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Negative Feedback Y and Poly-Y!

February 16, 2010

Lately I’ve been trying to design simple games featuring negative feedback.  By negative feedback I mean: the closer you get to winning, the weaker you get.

 

I’ve now played 3 games featuring negative feedback, all delicious:

 

Yinsh, by Kris Burm.
In this game, you have 5 pieces to move, and every time you score a point, you must remove one of your pieces.

 

Beat it or Eat it, by Bill Taylor.
A perfect information trick taking game in which the goal is to get rid of your cards, but the more you get rid of, the fewer you have to play and the more your opponent has.

 

Ketchup, by me, Nick Bentley.
The goal is create the largest island of stones on a board by the time the board is full, but the player who has the largest island at any given time can’t place as many stones on the board as his opponent can.

 

Negative feedback ensures that a lot of contests will go down to the nail-biting wire between evenly matched opponents.  It’s like running a footrace through air that gets increasingly dense as you near the finish-line.  Even if you get 10 yards ahead of your opponent early, she has a chance of catching you at the end.  It adds a *ton* of endgame subtlety especially.

 

So last night, while I was lying in bed not sleeping (as always), I was trying to think of pre-existing abstract games to which I could add negative feedback, and it occurred to me that negative feedback might be *perfect* for two of the greatest abstract games ever invented: Y, and Poly-Y.

 

You can go to the links above for more about how those two games are played, but a brief summary of each:

 

In Y, you play stones onto a 3 sided-board, and the first player to connect a single group of stones to all 3 sides wins.

 

Poly Y is a generalization of Y.  It’s played on a certain type of board with any odd number of sides (and therefore an odd number of corners), and you win by “capturing” more corners than your opponent.  You capture a corner by connecting a group of your stones to the sides of the board adjacent to the corner, plus any one other side.

 

Both games a drawless and equi-tasked, which means ties are impossible and both players are trying to accomplish exactly the same goal.  These are prized-properties for abstract games, and both Y and Poly-Y have these properties with the simplest of rules.  Most important, though, they’re both a joy to play.  I like Poly-Y more than I like Y.

 

Anyway, one can imagine adding simple negative feedback to each, by changing the stone-dropping rules.  There are several different ways to do it.

 

Adding negative feedback to Y:

  1. Player 1 starts the game by placing a single stone anywhere on the board.
  2. From then on, starting with player 2, the players take turns and each adds 2 stones to any 2 empty spaces on the board on her turn.
  3. Once a player has a group on the board connected to 2 sides of the board, she can now only add 1 stone on her turn.

A slightly more complex negative feedback rule for Y (and likely to yield a better game):

  1. Player 1 starts the game by placing a single stone anywhere on the board.
  2. From then on, starting with player 2, the players take turns and each adds 3 stones to any 3 empty spaces on the board on her turn.
  3. Once a player has a group on the board connected to 1 side of the board, she can now only add 2 stones on her turn.
  4. Once a player has a group on the board connected to 2 sides of the board, she can now only add 1 stone on her turn.

Adding negative feedback to Poly Y (probably best for the 5 sided version where each player is trying to capture 3 corners):

  1. Player 1 starts the game by placing a single stone anywhere on the board.
  2. From then on, starting with player 2, the players take turns and each adds 3 stones to any 3 empty spaces on the board on her turn.
  3. Once a player has captured 1 corner, she can now only add 2 stones on her turn.
  4. Once a player has captured 2 corners, she can now only add 1 stone on her turn.

Of course, there’s some chance that these games won’t work at all, since I haven’t play-tested them yet, but I’m betting they will.  Another nice property of negative feedback is that it seems to reduce the chance that a game will be broken, all other things being equal.

 

 

 

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From → Game Designs

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