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Subject: How to beat AiAi at Storisende rss

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christian freeling
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I'll wait a bit till this is sorted out, then I'll read it carefully and after that I will try to rephrase the rules accordingly to see if I can beat the odds and please everybody!

I have to emphasise however that the rules start out with:
Quote:
A 'piece' may be a man or a stack of like coloured men.

There are instances where the use of 'piece' is shorter and can be used regardless of whether it concerns a single man or a stack. Like:

"A piece may only move straight in one of the six main directions and must move exactly the number of cells equaling its height", or

"If a piece lands on a like coloured piece, the two merge. If it lands on an opponent's piece, it captures by replacement, regardless of size. Capture by replacement means that the capturing piece takes the place of the piece that is captured and that the latter is removed from the board."


I didn't check and weigh all suggestions yet, but can we agree that using 'a single man or a stack' in the above cases, and similar cases, is not necessary and rather clumsy?

I agree with Russ that 'vacated' may to some people carry some ambiguity so I'm pondering 'becomes vacant as result of a move' and 'is wholly vacated by a move'.

I hereby declare Storisende the all time champion abstract strategy game in terms of having its rules rephrased with the help of the community, without changing the game itself at all.

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Craig Duncan
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FWIW I still kind of like my original suggestion many posts ago:

“If all current occupants of a beige cell leave that cell, then it immediately..."

Or perhaps: "If all current occupants of a beige cell vacate that cell, then it immediately..."

Active voice, baby!
 
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Richard Moxham
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cdunc123 wrote:
FWIW I still kind of like my original suggestion many posts ago:

“If all current occupants of a beige cell leave that cell, then it immediately..."

Or perhaps: "If all current occupants of a beige cell vacate that cell, then it immediately..."

Active voice, baby!

There's obviously not a lot wrong with any of these suggestions, but the process is a healthy one.

There's also not a lot wrong with the passive voice, which has always been associated with the sort of writing where being exact is crucial, and is quite often pithier. For instance,

"The moment an occupied beige cell is vacated:" (going straight on from there to the sub-points)

eliminates almost 50% of the word-count above, and, I would claim, is 100% unambiguous.

(I do realise that a further word can technically be saved by removing "occupied", but there will always be gazintas under the impression that "vacated" is synonymous with "vacant" )
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
(I guess you were reluctant to call a single a "stack"? But stacks being one or more pieces seems a common and understandable convention in stacking games, just like how a single piece can be a "group" in placement games. It obviates the need to repeatedly distinguish two cases (one piece vs more than one pieces) or the need to create a third umbrella term to mean "single or multiple pieces").)

Thus (my proposals with yellow background):

I appreciate the quest for unambiguousness but I'm a bit surprised that a well established guideline in the wording of game rules is being challenged here: to define terms that are used in the rules within the context of those rules. So if the rules state that a 'piece' may refer to a single man or to a stack, that should be unambiguous.
The reason for doing so or not doing so doesn't seem relevant to me. There are obviously instances in which the difference between a single and a stack doesn't matter, for instance if you capture it, you capture a 'piece'.
It is possible to avoid that by defining a 'stack' as 'one or more stacked men'. But you then define a single as 'one stacked man'. I'd like to avoid that.

P.S. Not to use it as an argument to be less than scrupulous in the wording of rules, but I made games for players who like to play good games and know that understanding the rules is the start of understanding the game, not the end.
 
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Russ Williams
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
(I guess you were reluctant to call a single a "stack"? But stacks being one or more pieces seems a common and understandable convention in stacking games, just like how a single piece can be a "group" in placement games. It obviates the need to repeatedly distinguish two cases (one piece vs more than one pieces) or the need to create a third umbrella term to mean "single or multiple pieces").)

Thus (my proposals with yellow background):

I appreciate the quest for unambiguousness but I'm a bit surprised that a well established guideline in the wording of game rules is being challenged here: to define terms that are used in the rules within the context of those rules.


I'm of course not objecting to defining terms!

I'm objecting to one specific counter-intuitive nontraditional confusing definition, namely defining a "piece" to be one or more physical pieces (where "physical piece" is in the usual sense of the word "piece").

In almost all game rules I've read, "piece" means a single physical object, not a stack of such objects. It is like calling a group of Go stones a "stone"; it is an unnecessarily confusing idiosyncratic counter-intuitive definition, which sets up an unnecessary obstacle for reading the rules.

If you point to a stack of 2 disks and ask someone how many pieces they see, they'll say "two", not "one".

Quote:
It is possible to avoid that by defining a 'stack' as 'one or more stacked men'. But you then define a single as 'one stacked man'. I'd like to avoid that.

Simply saying a "single piece" would seem perfectly clear with no need to even define "single".

Or if you want to be able to use "single" as a noun, then define a "single" to be "one man" or "one piece" (depending on whether you use "man" or "piece" to name the individual wooden disks).

Quote:
P.S. Not to use it as an argument to be less than scrupulous in the wording of rules, but I made games for players who like to play good games and know that understanding the rules is the start of understanding the game, not the end.

You've indicated often that you hope people will play the game; I believe that you increase the probability of a person playing it by making the rules clearer and easier to understand. I believe that this odd use of "piece" to refer to one or more physical pieces is a completely unnecessary hindrance to making the rules clear and easy to understand.

(And the rules of Storisende are already a bit more tougher to grok than a typical abstract strategy game's rules. Anecdotally, I found it took longer to explain to my wife than an abstract strategy game typically does.)
 
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christian freeling
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The Rules of Storisende

I hereby declare the wording the rules of Storisende to be finished. All rise for the Dutch National Anthem!
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
You've indicated often that you hope people will play the game; I believe that you increase the probability of a person playing it by making the rules clearer and easier to understand. I believe that this odd use of "piece" to refer to one or more physical pieces is a completely unnecessary hindrance to making the rules clear and easy to understand.

(And the rules of Storisende are already a bit more tougher to grok than a typical abstract strategy game's rules. Anecdotally, I found it took longer to explain to my wife than an abstract strategy game typically does.)

How can it be a hinderance if it is clearly (now even more clearly) defined? I've kept the distinction because I feel similar about one man being a 'stack'. If the reader's goal is to understand the game, I feel it is unlikely that the definition of a 'piece' in this particular context would turn him or her off.

And I agree Storisende is not an easy concept to understand, but understanding it, I can assure you, is well worth it. Up on the Wall and down in the trenches, kill the enemy, grab the land, it is all very human!
 
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Russ Williams
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christianF wrote:
How can it be a hinderance if it is clearly (now even more clearly) defined? I've kept the distinction because I feel similar about one man being a 'stack'. If the reader's goal is to understand the game, I feel it is unlikely that the definition of a 'piece' in this particular context would turn him or her off.


Then consider whether it would be a hindrance if you made some further similar counter-intuitive definitions, e.g.:

A "square" refers to any single hexagonal-shaped cell on the board.

A "single" is defined to be exactly two men.

A "double' is defined to be exactly one men.

To "attack" means to lift a piece and place it onto an empty cell or friendly-occupied cell in one of the 6 directions from where it started.

To "move" means to lift a piece and place it onto an enemy-occupied cell and remove the enemy piece.

For a player "control" a territory, it must be that only the opponent has pieces in the territory.

Etc.

I.e. just because something is clearly precisely defined doesn't mean that it's not a hindrance. In particular if the definition conflicts with typical usage of the term being defined, it is a hindrance.

---

Or to put it another way:

Defining "piece" to be one or more of the individual physical pieces (each which people usually call a "piece") violates the Principle of least astonishment.

"People are part of the system. The design should match the user's experience, expectations, and mental models."

Our usual experience, expectation, and mental model is that a stack of two pieces is not one piece.

---

OK, it feels like we're going in repetitive circles about this use of "piece" for multiple pieces... but I'll just add that I'm admittedly insistently emphasizing this issue probably too much because I do sincerely think Storisende seems worthy and interesting, and I enjoyed my play of it so far, and so I sincerely want to help it attract more players by making it easier to read and grok the rules.
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Nick Bentley
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russ wrote:
Our usual experience, expectation, and mental model is that a stack of two pieces is not one piece.

This. A definition is confusing if your brain has already has a conflicting definition for the same word.
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
OK, it feels like we're going in repetitive circles about this use of "piece" for multiple pieces... but I'll just add that I'm admittedly insistently emphasizing this issue probably too much because I do sincerely think Storisende seems worthy and interesting, and I enjoyed my play of it so far, and so I sincerely want to help it attract more players by making it easier to read and grok the rules.

I agree and I'm glad you recognise the game. I hope you can nevertheless have peace with my use of 'piece' in this case. To me the word is also associated with 'capture by replacement', understood as 'replacing one piece by another'. And it doesn't change the game.
 
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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, it feels like we're going in repetitive circles about this use of "piece" for multiple pieces... but I'll just add that I'm admittedly insistently emphasizing this issue probably too much because I do sincerely think Storisende seems worthy and interesting, and I enjoyed my play of it so far, and so I sincerely want to help it attract more players by making it easier to read and grok the rules.

I agree and I'm glad you recognise the game. I hope you can nevertheless have peace with my use of 'piece' in this case. To me the word is also associated with 'capture by replacement', understood as 'replacing one piece by another'. And it doesn't change the game.

Respectfully, for the purpose of communicating the game, your associations with the word don't matter. It's the reader's associations that matter.
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
OK, it feels like we're going in repetitive circles about this use of "piece" for multiple pieces... but I'll just add that I'm admittedly insistently emphasizing this issue probably too much because I do sincerely think Storisende seems worthy and interesting, and I enjoyed my play of it so far, and so I sincerely want to help it attract more players by making it easier to read and grok the rules.

I agree and I'm glad you recognise the game. I hope you can nevertheless have peace with my use of 'piece' in this case. To me the word is also associated with 'capture by replacement', understood as 'replacing one piece by another'. And it doesn't change the game.

Respectfully, for the purpose of communicating the game, your associations with the word don't matter. It's the reader's associations that matter.

Not to make to big an issue of it, but I expect those who are not turned off by the particular wording to discover that the interaction of the pieces (I must apologise ) is very Chess like, with stacking providing an inherent sense of 'promotion' and a means of creating different strength of pieces. This applies in particular to the fights on the Wall. Chess has pieces that have a fixed capability. In Storisende it's variable. But the feeling is very much the same to me, and I would be surprised if other players wouldn't have a similar experience.
 
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christian freeling
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And now for the actual Game

During the process of visualising the game, ever since the the thought "only doubles can breed" came out of nowhere, I've sensed that there was something completely different about the game. During the last couple of months it crystallised. I hope that for those following Storisende I now can support my argument that it behaves unlike any other abstract game, based on only two diagrams.

At level 5 and given 15 seconds, AiAi is quite strong on a base-4 hexhex board at least against me. But on a base-6 board it falls victim to the increased branch density and an understandable lack of long term planning. And Storisende lends itself excellently for long term planning!

Diagram 1
I started on a cell next to the centre and AiAi swapped, so I play White. Let's have a look at the position after 21 moves by both.
Both have provisionally fenced off along the line that runs from the NW cell to the SE one. These are the stats so far:

- White has 17 men, Black has 15.
- Both have 3 doubles, but Black has two on the same sub-grid.
- White has 5 men on the Wall, Black has 1.
- White has created 10 green cells, Black 13.

Note that White needs 3 moves to capture the lone black man on the Wall. Not an immediate priority, breeding is still hot, but a priority nonetheless. White can always leave the cell should the forces be needed elsewhere, but so long as they're there White can immedialely capture any newborn that would emerge on adjacent wall cells. Kill 'm before they get a chance to grow up!

Diagram 2
This is the position after 40 moves each. Let's have a look at the stats again:

- White has 23 men, Black has 13.
- Both have 3 doubles, but all White one can immediately breed.
- White has 10 men on the Wall, Black has 5, two of which are still vulnarable for an attack with a stack of 3 or 4.
- White has created 12 green cells, Black 13.

Black's position is completely lost
Territory is very provisional in the opening and middle game. Imagine you have NO men on the Wall:

- You can't move stacks from one territory to the other anymore, every man is locked inside the patch he's in.
- You can't claim empty territory, or capture lone occupants of small territories 'from above', or neutralise a patch if you can't conquer it.

In the diagram, the priority of catching the lone wall men has become more pressing, though breeding is still hot. If you win the wall fight, the existential Chess-like fight then the endgame, when territory really matters, may look all the better for it!
Don't forget that a majority on the Wall may and usually will give some positive feedback. If you have at least 3 cooperative men, you can usually catch a lone one without exchanging it for another man. In exceptional cases even two men is enough. In my view any player should always keep an eye on isolated prey on the Wall!

This is a game between a beginner (I've played a lot but still hesitate whether I've actually climbed to that status) and a program that inherently has no long term plan or vision. So the position isn't interesting other than to illustrate the game's unique double edged strategy. The existential fight for and on the Wall and the territorial fight overall. For now the former may enter the stage earlier, but that is only the case because AiAi allows it to happen. Against a human opponent I have no doubt that it will be a whole different ball game.

 
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
Not to make to big an issue of it, but I expect those who are not turned off by the particular wording to discover that the interaction of the pieces (I must apologise ) is very Chess like, with stacking providing an inherent sense of 'promotion' and a means of creating different strength of pieces. This applies in particular to the fights on the Wall. Chess has pieces that have a fixed capability. In Storisende it's variable. But the feeling is very much the same to me, and I would be surprised if other players wouldn't have a similar experience.

This issue of reminiscence interests me a great deal. Though I've not as yet actually played Storisende (and though the diagrams show little in common with Chess), I have no difficulty whatever in believing that for you (the person most familiar with the game, after all) the feeling of similarity is extremely powerful - and, further, that it's not just a quirk of your personal fancy.

I say this because my own feeling about Morelli (which I guess I've played competitively somewhere over a thousand times) is that the experience is extraordinarily Chess-like. So strong is this sense that when I put it to Russ, and he replied that the thought had never struck him, I immediately assumed that he must have misunderstood what level of similarity I was talking about, since to me it was so obviously an objective fact.

Having said all of which, I suspect I would really struggle to put into words the basis of this sensed kinship between the two games. Are you able to get close to that in the case of Chess and Storisende?



 
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
Having said all of which, I suspect I would really struggle to put into words the basis of this sensed kinship between the two games. Are you able to get close to that in the case of Chess and Storisende?

You already mentioned, and I already mentioned, that the mechanics of Storisende do not immediately suggest a Chess-like feeling in actual play. The Go-like feeling I mentioned isn't quite the same because it is merely goal related. But the Chess-like feeling stems from the actual interaction. Large pieces are not inherently useful in the trenches, but up on the Wall they can be made formidable weapons able to target far away cells without any threat from down below. Win the Chess game on the Wall and you win the game. That's a basic strategy and games may evolve if it is followed and refined by human players.
Or by a very good bot.
 
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christian freeling
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For community members who are interested in the behaviour of the game rather than the behaviour of its inventor, I've written a small piece on strategic fundamentals.
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