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Subject: New Game - Athena rss

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Chris Huntoon
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Athena grew out of my desire to “modernize” Halma. There are a few different issues I had with the classic version of the game.

First, the game was originally designed to be primarily a four player game, and only secondarily as a two player game. This was back during the Victorian era when multi-player parlor games were quite popular. But today when it comes to Abstract Strategy Games, two-player is preferred. I wanted to adjust the format so that the board size, number of pieces, and layout all suited two players. In the traditional two-player version, each side begins arranged in diagonally opposite corners. This means the two free corners tend be dead, unused space. In addition play always proceeds predictably along the central axis.

With a player’s forces split into two camps, this not only ensures the entire board will be used, but also makes gameplay more strategic and interesting. Separate wings can now either progress along the sides, combine forces in the middle, or crisscross.

Another approach I wanted to take was to use differentiated pieces rather than pieces that were all the same. The game Traverse does just this. The problem with Traverse is that it falls into that old trap of "differentiated pieces = Chess = pieces that move in different directions." In Halma every piece can move in all directions. This makes it possible to form the long, complex chains that are at the heart of the game. By restricting direction of movement, Traverse, IMHO, makes the game needlessly complicated while adding nothing substantial in exchange to gameplay.

There are actually all sorts of ways to differentiate pieces - by ability, for example. What can really be intriguing is to give pieces more than one characteristics, then combine and contrast different strengths and weaknesses together. Halma has two types of movement – a step and a jump. So you could make some pieces good at stepping and poor at jumping, while other pieces can be poor at stepping and good at jumping.

Halma is a game of three distinct phases. First, the two sides begin separated in opposite corners and players start off arranging their pieces to suit themselves. Second, the two sides meet in the middle and that’s when most of the jumping and shifting takes place. Third, the two sides have passed each other, and now players are merely seeking to be the first to arrange their pieces in the opposite camp.

If conflict is the essence of drama, then player interaction is the essence of gaming. The first and third phases lack player interaction. So I wanted to do what I could to shorten them.

I also wanted to include at least some small element of blockade. For being a game of transversal, in Halma the only strategic response to the oncoming opponent is to try and temporarily divert him.

Finally, I had wanted to use ancient Greek shield designs as game counters for awhile

Rules

Athena is played on a 9x9 board. The four corners and the center are marked with laurel wreaths.



Following is the opening set-up. Northern pieces represent the Athenians, while southern pieces represent the Spartans. Just like in Halma, there are two types of movements: either a step or a jump. Jumps can involve a series of other pieces belonging to either side. There are no captures. All pieces can move in all eight directions.



There are three types of pieces:

Peltasts (half-shields) – Peltasts have the ability to step up to two spaces in a straight line. Peltasts can only jump over other Peltasts.

Hoplites (full shields) - Hoplites take a single step or can jump over both Peltasts and other Hoplites, but are forbidden from jumping over a Hypaspist.

Hypaspist (shield and helmet) – Hypaspists are the only pieces that are forbidden from stepping at all. The only way they can move is by jumping over other pieces. But there is no restriction on the type of pieces that Hypaspists can jump over.

Jumping out – if an enemy piece lands next to a Hypaspist, and the Hypaspist can jump out, then it must do so, taking preference over any other move. And once it leaves its home corner, it can never return.

Laurel wreaths – spaces marked by laurel wreaths are places of privilege – only Hypaspists may enter them. Peltasts or Hoplites may never step on a laurel wreath, even if it is in the middle of a chain of jumps or a Peltast moving pass it in a double-step.

Objective

In the basic game, the objective is to move one of your Hypaspists into one of the opponent’s corner squares. In the advanced game, the objective is to have both of your Hypaspists occupy your opponent’s corner squares.
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Scott Ebent
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'looks' like a reverse of hnefatafl. Just in look.
 
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christian freeling
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hartunga wrote:
Athena grew out of my desire to “modernize” Halma.

Good thinking and a well considered balance of pieces. I assume multiple jumps are allowed but not compulsory? The Hypaspist's obligation to jump adds favourably to both strategy and tactics.

I'd say the 'advanced' version is the better: more complete and symmetric in its goal, with the presumption of some interesting endgame tactics.

I have some reserves regarding the use of Laurel wreaths (not regarding their presence). On the 'feel' of it, I'd consider opening them for jumps, leaving only a step or a Peltast moving across illegal.
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Chris Huntoon
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christianF wrote:
hartunga wrote:
Athena grew out of my desire to “modernize” Halma.

Good thinking and a well considered balance of pieces. I assume multiple jumps are allowed but not compulsory? The Hypaspist's obligation to jump adds favourably to both strategy and tactics.


Thanks for the feedback. Yes, just as in Halma, multiple jumps are allowed but not compulsory.

christianF wrote:
I'd say the 'advanced' version is the better: more complete and symmetric in its goal, with the presumption of some interesting endgame tactics.


I much prefer the "advanced" version too. I only included the "basic" version because there aren't many abstract strategy games that allow you the option to play at different levels: a short, simple introductory version for beginners, and a more thorough version for experienced players.

christianF wrote:
I have some reserves regarding the use of Laurel wreaths (not regarding their presence). On the 'feel' of it, I'd consider opening them for jumps, leaving only a step or a Peltast moving across illegal.


To be honest, I did go back and forth on the Laurel Wreath spaces. I wasn't really sure to allow the lower ranked pieces to move through them, just not end their move on those spaces - or to simply forbid them from entering those spaces altogether.
 
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