Well folks, Papagra contest has ended. There weren't very many entries, but it hardly mattered, because a lot of people have downloaded the rules and played the game, which was my goal. Yay!
That said, the winner is: pallwood. He will shortly receive the promised 343.5 geekgold. Use it wisely, my man. With great power comes great responsibility. Here is the winning entry:
When starting it seems to make sense to start a few hexes in (very much like the recommended points in Go strategy). The object being to eventually attempt to build parallelagrams (as you describe) or triangles, both of which I believe are the easiest shapes to manipulate, whilst starting to build space along one or two edges of the board.
If both players try this, it seems like the first player whose nerve breaks will end up becoming the defender and attempt to place defensive stones in this border area. Whilst initially appearing defensive, if a player can get a single stone in a largish area of border space, then that will not only defend the area, but may set up an attacking move for him later in the game when removal creates a larger shape built elsewhere on the board.
I agree with the strategy of having stones on the perimeter of space, as this certainly improves flexibility of shape manipulation.
I believe, but am happy to be proved wrong, that there is very much an escalation effect on scoring, rather than large leaps and that between reasonably experienced I would expect a gradual increase in scores up to about 6 or 7 and then much generic defensive play with the occasional consideration and brief intense challenge around two particular areas of the board (the threatening group and the potential matching space) when a scoring opportunity is seen. Any attempts to create larger groups than this become fairly obvious and too easy to defend against by experienced players.
Probably the hardest larger shape to spot is something that is essentially created by two simpler shapes joined by a single stone. Such a shape or its corresponding space could be disguised in its formation by the surprise adding or removal (respectively) of the required stone to complete the united larger shape.
I also have one special prize to give out. SaintD put his programming skills to use and wrote an AI for Papagra. It doesn't play very well yet, so I could not in good conscience give him the main prize, but I think it is fantastic that he did this, which required significant effort, and I'm very grateful for it. I have therefore designed a game in his honor, named it after him (the game is called Dustin), and submitted it to the database. It has not been approved yet, so below I have pasted the description that will appear on the game's page. Here it is:
This game was designed in honor of a super-cool guy who goes by SaintD here on BGG, but whose real first name is Dustin. He went to a lot of unsolicited trouble to program an AI for one of my other games. The goal of this design was to create a super-simple game that would be easy for a programmer to play around with, and for which draws are impossible.
Dustin is a game for 2 players, with stones of 2 colors, on any tiled surface. We recommend that you play on a hexagonally tiled board that has 5 cells on each edge. The game can be played with pencil and paper, and for that purpose there will soon be printable boards available in PDF format available here on BGG.
A CONNECTED GROUP is a set of stones on the board, all of the same color, for which it is possible to trace a continuous path between any two of them by stepping between adjacent stones of that color.
The SIZE of a connected group is the number of stones in it.
The board begins empty.
Players take turns. On each turn a player places one stone of either color onto any empty space.
The game ends when the board is full. Player 1 wins if there are an odd number of connected groups of at least size 3 on the board, and Player 2 wins otherwise. When counting connected groups, be sure add up the total number of connected groups of both colors.
One can change the character of the game by increasing or decreasing the minimum size which a group must have in order to be counted at the end. If you should find a solution to the game, decrease that minimum size to 2 or 1, or just play on a bigger board.
I want to thank all who participated, and all of you who have taken the time to try Papagra out. I welcome any feedback that you may have. Also if you have any ideas about how I may have run this contest better, I would like to hear about them, because I may run future strategy-thread contests for other games I have designed.
Tyne and Wear
Wow, that's great news. Thanks very much Nick. I did find your game interesting and it's certainly as good as many other more popular abstract games. I hope that you can find a major publisher interested in picking it up.
I also have one special prize to give out. SaintD put his programming skills to use and wrote an AI for Papagra. It doesn't play very well yet, so I could not in good conscience give him the main prize, but I think it is fantastic that he did this, which required significant effort, and I'm very grateful for it.
Well, so much for affording an Avatar this way.
The good news is that after 422 generations, I would say the AI has graduated from Harmless to Mostly-Harmless. A big leap really. Hopefully in a week or so the AI will smart enough to challenge a human.
Look for a computerized version of "Dustin" someday.