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Subject: Tampertown Cemetery rss

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christian freeling
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Recently I found myself back in Tampertown. After all these years I thought it a good idea to visit the cemetery and pay tribute to all the dead inventors. On my return I did some tampering myself (in red), because I had just the right game for it.

Tampertown Cemetery
Every year on Walpurgis Night the dead at Tampertown Cemetery rise from their graves to engage in their annual "Kill the Undead Dead" celebration.
The cemetery counts 48 graves around a small chapel in the center.
All graves are open for the night, and every grave has two, three or four graves called 'neighbors' immediately next to it.
The number of such neighbors is important. There are initially 12 graves with two neighbors, 16 with three, and 20 with four.

There are two zombiemasters, Red and White. Each has a sufficient number of zombies at his disposal. In addition there's a sufficient number of tombstones.

Definitions
* The "capacity" of a grave equals the number of its neighbors.
* Zombies operate in stacked "groups". A single zombie is a group of one. Groups may have any composition and are controlled by the color on top.
* A "tombstone" removes a square and thus reduces the capacity of its neighbors by one.

Rules
The game starts with the dead eagerly waiting to rise from their open graves. There are two stages, the resurrection- and the movement stage.

The resurrection stage
Zombies rise in pairs from adjacent graves, side by side, one of each color. The White master starts by resurrecting one corpse from a grave he chooses. From that point on masters take turns to:

* Resurrect a corpse from a grave next to the corpse just resurrected by the opponent, and ...
* ... resurrect a corpse from a grave that has only open neighbors.

Both resurrections are compulsory. When the master to move can no longer perform the second resurrection, then his turn ends and his opponent may start the movement stage.
The number of white and red zombies will always be equal, although the 'density' of the teams may vary and either master may end up being the one to start the next phase, depending on whether the number of full turns was even or odd.


Here's a position at the end of the resurrection stage. Red's last move was the placement at C2, White now starts the movement stage.

The movement stage
On his turn a master either moves one of his groups or enters a zombie.

* A group moves horizontally or vertically, based on the number of zombies to be moved (e.g. one zombie moves 1 grave and a group of three moves 3 graves).
Groups may be split in the process: a player may choose for instance to move only the top zombie or the top two zombies of a larger group.
Groups may move over or onto any grave, whether open or occupied, but they may not move over or onto a tombstone.
* Instead of moving a group, a master may choose to enter a zombie on any grave, whether open or occupied.

Capture
* If moving or entering causes a bi-colored group to surpass the capacity of its grave, then the moving master's zombies in it return to his stock of zombies, while the opponent's zombies are removed from the game.
At the same time a tombstone is put on the square. There is one exception to this: a mono-colored group may not be captured by entering.


White has just moved H5-H3. Despite the fact that H3 is now 'on capacity', Red cannot capture this group by entering.
However, entering on H3 does result a bi-colored group that either player can capture by entering there on his next turn.

* Erecting a tombstone may cause a bi-colored group on an adjacent grave to surpass capacity. Such a group is removed in the same turn causing another tombstone to be erected. Chain reactions are possible.
Regardles of whose color is on top in such follow-up captures, the moving master's zombies add to his stock, while the opponent's zombies are permanently removed.

Object
A player wins by leaving the opponent without any group on the board, regardless of how many zombies remain in either stock, or whether his own last group disappears from the board in the process.

Tampertown Cemetary © Mindsports

 
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christian freeling
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By the way, both the applet and the game are still in Tampertown, but here's our first game. I feel I'm in somewhat uncharted territory here regarding endgames and the role of forced cycles, so let's look if and when "the ship runs ashore", to use a literal translation of a dutch proverb.
 
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christian freeling
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Among all recent discussions about abstract games I'd like to direct some attention to Tampertown Cemetery. Our first game was somewhat flawed in that the code had to be adjusted regarding the legality of entering on a opposing mono-colored group, yet it allowed a glimpse of some interesting tactics. More about that later.

Remember Nick's post? Here's a quote:
milomilo122 wrote:
In contrast, I think great games are unclear; they make it hard, really hard, to identify good moves, but they do something else to make up for it: they excite in the mind ideas for moves which seem good, but actually aren’t. This has two important effects:

1. it gives players the needed sense of direction and competence even when they’re playing a deep game and in fact have no idea what they’re doing.

2. it sets players up to be surprised when they discover their initial ideas were wrong – in other words it creates Eureka moments, which are among the supreme joys of playing a good abstract game. This is only possible if a game stimulates compelling but ultimately incorrect ideas about how to play well.

I call this quality "Speciousness" (I used to call it False Clarity until I realized there was a perfect word to describe the quality – Specious means "apparently good or right though lacking real merit; superficially pleasing or plausible").

The greatest games pull this trick over and over – just when you think you’ve learned everything, the scales fall from your eyes yet again, and yet again you realize the game isn’t quite what you thought it was.

source

There's still David Buckley's question whether this constitutes any significant difference from Mark Thompson's concept of Clarity versus Depth, and I suppose it depends on what is meant by "clarity" and how it can differ for different players of the same game, depending on their level of play. But we had a perfect example of a Eureka moment in Tampertown. Before I come to that, let's first have a look at TC's structure, and compare it to the stucture of its ancestor Focus. This comparison is inevitable, so I'd better do it right to serve those who feel appearances may be misleading.

The motor: recycling reserves
Barring draws by exhaustion, what eventually eventually drives Focus over the cliff are its recyled reserves. The influence of small material advantages tends to increase with diminishing material, and barring a very fine balance, the thing eventually goes one way or the other. That's the game's undercurrent and tactics go easier with the flow than against it.
Introducing the number of adjacent cells as a criterion for a cells 'capacity' works fine in Crossfire in that it provides some strategical solidity in a very 'fluid' environment: you can aim large center-columns at low-capacity cells along the edges and harvest the fruits. The criterion isn't anymore logical than Sid's choice of "5" in Focus, but it seems less arbitrary.

A chance encounter of ideas
Chance encounters of ideas are always a part of the process. I had trashed "Trounce" because it had an annoying smell of something being wrong despite my failure to find it. It set my mind on the quest for something simpler. That means juggling with ideas, mechanisms and principles during the daily routine.
The exact time of birth of TC was when I realized that the principle of recycling reserves in Focus could be implemented with a different mechanism. Instead of stuffing men from above and harvesting the surplus from below, one could remove a whole bi-colored column once it had surpassed its 'capacity'. Capacity would be determined by the number of a square's neighbors. If the square itself were to be removed after a capture, the capacity of each of its neighbors would be reduced by 1. Sub-critical columns on such squares would suddenly be critical, while critical columns would raise above their limit and thus be captured in the same move. Chain reactions would be possible. The board would consist of ever less squares with a decreasing average capacity. Since every capture requires at least one man to be removed permanently, the number of blocked squares would never surpass the number of men. Since 'entering' is part of the mechanism, isolated areas would present no special problems. That was the moment of its birth. It took considerably less time to see it than to write it down.

Tampering
The board I eventually chose serves the mechanism: it has 12 capacity-2 squares along the edge, 16 capacity-3 squares, half of them along the edge and half around the chapel (apart from pittoresque and thematic aspects the chapel only serves to add 8 capacity-3 squares to the center) and 20 capacity-4 squares.
It was already impossible to get reserves without capture (that is: you cannot capture mono-colored groups of your own), so capture was restricted to bi-colored groups or groups belonging entirely to the opponent. Since I prefer generic rules, there was initially no difference between 'capture by moving' and 'capture by entering'. However, unrestricted capture by entering seemed to lead to lack of solidity, while forbidding it altogether could lead to capping and recapping the same group till one side was exhausted. So I came to a logical balance: you cannot capture a mono-colored group by entering. Since there are ample capacity-2 squares, this allows a player to enter a single there, and another one and another, and all the while the opponent, who makes the column bi-colored if he enters there, runs the risk of having it captured next move. A mono-colored group can thus relatively safely grow, and move as long as it doesn't sink below sub-capacity. It provided the solidity I was after.

I also decided to make presence on the board, or indeed lack thereof, the deciding criterion for winning or losing. This advances the critical point in endgame situations. It led to unexpected endgame tactics.

A Eureka moment
We initially considered entering on a (sub)critical mono-colored group as dumb: why enter there if you can be captured next move? Why not simply forbid it?
And that's what Ed did, provisionally, because the codechange required was minimal. But I had my doubts, both by experience and principle. I had doubts whether capping a (sub)critical mono-colored group would under all circumstances be dumb. I know the tricks games can present one with. I also find, on philosophical grounds, that rules are not there to prevent dumb moves.
Ed agreed but now faced a problem he had tried to avoid: the applet would simply consider every square at the end of a move, and execute a capture if a bi-colored square was above its limit. By allowing a bi-colored group above capacity to exist, he had to rewrite the code accordingly.

Meanwhile we were continuing our game and I want to draw your attention to (R)ed's 24...G3. It threathens to capture H3 and I can't escape to E3 (because of the groups at B3). I can cap it once, but not twice. Fortunately I found 25.HF3 and now Red cannot move G3 to either side, because both would turn critical. Or so I thought.
But Ed moved 25...FE3 just the same, and I wondered why. Of course I captured 26.F3. Then came 26...H3! It was the 'dumb' move, at that point only possible because it didn't surpass capacity, because Ed hadn't changed the code yet. But I had it there for the taking. Why wouldn't I...? And then the "Eureka" moment kicked in. Capturing H3 would lose the game because it would leave only one white group at B2, and this last group would simply be capped. Suddenly there was a less than dumb reason for playing the 'dumb' move, and not as a result of a tactical peculiarity either, but rather as a structural aspect of endgames: if you're down to two groups and the opponent caps one of them, you cannot capture it!

Endgame peculiarities
I've not yet puzzled out the extremes, but you get between say 10 to 15 pairs of zombies on the board. These are stacked in groups while some go permanently off the board, some temporarily. Pretty soon one or both players will be down to three groups. If then a sub-critical one is capped by the opponent and the player captures it, he will be down to two groups. That means he cannot capture anymore if one of them is capped, but must enter instead. This of course can already be the point of a combination: The capped piece is now under the opponent's control and may cause an immediate threat. These tactics result from leaving reserves in hand out of the equation in terms of the win condition.

Finally, notice that the endgame was decisive from an almost symmetrical position with only a few pieces left. TC implicitly has cooperative cycles, and I strongly suspect that there are positions possible that resolve in a forced cycle. But I don't think their appearance will be frequent. Draws by exhaustion are possible of course, and in exhausted endgames sides may end up without reserves and in isolated territories. But that, I expect, will not be a frequent occurence either.

We've engaged in a second game and a third one under its full name. The applet works fine now and the game has been fully implemented. I thank Ed for that, and I invite those of you who at least halfway trust my judgement to join us in the player section for some new and surprising tactics.
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christian freeling
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Let me elaborate just a tiny bit on strategy. Take a position a couple of moves beyond the opening phase, with two or three tombstones and each player having one or two reserves in hand. You're Red and you have two groups, A and B, both composed of a red zombie on top and a prisoner underneath. A and B are one square straight apart, so A can jump onto B and vice versa. However, both A and B occupy capacity-4 squares, so either jump only brings the resulting group 'on capacity' and ready for the taking by the White, by simply capping it with a reserve.

White cannot enter on either group because the other would then jump and capture, but to complicate matters let's say group A is also under attack by a White group of two (also on a capacity-4 square, lest it should be captured by A). So Red cannot enter a reserve on A in preparation for a jump by B, because A would be captured before B could jump.
But he can enter on B because B is not under attack by a white group of 2 so if Red enters on B, white cannot capture. Now Red has a group of 2 on A and one of 3 on B, and moving A onto B captures two prisoners and gives three reserves. White cannot prevent that by moving his two-group onto A, because that's still four on a capacity-4 square and it triggers a Red reply of moving two of the three zombies of B onto A catching a mixed total of six.

This little scenario that can be explained without so much as a board, comes in a number of variations the key theme of which is capturing the extra prisoner and/or getting the extra reserve to dominate events.
 
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christian freeling
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This one, the last one under its first name, has ended in defeat for me. Note that White cannot capture by entering at A4 or C5 because Red then wins by capping C2. The group at C2 has been severely handicapped since its appearance on F2. If Red enters on it now, White can wave the world goodbye in a suicide capture!

Despite my loss angry (that was a joke, actually) the game till now behaves as intended and expected.
There must be draws hidden in this pit, but we've not seen a shadow of them yet.
I know "fun" is the least useful word to put on a game, but I see no alternative.

This one, the first one under its proper name, shows an updated applet with a "dead & buried zombies" counter and a move indicator. There's some casual comment included that does little justice to Ed's excellent strategy (from a rookie's point of view) of creating sub-critical groups that made it difficult for me to enter. Eventually I was immobilized while having more material!
 
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christian freeling
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I feel I'm occasionally praised into the grave here, a revered relic of the past, well beyond the expiration date. But as far as I'm concerned I'm not quite dead yet. Here are some 20 games I invented or co-invented in the past three years. Most of them are what I'd call collateral damage: they're good games, but amongst the multitude of games competing in this niche they will have little chance to stand out. I'm not in the lobbying business, I'm an inventor, art for art's sake, and so be it.

There are a few exceptions, games of which I feel their quality will eventually tip the balance: Symple, Sygo and Inertia are all simple, homogeneous games that follow one governing principle both in mechanics and object. Among them they introduce a new generic move protocol and a new generic opening protocol, the first with an embedded turn-order balancing mechanism, the second as an implicit turn-order balancing mechanism. They adapt to the plain square- and hexgrid alike and allow almost any size or shape (though they provide no reason to deviate from the usual ones). They're natural and organic: remove the edges after the opening phase of Inertia and proceed on an endless grid, and you will find the game plays just as well - how much closer can it get to being a natural organism?

I didn't exactly make a secret of how I invented Inertia. You were all able to see it emerge via a failed Ayu clone. This may have caused some posters to disconnect (how original can it be?) and if so, I'm sorry for them. Fortunately there's no roadmap for inventing an original abstract game, and any road that eventually leads to the right result can hardly be the wrong road. I was a bit surprised that the strategical and tactical implications of the generic restriction rule weren't recognized all that well. It's the kind of rule that makes a game. But then, I think in principles, protocols, mechanisms, trying to find new ones or to merge existing ones in new ways. I don't think in (or ever use) boards and pieces or a notion of what the game should be: I'll know what it is when I've found it, even if others may be slow to recognize it.

I'm a bit surprised however by the obvious lack of response to Tampertown Cemetery. Did I tamper too little I wonder? Did I put it together too fast? Am I making fun of inventors? Since the whole process of invention was public I'll let you be the judge of that. I got reactions of three posters, and the first one was rather characteristic:

qswanger wrote:
Sounds like Focus with a bigger board, variable setup, and more fiddly capture/reserve criteria. I'm not saying it's bad, this is just my initial impressions upon having just read the rules.

How far is that from "It's like Focus with a bigger board", I wonder? Inertia revisited? May I remind the community that initial impressions, though unavoidable and often very useful, can be misleading? I'd be surprised if anyone disagrees.

I didn't build on Focus, I reflected on the terminating principle of Focus, based on simultaneous 'capture' of both colors, whereby the opponent's men are permanently removed from the game, while friendly men return as 'reserves' that may re-enter the game one by one at the cost of a turn. The mechanism is to move columns on top of columns, removing every man above 5 from the bottom. Since colomns may be (and usually are) mixed, men of both sides may thus be collected. Small differences in material tend to amplify towards the endgame, thus toppling the game one side or the other. A very good undercurrent towards decisiveness.

Partial capture
Focus uses partial capture of a column. At the end of the move, the square on which the capture took place still holds a column of 5 under your control, still stuck in the tube through which the remainder was purged, so to say.

Total capture
Tampertown Cemetery uses total capture: all men coming from the departure square (or the one man coming out of hand) and all men on the target square disappear simultaneously. If you combine with two pieces under your own control, and you leave an opponent's man behind on the departure square, then you will have two pieces less at the end of the move while your opponent has gained one. In endgames it is possible to combine yourself to oblivion this way. For anyone with no particular lack of imagination, it should be clear from this alone that the implications are radically different from those of partial capture. Forget "Focus with a bigger board" (quite apart from the fact that TC actually has a smaller board).

The Tampertown Assembly Line revisited
The idea of using the number of adjacent squares for 'capacity' as in Crossfire suddenly merged with making that number variable by removing squares where a capture had taken place. It's not hard to foresee a new kind of tactics emerging there. From that point on it was assembly all the way, with rules that would appear logical without being less arbitrary for it. Initial capacities were distributed over twelve squares (c-2), sixteen squares (c-3) and twenty squares (c-4) by truncating corners and adding the chapel. I decided that:

* Capture would concern mixed columns, so players can't capture a mono-colored column with a man or a mono-colored column of their own. It implies that the number of graves cannot surpass the number of men.
* A mono-colored opponent's piece could not be captured by entering.
* The win/lose criterion would be one's presence or lack thereof on the board, disregarding men in hand.

All arbitrary, but giving rise to new and surprising tactical consequences and a solid basis for strategical considerations. If that's what you're looking for, there's little I can do to stop you. We've got the rules and a fully functional applet. If not, then I don't quite understand the basis of this forum. There are certainly many related areas of interest, but aren't new abstracts what fuels it?
 
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Russ Williams
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christianF wrote:
I'm a bit surprised however by the obvious lack of response to Tampertown Cemetery.

Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time & too few opponents & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/
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Nick Bentley
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russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
I'm a bit surprised however by the obvious lack of response to Tampertown Cemetery.

Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time & too few opponents & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/


yup. My brain is utterly swamped with games.
 
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
My brain is utterly swamped with games.

So why not publish them here?
 
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christianF wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
My brain is utterly swamped with games.

So why not publish them here?


Other priorities more important.

One of the reasons is that unless I have a really profound game, or a really profound thing to say about a game, most people don't much care. In in fact most people don't care even when I do think I have something (I believe to be) profound to say.

It appears you may have experienced this yourself.

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milomilo122 wrote:
It appears you may have experienced this yourself.

To quote your blog:
Quote:
"I’m completely obsessed with designing abstract games, and have been for about 14 years. I dream about them."

I've been designing for more than twice as long, but it's seasonal it seems, and I don't dream about them. And yes, I have no illusions about the level of response at BGG, never mind the quality. But if you for a moment substitute "books" for "games" here ...
russ wrote:
Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time ... & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/

... and I mean real books that require an effort of the reader for what they give in return, then the result is rather curious.
 
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christianF wrote:
But if you for a moment substitute "books" for "games" here ...
russ wrote:
Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time ... & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/

... and I mean real books that require an effort of the reader for what they give in return, then the result is rather curious.


...The implication presumably being that complaints about a surfeit of books would amount to a philistinism self-evident beyond the need for condemnation...

But actually there are too many books right now (who was it who said that the most civilised act currently available to a truly literate person was not to write one?) - so many too many that it scarcely matters how many "real" ones there may be in the mix.

That's the first objection. And the second is that the game/book analogy is one whose validity doesn't necessarily have to be granted in any case.

On a tangential point - and please feel free to let me have both barrels if I'm off beam here - I've always felt that your fictional location should really have been called Tinkertown. Isn't that closer to your intended meaning - as well as being easier to say and possessing the additional merit of echoing Tinseltown?
 
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christianF wrote:
But if you for a moment substitute "books" for "games" here ...
russ wrote:
Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time ... & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/

... and I mean real books that require an effort of the reader for what they give in return, then the result is rather curious.


I'm not sure what you mean...!

Surely you're not saying it's curious or surprising that people don't have time/bandwidth to read all the potentially interesting good books which are being published.

But I'm not sure what you are saying! Please clarify.
 
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mocko wrote:
On a tangential point - and please feel free to let me have both barrels if I'm off beam here - I've always felt that your fictional location should really have been called Tinkertown. Isn't that closer to your intended meaning - as well as being easier to say and possessing the additional merit of echoing Tinseltown?

Actually I agree on both points, and even the third come to think of it. Alas, it's too late for that.

I wouldn't like to miss an opportunity to take this lightly though, so here's a game between Jos Dekker, a first time player, and me:

Since it is by all accounts a rookie game, the commentary may suit beginners.

Ed and I have played several games and as I write, we're at the beginning of the movement stage of the current one. This will likely be somewhat trickier now:


Enjoy
 
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russ wrote:
Surely you're not saying it's curious or surprising that people don't have time/bandwidth to read all the potentially interesting good books which are being published.

But I'm not sure what you are saying! Please clarify.

This is a forum dedicated to abstract games. In such a community there may be some members who never have the time, while all posters may at times not have the time. But I'd consider it surprising that all members should never have the time.

And of course no-one has the time or bandwith to play all the potentially interesting good games that are being published. But that wasn't what I asked when I was inviting you to have a closer look, now was it? Take it or leave it I'd say, and be pleased either way. As the saying goes, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink".
 
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mocko wrote:
On a tangential point - and please feel free to let me have both barrels if I'm off beam here - I've always felt that your fictional location should really have been called Tinkertown. Isn't that closer to your intended meaning - as well as being easier to say and possessing the additional merit of echoing Tinseltown?

You are sooo right that I've decided to follow your advice. We're in the process of changing it where necessary. That's mainly internal because old links keep working.
 
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christian freeling
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It's not that I'm here to convince anyone of anything, but I think the community of sceptics here might benefit from a closer look at something quite new. Of course there's a catch. You'd have to let the rules of of Tinkertown Cemetery sink in for a while, in particular the rule that the criterion for winning is the opponent's absence on the board, disregarding reserves and even disregarding whether or not the initiating player's last group disappears in the process, leaving only an empty cemetery.

The rule was established because it felt right and in any case would speed up the game, avoiding the possibility of dragged out endgames (a fear that may not have been justified, but nevertheless) and reducing the possibility of draws. In the above posts I already touched on the phenomenon that players in endgames will likely come in a position where they cannot capture, even if tasty groups are on offer, because in a capture both the capturing group (or reserve) and the captured group disappear. And they may both belong to the capturing player, because ownership doesn't matter in TC.

The image below is the endgame of the example game that you can find in the rules. Note that the material balance both off and on the board is even: both have 6 buried, 4 in hand and 3 on the board. There's a red/white and a white/red, both on sub-capacity on c-3 graves, and there's a red/white on capacity on G3.



Of course it's white to move, otherwise red would simply cap B3 with a reserve and win. If white captures by entering on G3 he loses for the same reason. White needs two groups to survive (if he weren't dead already). So he enters on E6 and red replies by entering on B3 and now all groups are on capacity and entering on one is suicide. Both have 3 reserves, so if white enters one, red can simply cap it - three times in a row. So white must split his group, but to make a short story even shorter: to no avail. Ed said he thought he had me around move 19.

There's some similarity here with having "the move" in checkers. The fact that red could bring the last piece on capacity left white with only the wrong moves.
 
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milomilo122 wrote:
russ wrote:
christianF wrote:
I'm a bit surprised however by the obvious lack of response to Tampertown Cemetery.

Probably for many of us, it's a case of "too many games, too little time & too few opponents & too low bandwidth for learning/exploring new games". :/

yup. My brain is utterly swamped with games.

To me it seems that you both need some time off to recuperate before you may again be able to even recognize something new.
laugh

christian freeling (nl) - Jos Dekker (GE) 0-1


And a new one:
Jos Dekker (GE) - christian freeling (nl) (running ...)
 
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christianF wrote:
* Erecting a tombstone may cause a bi-colored group on an adjacent grave to surpass capacity. Such a group is removed in the same turn causing another tombstone to be erected. Chain reactions are possible.
Regardles of whose color is on top in such follow-up captures, the moving master's zombies add to his stock, while the opponent's zombies are permanently removed.

This was a case of sloppy thinking. It was meant to prevent the presence of groups above capacity at the beginning of any one turn. But the rule that entering on a mono-colored group does not result in a capture, implicitly leads to positions in which there is a group above capacity at the beginning of a turn. Nor does it affect the system. In short, the above rule is superfluous and unnecessarily complicates matters. It now reads:
Quote:
Erecting a tombstone may cause a bi-colored group on an adjacent grave to surpass capacity. Such a group remains above capacity and may (or may not) be captured by the opponent on his next turn.

 
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