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New Game: Snype

May 19, 2012

This game represents progress on a problem I’ve been working on for a long time: to improve the gameplay of The Game of Y, especially when it’s played on a hexhex board, my favorite of all regular tilings. Y has what is regarded by many as one of the most beautiful win conditions, but gameplay falls flat for me, on account of the supreme importance of the center of the board, which limits the effective branch factor and opportunities for creative moves. This is true for me even on the “modified topology” boards which are supposed to address the issue.

I’ve taken a bunch of stabs at solving this problem, and I’ve posted a couple (see here and here). Snype, I’m betting, will be better than my earlier attempts. I say this even though I haven’t played it – I’m willing to go out on a limb because Snype resides in a region of game-space I understand well.

As always, I’ll start with the rules and then explain why they are the way they are.

Snype is a game for 2 players, played with black and white stones, on this initially empty board (actually, you should play on a board larger than this. This is just for illustration. 7 cells on a side is good):

Rules

  • To begin, one player places a white stone on any empty space, and the other player decides whether to play as White or Black.
  • From then on, starting with Black, the players take turns. A turn consists of two actions, which may be performed in any order:  1) place a stone of your color on any numbered empty space; and 2) optionally, move a stone in a straight line, any number of spaces up to the number on the space from which it starts, so that it lands on an empty numbered space. No jumping allowed.
  • The game ends when one player creates a connected group of stones which is adjacent to at least one blue, one yellow and one red space. He wins.

What’s the deal?

The inspiration for Snype starts with the game Slither. Slither has a similar “place a stone, move a stone” turn protocol, except in Slither you can only move a stone one space. This protocol has turned out to be magnificent for connection games because it improves their weakest feature, tactics, while leaving intact the strategic contours which make connection games great in the first place. It also dramatically increases the meaningful branch factor.

So I wondered: is there a way to solve the center-problem of Y by employing a modified version of the “place and move” turn protocol? The answer was obvious: make center stones weaker by giving them less freedom to move. And so Snype was born.

One open question is whether the pie rule is sufficient for balancing the game. There’s a good chance it won’t be. I don’t think I’ll be able to deal with this issue, if it is an issue, until I’ve playtested the game a bunch, so for now it remains an open question.

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From → Game Designs

2 Comments
  1. Hi Nick,

    You’ve chosen a good one to stick your neck out, well motivated, rigid logic, concise description, simple rules.

    I share your reservations about the pie rule, but the question would be whether the game actually needs one. I feel it might not. Slither’s pie isn’t all that effective, on the other hand, given a large enough board, the turn order advantage seems to drown in a sea of tactics and become insignificant (I feel the quest for ‘perfect balance’ is somewhat cramped anyway).

    I’m curious about actual play. To say you’ve dramatically increased the meaningful branching factor may be an understatement. In Y the center is of major importance, so the ‘meaningful’ branching factor is severely trimmed down with regard to the formal one because you can easily spot the important cells. In Snype that may be different because outward stones have so much room for movement that to get a better idea of strategy, one must work it’s way through tactics first. In terms of strategy, the fact that moves near the center are more committal will take an important role.

    There’s one little thing about the protocol. The only difference the order of placement and movement gives is that by placing first you might hinder a move. In the current rules that’s irrelevant: just change the order. But then you might as well let movement precede placement in the rules. You might also reverse the order and let placement precede, precisely to induce a tactical situation where placement might hinder a particular move – to just (and almost symbolocally) reign in the exceptional movement options.

    I hope this one will turn out to be fun to play, and in fact I’m fairly confident about that. Tactics are more up front that strategy for the time being, and players like tactics.

    Congrats 🙂

    • mystupidfoot permalink

      Thanks much Christian,

      I allowed actions to be taken in any order, because I have a bias toward including as few restrictions for players to remember as possible. I will test restricted orders and if they seem to offer something significantly better, I’ll modify the rules.

      Yeah, tactics are more upfront. Though as with Slither, I believe that they won’t be so overwhelming that strategy won’t emerge.

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