Abstract Strategy Games

Anything and everything about abstract strategy games

Watch Chess Queen Alexandra Kosteniuk beat reigning World Chess Champion Vishy Anand at the most recent World Blitz Chess Championship. I enjoy watching speed chess because of the greater opportunity for an upset.

I would like to thank Hans Scharler, inventor of Divide & Conquer for having the courage to ask a stranger to play and review his game publicly. As a game-inventor I know that is not an easy thing to do. Hans and I met up in Indianapolis during GenCon 2009 so he could give me a finished prototype of his abstract strategy game Divide & Conquer. Hans gives a quick description:

Divide and Conquer is an abstract strategy board game for 3-4 players. As the Commander of a battalion of troops, you plan out and execute troop movements to secure objective regions around the game board. Your opponent’s competing troops will cause you to tangle and engage in conflict taking on causalities and slowing your pace to victory. You must anticipate the other players’ strategies by moving with precision and seizing the initiative. Sometimes your position is defensive to block an opponent from an objective and other times you are invading occupied regions to weaken the offensive of another player.

The game mechanics are based in mathematics and game theory, which provides an additional opponent. If you plan optimally, you will not only defeat the other players, but you will also solve the game with a minimal number of movements.

source: Divide & Conquer

Divide and Conquer

That next week I took D&C to my local game club. I told the gamers not to judge the visual design of Hans’ game because it is not the final look, but to take notes on everything else. We played many games with both three and four players.

D&C is quick to learn and even quicker to set up. In fact, there were no illegal moves played during the entire learning process. This is unusual for most games. I’m a fan of simplicity - this was a great first impression. So far, so good.

Divide & Conquer

One of D&C’s major concept is for all players to write down their moves before anyone else takes a turn. When it’s your turn you must make the move you wrote down. After each round you switch the person who goes first. This disrupted the flow of the game. One set of players decided to play on the honor system where they thought about the move before anyone played and everyone trusted others were being honest. They explained to me that no one was reading the written moves anyway, so this was just easier. And, even though we were using a system to determine who’s turn it was to begin a round, there were many times where people were asking who’s turn it was.

Divide & Conquer

When we finished for the evening I asked for everyone’s opinion about the gameplay and there was a universal agreement in the lack of depth in strategy. They didn’t get the same satisfaction of making a move as our other popular club games.

Overall I enjoyed the game, and admit the gamers in my club probably need more games under their belts before coming to a conclusion about the depth of this game. With that said I look forward to playing more of Divide & Conquer and I hope Hans decides to put out more abstracts for us to review.

Click here to visit the Divide & Conquer website.

-SBR

The third meeting of the Abstract Strategy Game Club was the best yet. We played a four player chess variant called Sceptre 1027 AD. It was produced in 1986 by a company located in Indiana called Horizon Games, Inc.

The players may use up to nine boards to create the playing environment. The openness creates a chaotic atmosphere which is a bit overwhelming at first. The board sections have both dark and light squares (checkered) like chess, but have terrain which influences the way the pieces may move. It was a lot of fun, but we invested a lot of time learning the game. There were a lot of mistakes, mostly over confusion with the terrain, and illegal moves had to be taken back. We talked about playing it again next meeting, so we’ll see if the mistakes decrease and the strategy increases. Overall, we had a blast playing it, and if you can get your hands on a set, I recommend playing it with some of your more open-minded and patient friends.

-SBR
Abstract Strategy Games

Retsami

An old college friend recently introduced me to an interesting race-type game called Retsami (‘I master’ backwards).  Retsami is a self-published two-player abstract strategy game invented by John Wildsmith, and is played using 8 pieces (4 each player) on a 9×9 gameboard.  It is currently selling for around $20(US).  The objective is to get one piece to the center square following four rules:

  1. To commence the game each player’s counters are placed alternately on the first 8 Squares of the Way
  2. The players take it in turns to move. The player whose counter is on the eighth Square of the Way moves first
  3. In each move a player may do one of the following:
    1. Advance one counter along the Way to a vacant square provided it does not turn round more than one corner or overtake any other counter; or
    2. Move one counter in a straight line horizontally, vertically or diagonally to any square occupied by the superior counter of an opponent provided the path to the square is not blocked by any other counter. The opponent’t counter is the removed from the board; or
    3. Re-enter a taken counter on any vacant square of the starting row.
  4. 4.If a player perceives the occurrence of a stalemate situation, he can offer his opponent “Stalemate”. The opponent must then either accept the stalemate (in which case the game is drawn) ir resolve the stalemate.

There is a cash prize tournament at the Chelmsford Social Club (UK) at 10 a.m. on October 19th, 2008.

-SBR
Abstract Strategy Games

Here is another great video review from Colin Sherman. This is the second review from him I’ve embedded. He also reviewed Rumis, a game similar to Blokus. Enjoy.

 

Related:
Play Blokus online
Blokus - Wikipedia

 

-SBR
Abstract Strategy Games

While researching the game Rumis I came across a video review by Colin Sherman. He did a good job dicussing Rumis, so I’m just going to post his video. Enjoy.

 

Related:
Blokus
Rumis (Wikipedia)

-SBR
Abstract Strategy Games

Hive is an two-player, bug-themed abstract strategy game with hex tiles and no board.  The objective is to surround your opponent’s queen bee, and at the same time prevent your queen bee from being surrounded.  Each player begins with eleven hex tiles - 3 ants, 3 grasshoppers, 2 spiders, 2 beetles, and 1 queen bee.  Players take turns by either placing tiles, or moving ones already placed.

Compared to games currently in the marketplace Hive is unique, but does resemble an older hex tile game published in the 1970’s called ‘The Game of Ancient Kingdoms’.  The Game of Ancient Kingdoms was also a boardless abstract strategy game where players took turns placing hex tiles.  Some compare Hive to Chess, because the pieces don’t all move the same way.  I don’t agree Hive is like Chess, but it could be argued Hive is similar to Steve Jackson’s chess variant Tile Chess.  Tile Chess also has tile placement, no board, and the pieces have their own unique movements.

Overall, I enjoy playing Hive and I recommend it to other abstract strategy gamers.  Hive is simple to learn, yet deep enough to create interesting positions.  It’s not only quick to learn, but quick to play.  My only concern with Hive is the amount of draws.  Not only have I experienced lots of draws in casual play, but there’s a surprising amount of draws in tournaments.   I’m a chess player, so I’m accustom to draws, but Hive seems to draw more often than Chess - at least on a non-master level.

Hive is a great first abstract strategy game.  If you are trying to convince someone to play abstract strategy games introduce them to Hive.

Play Hive Online

-SBR
Abstract Strategy Games