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Subject: Interpreting the rules rss

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Daniel Piovezan
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Let's face it, the English rulesets for this game are crappy. There are German and Polish rulesets available that might as well be awesome, but I can't read those languages, so I'm stuck with crappy Google translation. Fortunately, I believe that putting all that crap together, one can figure out all of the actual rules.

This is not a complete ruleset, just an attempt to clarify the most confusing points. So methinks you might wanna familiarize yourself with the English Tactic Blue and the 2009 English Geocities rulesets linked below.

The rulesets I refer to are the English Tactic Blue (also available in the file section), the Google-translated German Tactic Blue (keep in mind that Tactic Blue was released in 2006), 2001 Geocities English (1), 2009 Geocities English (2), Google-translated 2002 Geocities German (3), Google-translated 2009 Geocities German (4), and Google-translated Polish (5). I'm gonna use acronyms to refer to them: Gc for Geocities, TB for Tactic Blue, E for English, G German, P for Polish and Gt for Google-translated.

First of all, let's make it clear that the 2001 GcE rules are different from the 2009 GcE ones. I mean, all rulesets are different in some points, but mostly due to confusion. The change from 2001 GcE to 2009 GcE, however, seems intentional, and this 2001 review says that those were not the first changes. I suppose the final version of the rules was established at some point in 2002.

Number of pieces
The ETB rules say that each player has 32 pieces, but the GtGTB rules say it's 34. All versions of the Geocities rules and the GtP rules say that each player has 34 pieces. The GcE rules say "If you want, you can use other set of pieces", while the GtGcG rules say that "if you want, you can also select a different number".

Moving (sliding) a piece
The ETB rules say that moving a piece is optional before a drop, but it's not clear whether you can make a movement before a capture. The GtGTB rules confirm that it's optional and make it clear that the movement is only before a drop, and not before a capture. The GcE rules say that the movement is optional. The text on the GtGcG ones say that it's mandatory, but the gif shows an example otherwise. In fact, if it were mandatory, there should be an exception for the first turn. The GtP rules are cryptic at this point.

Direction of movement
The TB and P rules don't say if the sliding movement is orthogonal or diagonal. The Geocities rules's illustration make it clear that it's orthogonal.

Stone removal
The TB rules suggest that "jump" refers to a single jump, and that stones are removed after each jump (so it's obvious you can't jump over the same piece, as in Turkish Checkers). The Gc rules confim this, and the GtP rules are very explicit, stating that "this will prevent clumping twice the same divisions".

End of game
All rules say that the game ends when a player has no legal move available, and that each player scores the stones he has captured. All of them, except the older 2001 GcE rules, say that opponent's stones at the edges of the board (marked by a red line in the Gc rules) are worth 1 point each (so you can say that stones in the edge of the board in the end of the game are captured).

Give-back
The 2009 GcE rules say that "if you took the same number of crystals like just now opponent took, you must give back these crystals to your opponent", and the GtGcG say something similar. The ETB take a different approach to explaining the same rules, saying that
Quote:
After each jump the jumped-over opposing pieces are removed and momentarily placed next to the board.
(...)
If the opponent in his very next turn also captures pieces, he keeps them if the number of captured pieces for each player differs. Otherwise, these pieces must be given back to the player to whom they belong.

It means that the stones captured on a turn are, at first, kept separated from the stones captured in previous turns, to make it easier to observe the give-back rule. If you have any separated stones at the beginning of your turn, you can put them in the old capture pile.
There's no mention of any of that in the older 2001 OE rules.

Where do given back stones go
One could imagine that given back stones don't go back to a player's reserve, and go to that player's score pile instead. That would require some imagination, since the rules don't hint at anything like that and, you know, they use the words "give BACK", back to where they came from.

The ETB mess (this has to do with the end of game and give-back rules above)
However, the ETB rules say that "after the opponent has completed his turn, pieces which were placed at the edge of the board are now taken in hand". That is obvious bullshit, because then the situation shown in the first illustration would be impossible. I believe it's a misinterpretation of the end of game rule above, mixed with a mistranslation of the give-back rule. The GtGTB rules say, in the corresponding text, that "on board edge discarded stones may, after the opponent's turn, be placed permanently aside". See, "discarded". It's talking about stones set aside (temporarily), not at the edge of the board.

There's still one problem
I think none of the rulesets really accounts for the following situation:

It's black's turn, and he has to capture 3 white stones, jumping from E1 to E5. Then white has to capture 3 black stones, jumping from F5 to B5. Since white captured the same number of pieces that black had captured in the previous turn, white gives those 3 pieces back to black. So far, so good.

Now it's black's turn again, and black has to capture, jumping from B6 to B2. Black captured the same number of pieces that white had captured in the previous turn - but those pieces had been returned to black. Does that still count?

I have the impression that it only becomes confusing because of the setting aside suggested by the TB rules. It isn't required at all by the Gc rules, which are older. The Gc rules assume the players KNOW how many pieces were captured in the previous turn, but if you set them aside for easy remembering, like the TB rules suggest, it's just not gonna work in a situation like this.

Now let's take a closer look at the wording on the 2009 GcE rules: "If you took the same number of crystals like just now opponent took, you must give back these crystals to your opponent". The word "took" is used twice. The second time it is used, referring to my opponent's last turn, probably means definitely captured stones, not given back. But the same verb is used to refer to stones that may or may not be given back. Which means, it doesn't matter if they're returned to their owner or not, the give-back rule still counts. The ETB rules have a similar wording, but with "capture" instead of "take".

So the solution to that problem above is: yes, black returns those three pieces to white.

Summary
So I believe that:
- each player should have 34 stones, though 32 is ok
- sliding a piece before a drop is optional, and it never happens before a capture
- all movement is orthogonal
- stones are removed after each jump in a chain of jumps
- stones in the edges of the board are automatically captured and removed only at the end of the game, not at the end of each turn
- if you capture a number of stones equal to the number of stones your opponent captured in their last turn, you give them back the stones you just captured (regardless of whether they had also returned those stones to you)
- you might want to ignore the setting aside suggested by the TB rules

(1) https://web.archive.org/web/20010505065420/http://www.geocities.com/alvaworld/
(2) https://web.archive.org/web/20091026233437/http://geocities.com/alvaworld/
(3) https://web.archive.org/web/20020202200300/http://www.geocities.com/alvaworld/d_rules.html
(4) https://web.archive.org/web/20091023233032/http://geocities.com/alvaworld/d_rules.html
(5)http://wayback.archive.org/web/20080801195824/http://www.pionek.net/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=702&Itemid=27
 
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Daniel Piovezan
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If my intuition is correct, one may use the give-back rule in yet another different, simpler way. I suspect that that rule was put in place to prevent a player that is ahead from simply making silly exchanges of one piece for one piece, and forcing the end of the game.

It might be simpler to play that rule like this: during a series of exchanges, captures by both players, all captured pieces are set aside, until there are no more forced captures. Then, if both players have captured the same number of pieces, the player made the first capture receives his stones back. Those stones set aside can finally go to the "final stash".

I know it sounds more complicated, but it's more unambiguous when players make capturing moves three or more turns in a row. No, it does not yield the exact same result as (my interpretation of) the original rule, but at this point, I think one should feel free to hack this game. In fact, I not using the give-back rule at all might be a good idea.

There are other variations. The earlier versions of the rules used 32 stones per player on a 8x8 board, didn't allow dropping places in the corners, and allowed capturing strings of two.

The idea of moving a piece before dropping always struck me as odd, allowing way too radical changes between turns (the reviewers at Game Zombies agree with me).

Now the rule that says that pieces on the edge are captured in the end seems pretty good, as those seem to be overpowered spaces.
 
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