perjantai 3. syyskuuta 2010

Introduction to this blog

Hello all, in this blog I will discuss different board games, mostly abstract and strategic. To be more specific,  at this moment I'm interested in ancient game called go, or baduk, weiqi, igo, depending on the culture. I'm not going to introduce go, there are already sites that do that:

But at this particular time span, I've gotten fascinated by Arimaa, which superficially seem like chess but actually is not anything like it. The goal in chess is to capture, whereas in Arimaa it's a race to get one's rabbit to other side of the board.

There are other games that pique me but more of those in their respective blog posts.

What is it in (strategic) (abstract) board games that makes them so interesting for me? If I were asked that, an easy answer would be that they work very well as intellectual exercise which I think has some benefits for the brain, at least for people in their 70s. But whipping my brain is not the reason. I think most important thing is that board games introduce problems of various kind, and the problems have properties which make solving them fun instead of feeling like working.

One criteria for games I play constantly is that they have a deep learning curve, which means that the more I put energy in learning the game, the more I understand of the game in different level. It's about (weak) emergence: how straightforward rules create complex settings that can be viewed in abstracted way. But one cannot forget the details: one makes plans by abstracting the position of the board and then realizes it by closely looking at particular details that usually are locally situated.

As a beginner one first learns rules, and then apply them in simple way to find how the game works superficially. As she learns to make different combinations, she notices that some achieve better options for future moves. Then she starts noticing patterns of these combinations and it will be possible for her to start seeing different kinds of styles, e.g. aggressive, active, passive, defensive, which help to understand what parts of the board have such and such qualities. That way she can assemble a strategy by looking what opponent's and hers goals are and what abstracted 'parts' help to achieve them.

This is very rudimentary way how I feel about the development of a player in a strategy game, and the more deeper the game, the more it offers to player. Of course different kinds of properties of the game are more suited for humans; for example a game where the whole position of the board changes dramatically in one move, is very hard to understand, whereas visually quite stable position offers a better way to found one's strategy on. Of course, it's not so black and white as it sounds, e.g. in go, one move may have dare consequences but still the effect of tactical details and overall view of the board situation seems to be just in balance to create fantastic drama. Namely, without enough game dynamism, i.e. tactics, the game would probably be somewhat boring.

So ends my first public thoughts on the matter of board games. My intention is to blog about details of different games and also what is happening in community. There's for example the question whether computers can beat humans in every game in the near future. For instance, go and Arimaa are currently dominated by humans but programs are catching up...

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