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Subject: Thoughts on NECNON rss

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Richard Moxham
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For reasons explained elsewhere and not to be resurrected here, I’ve maintained an embarrassed silence for a couple of weeks on the subject of NECNON, but that can’t go on for ever, and in the meantime the interesting reflections published on Blooms and Storisende have nudged me back into posting mode. Unlike Christian, I don’t have any advice to offer on how to overcome the Ai, for the excellent reason that I’ve never succeeded in beating it myself and as far as I’m aware no-one else has either (is this still true?). And unlike Nick (though perhaps in this regard rather like Christian), I’ve no plans to explore marketability enhancements. But I do have a few thoughts that may be worth sharing.

As a starting-point, how remarkable it is that NECNON and Blooms should have come to light in the same year, given their obvious common lineage and the reportedly sparse previous yield of what Nick calls “Go-like games that don’t suck”. I suppose the essential difference is that his game takes the Go concept forward in a certain way, whereas mine strips it back. But they’re certainly cousins even if not siblings, and whilst I wouldn’t give much for NECNON’s chances of finishing ahead of Blooms in the 2019 Combinatorial stakes I rate it worthy of no less attention in the long term.

No-one who has tried it would be likely to call NECNON an elementary game, but I would definitely assign it to that most select of families: the one whose members merit the description elemental. We’ve grown accustomed to hearing games praised – not always without justification – for their “minimalist rulesets”, but this one really does come close to the standard set by Hex of having as few rules as is compatible with still being a game at all. In fact it’s scarcely an exaggeration to say that deciding what to play requires more mental effort than understanding how. With a choice of quadruple, sextuple or octuple adjacency, virtually any board size, and of course the yin and yang placement protocols, NECNON can be pretty much as many games under one roof as you want it to be. The ill-starred experiment at AiAi has shown that the twin protocols can’t be applied asymmetrically, but otherwise all the permutations work like a dream.

In contrast to Go, surrounded groups (known as smothered groups here) are never removed as prisoners; instead, play continues until the board is full, or else (not necessarily the same thing) until neither player is able to take a legal turn. The obligation to play whenever possible means that a suicidal move is compulsory in the absence of any other option, and the lack of removals renders NECNON finite and free of cycles. It used to be free of draws too, but the mechanism introduced to that end was a factitious imposition on an otherwise perfectly natural game. Draws (in any case less and less frequent as board size increases) are now once again welcomed as an element native to the landscape.

An important feature of NECNON which would appear to have no exact equivalent elsewhere are the air-holes which open up in almost every game. These have an effect roughly comparable to the ‘eyes’ in Go or Blooms, but with key differences. Because of the restrictions imposed by the placement protocols, it's not uncommon for a vacant cell to end up surrounded by a numerical distribution of stones which precludes its subsequent occupation by either player. Figs 1 to 3 (below) illustrate this in simplified form for all three board types. In each case, assuming that the operative protocol is NEC, a placement by Black at the location marked with a red dot makes of the enclosed cell or intersection a no-go area that permanently sustains any group of either colour adjoining it. (Obviously the same principle holds, mutatis mutandis, for NON games.)



EDIT: Fig 4 in this diagram is an amendment of a corrupt original, which had the red dot and adjacent green stone at top right reversed. Thanks to Christian Freeling (see the post immediately following this one), whose analysis - spot-on as the example stood - alerted me to my error.

Air-holes may be consciously created in one’s own interest, but more often they arise, as if independently of either player’s will, through placements executed for entirely unconnected purposes. Fig 4 demonstrates that they need not always be unitary, and it will also be noted, in this and the other cases, that play could proceed from the shown position in such a way that they never form at all. Indeed, the situation occasionally arises (less commonly on the larger boards) where the game ends without any, in which case every group is smothered ipso facto and the winner is automatically the player who contributed the fewer stones.

NECNON lends itself very nicely to casual play on small boards, but on anything from (say) Hexhex 8/Square 13 upwards it represents a formidable intellectual challenge. Strategically, nothing is yet known, and the guiding principles of expert play will have to be pieced together patiently over what may be a very long time. But that’s how the noble abstracts become themselves. Do try it.
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
Air-holes may be consciously created in one’s own interest, but more often they arise, as if independently of either player’s will, through placements executed for entirely unconnected purposes. Fig 4 demonstrates that they need not always be unitary, and it will also be noted, in this and the other cases, that play could proceed from the shown position in such a way that they never form at all.
Do I understand figure 4 right? Assuming NEC, black can't play on the red dot. If green does then the cell to the left of it is open to both green and black and depending on who plays there, the other two are open to either green or black. Right?
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mocko wrote:
I suppose the essential difference is that his game takes the Go concept forward in a certain way, whereas mine strips it back. But they’re certainly cousins even if not siblings, and whilst I wouldn’t give much for NECNON’s chances of finishing ahead of Blooms in the 2019 Combinatorial stakes I rate it worthy of no less attention in the long term.

We’ve grown accustomed to hearing games praised – not always without justification – for their “minimalist rulesets”, but this one really does come close to the standard set by Hex of having as few rules as is compatible with still being a game at all. In fact it’s scarcely an exaggeration to say that deciding what to play requires more mental effort than understanding how. With a choice of quadruple, sextuple or octuple adjacency, virtually any board size, and of course the yin and yang placement protocols, NECNON can be pretty muchas many games under one roof as you want it to be.

NECNON lends itself very nicely to casual play on small boards, but on anything from (say) Hexhex 8/Square 13 upwards it represents a formidable intellectual challenge. Strategically, nothing is yet known, and the guiding principles of expert play will have to be pieced together patiently over what may be a very long time. But that’s how the noble abstracts become themselves. Do try it.

Thanks. I think you hit the nail on the head: A game can be very interesting of itself. But as we're all humans with finite attention and other demands elsewhere going on which all too often is the decisive criteria for how we choose to spend our time as opposed to the value of the activity itself (!) then if the immediate attractiveness is not apparent (much more often but not always different from the long-term value); hence other devices must be resorted to, to successfully transmit the merits, in this case, of said game.

I culled the bits in your post that made me think: "I have seen this game and remember reading it has an interesting mechanic but I am swamped with things on my mind, maybe some day... ('I'll come back tomorrow' (the saleman's most feared words to hear!))" - To: "Casual play on smaller boards sounds very possible, it's a cousin of blooms of sorts going in a minimalist rule direction ala hex (also an interesting consideration), the author suggests there's many undiscovered depths and quirks of interest."


Suddenly the proposition generated, is quite strong to sit down and put time and energy into learning and playing a bit of this game. Quite excited.
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Craig Duncan
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FWIW, I just posted this comment on the NECNON page on BGG (after giving it a 7.5 rating for now):

Provisional rating. I've just played a half dozen games so far, but I find NECNON very appealing. Minimalist rules and emergent complexity are a sweet spot for me, and NECNON fits this bill. The tactics in it are quite novel, and kudos to it for being naturally immune to cycles and for being naturally a balanced game with no need for komi, the pie rule, etc. I do currently find it a bit opaque. For now, the early game feels a bit aimless and inconsequential, but I suppose that the fog will lift with more experience. Another slight concern: Coldness is key to the end game; my games so far have come down to the question of who (my opponent or I) is forced to make the first disadvantageous placement when only a few legal placements are left. I don't normally like coldness in a game, but the actual coldness in NECNON is a small enough fraction of the game (somewhat like Gonnect) that I find it tolerable.

I would encourage anyone to give NECNON a try. I do fear that the somewhat opaque (to me, at least) early game may prove to be an obstacle on NECNON's road to becoming better known. But I plan to keep trying it (I need to try it via Ai Ai!) to see if the opaqueness eventually dissipates. Climbing the learning curve is part of the fun.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Richard, which combinations of protocols and boards do you think are worthwhile? For example, NON on a fully-connected square board (if I remember correctly) resulted in a draw due to everything being connected. NEC on a hexhex board was fine.
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Air-holes may be consciously created in one’s own interest, but more often they arise, as if independently of either player’s will, through placements executed for entirely unconnected purposes. Fig 4 demonstrates that they need not always be unitary, and it will also be noted, in this and the other cases, that play could proceed from the shown position in such a way that they never form at all.
Do I understand figure 4 right? Assuming NEC, black can't play on the red dot. If green does then the cell to the left of it is open to both green and black and depending on who plays there, the other two are open to either green or black. Right?

Oops! I concocted my example too hastily, Christian. Please find it now replaced by the sort of position I should have displayed. In this new one, you'll see that if Black occupies the red-dotted cell - which he now can - a triple ('propeller') air-hole forms. But if Black declines that opportunity, and it becomes Green's turn, things may pan out rather differently, along very much the sort of lines you analysed.

My apologies for the ****-up!

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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Air-holes may be consciously created in one’s own interest, but more often they arise, as if independently of either player’s will, through placements executed for entirely unconnected purposes. Fig 4 demonstrates that they need not always be unitary, and it will also be noted, in this and the other cases, that play could proceed from the shown position in such a way that they never form at all.
Do I understand figure 4 right? Assuming NEC, black can't play on the red dot. If green does then the cell to the left of it is open to both green and black and depending on who plays there, the other two are open to either green or black. Right?

Oops! I concocted my example too hastily, Christian. Please find it now replaced by the sort of position I should have displayed.
It would be nice if you would mention that in the OP - the fact that you've changed it makes my commentary seem a bit odd.
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Richard Moxham
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mlvanbie wrote:
Richard, which combinations of protocols and boards do you think are worthwhile? For example, NON on a fully-connected square board (if I remember correctly) resulted in a draw due to everything being connected. NEC on a hexhex board was fine.

Hi Michael. I trust it won't seem too evasive if I say that I wouldn't especially recommend any one combination over another. In a tournament, of course, some sort of stipulation must necessarily apply, and one can see various approaches that might be quite appealing. But for purposes of casual play I think it's very much a matter of discovering which variant you particularly enjoy - or indeed of just going with the whim of the moment.

I'm not quite sure whether the findings you quote are drawn from your own actual experience, but the statistical outcomes of Ai vs Ai encounters (tables to be found in this thread) show that, in those particular trials at least (and we're talking about almost a quarter of a million games in all), everything seemed to work fine. What I will say (it's obvious to the intuition, really) is that the smallest boards produce most draws. With eightfold adjacency on 8x8 square grids, both NEC and NON returned 25% draw rates, but I would consider that to be a board from which a more gifted novice than me might aspire to graduate fairly soon - and in the meantime 75% decisiveness doesn't seem so very off-putting.

As far as the game's design evolution is concerned, I started out with hexes, which I confidently expected would prove to be the way to go, and expanded into squares purely out of curiosity - surprising myself with the discovery that these alternative modes turned out to be just as attractive in their different ways. Perversely, one thing I especially like is the brain-scrambling experience of trying to switch between boards. For the moment (playing against the bot) it's still the case that I never win at any of them anyway, but just trying to figure out why is stimulating enough till further notice.

Is this any help? Probably not, reading it through, but I hope you'll give the game an extended go and report from time to time on your findings.
 
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
christianF wrote:
mocko wrote:
Air-holes may be consciously created in one’s own interest, but more often they arise, as if independently of either player’s will, through placements executed for entirely unconnected purposes. Fig 4 demonstrates that they need not always be unitary, and it will also be noted, in this and the other cases, that play could proceed from the shown position in such a way that they never form at all.
Do I understand figure 4 right? Assuming NEC, black can't play on the red dot. If green does then the cell to the left of it is open to both green and black and depending on who plays there, the other two are open to either green or black. Right?

Oops! I concocted my example too hastily, Christian. Please find it now replaced by the sort of position I should have displayed.
It would be nice if you would mention that in the OP - the fact that you've changed it makes my commentary seem a bit odd.
Quite right. Now done.
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Nick Bentley
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cdunc123 wrote:

I would encourage anyone to give NECNON a try. I do fear that the somewhat opaque (to me, at least) early game may prove to be an obstacle on NECNON's road to becoming better known. But I plan to keep trying it (I need to try it via Ai Ai!) to see if the opaqueness eventually dissipates. Climbing the learning curve is part of the fun.
For me, I expect it will come down to whether I can learn "see" adjacency parity without counting. Once I get to that point, then I can start visualize the distribution of such parities across the board as a function of my choices, and then I think the game will open up to me. I'm fairly optimistic because the patterns to see are both local and fairly constrained. Don't know if I'll play enough to get to that point though, given how I prioritize my game play time.
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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mocko wrote:
I'm not quite sure whether the findings you quote are drawn from your own actual experience, but the statistical outcomes of Ai vs Ai encounters (tables to be found in this thread) show that, in those particular trials at least (and we're talking about almost a quarter of a million games in all), everything seemed to work fine. What I will say (it's obvious to the intuition, really) is that the smallest boards produce most draws. With eightfold adjacency on 8x8 square grids, both NEC and NON returned 25% draw rates, but I would consider that to be a board from which a more gifted novice than me might aspire to graduate fairly soon - and in the meantime 75% decisiveness doesn't seem so very off-putting.

My experience was from playing against the AI to a 0-0 draw. It is good to see that the AI often has non-draw games and the sides are balanced, but
* it doesn't tell you much about the nature of the game (i.e., would you have enjoyed it)
* a balanced win rate might just reflect the player unlucky to make a bad move in a game where correct would otherwise lead to a draw; the mistake could be placement on the first turn (Ai Ai uses randomization when deciding which moves to pursue, so luck is an issue)
Cameron Browne's work does provide analytics to identify potentially interesting games, but Ai Ai doesn't provide that functionality.

You need to play against the AI using settings appropriate to your skill level (giving you a reasonable win rate) to find out what is happening. You may learn more about your game, or you might just discover that there is a weakness in the AI's heuristics. (Storisende plays significantly better if you add 50 to onWallWt values, and that was just an arbitrary test number rather than the result of careful calibration. I know this because I saw Christian Freeling's analysis on the weakness of the heuristics and decided to run a 1000-game experiment on a trivial change.)

I wouldn't recommend playing NON on a board with 8 adjacencies because you can easily block captures but it is very hard to block things becoming connected. Even on a small board most of the moves can be tedious exercises in protecting your position. Perhaps on a large board you would have to worry about some sort of ladder-equivalents running into other structures, but it seems to me that collisions between parts of the board will just end up with more connections.

Part of the job of a designer is to direct attention to the best options. A game with multiple configurations (due to variants, powers, random setup, etc.) will be somewhere on a scale of
* minefield of uninteresting and/or broken options
* less boring that if it were always the same setup
* a plethora of interesting and unique challenges, each a worthy game on its own

NEC on hexhex was a good enough experience for me to try NON on a different geometry. A handful of human-recommended options is better than a wide number of variable experiences.
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christian freeling
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mocko wrote:
For reasons explained elsewhere and not to be resurrected here, I’ve maintained an embarrassed silence for a couple of weeks on the subject of NECNON, but that can’t go on for ever, and in the meantime the interesting reflections published on Blooms and Storisende have nudged me back into posting mode. Unlike Christian, I don’t have any advice to offer on how to overcome the Ai, for the excellent reason that I’ve never succeeded in beating it myself and as far as I’m aware no-one else has either (is this still true?). And unlike Nick (though perhaps in this regard rather like Christian), I’ve no plans to explore marketability enhancements.
I don't think it would have much of a chance. Blooms seems more versatile in terms of numbers of players (at least provisionally). It turned out to be necessary to introduce hard cut for the number of captured stones needed to win, to solve the cycle problem. That's a bit of a pity but it may help the market plans in several ways. People like to have a fixed number to see where they're going. And Blooms can easier be made to look pretty. That's what most of the discussion has been about since the rules were established. NECNON is more like Sygo, very versatile but still looking like Go to the casual observer.

mocko wrote:
NECNON lends itself very nicely to casual play on small boards, but on anything from (say) Hexhex 8/Square 13 upwards it represents a formidable intellectual challenge. Strategically, nothing is yet known, and the guiding principles of expert play will have to be pieced together patiently over what may be a very long time. But that’s how the noble abstracts become themselves. Do try it.
I admire it for its simplicity but I'm a bit like you so I didn't try it. I'm a bit caught up in Storisende. It shows the opposite behaviour. On 4 modules AiAi makes three million iterations in 30 seconds. So I lose for now. On 7 modules or more I win quite easily (assuming convex lay outs).

milomilo122 wrote:

For me, I expect it will come down to whether I can learn "see" adjacency parity without counting. Once I get to that point, then I can start visualize the distribution of such parities across the board as a function of my choices, and then I think the game will open up to me. I'm fairly optimistic because the patterns to see are both local and fairly constrained. Don't know if I'll play enough to get to that point though, given how I prioritize my game play time.
My idea exactly. 'New Go' has the same problems as 'new Chess'.
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christian freeling
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mlvanbie wrote:
You need to play against the AI using settings appropriate to your skill level (giving you a reasonable win rate) to find out what is happening. You may learn more about your game, or you might just discover that there is a weakness in the AI's heuristics. (Storisende plays significantly better if you add 50 to onWallWt values, and that was just an arbitrary test number rather than the result of careful calibration. I know this because I saw Christian Freeling's analysis on the weakness of the heuristics and decided to run a 1000-game experiment on a trivial change.)
I'll try that, thank you! On small compact convex lay outs of four modules, the paths are so narrow that I get taught by AiAi. It's amazing how the resolution of tactics increases by still new details. I will win eventually but it is a very cold affair. I'm regularly at a loss for a move and switch sides to see what AiAi makes of it. In fact it's so cold that it at least considers passing on the first move. But the few (if any) choices make four-module games very interesting in terms of refinement of tactics. Basics in a bag.
 
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Richard Moxham
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Michael, thank you for your thoughts on a broad range of issues. If it's all the same to you, I'll leave alone the parts relating to Artificial Intelligence, not possessing enough understanding to muster anything resembling an intelligent response. On the other hand:

mlvanbie wrote:
I wouldn't recommend playing NON on a board with 8 adjacencies because you can easily block captures but it is very hard to block things becoming connected. Even on a small board most of the moves can be tedious exercises in protecting your position. Perhaps on a large board you would have to worry about some sort of ladder-equivalents running into other structures, but it seems to me that collisions between parts of the board will just end up with more connections.
Each to his own, obviously, but I've found NON with x8 to give an interesting game. I'd agree that it's fairly attritional in character, but placement games in general tend not to be about flashing blades and swinging down the bell-ropes. It's simply a different kind of battle, but absorbing all the same when you're in there trying to win it - which most of the time someone does.

And then:

mlvanbie wrote:
Part of the job of a designer is to direct attention to the best options. A game with multiple configurations (due to variants, powers, random setup, etc.) will be somewhere on a scale of
* minefield of uninteresting and/or broken options
* less boring that if it were always the same setup
* a plethora of interesting and unique challenges, each a worthy game on its own
I agree about the continuum, but I don't think anyone's entitled to say what falls within a designer's job description, since it's not formally laid down anywhere. It may be that you would prefer to be supplied with this sort of guidance, but it can't legitimately be expected, let alone required. As it happens, I lean in the opposite direction: i.e. I'm interested in seeing people form their own judgements. At least, that's the way I feel about the NECNON variations. I reserve the right to a different perspective on this or that other game of mine.

But anyway:

mlvanbie wrote:
NEC on hexhex was a good enough experience for me to try NON on a different geometry.
It's gratifying to read this and I'll always be interested to know how you get on.
 
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Michael Van Biesbrouck
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Christian and Nick have both referenced their gaming budget in how much they are likely to explore NECNON. I've decided to spend part of mine giving as many of the 2018 Combinatorial nominees a chance as I can and have played all the ones available in Ai Ai or free online so far (they vary from broken to excellent). Curation would motivate me to spend more time on NECNON.
 
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christian freeling
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mlvanbie wrote:
Christian and Nick have both referenced their gaming budget in how much they are likely to explore NECNON. I've decided to spend part of mine giving as many of the 2018 Combinatorial nominees a chance as I can and have played all the ones available in Ai Ai or free online so far (they vary from broken to excellent). Curation would motivate me to spend more time on NECNON.
For now I just hope that Storisende makes the cut.
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mocko wrote:
As a starting-point, how remarkable it is that NECNON and Blooms should have come to light in the same year, given their obvious common lineage and the reportedly sparse previous yield of what Nick calls “Go-like games that don’t suck”. I suppose the essential difference is that his game takes the Go concept forward in a certain way, whereas mine strips it back. But they’re certainly cousins even if not siblings, and whilst I wouldn’t give much for NECNON’s chances of finishing ahead of Blooms in the 2019 Combinatorial stakes I rate it worthy of no less attention in the long term.

I'm relatively new to this forum... but here's how I think:

- The typical goal of an abstract is simplicity in rules AND depth in strategy. Having both to a high degree results in emergence.

- Increasing simplicity of rules decreases the skill floor for playing according to the rules... but increasing emergence increases the skill floor for playing enjoyably (i.e., "barrier to entry").

- Increasing the skill floor for enjoyable play decreases the ability to predict/develop strategies... and therefore decreases the likelihood of sticking with or even trying the game.

- Finally... I'm not sure about this one... but I predict that increasing emergence increases the skill ceiling and therefore the staying power for those who pass the skill floor for enjoyable play. I think the big caveat to this reasoning is consideration of the limit to the player's mind. Abstracts are puzzles that are only fun because of the limits of our minds. Therefore increasing emergence beyond a critical point may not help... but actually hurt by raising the skill floor for enjoyable play.

Disclaimer: My favorite game is Hive, which falls on the Chess side of special powers... rather than the organic (and perhaps the more emergence-prone) side of Go.

Finally, thanks for developing and writing about your game. I quite appreciate the community centered around new ideas.
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Nick Bentley
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mocko wrote:
As a starting-point, how remarkable it is that NECNON and Blooms should have come to light in the same year, given their obvious common lineage and the reportedly sparse previous yield of what Nick calls “Go-like games that don’t suck”. I suppose the essential difference is that his game takes the Go concept forward in a certain way, whereas mine strips it back. But they’re certainly cousins even if not siblings, and whilst I wouldn’t give much for NECNON’s chances of finishing ahead of Blooms in the 2019 Combinatorial stakes I rate it worthy of no less attention in the long term.
I think NECNON is more adventurous than Blooms in what it's trying to do. Although NECNON looks Go-like on the surface, it's actually a very different sort game! Blooms is still about maximizing liberty-counts, but NECNON is about something else: adjacency parity. That dramatically changes the the patterns you're looking for.

I find it fascinating for this reason. It reminds me of something Corey Clarke said once: that he most admires games that recombine simple, obvious mechanics to create totally new things (no doubt he was thinking of Slither in that moment, but still!). NECNON strikes me as one of those.

I agree with Craig's assessment that it may struggle to catch on due the initial opacity of parity considerations, but as long as that opacity is overcome-able (and I believe it is), that doesn't much influence my assessment. All this is to say: I haven't extended my congrats yet and I want to here: congrats.

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milomilo122 wrote:
Although NECNON looks Go-like on the surface, it's actually a very different sort game!
FWIW I agree. As a Go player of several decades, I did not find NECNON at all Go-like when I read its rules, nor when I played it, and the notion that it's somehow allegedly related to Go, or that it is a Go variant, would never have occurred to me, and doesn't seem at all convincing to me.

(In contrast e.g. with Blooms, which was instantly obviously "Go on a hex grid with each player having 2 colors instead of 1" when I read its rules and when I played it.)

To be clear, this is not meant as any kind of comment about the quality of NECNON as a game (indeed, it's arguably a disadvantage for Blooms that it is "merely" a Go variant); it's just a comment that the alleged similarity between NECNON and Go seems very exaggerated and dubious to me.
 
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christian freeling
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
- The typical goal of an abstract is simplicity in rules AND depth in strategy. Having both to a high degree results in emergence.

- Increasing simplicity of rules decreases the skill floor for playing according to the rules... but increasing emergence increases the skill floor for playing enjoyably (i.e., "barrier to entry").

Disclaimer: My favorite game is Hive, which falls on the Chess side of special powers... rather than the organic (and perhaps the more emergence-prone) side of Go.
On the one side there's the 'assembly' type of games where you build a game using different components. On the other hand there's the 'discovery' type of games.

In the first category you may be able to increase simplicity (there's inherent complexity in using different pieces). How you would 'increase emergence' isn't wholly clear to me, I must confess.

In the second category you have to strike it lucky by detecting organic behaviour (mostly by uniform pieces) in the pursuit of a specific goal. You're looking for something that contains everything.
The first category has inherent arbitrariness. In the second category the idea may be self-explanatory and arbitrariness may largely have disappeared.
It's the process of removing the inventor from the process.
It also means that you don't have to simplify and you can't do much about its emergent complexity: it is what it is.
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Although NECNON looks Go-like on the surface, it's actually a very different sort game!
FWIW I agree. As a Go player of several decades, I did not find NECNON at all Go-like when I read its rules, nor when I played it, and the notion that it's somehow allegedly related to Go, or that it is a Go variant, would never have occurred to me, and doesn't seem at all convincing to me.

(In contrast e.g. with Blooms, which was instantly obviously "Go on a hex grid with each player having 2 colors instead of 1" when I read its rules and when I played it.)

To be clear, this is not meant as any kind of comment about the quality of NECNON as a game (indeed, it's arguably a disadvantage for Blooms that it is "merely" a Go variant); it's just a comment that the alleged similarity between NECNON and Go seems very exaggerated and dubious to me.
Symple also has very different mechanics and it doesn't play like Go either, but it looks like Go. I was looking at NECNON from that angle, in view of marketing considerations.
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Richard Moxham
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Although NECNON looks Go-like on the surface, it's actually a very different sort game!
FWIW I agree. As a Go player of several decades, I did not find NECNON at all Go-like when I read its rules, nor when I played it, and the notion that it's somehow allegedly related to Go, or that it is a Go variant, would never have occurred to me, and doesn't seem at all convincing to me.

(In contrast e.g. with Blooms, which was instantly obviously "Go on a hex grid with each player having 2 colors instead of 1" when I read its rules and when I played it.)

To be clear, this is not meant as any kind of comment about the quality of NECNON as a game (indeed, it's arguably a disadvantage for Blooms that it is "merely" a Go variant); it's just a comment that the alleged similarity between NECNON and Go seems very exaggerated and dubious to me.
I wouldn't have a serious quarrel with any of this, Russ. For my part, I think the Go references I've made in talking about NECNON have chiefly been in the context of practicalities such as selecting standard board sizes or when it might be less confusing to play on the intersections. My knowledge of Go from a playing point of view is, after all, so minimally slight that any attempt at deeper comparisons would be crass as well as presumptuous. I suppose I would still argue that the two games belonging to a common family (make placements with the aim of surrounding enemy pieces for a points reward; strive to retain/remove adjacent vacancies with 'life' at stake), but with so fundamental a variance as the NECNON protocols I think anyone would expect the playing experience to be very different, with tactical/strategic rules of thumb largely untransferable.

So I hope, to speak purely for me, that I'm not guilty of having drawn exaggerated parallels or made exaggerated claims. And if I even seem to have done so, I cheerfully disown them.


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Richard Moxham
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milomilo122 wrote:
I think NECNON is more adventurous than Blooms in what it's trying to do. Although NECNON looks Go-like on the surface, it's actually a very different sort game! Blooms is still about maximizing liberty-counts, but NECNON is about something else: adjacency parity. That dramatically changes the the patterns you're looking for.

I find it fascinating for this reason. It reminds me of something Corey Clarke said once: that he most admires games that recombine simple, obvious mechanics to create totally new things (no doubt he was thinking of Slither in that moment, but still!). NECNON strikes me as one of those.

I agree with Craig's assessment that it may struggle to catch on due the initial opacity of parity considerations, but as long as that opacity is overcome-able (and I believe it is), that doesn't much influence my assessment. All this is to say: I haven't extended my congrats yet and I want to here: congrats.
I deeply appreciate these remarks, Nick. Thank you so much.

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Cody Kunka
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christianF wrote:
On the one side there's the 'assembly' type of games where you build a game using different components. On the other hand there's the 'discovery' type of games.

In the first category you may be able to increase simplicity (there's inherent complexity in using different pieces). How you would 'increase emergence' isn't wholly clear to me, I must confess.

In the second category you have to strike it lucky by detecting organic behaviour (mostly by uniform pieces) in the pursuit of a specific goal. You're looking for something that contains everything.
The first category has inherent arbitrariness. In the second category the idea may be self-explanatory and arbitrariness may largely have disappeared.
It's the process of removing the inventor from the process.
It also means that you don't have to simplify and you can't do much about its emergent complexity: it is what it is.
I'm not sure I understand. I imagine Chess is meant to fall in the first category and Go in the second. If I follow, Chess, then, has complexity from special powers but no emergence. I think of emergence as traits not explicitly defined in rules... or perhaps obvious in thinking before playing. Wouldn't tactics, like gambits, emerge from play? Or in Hive terms, the formation of gates, rings, and fills? The Hive examples particularly resonate as emergent to me.
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Kunkasaurus wrote:
christianF wrote:
On the one side there's the 'assembly' type of games where you build a game using different components. On the other hand there's the 'discovery' type of games.

In the first category you may be able to increase simplicity (there's inherent complexity in using different pieces). How you would 'increase emergence' isn't wholly clear to me, I must confess.

In the second category you have to strike it lucky by detecting organic behaviour (mostly by uniform pieces) in the pursuit of a specific goal. You're looking for something that contains everything.
The first category has inherent arbitrariness. In the second category the idea may be self-explanatory and arbitrariness may largely have disappeared.
It's the process of removing the inventor from the process.
It also means that you don't have to simplify and you can't do much about its emergent complexity: it is what it is.
I'm not sure I understand. I imagine Chess is meant to fall in the first category and Go in the second. If I follow, Chess, then, has complexity from special powers but no emergence. I think of emergence as traits not explicitly defined in rules... or perhaps obvious in thinking before playing. Wouldn't tactics, like gambits, emerge from play? Or in Hive terms, the formation of gates, rings, and fills? The Hive examples particularly resonate as emergent to me.
I took Christian to mean that emergence was a quality whose increase he couldn't imagine being able to control. But I could easily be a meringue.

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