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Subject: Game: "Containment" first formulation - what doesn't work here? rss

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dale walton
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First thoughts for an abstract with generic equipment and a slightly wargamish movement-for-area-capture feel: Please tear it apart for flaws and/or suggest improvements if you like the concept. (Draft rules next post)

Does it sound interesting to play as an abstract (internet implemented)?
Would anyone here like to test it at some point? -or should I let it go?
(At what point) should I take it the the Board design forum?
Could it be made into something really attractive?
Any suggestions for specific types of boards that would be a best fit?

Is the mechanism new? - What should the mechanism be called?

.... maybe more questions here later....
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dale walton
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Here are the Rules as they now stand: - Revised to reflect thread suggestions, and new rules and changes. The prior version is recorded in the 56th post of this thread. and posts 62-65 are about a more complicated brain burning version.

Please accept my apologies for combining two variants in-line in the same rules instead of splitting them into separate games.

dale walton in post #66 wrote:



The game of Containment ver. 3, 30 July 2019

Goal
Extend walls of your own stones to enclose the most empty space.

Equipment
Go stones or chips and a board to represent the area being fought over (e.g., a Go board or Hex board. -- Or any network or grid that is flat, finite, and has edges will work fine.)

Pieces are placed only at the nodes (intersections of the grid.) They are "next to" or "adjacent" another piece if there is a direct link between the nodes they are placed on.

Terms

Group: A set stones of the same player-color that are mutually adjacent.

Endstone: A stone connected to the rest of its Group by only one adjacent stone.

Isolated stone: A stone not adjacent to any stones of its own color.

The player: The current player, whose turn it is to make a move. -- Unless specifically stated, the player only moves pieces of her/his player-color.

The opponent: The other player, who is not making a move on this turn.

Territory: The number of locations available for play in a contiguous region.

Common territory: Territory that is next to both players' stones.

Player's territory: Any territory adjacent to a Player's stone that is not Common territory.

Setup
The "set-up" player places a Group of two Stones of the starting color (Black) and a Group of three stones of the other color (White) on the board. The "choosing" player either claims the starting stone color(Black) and begins play, or else claims the other color (White) and has the original "set-up" player start.

Play
Play alternates between players. On each turn, the player completes three phases: Spreading, Seeding, and Capture. Each phase must be completed if possible. When neither player can complete any of the phases, the game ends.

Spreading: (To spread, a player must have at least one group with two Endstones.)
The player chooses two Endstones of the same Group, and then:
1. Traces an unbroken, unbranched path of his choice along the stones between them,
2. Collects all the stones along that path except for those Endstones,
3. Adds two new stones to those collected, **maybe one is enough?**
4. Places all these stones, one-by-one, to extend a group from either of those two Endstones. (Each stone must be placed next to another of those already placed and/or either Endstone. Unlike the removal path, these placements may branch.)

The Spread phase is complete after a single path has been spread.
If there are any isolated stones the player must now seed them.

Seeding: (To seed, a player must have created isolated stones from former endpoints during spreading)
One at a time, the player selects an isolated stone.
If the selected stone is not adjacent to an opponent's stone, the player may **if possible, must?** relocate it. The relocated stone must be placed in common territory, next to an opponent's stone.

Regardless of whether the stone has been relocated; if it is still isolated, the player immediately adds a new stone next to it before selecting the next isolated stone.

When there are no more isolated stones the seeding phase is finished.

Capture: (To Capture there must be at least one surrounded opponent's Group from the first two phases of this move, or possibly from the opponent's previous move (suicide ).)
After seeding, the player captures every opponent's group that has no open territory next to it or inside it, and collects all their stones. The stones are added to the capturing player's score at the end of the game.

** should groups without Endstones be immune from capture??**
** should capture only occur at the end of the game, when a player is forced to spread the group? - - gets too weird**

The player's turn now ends and the opponent's turn will begin.

Game End
When play is no longer possible, the players each place the stones they captured into their opponent's territory. Stones are not placed into common territory. The player left with the largest territory is the winner. If neither player has territory left, the player with the most left-over captured pieces wins.
 
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dale walton
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Tactics and Strategy:
In the beginning you will want to quickly expand your numbers on the board. This can be done with tree-like structures, but more effectively by breaking up into small segments and individual pieces where possible.

However, it is not desirable to grow pieces faster than you can use them as each extra piece will in the end reduce your scoring area, So reduce unneeded end points in secure groups by blunting the ends and avoiding unneeded spurs, unless there is territory to expand into that needs more pieces.

Later, to move quickly and/or to block your opponent from penetrating your regions, you will want to connect into lines. As the game progresses, some of these you will extend to the edge of the board, or make into circles to prevent the opponent from getting in. It is important that before your opponent reaches this stage you have penetrated his defenses, at least with some small groups, forcing him to spend resources isolating them.

If one of your groups is isolated, at the last moment you will want to form fixed loops or blunt its ends so that the opponent cannot capture it and must expend resources to keep it surrounded.

A loop with many internal spurs allows quick growth, and the spurs can be consolidated in a single turn to stop growth once you are surrounded.
External spurs allow even quicker growth, but can be surrounded. A surrounded spur will force you to split off the endpoint as a separate group and then abandon it sometime during the game to avoid filling in your territory.

If you intend to quickly relocate a large number of pieces to a new area of the board, having a large group with a small number of stacks in key locations is important.

A blunt end can be relocated along the edge of the board without gain or loss.
 
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Russ Williams
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dale walton wrote:
When it is your turn, you must:

1.) First, a group at a time, reconfigure every group of your chips that contains a stack (A group is a set of mutually adjacent pieces):

* Remove all the chips in the group except for the bottoms of the stacks.

* Place each removed chip back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group.

(There are potentially as many new groups as there were stacks. The order in which the groups are chosen can affect the out-come)
If you put each removed (non-bottom) chip from the group back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group, then necessarily you are adding to that same group (increasing its size/area); so how can new groups appear from this process?
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dale walton
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russ wrote:
dale walton wrote:
When it is your turn, you must:

1.) First, a group at a time, reconfigure every group of your chips that contains a stack (A group is a set of mutually adjacent pieces):

* Remove all the chips in the group except for the bottoms of the stacks.

* Place each removed chip back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group.

(There are potentially as many new groups as there were stacks. The order in which the groups are chosen can affect the out-come)

If you put each removed (non-bottom) chip from the group back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group, then necessarily you are adding to that same group (increasing its size/area); so how can new groups appear from this process?

A group can have multiple endpoints, hence multiple stacks. These are not necessarily reconnected when placing the pieces down. The pieces placed must be linked to at least one of them.

Maybe I needed to say "...next to another chip of its group. -- However, the bottom pieces do not necessarily need to be reconnected to each other." - does this help to clarify the rule better?

So a group may remain a single group or may split up into up to as many groups as there were stacks.

Note also that the only way one can generate an isolated stack is by not placing any pieces around a previous stack. For this to happen, the previous group must have had more than one stack (end-point) on the previous turn.
 
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Russ Williams
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Ah, I think the point of confusion is that you're using "stack" to mean 2 or more disks (more colloquial sense of "stack"), so that all disks alone in the space are picked up, whereas I was understanding "stack" to mean 1 or more disks (more general mathematical/formal sense of stack, as used in many games, like how a "set" can include only 1 element).

Assuming this is the explanation of my confusion, I suggest making the rules explicitly define "stack" as 2 or more disks.
 
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dale walton
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You are right. Adding a chip to an endpoint "creates" a stack. Stacks are in contrast to "chips on the board", and always exactly two high.

Must have seemed quite confusing and round-about the way you were reading it, as most of the pieces would be stacks of one, and leaving the bottom chip of a stack of one in place is indeed a strange way to explain something... - and not at all what I intended.

I need to prevent others from such a misadventure. Perhaps there is a better term, or I can find a way to clarify it as you suggest, by formally declaring a stack to mean two chips, one upon the other.
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Russ Williams
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dale walton wrote:
I need to prevent others from such a misadventure. Perhaps there is a better term, or I can find a way to clarify it as you suggest, by formally declaring a stack to mean two chips, one upon the other.
Yes, that seems a good clear solution! (Especially the part about mentioning that it's specifically exactly TWO chips, since in general "stack" makes people think of an arbitrarily tall stack, e.g. in DVONN, Focus, TZAAR, etc. I was also erroneously imagining stacks with more than 2 were possible in the game.)
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dale walton
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Hope all is clear now. First impression?
 
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dale walton
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A note on higher stacks:
This game "Containment" has a more complicated and tactical relative I call "Ups and Downs" which does have variable height stacks - two chip colors per player one up, one down at any given time, similar mechanics, but a first past the bar win condition on capture volume.

The playable version of that game is tactical, more like a fist fight in an action movie than a strategy game. (Actually I like such tactical games more, as strategic depth requires much more commitment) - Subject for a different thread...
 
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Daniel Piovezan
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Reminds me a bit of Symple, but with EVEN MOAR stuff to do on your turn. Seems like a bit too much for my tastes. I think that's one of the things that turn me off about wargames, turns are too big (and Gettysburg looks cool precisely because of its small, abstract-like turns).
 
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Russ Williams
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Quote:
Place each removed chip back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group.

I.e.:
Place each removed chip onto an empty space next to a chip that was part of the group.

Right?

1. Explicitly note that the chips are placed onto empty spaces (else you could conceivable put them onto a single chip adjacent to another chip from the group, to make a stack, which I don't think you intend).
2. "the group" no longer exists as a single group, right? So "is part of the group" seems confusing. (Or else I am confused.)

It seems hard for me to assess the game without trying it; as Daniel notes, it seems like a lot of significant stuff can happen in a turn. But as a first impression, it looks potentially interesting. Vaguely Bug-like, perhaps (in a vague way).
 
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christian freeling
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russ wrote:
Vaguely Bug-like, perhaps (in a vague way).
Vaguely in a vague way. I must confess that is unexpectedly vague, coming from you.
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dale walton
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Quote:
Place each removed chip onto an empty space next to a chip that was part of the group.
Right. maybe use "had been"

Quote:
1. Explicitly note that the chips are placed onto empty spaces

"Onto the board" literally rules this out, but could be construed in a more general sense, so point taken.

Quote:
as Daniel notes, it seems like a lot of significant stuff can happen in a turn.
True,
You would probably conceptually divide your actions into

1. areas needing fast expansion in piece numbers - use small island and tree formations,
2. linear shields for blocking the opponent's movement,
3. large slowly growing structures that can relocate distances for quick response to opponent's tactics,
4. inert loops around permanently captured territory (possibly re-activated or expanded by bringing another group to it), and
5. inert lines or blobs in enemy territory requiring the opponent to expend lots chips and/or space to surround them.

Since you need to commit (by the shape and number of spurs) how fast growing vs how flexible it will be to move your groups for the next turn, your opponent can make plans, based on where your stacks are, as your stacks anchor your possibilities to fairly specific regions.

The point is, when thought of as pieces, it seems there would be a lot of possibilities, but when thought of as groups, not so much and organized by higher principles.

Main initial strategy would include consideration of how close to your opponent's expanding pieces you should come (since the farther you move the more he can expand and overwhelm you later, but if you make him come to you, you can expand and defend, but will have less territory.)

I believe capture is mainly a threat, actual capture would be relatively rare except for voluntarily giving up isolated stacks to avoid forced growth. This game is mainly movement and blocking.

A difference from Symple, is your move choices affect the pacing and area of growth on your next turn. Also acquired territory is easily defended. I believe that unless played on a quite large board the games would be short and decisive:

Fastest expansion of pieces on a square grid 1:2:4:7:13:26 Fastest way to capture space is a line across the board, so a well placed line might win the game in a half dozen moves on a go board, if not defended against.
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dale walton
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I think I understand the Bug connection: Perceptually one is dealing with groups of things (in my case they deform) with a growth phase and an action phase (In my case growth is pushed back a turn by stacking instead of adding a piece just before movement.)

I think there is a lot more happening in Bug moves because they are recursive. Also new groups can bubble up from anywhere. Thus the game looks more tactical and opaque. I don't think Containment is opaque at all.

I think "Ups and Downs" might be a lot closer to Bug.

I think the heuristic shapes he is trying to create are not really as heuristic as the functional shapes/shape-features that emerge in Containment.

I think Containment would naturally be played on a larger board due to its lack of opacity, and due to the potential for quick (near exponential) expansion of power as needed. (A double edged sword, as over-expansion plus the need to continue to play, can reduce your scoring area.)

Containment is also likely to be unforgiving for these reasons.
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Russ Williams
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christianF wrote:
russ wrote:
Vaguely Bug-like, perhaps (in a vague way).
Vaguely in a vague way. I must confess that is unexpectedly vague, coming from you.
The connection seemed sufficiently vague that I vaguely felt the need to doubly emphasize the vagueness!
 
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christian freeling
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dale walton wrote:
When it is your turn, you must:

1.) First, a group at a time, reconfigure every group of your chips that contains a stack (A group is a set of mutually adjacent pieces):

* Remove all the chips in the group except for the bottoms of the stacks.

* Place each removed chip back onto the board next to a chip that is part of the group.

(There are potentially as many new groups as there were stacks. The order in which the groups are chosen can affect the out-come)
I had other stuff on my mind so I'm a bit late, but I recognise inside out inventing when I see it. But I'm a bit confused by the 'stack' concept. That won't be new to Russ .

Am I right assuming that you don't consider a single to be a 'stack'? So that after the first phase a group that consisted of 3 singles and 2 stacks will be reduced to 2 singles?

And in the next phase 'placing next to a chip that is part of the group' is ambigeous I think.

But it's an interesting concept. I wonder if the removal phase isn't a bit too rigorous. Removing only the top of stacks might be too gentle (if not indeed boring) but it would solve the 'group' ambiguity.
 
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Daniel Piovezan
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Darn it, Dale Walton, you are convincing! It does look cool.

dale walton wrote:
Does it sound interesting to play as an abstract (internet implemented)?
Would anyone here like to test it at some point? -or should I let it go?
Yes, it does look worthy of attention - but so do so many games that don't get any. Heck, I still couldn't bring myself to give Legio a solo try, though I want to. Maybe getting it implemented somewhere for correspondence play could help (it seems to have worked for many games on SDG), but it's not how I enjoy learning a new game.

Quote:
(At what point) should I take it the the Board design forum?
I'm not familiar with any design forum, but it seems like the cool abstract kids hang around in this one. But if you do take it elsewhere, maybe rewrite the rules first.

Quote:
Could it be made into something really attractive?
Nah, it's too weird. Bound to be a niche thing, methinks.

Quote:
Any suggestions for specific types of boards that would be a best fit?
My instincts say hex, but I really don't know.

Quote:
Is the mechanism new? - What should the mechanism be called?
Despite vague similarities, it seems new. Functional shapeshifting? Functional group shapeshifting? Group functional shapeshifting?
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dale walton
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christianF wrote:
but I recognise inside out inventing when I see it.
We are are similar in that regard.

Quote:
But I'm a bit confused by the 'stack' concept.
Yes. it looks like I should have used a different term, maybe doubled-up?

In other words, in the middle of your turn (after fully completing step 1 for all groups) all your chips are directly on the board. In step 2 you place a chip on top of any of your chips that do not touch 2 or more chips.
Thus, in the beginning of your next turn there will be new locations with doubled-up chips that provide material to expand the group. (And that also anchor (parts of) it so it is not free to move just anywhere.)

Quote:
Am I right assuming that you don't consider a single to be a 'stack'? So that after the first phase a group that consisted of 3 singles and 2 stacks will be reduced to 2 singles?
1. Yes 2. no but almost: those 2 singles occur after the first part of the first phase during the processing of a specific group. In the second part of the first phase, while processing the same group, they become seeds or anchors that the remaining pieces are placed to connect to, yielding at the end of phase 1, either 2 groups, or one group that connects them, giving a total of 7 chips directly on the board. (Unless they had been so tightly surrounded -- by opponent's chips, the edge of the board and possibly by other groups of your own stones as well -- that they could not be placed, in which case all 7 stones would be surrendered to the opponent.)

Depending on how they are arranged, in step 2, zero to five chips would be added on top of the endpoints/spurs/isolated chip. (The zero stack arrangement is a square of 9 minus two diagonally opposite corners, and would leave the group inert until another group reaches it.)

Note as well that doubling up chips in step 2 occurs after all groups have been processed for both parts of step 1, so if some of your groups merge, it is possible that the number of endpoints/singletons could have been reduced in the process.

=====================

Practically speaking, often one might merely remove the tops of the doubled chips, place them touching the group and shift things around a little. However I need a way to clearly state what is allowed and not especially in how a group can be broken up (which affects to a degree how fast its growth can be accelerated)

Note as well, like you I am not a very deep game player and everything here is just what I can see abut the game by visualizing it in my mind. It does need at least very basic play testing to prove there is no major flaw, and that its promise can be borne out. Hopefully readers of the thread can visualize from the discussion enough of the emergent features of the game to be able to sensibly help test that out and enjoy the process.
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dale walton
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dale walton wrote:
Note as well that doubling up chips in step 2 occurs after all groups have been processed for both parts of step 1, so if some of your groups merge, it is possible that the number of endpoints/singletons could have been reduced in the process.

I see this raises a needed rule extension:

When a previous group now touches a yet-to-be-processed group, it should be clarified that it has not yet merged, ie when the yet-to-be-processed group is finally processed, the previously-processed (and now touching) group is not considered to be part of it yet. In other words, groups of pieces only lose their identity after all groups have been processed in phase 1; i.e. at the beginning of the chip-adding phase.

Or do you think it should be dynamic? -- allowing for some recursive movement and thus more extensive reconfiguration of one's chips during a turn (one could potentially unify most of one's chips and then relocate them a great distance on a single anchor, if groups merge as they are processed.)
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dale walton
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I made some rule edits. - hope they are clearer now.
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Russ Williams
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FWLIW: maybe simply "pair" or "chip pair" instead of "doubled-up chip"?
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dale walton
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russ wrote:
FWLIW: maybe simply "pair" or "chip pair" instead of "doubled-up chip"?

Or in that case I should just keep "stack", but in the beginning somewhere say that "a space on the board can hold either a single chip or a stack of 2."

Or begin "a space on the board can hold either a single chip or a pair."
and "add a chip at ... to form pairs" "...base of a pair..."

or perhaps in the first move "place a white chip and cap it with a second white chip ... place a capped black chip", and continue with cap/capped elsewhere.
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christian freeling
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Why not simply have only 'singles' and 'doubles'?

There are some loose ends but this is a most interesting core behaviour. Forget my suggestion of only removing the top of doubles in the first phase, it would be far less dynamic. There's some affinity with Sygo and even Storisende but the core behaviour is brand new - it's a miracle how there's always new core behaviour emerging. I totally like it!

Loose ends, well you mentioned one: when groups are considered to have merged. Keep thinking, this game breathes such a unity of behaviour that the solution should be in line with it.

I also asked myself whether the death penalty for groups that cannot unload their offspring might be a bit harsh. But then I realised that it will most likely lead to very intricate life & death problems.

P.S. The game is highly organic. I don't particularly like the name 'Containment' for it (or descriptive names in general for that matter).
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dale walton
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christianF wrote:

Why not simply have only 'singles' and 'doubles'?
Can do.

Quote:
There are some loose ends but this is a most interesting core behaviour. Forget my suggestion of only removing the top of doubles in the first phase, it would be far less dynamic. There's some affinity with Sygo and even Storisende but the core behaviour is brand new - it's a miracle how there's always new core behaviour emerging. I totally like it!
Glad you see the potential.

Quote:
Loose ends, well you mentioned one: when groups are considered to have merged. Keep thinking, this game breathes such a unity of behaviour that the solution should be in line with it.
I think I have it right, but that needs to be determined in testing. There is only so far one can take an idea in one's imagination.

Quote:
I also asked myself whether the death penalty for groups that cannot unload their offspring might be a bit harsh. But then I realized that it will most likely lead to very intricate life & death problems.
What else to do with them - it is natural that ALL doubles must be consumed as part of the mechanic, if only to keep track of which groups have been processed so far. You can almost always make a group eternal (not growing or dying) by avoiding spurs and ends, so this is really an exceptional case where one might consider whether to keep growing and force your opponent to create/divert resources to kill the group, or hibernate and force him to surround you at his leisure.

Actually there is an exception to the "you can always make a group that is eternal" statement and I allowed voluntary surrender of groups to eliminate the impact of what could be called "time bombs". This is something else that needs testing.

A time bomb is an external spur or a loose end on a group that has been surrounded by the opponent. If the opponent always maintains a single thickness channel through which the spur pieces can reach a main group, there is no way to stop the end point from filling in the group one piece at a time (except through the voluntary surrender rule.) So, if one carelessly left such a spur on a group or left an isolated chip just outside the challenged side of a group, it would become a waiting game of whose groups fill first.

Voluntary surrender allows you cut the fuse and then snuff the spark. This is its only purpose, so it is not a clean hack. It would be good to see if it actually improves the game by making forward facing spurs relatively safe, or if time bombs give more interest to the play. (Beginning players will certainly not like getting hit with a time bomb.)

Time bombs could be a reason to be very careful peppering enemy territory with small growing groups: The enemy could open paths from them to your main wall, and with enough of them reaching it he might be able to outlast you as your area fills in. (even one could be enough)

Quote:
P.S. The game is highly organic. I don't particularly like the name 'Containment' for it (or descriptive names in general for that matter).
Needed a name for discussion such as this. Generics are easier to come up with. I certainly would consider anyone's suggestions, if they would like to contribute. It would be an honor to use the name Carolientje since the people who play might actually understand the reference.
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