Mar 24, 2007

Games Operators, aka, Mutators

[ ~ Dec 99, Jan 2k]

[Douglas Zare] Here are five examples of operators on games:

1) Misere: The object of the new game is to lose while playing the old game.
2) Move and switch: After the first move, the second player can choose to switch sides rather than respond.
3) Bad advice, as in Fred Galvin's "Compromise Chess": A player offers two possible moves to the opponent, who advises the player which to play. If there is only one legal move then this is simply made.
4) Use a doubling cube, as in backgammon. I have heard that this is a nice addition to speed chess, and would guess that this would make spectator sports more interesting.
5) Bughouse: Instead of playing, you can drop in a piece your partner has captured on a parallel color-reversed board. The partnership of the first winner wins.This doesn't do much for go or pente, but how does it affect checkers?

All of these take in games and produce new games, though there may be a few choices to make in the implementation. In my experience, understanding the original game carries over to some level of understanding in the new game, although there are substantial differences. Interestingly, the first three are close to involutions, i.e., applying the operator twice may produce the original game. The first three also produce legal games, albeit strange ones, and can be played on many internet game servers to the confusion of kibitzers. (I'm always willing to play backgammon misere unrated as zare_10027 on Yahoo.)

I am curious what other interesting operators have been tried, particularly those which are simple, preserve some of the structures of the original game, and are fun. I would also appreciate any pointers to annotated games or the theory of hex misere and backgammon misere. (Are there videos of grandmasters playing bughouse?) On the other hand, I would like to know how much the endgame theory of bad advice go resembles that of ordinary go.

[Tim Chow] John Conway has suggested "Whim," which is Nim except that at any point in the game a player may say "Whim" instead of moving; this decree alters the game from normal to misere. The whim may be invoked only once per game (*not* once per player per game). It turns out that Whim is just Nim with an extra "invisible" pile of counters (I forget of what size) representing the whim, but the same operator will surely have more interesting effects on other games.

[David Bush] Misere doesn't work well for chess and related games. Selfmate puzzles notwithstanding, it's usually impossible to force your opponent to checkmate you. Misere Go sounds like a disaster. Checkers might be interesting, with cumpulsory captures. Maybe Misere suicide chess, where captures are compulsory and the King is just another piece, but the last player to move WINS...? Speaking of which, suicide might be an applicable operator to battle games. There are tons of fairy chess rulesets which might apply to battle games (chess, checkers, etc.) For example, unambiguous chess requires all moves to be representable unambiguously with 3 symbols in descriptive notation, where the dash - doesn't count, but the x for captures does. E.g. you couldn't play QR-K1 if KR-K1 is also possible. Maybe some games have move notation which could be adapted for this. Or, salt shaker chess starts the game with a salt shaker on a central square. The shaker moves in the same direction & distance as whatever piece is moving (king when castling.) You may not move the shaker off the board with your move. The issue of what2do if the shaker would land on an occupied square, could be dealt with in several ways. Then there's nuclear chess, where each piece adjacent to a capture, friend or foe, is removed from the board (except the capturing piece.) Or protean chess, where each piece (except possibly the king) takes on the powers of movement of whatever piece it captures. Or et cetera...

[Fred Galvin] Here are some references on misere hex (and other variants):

Ronald Evans, A winning opening in Reverse Hex, J. Recreational Math., Vol. 7, No. 3 (Summer, 1974), 188-192.
Ronald Evans, Some variants of Hex, J. Recreational Math. Vol. 8(2) (1975-1976), 120-122.
Jeffrey Lagarias and Danny Sleator, Who wins Misere Hex?, in: Scott Kim, ed., Articles in Tribute to Martin Gardner (Atlanta International Museum of Art and Design, January 16, 1993), 146-148.

[anonymous] you can pre-give an amount of -say- money to each player. Whenever such a predefined condition occurs , both players bet from their money , whether they want the condition to be valid or cancelled , and the highest bet decides. Of course this bet-amount is substracted from the higher-bet-player's money. This usually increases (and sometimes completely changes) the structure of the game. As an example consider betting tic-tac-toe , where always the player moves , who bets most. Or betting go : after move 3n , the n-th free square is filled with a piece from the player whith the higher bet. Or betting football : all 10minutes a player is removed from the team whith the lower bet. A handicap for good-players can be applied by allowing different initial amounts of money.

[Andy Tepper] How about a HoardMoves(G,n) operator? At any time instead of moving you may delay up to n moves and then make them all at once in the future. For instance, in HoardMoves(Go,1) you could skip a turn and then play the two moves in parallel on some future turn. A group would have to have 3 eyes to be alive. (Assuming moves were made in parallel. You could always say that the two moves must be made in sequence which keep the 2 eyes rule.)

[Gerry Quinn] Sounds a bit horrid in Chess. Both players will hoard at the start, with White hoping to declare mate in (say) ten, and Black having to scramble for some tactics to prevent it. But then Black will be further behind, and White will win when he has hoarded a couple more. As Alekhine said (or was it Nimzowich) "In Chess, the threat is stronger than the execution!" Hoarding a _partial_ move might be interesting in Chess, though. Pass a move twice, and you have a free one in hand. This might be fairly balanced.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I design chess variants, and I've been thinking about mutators recently. One I've just used [haven't seen it described anywhere this way, yet] is "Fluid", which allows friendly pieces to move into, out of, or through other friendly pieces. In board wargames, it's called "stacking'; in chess variants, the common terms are "fusion" and "fission", although "fluid" was apparently never used until now, as chesspieces were only ever allowed to join in a compound piece [like bishop + knight], or separate into components [like a queen breaking down into a rook and bishop]. But what I've been thinking about, in terms of chess variants, is the effect of board geometry. I've come to the tentative conclusion that at least some boards are mutators, especially non-two-dimensional boards. Play chess on a 1-D, 3-D, 4-D... board, and you've substantially changed the game, without necessarily changing any other rules. I'm curious to hear any comments on this idea, that gameboards themselves are mutators.