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Subject: Hive notation system (as used on boardspace.net) rss

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Frank Griese
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A number of dedicated Hive players have suggested different notation systems for the game over the years.

The most straightforward and most commonly used notation system was developed by Dave Dyer for his digital implementation of Hive on boardspace.net. You can find the original post on boardgamegeek here.

To record moves made during a game using the Hive notation system, you need to identify the piece being moved along with the space it is moved to in the game area, also called "the Hive".

First, turn all the pieces with a vertex pointing downwards so that any adjacent piece is clearly either left or right.



The pieces are designated by the first letter of their English names and numbered in the order they are added into the Hive.
A = Ant
B = Beetle
G = Grasshopper
L = Ladybug
M = Mosquito
P = Pillbug
Q = Queen Bee
S = Spider

The capital letter is preceded by w or b to indicate the piece's color.

Moves are noted by naming the moving piece first, then the piece it attaches to, either preceded or followed by /, \ or - to indicate the relative position of the moving piece with reference to the piece it attaches (see diagram below).



/ (1), - (2), \ (3) before the name of the reference piece (R) if the piece that moves attaches to its left.

/ (4), - (5), \ (6) after the name of the reference piece (R) if the piece that moves attaches to its right.

It doesn't matter which piece is used as a reference. In many cases, there will be several choices. Hence, there may be multiple ways to note the same move.

For the first move in the game, or for beetle moves on top of other pieces, no direction is given.

Notation example:

1. wG1 White places his first Grasshopper.
2. bG1 wG1- Black places his first Grasshopper
3. wA1 \wG1 White places his first Ant to the top right of his Grasshopper.
4. bQ bG1/ Black places his Queen bee to the top right of his Grasshopper.
5. wQ /wG1 White places his Queen bee to the bottom left of his Grasshopper.
6. bS1 bG1\ Black places his first Spider to the bottom right of his Grasshopper.
7. wA1 bQ/ White moves his Ant to the top right of the black Queen bee.
8. bS1 /wQ Black moves his Spider to the bottom left of the white Queen bee.
9. wB1 wA1- White introduces his first Beetle to the right of his Ant.
10. bB1 bG1- Black introduces his first Beetle to the right of his Grasshopper.
11. wB1 wA1 The white Beetel moves on top of the white Ant.


First 11 moves taken from the game jessj48 against ringersoll U!HV-jessj48-ringersoll-2013-09-14-0120 on boardspace.net
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Randall Ingersoll
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One small addition: There must be a way to differentiate between the pieces, e.g. which Ant? or which Spider?

In my book, I put 1, 2, or 3 dots on each piece. If you are careful, you can drill and color these dots on your actual pieces.

At BoardSpace, this is done by orientation, except for the Queen which does not need it because there is only one of them.

The first bug placed of each type i.e. wB1 or bG1 will be oriented with the image horizontal. The second bug placed will be oriented from upper left to lower right. And the third bug placed will be oriented from upper right to lower left.
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Randall Ingersoll
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Oops, one more small addition.

If a bug climbs atop another bug, the reference bug is needed, but no direction is needed.

bB1 wQ

would be a Black Beetle climbing atop the White Queen.
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Frank Griese
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rmingersoll wrote:
drill and color these dots on your actual pieces


Drilling my precious Hive pieces ? Never ! laugh

I actually use the same trick as on boardspace.net - I orient the pieces left right and down (1, 2, 3) in real life games. But using a dot or even a number on the pieces is easier, I admit.

rmingersoll wrote:
Oops, one more small addition.

If a bug climbs atop another bug, the reference bug is needed, but no direction is needed.

bB1 wQ

would be a Black Beetle climbing atop the White Queen.


Yes, I agree - I thought that's what I wrote above. Or was it not clear enough ? How should I rephrase it ?
 
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Chris Schumann
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linael wrote:
rmingersoll wrote:
Oops, one more small addition.

If a bug climbs atop another bug, the reference bug is needed, but no direction is needed.

bB1 wQ

would be a Black Beetle climbing atop the White Queen.


Yes, I agree - I thought that's what I wrote above. Or was it not clear enough ? How should I rephrase it ?

I thought it was clear.
 
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LCG 74160
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IMHO, there are several problems with this notation.

First, as pointed out before, there are several ways to represent the same action. It makes it hard to discuss and compare games. See for instance Randy's effort to come up with a standard openings notation in his book.

Then, the notation is not really appropriate for real life games: you need to mark your pieces or be careful with their orientation. If you take a picture of a live game and post it as a puzzle then you need to edit the picture to mark the pieces.

Finally, we also miss a (good) notation to describe a game position.

You can compare this with Chess where the algebraic notation is very straightforward for moves and FEN is very compact for positions.

Would people be interested in trying to find a better notation both for actions and positions?
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Mi Myma
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The only way I can think of off hand is to use some labeling of the virtual spaces of the virtual board. Maybe something like this:


-a+5 +a+5 +b+5 +c+5 +d+5 +e+5 +f+5

-b+4 -a+4 +a+4 +b+4 +c+4 +d+4 +e+4 +f+4

-c+3 -b+3 -a+3 +a+3 +b+3 +c+3 +d+3 +e+3 +f+3

-d+2 -c+2 -b+2 -a+2 +a+2 +b+2 +c+2 +d+2 +e+2 +f+2

-e+1 -d+1 -c+1 -b+1 -a+1 +a+1 +b+1 +c+1 +d+1 +e+1 +f+1

-f.0 -e.0 -d.0 -c.0 -b.0 -a.0 +a.0 +b.0 +c.0 +d.0 +e.0 +f.0

-f-1 -e-1 -d-1 -c-1 -b-1 -a-1 +a-1 +b-1 +c-1 +d-1 +e-1

-f-2 -e-2 -d-2 -c-2 -b-2 -a-2 +a-2 +b-2 +c-2 +d-2

-f-3 -e-3 -d-3 -c-3 -b-3 -a-3 +a-3 +b-3 +c-3

-f-4 -e-4 -d-4 -c-4 -b-4 -a-4 +a-4 +b-4

-f-5 -e-5 -d-5 -c-5 -b-5 -a-5 +a-5


And the starting spaces for the black and white pieces are defined as +a.0 and -a.0, respectively. The pattern can be extended outward as needed.
 
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LCG 74160
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We could use "standard" hex coordinates such as:



See http://keekerdc.com/2011/03/hexagon-grids-coordinate-systems... for more information.
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Frank Griese
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LCG 74160 wrote:
IMHO, there are several problems with this notation.


IMHO you never have tried to used it in real game situation on a regular basis.

I have. And for many years now (since 2007 to be precies, I have records and archives of most of the games I played).

I even created and shared a Hive Score Sheet to record and archive my games.

The notation has become like a second language - compat, easy to read. If it where flawed, my archives would be useless - which they aren't, I can assure you.

LCG 74160 wrote:
First, as pointed out before, there are several ways to represent the same action.


I don't see why this should be a problem? It works, but you have to try it out to understand why... If you really need a "rule", when multiple pieces are available as referece, always use the piece that was introduced first into the game.

You misunderstood the way the notation works: it describes the dynamic of the game (which pieces moves where to). If you start with move one and re-play the game move by move, it doesn't matter which piece is used as reference, just the move is important (which piece, where to).

The resulting position will always be consistant, even if the players wrote down the same game with different reference pieces. You can "compare" game notes.

LCG 74160 wrote:
See for instance Randy's effort to come up with a standard openings notation in his book.


I must have missed something when I read his (outstanding!) book - where does the hive notation prove to be a problem to Randy when he descirbes openings in his book ? I thought the opposite was true: Randy uses Hive notation throughout the book, without ever having problems with it.

LCG 74160 wrote:
you need to mark your pieces or be careful with their orientation.


As I said, I never had trouble with this. Randy drilled his pieces, I prefer orienting them.

LCG 74160 wrote:
If you take a picture of a live game and post it as a puzzle then you need to edit the picture to mark the pieces.


The beauty if it is: boardspace.net actually does this for you automagically (thanks to Dave Dyers excellent work).

LCG 74160 wrote:
We could use "standard" hex coordinates


We could. snore
 
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LCG 74160
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linael wrote:
IMHO you never have tried to used it in real game situation on a regular basis.


This is true.

linael wrote:
The notation has become like a second language - compat, easy to read.


I have no doubt about this. When you use something intensively (whatever it is), you get used to it.

The main question is: are all Hive players happy with this notation? If the answer is yes then thread is closed, no need to change the notation. If enough players feel the need to improve the notation then let's try to do it.

I don't claim that the current notation is bad or flawed, simply that it could (probably) be improved.

linael wrote:
You can "compare" game notes.


Yes, you can compare if you replay the games and maybe find out that there are indeed the same even though they got recorded differently.

Compare with Chess: just look at what is written down (no need to replay) and if the letters are the same, the game or position is the same.

linael wrote:
I must have missed something when I read his (outstanding!) book - where does the hive notation prove to be a problem to Randy when he descirbes openings in his book ?


I don't claim that this has been problematic to Randy.

I'm referring to section 3.6 where Randy describes a way to reduce the diversity in notation through "standard position".

"1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bc4" uniquely identifies a common Chess opening.

IMHO, it would be good to have something equivalent in Hive too.

And AFAIK, we miss a notation for position. Here again, the goal is to have a unique mapping from position to a sequence of letters, i.e. what FEN is to Chess.
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Jarek Szczepanik
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IMO, there's a problem with field counting in Hive. Although on VASSAL you use a grid, in which you can have numbered fields, on boardspace and in real life there is no such a thing. Moreover, from game to game, the shape of the Hive differs, and there will be either many fields that won't be used, or new will have to be created. If you compare a hex grid for Hive to a chessboard, there hardly can be any universal movements as wG1 A1.3. Last but not least, in Hive, pieces' relative position is very crucial to analyze the game, and to follow its flow. Grid notation fails to do that.

I think, Dave's notation is better, even though it's a little difficult to grasp at first.
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Mi Myma
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You could also use the movement of the piece relative to where it started, like

wA1 e3ne2 - moves three spaces east and two spaces northeast from where it started.

For beetles and grasshoppers and bees, numbers aren't even strictly needed to define the move absolutely, since they have a maximum of six possible moves - one for each direction, thus

bG2 nw
wQ e
wB3 sw

For ants and spiders (and the newer pieces) you need further specification, however, you could have conventions that keep the notation as consise as possible. For example, you would never say

bA1 w5ne2

when you could just say

bA1 w3nw2

And therefore, you could leave the second 'w' implied, thusly:

bA1 w3n2

which can be distinguished from

bA1 w2nw3

by adoption the convention to express it like this:

bA1 n3w2

So if the piece moves exactly in one of the six "cardinal" directions, you simply give that direction and the number of spaces. If a piece moves between those lines and one of them is east or west, you can abbreviate the other direction as simply 'n' or 's', and use whichever direction the pieces moves farther in first.

If the piece moves between ne and nw (or se and sw), then you have to give both directions, and for terseness in this case, you can drop the second 'n' (or s).

You could almost make the notations for the ant and spider movement even simpler, by indicating clockwise or counterclockwise around the hive, and the number of spaces moved. This won't always work though, because of concavities that may appear in the hive's shape.

Of course, this doesn't include notation for the placement of new pieces on the hive, which would likely need to be done with a coordinate system. This difference could be an advantage, as it would become immediately obvious when reading the notation, which turns are moves and which turns are new pieces added.

Notation is tricky!
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Russ Williams
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Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Notation is tricky!

Yes indeed. And Hive has a double whammy against it (hex instead of square grid, and unbounded instead of bounded grid) which doesn't help make things any easier...
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Frank Griese
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lcg74160 wrote:
linael wrote:
IMHO you never have tried to used it in real game situation on a regular basis.

This is true.


I don't want to come over as aggressive, but what is the use of discussing this then ?

lcg74160 wrote:
When you use something intensively (whatever it is), you get used to it.


I doubt this is true - if the notation had been impractical, I would have been the first to move on to something else. laugh

lcg74160 wrote:
The main question is: are all Hive players happy with this notation?


Are you sure we must ask "all" Hive players? Some might be difficult to track. And statistically, I can guarantee that you will find at least one player who doesn't like the system. cry

lcg74160 wrote:
I don't claim that the current notation is bad or flawed, simply that it could (probably) be improved.


Basically, you do not know if it is bad or flawed, you don't use it, you don't know if there is anything to improve upon... so why discuss this here?

lcg74160 wrote:
Compare with Chess:


Hive is not chess: no board, no "grid", no pieces get kicked out, pieces are in constant contact with each other, etc.

You might take a look at how Othello/Reversi games are recorded... I think you will tear your hair out on it.

lcg74160 wrote:
I'm referring to section 3.6 where Randy describes a way to reduce the diversity in notation through "standard position".


Yes, but I don't see why this is a "problem" in Hive notation that should be improved upon. This is simply due to the way the game was designed. Hexagonal pieces that move in a undefined playing area while keeping constant contact with each other.

lcg74160 wrote:
And AFAIK, we miss a notation for position.


"We" maybe do, why not ask "him", but I personally don't, though who cares about my opinion anyway. And position notation wasn't the object of my post. Nor was discussing the possibility of a "better" notation system.laugh

Conclusion:

- If you want to develop an alternative Hive notation, go ahead and start a thread about it. You might end up with something better, and I'd adopt it right away.
- If you want to develop a position notation, go ahead and start a thread... (you got the idea).

Phil Fleischmann wrote:
Notation is tricky!


Thank you for noticing ! laugh

Svartisen wrote:
(...) in Hive, pieces' relative position is very crucial to analyze the game, and to follow its flow. Grid notation fails to do that.


Exactly, that is why Dave's notation is consistent with the game's nature and flow. Grid notation would be very impractical, due to the lack of game board. I can't see myself superimposing a Hex grid in my mind while Playing Hive on the kitchen table...

I initially posted the explanation about Hive notation to support Image13's Puzzle threads - so people who don't know the system could easily adopt it. Had I know it would end in a philosophical discussion about "maybe things that ain't broken could be fixed anyway", I would have kept silent about it. blush
 
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Randall Ingersoll
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One of the great things about the game of Hive (in fact one of the driving idea's in John Yianni's design) is the boardless feature. By trying to introduce a coordinate system similar to the algebraic notation used in chess (which for an old guy like me is difficult (I still like P-Q4 rather than d4)) there must be an underlying board (either real or imagined).

In my opinion, a real board is out of the question. This leaves an imaginary one. I, for one, do not wish to try to remember and calculate what the coordinate of a destination piece is. I want to make my move, record it simply and then concentrate on the next move!

When first introduced to the notation system that Dave Dyer designed for use at BoardSpace, I did not like it. There must be a better way! But after looking at the options, I determined that THERE IS NOT A BETTER WAY.

If someone comes up with a better notation system, I will gladly switch. But until then, the notation used at BoardSpace is the best. (Thank you Dave Dyer!)

PS - if you want to look at a coordinate system take a look at the SGF files on BoardSpace. The underlying data is recorded and stored in a coordinate system terminology.
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AbStrateGyk
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To be more precise and anal

Quote:
The upper case letter is preceded by a lower case w or b to indicate the piece's color.


Also why not a + (plus) sign to indicate the Beetle going on top of a piece? Seems more appropriate as one is adding a level on top of another piece. The other option is the ^ (caret) which is like an up symbol. So how do you anticipate for future expansion pieces like the Dragonfly, where it optionally transports pieces underneath?
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Frank Griese
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Quote:
So how do you anticipate for future expansion pieces like the Dragonfly, where it optionally transports pieces underneath?


We don't - the pillbug was a nightmare for Dave, he found a solution though.

Randy addresses the notation of the Dragonfly moves and ability in his book. I won't tell you how, just buy the book - it really is worth every cent.
 
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I notice a few other odd things about the notation given above:

A. Why is each move numbered separately, with the odd numbers for white and the even numbers for black, instead of putting each player's move on the same line, like in chess notations? Wouldn't that be simpler and more compact?

B. The lower-case 'w' or 'b' in front of the piece being moved is redundant, since the parity of the move number is sufficient to indicate whether it's a white or black piece.

So the example moves given above could be written:

1. G1 G1 wG1-
2. A1 \wG1 Q bG1/
3. Q /wG1 S1 bG1\
4. A1 bQ/ S1 /wQ
5. B1 wA1- B1 bG1-
6. B1 wA1 ...


C. Likewise, you could eliminate the 'w's and 'b's entirely by adopting the FEN convention of using upper case letters for white and lower case letters for black. So:

1. G1 g1 G1-
2. A1 \G1 q g1/
3. Q /G1 s1 g1\
4. A1 q/ s1 /Q
5. B1 A1- b1 g1-
6. B1 A1 ...


Fewer characters, no ambiguity.

You could also add additional notations to call attention to various states and conditions in the game - not for the sake of simply documenting the game, or encoding it for a computer - but for the sake of human beings reading the notation. I know there's no "check" in Hive as there is in chess, but you could for example add a notation to indicate the "threat level" on a bee. This is just an example, but one possible way to do this is, after any piece moves next to a queen, you could add '(n)' - where 'n' is replaced by the number of open spaces around the queen. Thusly:

4. A1 q/ (4)

Now it usually wouldn't be necessary to include such a notation if the number was greater than, say, 2. But towards the end game, it can give the notation more visual clarity (and maybe even drama) to show the "countdown": (2) ... (1) ... (0) - wins.

Likewise, other notations could be added when desired to indicate, for example which pieces have been pinned or unpinned by the move.

To solve the problem of multiple ways to express the same move, there could be a convention as to which piece is given as the "anchoring" piece. If such a convention is to be adopted, it seems obvious to me that the opposing queen should always be the piece indicated, if it's one of the choices. And that if the choices are all the same type of piece, belonging to the same player, the lowest-numbered one should be chosen. Apart from that, any priority can be chosen. It seems to me that opposing pieces should be chosen when possible, because it indicates "attack" effects that the move can have.
 
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Michael Scheer
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linael wrote:
8. bS1 /wQ Black moves his Spider to the bottom left of the white Queen bee.


My thoughts are: As in chess short notation we can leave unnecessary information out... if the moving Spider has only one possibility to touch the target Queen:

8. bS1wQ
or even
8. S1Q

I like short notations.
 
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I know I am coming into this conversation late; and I know I am just some random guy tm) on the inter-webs... but I do want to make three observations:

1. Hive != Chess -- trying to compare the needs and functions of chess to hive is a non-starter. This includes notation. As has been pointed out: hexes, no fixed board, no fixed starting position, pieces entering the game without being removed (ever) all make the lessons chess more of a set of red herrings than starting points.

2. Existing System -- the existing system may not be concise, but it is accurate. By this I mean, although a single given move may be able to written in multiple ways, any correctly written move will only describe one possible move of the game. As such, this system works (and others have stated, easily learn-able and usable in live games).

3. No Competing Systems -- the last thing anyone truly wants (even if they are not aware of that fact) is to create competing systems for this. Unless a new system can do something *significantly* better than the current one, then we need to adopt and use the given system. Last thing you want here is a fractured set of so-called standards that make anyone attempting to read the notation of a given game wonder how to read *this* version of Hive Notation.
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I agree with KDLadage... Chess-like notations fall short with Hive. Up above, someone also mentioned the possibility of a hex-coordinate notation.

I just wanted to weigh in, that even as someone who has implemented Hive using a coordinate hex system (I've written about the hex coordinate system we used) and have also lamented the lack of a standard way to represent a board state... I still think the best way to do move-notations is to stick with what's in Randy's book.

I agree that it's frustrating not to have a standard way to represent a board position, but that's a different problem - similar to the fact that chess boards are passed around using FEN which is a different system from the Algebraic Notation commonly used for moves.

Coincidentally: tonight I'm implementing the code for the Steam version of Hive which will store a record of each move (to be used for replays, etc. later on) and I'm going to try to use a system very much like what Randy describes.

There seem to be several different formats out there for storing the actual game file (like the "; P1[19 pdropb bq L 14 -bL1]" stuff in BoardSpace files), but I think it's important to keep the moves in as close to a standard notation as possible.

By the time my changes from tonight are released, we're going to have Randy's book, BoardSpace's UI, the PC, Mac, and Linux versions of Hive all on the same (or darn close to it) notation system. We're well on our way to having a de-facto standard
 
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Quote:
3. wA1 \wG1 White places his first Ant to the top right of his Grasshopper.


I believe that should have been 'top left' based on the diagram.
 
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