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Subject: New game: Morpheus rss

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Luis Bolaños Mures
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MORPHEUS

Introduction

Morpheus is a drawless connection game for two players: Black and White. It's played on the intersections (points) of an initially empty square board. The top and bottom edges of the board are colored black; the left and right edges are colored white.

Definitions

To flip a stone means to replace it with a stone of the opposite color.

A vulnerable black stone is a black stone that is part of at least one of the following two patterns, their rotations or their mirror images:



Likewise, with colors reversed, for vulnerable white stones. In all cases, the colored edges of the board count as stones of their respective colors. The empty points in the diagrams are irrelevant and can be empty or occupied by either color.

Play

Black plays first, then turns alternate. On their turn, a player must either place a stone of their color on an empty point of the board or flip a vulnerable enemy stone.

If a player has no moves available on their turn, they must pass. Passing is otherwise not allowed. There will always be a move available to at least one of the players.

If, at the end of a player's turn, there is a chain of orthogonally adjacent stones of their color touching the two opposite board edges of their color, that player wins. Draws are not possible.

Pie rule

The pie rule is used in order to make the game fair. This means that White will have the option, on his first turn only, to change sides instead of making a regular move.

Notes

The stone in the top left corner of each capture diagram isn't strictly necessary to get a working game, but it helps to slow things down. Without it, what we could call the connection speed would be roughly between those of Quax and Crossway. Given that such a game (like Morpheus) would have no illegal moves and would only require players to memorize one more pattern than in Crossway while alleviating its speed problem to a noticeable extent, it seems reasonable to think of it as a net improvement on the latter.

The extra stone in the capturing diagrams pushes the game a step further in that direction and gives it more of a character of its own. Requiring that stone to be in place when flipping actually means that local deadlocks are possible, so you can have players grow interlocking clumps of stones around a crosscut in order to try and resolve it in their own favor. However, all such extended deadlocks will eventually collapse at the latest when they hit an edge of the board.

For more intricate tactics (but not necessarily a better game), you can rule that a stone that was flipped by the enemy on their latest turn still counts as a friendly stone for flipping purposes. In that case, the winning condition should be checked for a player at the start of their turn instead of at the end of it, and it needs to be illegal to flip a stone if the opponent could flip it back on their next turn.
 
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Dieter Stein
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I feel uneasy looking at the diagrams. Aren't these patterns (with all rotated and mirrored variants) too difficult to see?
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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spielstein wrote:
I feel uneasy looking at the diagrams. Aren't these patterns (with all rotated and mirrored variants) too difficult to see?

I understand the concern, but, in my experience, they aren't difficult to see at all. In any game, certain piece configurations help you more than others, and stone placement games in particular are all about recognizing and striving for those configurations.

Morpheus is only special in that two such patterns are explicitly mentioned in the rules. Noticing vulnerable stones here isn't harder than noticing small groups (one or two stones) in atari in Go. And it's probably easier than seeing snapbacks in that game.

It does become a little complicated under the variant rule

luigi87 wrote:
a stone that was flipped by the enemy on their latest turn still counts as a friendly stone for flipping purposes

, which is part of the reason why I decided against it.

That was going to be the standard version anyway (I even made it available on the Zillions site, although that URL will reflect the new version soon) until I noticed that adding the top left stone to the capture patterns was a more efficient way to push the game in the direction that I wanted while keeping draws impossible.
 
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christian freeling
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Depending on one's point of view you may either be pushing the envelope on square connection games, or milking a … well, let's say 'terminal' cow.
 
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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christianF wrote:
Depending on one's point of view you may either be pushing the envelope on square connection games, or milking a … well, let's say 'terminal' cow.

I think I prefer the first phrasing.

I also think that games should be valued individually and not as part of a bigger picture. I don't believe in shaping my output as a designer so as to make it look nice and balanced as a whole at the cost of withholding an interesting game when I have one. Likewise, I won't release a game I don't deem interesting even if it makes my portfolio easier on the eyes.

I have now a ridiculous amount of square board connection games to my name, but each one of those that actually got released was the game I wanted to create at that particular moment. That's not to say that I account all of them equally good, but rather that I feel all of them needed to exist (with the possible exception of the baroque Konobi).

At any rate, each one of them is an affirmative answer to the question "is there a solution to the deadlock problem on the square grid which has this or that property?".

Morpheus, for instance, is to my knowledge the only square board connection game with, at the same time, no coldness, no illegal placements on empty points, no reckoning of diagonal connections, no piece movement, no off-board information and no change of status of more than one intersection per turn.
 
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christian freeling
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luigi87 wrote:
At any rate, each one of them is an affirmative answer to the question "is there a solution to the deadlock problem on the square grid which has this or that property?".

Morpheus, for instance, is to my knowledge the only square board connection game with, at the same time, no coldness, no illegal placements on empty points, no reckoning of diagonal connections, no piece movement, no off-board information and no change of status of more than one intersection per turn.

If all of those were preferable above their opposites or alternatives, then the sum of them would be a strong indicator of a good game. And it may be a good game. But I second Dieter's implied criticism and though your reply stands to reason, I still find using such elaborate patterns a bit far fetched.
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Russ Williams
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FWIW the odd patterns are a turnoff to me too, but based on enjoying various other games by you, I nonetheless hope to try this one sometime if I can convince someone to give it a try.
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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Edited the notes section to put the game in perspective and qualify my stance on the Morpheus variant with one stone less in the capture diagrams.

luigi87 wrote:
Notes

The stone in the top left corner of each capture diagram isn't strictly necessary to get a working game, but it helps to slow things down. Without it, what we could call the connection speed would be roughly between those of Quax and Crossway. Given that such a game (like Morpheus) would have no illegal moves and would only require players to memorize one more pattern than in Crossway while alleviating its speed problem to a noticeable extent, it seems reasonable to think of it as a net improvement on the latter.

The extra stone in the capturing diagrams pushes the game a step further in that direction and gives it more of a character of its own. Requiring that stone to be in place when flipping actually means that local deadlocks are possible, so you can have players grow interlocking clumps of stones around a crosscut in order to try and resolve it in their own favor. However, all such extended deadlocks will eventually collapse at the latest when they hit an edge of the board.

For more intricate tactics[, etc.]
 
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