Author Topic: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?  (Read 161 times)

joejoyce

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Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« on: April 19, 2018, 01:02:17 am »
I'm a fan of larger variants. I don't think chess truly comes into its own until it gets to larger boards. The 8x8 standard Western chess board is about the minimal size you can have a decent game on. FIDE presents a gunfight at close range. That game is a bit of a kludge, and shows very strong edge effects - there are only 16 squares where the knight has its full movement range, and only 4 for bishops and queens. The rook is the only piece unaffected in movement range by its position on a square or rectangular board. The pawns and king are the least (which are) affected by position, with 36 squares allowing them full movement/capture potential. I'm also a fan of short range pieces. This may seem an odd juxtaposition, very large boards and short range pieces, but with a little ingenuity, and maybe a willingness to bend some of the rules just a little, you can work short range pieces into a large game with good results. So what are some possible considerations for good design results in large chess variants?

Piece density vs. clarity. Standard chess can be a game of breakthrough or a game of attrition. Really large games with high piece densities will of necessity be games of attrition.

Number of piece types. Often, larger variants have more different kinds of pieces, the larger the game, the more different kinds of pieces. Is this good, or even necessary?

Kinds of moves (including capture.) You have options for short, medium, and long range/infinite sliders, plus various different kinds of capture, suck as by overleaping, by custodial capture, arrow/shooting capture...

Moves per turn. If the players can each move more than 1 piece/turn, the game will speed up considerably, an important consideration in very large games with lots of pieces. This can bring control issues, which can be handled in several ways. Multi-move games tend to show significant effects in tactics and strategy.

Board. The size and shape of the board make a difference, and you may have terrain and dimensionality in the game also.

This is an outline of what I came up with, with a little thought and a bit of experience. I could expound on each of the 5 areas, but am more inrterested in hearing what others have to say, and discussing ideas and results. And at this point, I should stop this comment, and go check out that 50 x 50 game discussion I saw but haven't yet read.

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John_Lewis

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2018, 12:53:19 pm »
I love this idea, the discussion.

Asher Hurowitz

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2018, 05:11:36 pm »
I agree that larger boards and more short range pieces make for more fun, it's just that they don't work well together. Multi-moves in my opinion destroy the strategy of a chess variant if it is not specifically designed with this in mind to combat any unfair play. Having many many different pieces makes the game feel more proportionally like a battle than even Orthochess does, and while technically it hurts the game having twenty bishops just isn't any fun when you can have Drunken Elephants and Eastern Barbarians.
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joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2018, 09:08:31 pm »
I agree that larger boards and more short range pieces make for more fun, it's just that they don't work well together. Multi-moves in my opinion destroy the strategy of a chess variant if it is not specifically designed with this in mind to combat any unfair play. Having many many different pieces makes the game feel more proportionally like a battle than even Orthochess does, and while technically it hurts the game having twenty bishops just isn't any fun when you can have Drunken Elephants and Eastern Barbarians.
Thanks for the comment, Asher. I actually essentially agree with you here, with the major exception of thinking short range pieces don't go with large boards. They go together beautifully, imo. And I think I can demonstrate it. Even demonstrate it in chesslike large multi-move games, although there seems like there's a practical limit to the size and numbers of moves vs. pieces, and the board size. I think 50 x 50 is a stretch for a pure chess game. HG makes the excellent argument against very large games with 50% starting piece densities that you need up to 1000 turns to move each piece once at 1 move/player turn. And that's the beginning of the opening. Might need to stay overnight to finish that game face to face...

Personally, I think your key argument is: "Multi-moves in my opinion destroy the strategy of a chess variant if it is not specifically designed with this in mind to combat any unfair play." Based on all my experience, you are absolutely right. And it is devilishly hard to design a good multi-mover that uses chess strategy and chess strategy only in the game. The accidental 3 moves/player turn Granlem Shatranj is the only game I've achieved this in, and I haven't yet demonstrated the way I've done it generalizes well, or at all, to larger games with more moves/turn. I guess I need to look at Granderlem Shatranj, then look at creating several different small armies of 5 - 10 board squares across, stacking them together side by side, and go from there. Somewhere around that size range is the 'sweet spot', an army and zone size big enough to give an interesting game within each movement zone, enough pieces to send some to neighboring zones without totally stripping the sending zone's defenses, yet small enough to make each 'zonal game' fast-moving. 10 zones of 5 squares across lets 10 pieces/turn move in the 50 x 50 game. And while this does change the strategy, it doesn't make that strategy any less chesslike. Instead, it gives you 10 simultaneous subgames which are all chess, albeit with the constant possibility somebody will get ganged up on each turn, because pieces only have to start in their zones, not end in them. Whichever zone they end in is their new zone for the following turn. If you look at the flow of the pieces in the 2 Granlem Shatranj games completed at chessvariants.com, you'll see how it works. The 3-mover is a far better game with all its flaws than the original 1 move/player turn game.

joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #4 on: April 23, 2018, 08:14:28 pm »
Okay, here is Granderlem Shatranj: http://play.chessvariants.com/pbm/play.php?game%3DGranderlem+Shatranj%26settings%3DGranderlem1 I might have tried to do too many things in it, as there are 2 differences from Grandlem. First, it's bigger, to see if we can get good pawn (and piece) play on both wings as well as the center. Second, it introduces a 4th move, specifically a pawn move, tied to the king alone. Normally I make only 1 change at a time to a game that's working, so if it fails, I know what to blame. Making a bunch of changes not only confuses the issue, it makes it very difficult to pin down where the failure occurred, and why. If anybody's interested in playtesting this, it's available at chessvariants.com.

The two games mentioned above are an attempt to explore large multimove chesslike games, rather than chess wargames. What's the difference? I believe it's the amount of coordination among all the moves in one turn of a wargame vs the essential 'aloneness' of the chess piece making a move. The most chesspieces can do is cooperate in, one at a time, advancing a goal. Then they stand out there, waiting to see if they will be slaughtered for their temerity. In a wargame, the object is to attack an area so overwhelmingly the defense is obliterated, and thus will not be able to counterattack and exact casualties of its own. And in a multi-move chess game, that overwhelming attack which cannot be evaded or countered afterwards is the source of much (perceived?) unfairness in these sorts of games. So you must design to control where and how pieces move each turn, to limit coordination, but not so much as to also rule out cooperation among neighbors. That's the idea behind GLS and GdrLS. It's a top-down approach.
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joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #5 on: April 23, 2018, 11:28:57 pm »
The bottom-up approach to large multimovers starts with pieces and then graduates to groups of pieces. One of the things that usually differentiates wargames and chess is the number of different piece-types there are in each game. In general, chess has more different kinds of pieces than wargames. Even small 8x8 Western chess has 6 kinds of pieces, out of 16 per side. On an 8x8 board. With minimal terrain - the checkered pattern can be considered terrain since bishops are restricted to/*excluded from* one color square or the other. In a typical wargame of the last century, you'd get infantry, artillery, and tanks. Of the century before, infantry, cannon, and cavalry. On  boards much larger than 8x8, with roughly 4 kinds of terrain: clear, trees, hills, buildings (up to cities).

That last bit about "the century before" describes my most successful (as in 'playable and enjoyable', not 'often played') large games, ranging from 12x24 through 32x32 (playtested) and a 48x64 which needs fine tuning requiring playtesting. These games start with 50ish or more pieces on board, and get more periodically. Players may each have a few hundred pieces on the board, all of which could move each turn. These are chess-wargame fusions, but they are very tightly controlled, massively-multi-move chess variants. How big do you want your game, and how many pieces do you want in it? To make it both big and playable, I think you are forced to multi-move designs. The idea of leaders controlling pieces within their own personal zones all across the board can certainly both speed the game up and allow most of the pieces in a giant game to be able to play in each game, and without changing the essential character of chessness in the overall game.

Here are some small armies, with 'leaders': 4N + 1 NWH; 4 DW + 1 DWN; 4 AF + 1 NAF...

What is a piece? Can it have a size rather than a shape, per se?

Consider chesimals, chess animals. They have a size, a number of units making up the one chesimal.  The only constraint in shape is each unit of the chesimal being required to be touching the 'brain unit' of the chesimal, or touching a unit touching... in an unbroken chain, just before they start their individual moves. http://www.chessvariants.com/invention/chesimals-autonomous-multi-unit-pieces Could the idea of small armies being chesimals work? You might need poisoner units, that would kill any enemy units adjacent to the one they capture...

How far can you push the combination of these ideas? Or other ideas for playable in real time very large variants, of any sort?

Martin0

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #6 on: April 24, 2018, 12:50:39 am »
I know a very common special multi-move. It is called castling. Even though it is moving 2 pieces during the same turn it hasn't destroyed chess.

I do agree though that you need to be very careful when designing multi-move rules to not make them completely broken.

I don't think larger variants necessarily needs many piece types. Games like checkers only have 1 piece type, but can still be very fun and I don't think the board size really affects that aspect. Larger boards only makes it easier to have more piece types, but that does not necessarily mean more piece types=better game.


Personally I think the board size should be made to fit the game and not the rules made to fit the board. It is the strategic elements that should attract to the game and not the intimidation of the board size. Chess on an infinite plane is an exception to that I guess since the board size being unlimited is the key idea to that game.

John_Lewis

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joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #8 on: April 24, 2018, 02:12:34 am »
Have you seen this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_chess
Hi, John. Yes, I've been aware of Progressive for a while, and considered playing it when I first heard of it, but decided it was too chaotic a game to interest me. It does seem that game would finish quite quickly, probably within 5ish turns - black making 10 moves on turn 5 in such a game. It of course represents just about everything I don't want, being essentially reverse Russian roulette - when you get the gun, you aim at the other player, then pull the trigger. Thanks for the example.

Martin0

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #9 on: April 24, 2018, 03:09:36 am »
Progressive Chess is excellent for training checkmate patterns. I can highly recommend playing it, but I don't think the variant is a good example of how to make balanced multi-move rules.
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joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #10 on: April 24, 2018, 03:29:29 am »
I know a very common special multi-move. It is called castling. Even though it is moving 2 pieces during the same turn it hasn't destroyed chess.

I do agree though that you need to be very careful when designing multi-move rules to not make them completely broken.

I don't think larger variants necessarily needs many piece types. Games like checkers only have 1 piece type, but can still be very fun and I don't think the board size really affects that aspect. Larger boards only makes it easier to have more piece types, but that does not necessarily mean more piece types=better game.


Personally I think the board size should be made to fit the game and not the rules made to fit the board. It is the strategic elements that should attract to the game and not the intimidation of the board size. Chess on an infinite plane is an exception to that I guess since the board size being unlimited is the key idea to that game.
Hi, and thanks for the comments, Martin(?). Castling, like en passant capture, which is a reaction to one pawn moving twice, occurs only under very restricted conditions. To make a very large game massively multimove every turn will require very careful restrictions to speed the game up without letting it become a wargame. I'm looking at possible ways to do that effectively. All the ways I've done it in the past have involved about 5 piece types per game, way less than 50% piece density at start or any other time, and use of the whole board in each game, generally. It's just that I've never actually tried to preserve the 'essential chessness' in those games, but was aiming for new effects instead.

My large games (32x32 & 48x64) are actually the smallest sizes I could represent what I was trying for, 2 wargames at different scales. One, the 32x32, represents a single battle over the course of 3 days. The other, 48x64, represents a protracted war between 2 small countries, each of which has 12 cities, of 4 different sizes, from which the players "recruit" reinforcements periodically during the game. This campaign game starts with a couple hundredish pieces on the board, most concentrated in or near the border - zigzagging diagonally along 96 square sides diagonally across the board - in 3 general, separated areas. This game deals with multiple fronts and logistics, and I consider it very difficult to solve, btw. In both games, pieces come in all over the board during the course of play. It may have a total of very roughly 500 total pieces being placed on the board during the game, but that's a w.a.g. right now. The point I'm trying to make is that you don't need 50% starting piece density to make a good game, nor very many piece types. But it greatly depends on the kind of game you want. I do think I could push a chesslike variant up to a few hundred pieces/side on a 50x50 but it would require a few interesting maneuvers, I think... let me consider a 40% piece density per side within their 'own' 20x50 block of the board. That seems like it could be doable, and be 28%-29% total board starting piece density.
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John_Lewis

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #11 on: April 24, 2018, 09:25:15 am »
Have you seen this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_chess
Hi, John. Yes, I've been aware of Progressive for a while, and considered playing it when I first heard of it, but decided it was too chaotic a game to interest me. It does seem that game would finish quite quickly, probably within 5ish turns - black making 10 moves on turn 5 in such a game. It of course represents just about everything I don't want, being essentially reverse Russian roulette - when you get the gun, you aim at the other player, then pull the trigger. Thanks for the example.

Oh, that's perfect! It's important to know what you don't want. I was trying to think how to make such a large game interesting and was reminded of the board game Fuedal by Avalon Hill games. It had very large chess like armies and required moving over large, boards with blocking features (terrain) and literal castles to move into as victory conditions. One feature of that game was that you could move all your pieces. It was kind of boring because of that. I'm concerned your game might last too long. However if that isn't your concern, then multiple moves aren't an issue.

However, one options a to have multiple "Royal" pieces (Say the King, Queen, a Prince and a Princess.) and for each Royal that is still active you get one move. So in the above example, you'd get four moves per turn. As they were progressively captured the game would slow for one side. Losing a Royal would be a significant hit at first and might cascade into defeat or it might cripple someone but not end the game for them. This may or may not appeal to you, but again, it's good as an idea.

Good luck! I'll continue lurking again.
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HGMuller

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #12 on: April 24, 2018, 01:33:18 pm »
I don't like multiple moves per turn very much as a matter of principle. Turns are an artifact in the first place; in real life time elapses continuously, and adversaries do their thing simultaneously. Alternating single moves is the closest approximation you can get to that if you don't want the game to emphasize dexterity, rather than mental ability.

Games on large boards tend to 'factorize' in nearly independent sub-games anyway, and it makes very little difference if you would play these sub-games simultneously (doing a move in all of them in a single turn), or just play them out one after the other. The latter is more orderly. If I would make a Chess variant that is just 8 orthodox Chess games in parallel, where both players are playing as if it were a simul, would that really add anything? If the players were allowed only one move on a board of their choice, before the opponent could do the same, it seems much more interesting. Forcing players to think about many unrelated things at once is just annoying.

Castling is a multi-move, but a 'coherent' multi-move, which serves a single plan. You could also say that from Pawn double-pushes, which are basically two moves with the same piece. Such moves speed up the game, without creating a distraction. So I think such moves are OK. This is why I proposed a 'transporter piece' in the 50x50 thread, which could carry a bunch of slow pieces all at once over a large distance, again something that has a well-defined coherent goal. But a big time saver in achieving such a goal.

I am not sure if large games necessarily have to be games of attrition. Look at Modern Tenjiku Shogi. Because the jumping generals can check there, and the King starts badly suffocated, breakthroughs there can occur from the very beginning, and in fact are very common. I guess the trick is basically that Tenjiku Shogi is a game of 'levels', higher ranked generals living in more sparsely populated levels where they fly over all lower-ranked pieces. This way the board is both sparsely and densely populated at the same time, and the breakthroughs can take place on the sparse level. When the game progresses without a breakthrough, the sparse levels become empty levels, and the next-most populated level becomes the sparse one, and breakthroughs are now possible there. I guess this idea could be implemented in a more balanced way as in Tenjiku, where there are only 4 levels, and the upper two levels are only populated by a single piece (per player).

In a way this reflects the dynamics in orthodox Chess, where pieces do not really fly over each other, but where sliders 'fly' in between the other pieces. Presence of Queens provides a good opportunity for an early mate. Once the Queens get traded, and the board population thins, Rooks start to dominate the show. When these cannot finish off the game, it is up to the minors to battle it out, and finally the Pawns.

I think lengthy games get very boring when there is no chance to finish the opponent off quickly after having acquired an obviously decisive advantage.

[edit] Rather than introducing a 'ranking' to decide which pieces can jump over which others, you could create more powerful pieces than ordinary sliders by allowing the distant moves to jump over a limited number of pieces. E.g. a Queen is strong on a large board, but a piece that moves like a Queen but can optionally jump over a single piece (QpQ in Betza notation) is even stronger. If a game starts with, say, 5 filled ranks of pieces, the King cowering somewhere in the back, you could include some sliders that can jump over (up to) 3 pieces, their aim only falling just short of the back rank. An then you would have a larger set of sliders that can jump up to 2 pieces, etc. The numbers should be tuned such that there typically are enough deeply penetrating sliders to provide an realistic opportunity for a checkmate at any stage of the game.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 02:00:56 pm by HGMuller »
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joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #13 on: April 24, 2018, 01:49:40 pm »
Have you seen this:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_chess
Hi, John. Yes, I've been aware of Progressive for a while, and considered playing it when I first heard of it, but decided it was too chaotic a game to interest me. It does seem that game would finish quite quickly, probably within 5ish turns - black making 10 moves on turn 5 in such a game. It of course represents just about everything I don't want, being essentially reverse Russian roulette - when you get the gun, you aim at the other player, then pull the trigger. Thanks for the example.

Oh, that's perfect! It's important to know what you don't want. I was trying to think how to make such a large game interesting and was reminded of the board game Fuedal by Avalon Hill games. It had very large chess like armies and required moving over large, boards with blocking features (terrain) and literal castles to move into as victory conditions. One feature of that game was that you could move all your pieces. It was kind of boring because of that. I'm concerned your game might last too long. However if that isn't your concern, then multiple moves aren't an issue...
I played Feudal as a teen, and found it boring after a while because there wasn't enough action. Two of us would play controlling 2 armies apiece to make it more interesting. I was a big Avalon Hill fan, buying each game as it appeared in the hobby store downtown. Thought Feudal was 3M, though. AH turned me on to wargames. And a typical AH wargame back then took about 4 hours to play, so I have no objections to longer games than chess' ~45 minutes face-to-face. Feudal is a sort of war chess game, like Macysburg. I've been working on a range of those for some years now, and am very comfortable and satisfied with how they work. I like big, simple wargames, and CaM provides a template for a huge range of easy to play games simulation combat at different levels, and best played on VASSAL software at larger sizes. Macysburg takes roughly 4 hours to play, and I suspect A Tale of Two Countries: Campaign Game, the 48x64, would take one to 3 days to play.

But those are wargames based on chess and designed as such, a war chess. A chess war (making the same distinction here Christian Freeling did in discussing chess variants and variant chesses) is something a little different, though the original Feudal, from what I recall of it from 50ish years ago, it did approach a chess war. The distinction is the amount of coordination that goes on among piece moves within one turn. The 2 multi-move shatranj variants I posted in another thread are my first deliberate attempts to design a chess war game, rather than a war chess game. Using the top down method, I'm up to 3 or 4 moves on an 11x26 board with 50 pieces/side. Using the bottom up method of building small armies to fit in zones 5-10 squares across, it *seems* easy to populate a 50x50 board to a starting piece density of 1/4 to 1/3 of the board. It seems to me that pushing that to the 1/2 to 4/5 of the board density range would be difficult at best because you're talking 1250 to 2000 pieces on a 2500 square board. That is what I would call a very constipated game...

joejoyce

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Re: Design Considerations for Very Large Games?
« Reply #14 on: April 24, 2018, 01:56:34 pm »
...
However, one options a to have multiple "Royal" pieces (Say the King, Queen, a Prince and a Princess.) and for each Royal that is still active you get one move. So in the above example, you'd get four moves per turn. As they were progressively captured the game would slow for one side. Losing a Royal would be a significant hit at first and might cascade into defeat or it might cripple someone but not end the game for them. This may or may not appeal to you, but again, it's good as an idea...
Grin, I've been doing that for years, John, and have posted 20 or more games in a few places, starting with Chieftain Chess, and ending with the Battle of Macysburg. Such are the blessings of total obscurity! :)