-, that's like eigenvalues and eigenvectors for matrices, right? Yeah, these pieces have grids on them like matrices, it checks out.".
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grid wrote:
russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I don't think the piece movement should go in the FAQ. I think in should go in the rules about movement. That's important, imo.
FWIW I agree strongly. When supplied rules come with a FAQ, it tends to give me a negative impression: "WTF? You already knew the rules were unclear or incomplete, but instead of fixing the rules, you just appended a FAQ?"

Hmmmm. This is good feedback!

FWIW, we will definitely have illustrations and examples in the final rule book. I left the ones we do already have out of this because the "art" is currently terrible, and obviously not final. But you're right, they should be in there.

I do think there's a big difference between the game "rules" and what I think of as "clarifications". (Currently there is stuff about how pieces move in the Setup section, which is obviously a terrible place for it!) I'll definitely work on this some more... but russ, you are arguing against having a FAQ at all. I guess I'm curious how other folks think about that.

Is having a FAQ in your rulebook inherently bad practice?

I think there should only be FAQ items for things which you expect all but a tiny minority of people will deduce on their own from the rules as written. FAQ is for rare edge cases only. That way you don't waste the majority's time talking about a question whose answer they already know.
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
I think there should only be FAQ items for things which you expect all but a tiny minority of people will deduce on their own from the rules as written. FAQ is for rare edge cases only. That way you don't waste the majority's time talking about a question whose answer they already know.

They wouldn't really be "frequently asked" then would they. devil

I've been thinking of it as a list of clarifications I've been asked. For most of them, they're asked maybe one in five games. (Some of them quite a bit less frequently.) "Can I jump other pieces" is probably the most frequently asked, and for that or pretty much any of the other movement questions, I usually just go over a movement example again (incorporating their question), both because that's easy, but also because it means the person asking probably just fundamentally doesn't get the movement yet.

(Rules are hard!)
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grid wrote:


They wouldn't really be "frequently asked" then would they. devil

Well, "frequently asked" is a misleading phrase, because there should never be ANY frequently asked questions. There should just be a few questions which are more frequently asked than never.

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flahr wrote:
grid wrote:
Theme

In quantum physics, the term eigenstate refers to the possible movement of a particle...

Ah, so that's where the name comes from. When I played it with Stephen earlier in the year, I remember thinking, "Oh, eigen-, that's like eigenvalues and eigenvectors for matrices, right? Yeah, these pieces have grids on them like matrices, it checks out.".

Ooooh, you've hit on another question I've been meaning to ask here.

Literally the day after I posted this forum thread, (and submitted the game to be listed on BGG) Adam suggested another (probably better) name for the game using the quantum physics theme: Super Position.

Anyone have thoughts or strong feelings about either name? It's possible we'll be going with a different theme entirely when the game goes up on Kickstarter, and in that case it'd have another completely different name, probably.
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
Well, "frequently asked" is a misleading phrase, because there should never be ANY frequently asked questions. There should just be a few questions which are more frequently asked than never.

My original goal with the whole FAQ section was that they were all statements about movement or peg placement that could be derived from the other statements already present in the rules.

Maybe a better question is: How much of the rules should consist of clarifying statements? These are statements that could (should?) be derived from the other statements in the rules, but might not be obvious. (As I write this, I think it's probably super-subjective.) What is obvious to someone is really hard to quantify.
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grid wrote:
Anyone have thoughts or strong feelings about either name? It's possible we'll be going with a different theme entirely when the game goes up on Kickstarter, and in that case it'd have another completely different name, probably.
Blooms may be free soon, if Nick keeps agonising over his game whistle
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