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Subject: Slither Development rss

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Corey Clark
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I want to preface this post with a special thanks to Luis Bolaños Mures who has taken over the reins of iggamecenter from Arty. Yesterday he greciously overhauled the Slither app. He has additionally coded a new variant referred to as advanced Slither which is available within the app. And this is namely the "development" mentioned in the header that I will go onto explain.

Years ago some of us started realizing that due to Slther's move+place protocol, the pie rule was faltering as a- typically reliable- balancing device. Afterall in Slither, a stone which starts in the corner can easily migrate into the central fray in just a few moves. I will admit that this was a silly oversight which I will chock up to my ineperience with design at the time of Slither's creation. I suppose I preferred to just ignore the issue as there didn't seem to be much I could do, with the standard Slither rules being already set in the communal consciousness. I didn't really see a Bentlian revision of history as being very viable and I felt I had already moved on and hopefully I would outdo Slither with an even better game. It was only recently that I decided to own up to the issue and look at reconceptualizing Slither. I came up with the following:

A stone may only move if its orthogonally adjacent to at least one stone of any color

Needless to say this also officializes that movement must be performed before placement, whereas I had previously suggested players perform the actions in their preferred order.

The idea was so spontaneous I would actually have to question whether I explicitly tasked myself with fixing Slither or not. At any rate, I sat on this for quite some time afterward, still certain that it was pointless to try to supplant the darling classic Slither. A few weeks ago I was curious what the gameplay would look like and I was astonished by how much this minor stipulation on movement added to the game. A new Slither with a more medatative and strategic character has emerged here. Not only is pie made effective with this adjustment, the initial placement of stones, as you might imagine, carries a lot more weight. The most interesting aspect of this is that additional tempo-costly configurations have arisen which has made Slither even colder than it initially was. Some might not like that and how it effects strategic clarity but its designer definitely does devil. The other benefit is that this ought to put an end to the pinwheel template regime as initial placement will need to be more situation-specific.

I'm not going to make any attempt to officially replace the Slither that everyone has already grown so fond of but I am however giving it a legacy status. In an ideal world I would have certainly released this new Slither instead of the version I did because, while I realize popular appeal tends to inversely function with verbiage in the rules, it just wouldn't sit right with me to hold a concept back from meeting its full potential on the board. This rule seems to increase Slither's complexity immensely while doing very little to complicate the game or restrain player creativity so I really don't see any downside (except amplifying that darn opacity everyone seem to be complaining about ). I strongly urge Slither enthusiasts on iggc lg and irl to give the new rules a try. The game is both familiar and novel enough to be more than worth it.
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christian freeling
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From an inventor's point of view this is a significant change for the better. This view, as you might imagine, is not based on an awful lot of experience. I played 75 games and lost 50 of them before I decided we, the game and I, weren't of one mind.

Of course the 50 games I lost were won by players that have more affinity with the game's somewhat capricious character. So some of them might disagree on the 'for the better'. But I think those who love strategic balance will endorse the change. Consider the fact that the swap carries more weight as a sign!
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HU MAN BIN
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Here we have a tricky way to promote dying game.
I observed on iggamecenter that someone who rated the game as the best one played it only 23 times during the past 7 years.
I observed that in fact the game was played mainly by his designer.
I still have hard time understanding why some "game designers" are obsessed by hex variants or by go variants.
Designing a game for few (mostly "friends" (read competitors)) is absurd.
You congratulate me I congratulate.
You promote me I promote you.
The game will never ever get out of a tiny circle of "friends".

 
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Corey Clark
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hu man bin wrote:
I still have hard time understanding why some "game designers" are obsessed by hex variants


You've made a fair number of highly underwhelming ones by now, so maybe you could shed some light on that phenomenon.
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Richard Moxham
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hu man bin wrote:
Here we have a tricky way to promote dying game.
I observed on iggamecenter that someone who rated the game as the best one played it only 23 times during the past 7 years.
I observed that in fact the game was played mainly by his designer.
I still have hard time understanding why some "game designers" are obsessed by hex variants or by go variants.
Designing a game for few (mostly "friends" (read competitors)) is absurd.
You congratulate me I congratulate.
You promote me I promote you.
The game will never ever get out of a tiny circle of "friends".

Well, I've gone on public record more than once to say in your defence that, although almost everything you come out with is provocative, by no means all of it is silly.

So I feel entitled to say now, without prejudice, that you've been generating a high proportion of the warm and steaming stuff just recently.

Firstly, one would have thought you'd know by now that quality in the field of abstract games above all other kinds cannot be measured in terms of popular response.

Secondly, as you'll see if you look at Little Golem, there are nevertheless people of intelligence and judgement who have played Slither a lot more than you allow. Check out "blewsky", for example, whose Slither plays are heading towards a thousand but who plays other stuff hardly at all.

I myself have never played Slither, but that has nothing to do with its worth. I don't like playing any pure skill abstract because I'm no good at them, and only play my own inventions in order to understand them better. But I still feel capable of holding an informed opinion, and my opinion in this case (dismiss it if you will) is that Corey's game ranks among the four or five richest and subtlest products of the genre that I'm aware of.

Oh, and I suppose I should add that I'm not a good example of the cronyism which you apparently detect in every corner of this community. It's probably fair to say that I'm as often to be seen at odds with fellow BGG-ers as in bed with them, and if Corey himself has ever scratched a game of mine it was with specially-sharpened fingernails.


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Craig Duncan
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Quote:
A stone may only move if its orthogonally adjacent to at least one stone of any color

Needless to say this also officializes that movement must be performed before placement, whereas I had previously suggested players perform the actions in their preferred order.


I may be being obtuse, but I am having trouble seeing why the change entails that movement must come first. Can you explain?
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Nick Bentley
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CoreyClark wrote:
Bentlian


!!!

Quote:
A stone may only move if its orthogonally adjacent to at least one stone of any color


Looks not bad. It doesn't seem like it would ruin anything I love about the game. I don't find Slither opaque as others do though, so my reaction to the change might be more forgiving.

Quote:
Needless to say this also officializes that movement must be performed before placement, whereas I had previously suggested players perform the actions in their preferred order.


I echo Craig's confusion. I don't see why the restriction is necessary so long as it remains that diagonal stones must have a common orthogonal neighbor at the end of a turn.

Quote:
A few weeks ago I was curious what the gameplay would look like and I was astonished by how much this minor stipulation on movement added to the game. A new Slither with a more meditative and strategic character has emerged here.


I'm intrigued.

Quote:
Not only is pie made effective with this adjustment, the initial placement of stones, as you might imagine, carries a lot more weight.


Shifty-esque! Naturally, as Shifty also has the same you-can-only-move-connected-stones restriction

Quote:
The most interesting aspect of this is that additional tempo-costly configurations have arisen which has made Slither even colder than it initially was. Some might not like that and how it effects strategic clarity but its designer definitely does devil. The other benefit is that this ought to put an end to the pinwheel template regime as initial placement will need to be more situation-specific.


If so, that's enough to sell me. Not the coldness per se, but greater situation-specificity.
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El Blewsky
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I am not going to be happy (after a thousand plays) if this rule change ruins my all-time favorite game !!!

Meanwhile, I welcome all challengers to play under the new rules. Hopefully it won't take 1000 games to decide which is better.

---> Blewsky

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christian freeling
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cdunc123 wrote:
Quote:
A stone may only move if its orthogonally adjacent to at least one stone of any color

Needless to say this also officializes that movement must be performed before placement, whereas I had previously suggested players perform the actions in their preferred order.


I may be being obtuse, but I am having trouble seeing why the change entails that movement must come first. Can you explain?

I wasn't aware of Corey's suggestion and always assumed movement preceded placement. Under the new rule it would seem to matter. If you place first you can in doing so enable a move that would not have been possible in the reverse order. The new rule imposes a restriction on movement. Placing first would somewhat lessen that restriction. So I don't see why the change would entail that movement comes first, but it does matter. And it feels better.

I immediately had to think about Nick. Not only is Slither his favorite game, but "no game is safe from possible improvement" is his favourite hobbyhorse. Two birds with one stone!
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Russ Williams
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This does sound like a nice change to solve the pie rule problem.


---


hu man bin wrote:
Here we have a tricky way to promote dying game.
I observed on iggamecenter that someone who rated the game as the best one played it only 23 times during the past 7 years.
I observed that in fact the game was played mainly by his designer.
...

The game will never ever get out of a tiny circle of "friends".

I just checked the Slither page at littlegolem.net...

In a bit over 5 years, I personally have 75 plays of Slither logged at littlegolem, versus 45 different opponents (some just once, some up to 4 times). And I do not consider myself at all a serious Slither player.

I see the last 5 finished games on the Slither page https://www.littlegolem.net/jsp/games/gamedetail.jsp?gtid=sl... :

Last five finished games
Game Finished Moves
#1822958 20 hours ago 52
#1818768 29 hours ago 62
#1815115 2017-01-01 61
#1815113 2016-12-31 85
#1818820 2016-12-31 60


played by 7 different players:
Nagy Fathy vs jugular
mr_yo vs jugular
Nagy Fathy vs DavidStoner
Yashem vs blewsky
VinceS vs Nagy Fathy

Nagy Fathy has 347 plays.
jugular has 150 plays.
mr yo has 116 plays.
David Stoner has 117 plays.
Yashem has 195 plays.
blewsky has 762 games.
VinceS has 276 games.

And I see:
Number of tournaments/games: 450 / 7147
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Quinn Swanger
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I wonder if anyone following the Slither forum but not this one might be interested in knowing this news.
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Peter Strait
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CoreyClark wrote:

I'm not going to make any attempt to officially replace the Slither that everyone has already grown so fond of but I am however giving it a legacy status.


Tire-fire of an argument about legacy games incoming in 3... 2... 1... laugh
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Corey Clark
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ErsatzDragon wrote:
CoreyClark wrote:

I'm not going to make any attempt to officially replace the Slither that everyone has already grown so fond of but I am however giving it a legacy status.


Tire-fire of an argument about legacy games incoming in 3... 2... 1... laugh


err, different use of "legacy". Us abstract fans are already having a hell of a time keeping just our own jargon straight so lets not open that can of worms.
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Nick Bentley
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Quote:
I immediately had to think about Nick. Not only is Slither his favorite game, but "no game is safe from possible improvement" is his favourite hobbyhorse. Two birds with one stone!


Guilty. I confess to being more excited by this post than most.
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David Molnar
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milomilo122 wrote:
Quote:
I immediately had to think about Nick. Not only is Slither his favorite game, but "no game is safe from possible improvement" is his favourite hobbyhorse. Two birds with one stone!


Guilty. I confess to being more excited by this post than most.


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Nick Bentley
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christianF wrote:

I wasn't aware of Corey's suggestion and always assumed movement preceded placement. Under the new rule it would seem to matter. If you place first you can in doing so enable a move that would not have been possible in the reverse order. The new rule imposes a restriction on movement. Placing first would somewhat lessen that restriction. So I don't see why the change would entail that movement comes first, but it does matter. And it feels better.


Hmmm. It doesn't feel better to me. It's an extra constraint I have to abide by, but I don't see any evidence that the constraint improves strategy/tactics. Maybe I've missed something. Enlightenment solicited.
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
christianF wrote:

I wasn't aware of Corey's suggestion and always assumed movement preceded placement. Under the new rule it would seem to matter. If you place first you can in doing so enable a move that would not have been possible in the reverse order. The new rule imposes a restriction on movement. Placing first would somewhat lessen that restriction. So I don't see why the change would entail that movement comes first, but it does matter. And it feels better.


Hmmm. It doesn't feel better to me. It's an extra constraint I have to abide by, but I don't see any evidence that the constraint improves strategy/tactics. Maybe I've missed something. Enlightenment solicited.


Ah, off the top of my hat. First of all, a pie makes sense now. That's a sign, or at least I'd consider it that way. Now what I call a restriction, you call a constraint. That may be because you're so used to the freedom and it has put such a spell on you and many others. But I see more room for strategic planning, more considerations regarding an overall plan, precisely because of the restrictions and their timing. Because the possibility of adjacency increases with the board filling up, so the 'role of the rule' changes with it. I feel it gives more control on an overall plan, without taking anything away from tactics.

Now I feel a lot of things (without overdoing it, I think) and posters here are on average rather sceptical about it, or they would play Io instead of Othello. But from my point of view Corey is right about it.
 
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Nick Bentley
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To be clear, I'm not against reduced freedom in exchange for richer tactics and strategy, and I see clearly that the main rule change here, does that (by tying movement to placement, it adds an extra positional dimension to placement that was absent from the original and which, critically, adds obvious long term strategy to game for which long term strategy is hard for some players. Awesome). But I don't have a similar understanding about why the move/place ordering restriction would have any benefit. Sure, it changes things, but why is that change for the better? It adds some tactics, yes, but it also removes some tactics. So why are gained tactics better than the lost tactics?
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
To be clear, I'm not against reduced freedom in exchange for richer tactics and strategy, and I see clearly that the main rule change here, does that (by tying movement to placement, it adds an extra positional dimension to placement that was absent from the original and which, critically, adds obvious long term strategy to game for which long term strategy is hard for some players. Awesome). But I don't have a similar understanding about why the move/place ordering restriction would have any benefit. Sure, it changes things, but why is that change for the better? It adds some tactics, yes, but it also removes some tactics. So why are gained tactics better than the lost tactics?


For me it's not about tactics. When you say "I'm not against reduced freedom in exchange for richer tactics and strategy, and I see clearly that the main rule change here, does that" then you seem to agree that tactics may be richer. But I get a better feeling about strategy because the way I see it, it's tied in closer with tactics now. Even you say it "adds obvious long term strategy to [a] game for which long term strategy is hard for some players. Awesome". You can't blame the rule for making the game better.

As for 'what makes a change for the better' in a game, in a general sense, I don't even know if that's a sensible question.
 
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Corey Clark
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milomilo122 wrote:
To be clear, I'm not against reduced freedom in exchange for richer tactics and strategy, and I see clearly that the main rule change here, does that (by tying movement to placement, it adds an extra positional dimension to placement that was absent from the original and which, critically, adds obvious long term strategy to game for which long term strategy is hard for some players. Awesome). But I don't have a similar understanding about why the move/place ordering restriction would have any benefit. Sure, it changes things, but why is that change for the better? It adds some tactics, yes, but it also removes some tactics. So why are gained tactics better than the lost tactics?


My reasoning is two fold.


First off I always found it more aesthetically sensible that the turn be capped off with the placement. When players started asking me what order the actions should be performed in, what I wanted to emphasize is that in fact, it didn't matter, so they were free to exercise their own discretion. But now certain options are made available by placing first and this effects gameplay significantly. If it effects gameplay I have to make a ruling and I'm obviously inclined to make that ruling in accordance with my own aesthetic sensibilities. However that alone isn't enough so the second issue is pacing. By enforcing that a player's turn must end with the placement action this can only make pie (as well as the overall pacing of the game) stronger. If you could mobilize a stone via a placement then you could mobilize your pie move and centralize it at once, and even set up a second move for it with the same placement. As it stands now you have to waste a move just activating the stone which is a big disincentive on trying to dig the stone out while more urgent things are taking place. Furthermore as the restriction is already weak I wanted to strengthen its general effect to combat the pinwheel template strategy. Also it should be noted that on both IGGC and LG (and TRMPH for that matter) movement precedes placement anyway.
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El Blewsky
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Validity and enjoyability are primary to me. (No, I'm not going to define them). I agree with Christian: "What makes changing a game better?" is not a sensible question! But mostly my answer is validity and enjoyability make a game optimal. If first player advantage takes away from your definition of validity, just play a series a games alternating who goes first. Personally, I really enjoy when I win as the second player (underdog).

I think validity and enjoyability far outweigh the more subjective criteria like 'coldness', 'specificity', 'clarity', etc. Yes, it is academically interesting to measure such qualities of a game; but is that what makes a game "BETTER"?

"PIE RULE" option is suggested for several games, once it is realized that the player who moves first has an advantage. I generally disagree with the philosophy that first-player advantage means a game is broken.

Everyone know white has an advantage in chess. Anyone ever seen the pie rule used in a chess tournament? Does this mean chess is broken?

Ability to do 'overall planning' also deserves special mention. If this is "enjoyable" to you, stick to games that are simpler than slither... tic-tac-toe comes to mind! Expert slither players are those who can respond creatively to unexpected situations, and intuitively feel where stones will be useful in the future. The value of this is somewhat degraded by Corey's new rule, because a single stone in an open area becomes impotent (can't move until it has a buddy).

Slither is not about 2 people each having an overall plan, with the winner determined by who has the best plan.

Corey should be congratulated for creating a valid and enjoyable game with incredible complexity, which has such simple rules. He should stop trying to fix a problem that doesn't exist.
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Corey Clark
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Blewsky wrote:
Validity and enjoyability are primary to me. (No, I'm not going to define them). I agree with Christian: "What makes changing a game better?" is not a sensible question! But mostly my answer is validity and enjoyability make a game optimal. If first player advantage takes away from your definition of validity, just play a series a games alternating who goes first. Personally, I really enjoy when I win as the second player (underdog).


As a designer I feel its a rather severe problem when a strong player describes winning as white being an "underdog" situation. He should be winning as a result of his superior ELO, not because he is playing as a particular color. What kind of game is there when there is low likelihood of white winning? Of course on 13x13 Blewsky probably would win as white most of the time but 9x9 has proven too small for serious competitive play at this point. If people want a shorter game that is still balanced then advanced slither is already providing for a market.

Quote:
I think validity and enjoyability far outweigh the more subjective criteria like 'coldness', 'specificity', 'clarity', etc. Yes, it is academically interesting to measure such qualities of a game; but is that what makes a game "BETTER"?


I'm sorry but "coldness" is objective as a factor gets. Clarity is still an even more objective factor than, what, "enjoyability". How do we even begin to quantify that? At least we can attribute clarity to things like volatility and parity. I know neither what "validity" or "specificity" refer to.

Quote:
"PIE RULE" option is suggested for several games, once it is realized that the player who moves first has an advantage. I generally disagree with the philosophy that first-player advantage means a game is broken.

Everyone know white has an advantage in chess. Anyone ever seen the pie rule used in a chess tournament? Does this mean chess is broken?


If there is one thing I do not countenance its total aesthetic subjectivity where regards the design of abstract games. I think objectively bad games exist. I believe I can say in confidence that some games are objectively better than others and in some transcendent sense be more or less correct. And the epitome of a bad game is one that fails to provide fair competition between the players. As first player advantage becomes increasingly insurmountable a game becomes less worth playing because it fails to fulfill its ultimate purpose.

I regard Chess as a relatively insubstantial game because of its legion aesthetic and gameplay related problems. I would never even think about releasing something I personally deemed to be totally on par with Chess. I could make a Chess once a week if I cared to. Chess, as a movement game, would not benefit greatly from a pie rule as pie tends to generally be ineffective in movement games but even if it did I think it would be best if we stopped playing Chess altogether instead of perpetually trying to prop it up as the holy grail of mindsports.

Quote:
Ability to do 'overall planning' also deserves special mention. If this is "enjoyable" to you, stick to games that are simpler than slither... tic-tac-toe comes to mind! Expert slither players are those who can respond creatively to unexpected situations, and intuitively feel where stones will be useful in the future. The value of this is somewhat degraded by Corey's new rule, because a single stone in an open area becomes impotent (can't move until it has a buddy).


I don't know what the hell you are talking about. There is long term planning in tic-tac-toe? At this line you sound like you're losing your head over this. Strategy is the lifeblood of all great games. Sure games scarcely have tactics as rich and diverse as those found in Slither and there is something to be said for that but unless those tactics can ultimately support a broader base of strategy then Slither cannot hope to even hold a candle to games like Go. If advanced Slither encourages reconciling stone placement with an overarching strategy then this is an objectively better game. And it seems if anything it has only increased the tactical implications which will in turn force players to be even more creative.

Quote:
Slither is not about 2 people each having an overall plan, with the winner determined by who has the best plan.


If its not then it fails to be a great game as far as I'm concerned.
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christian freeling
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Blewsky wrote:
Slither is not about 2 people each having an overall plan, with the winner determined by who has the best plan.

If the majority of posters do agree with this then I'm apparently at the wrong forum.
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Russ Williams
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I'm guessing that the sort of nebulous generic word "plan" is being used in different senses.
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christianF wrote:
Blewsky wrote:
Slither is not about 2 people each having an overall plan, with the winner determined by who has the best plan.

If the majority of posters do agree with this then I'm apparently at the wrong forum.

Wittgenstein once famously said that in situations where people appear to be disagreeing on a point of fact, what's as often as not really happening is simply a mismatch between their understandings of the vocabulary.

The internet, of course, provides multitudinous illustrations of this - which in general terms is not surprising since what goes on there, as far as discussion is concerned, is largely an assortment of boneheads lobbing ill-considered opinions at one another. But it's rather more remarkable how often this forum, with boneheads on the whole in short supply, nevertheless follows the trend.

Here's a small recommendation. When someone who, on reflection, you know to be a pretty intelligent guy says something which at first glance seems ridiculous, your best course of action is to go back and check - without prejudice and with close attention to the actual phrasing - that there isn't some alternative and rather more sensible interpretation of the remark.

In this case, my first reaction, like Christian's, was to think: "Hang on, surely that's exactly what Slither and every other decent pure-skill game is about." But my second thought was that blewsky is clearly no ignoramus (I've formed the impression that he may well be Slither's biggest fan, and may even have played it more often than any other mortal), so the right thing to do is to assume provisionally that he's saying something worth attending to, and to try and figure out what it might be.

Well, that line quite quickly brought me to a reading of his comment which seems to me undeniably true up to a point, and I suspect that blewsky himself would not seek to push it further. He's making a comment on strategic planning, and the degree to which it can ever be detailed and far-seeing in the case of any profound game - and in fact, Christian, I don't think he's saying anything with which you yourself would materially disagree. What a pity that all of us, most of the time, are so eager to have our say that we can't be bothered to listen more thoughtfully to what the other guy said.

(Edit: I see that in the meantime Russ has said it in one line. But perhaps there is still some value in my having drawn attention to the working.)

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