I recently figured out a way of playing the card game Stucco by David Parlett with nothing but black and white stackable pieces. I found the exercise (and result) so interesting that I had to see what G. Capellen's Mate would look like as a board game. As this is a game that has been considered a chess variant by some (they know they're stretching the term), this is (sort of) a translation of a card game back into a board game.
Cardless Mate is an exact translation of the card game Mate into an abstract board game. It's a game for two players where the objective is to be the last player able to make a move.
The board and setup:
The board is divided into 4 corner-groups and 5 squares: the A-corners, B-corners, C-corners and the D-corners, and the 1-square, 2-square, 3-square, 4-square and the 5-square. The 1-square is the innermost square (2, 3, 4 and 5 follow outwards), and the A-corners are the top-left corners (B, C and D follow clockwise). The A-corner on the 1-square is denoted «A1», the C-corner on the 4-square «C4», and so on.
From a bag of 10 black and 10 white markers draw 1 random marker at a time and place the first on A1, the second on A2 and so on until A5, which is followed by B1, B2 and so on until all the corners have been randomly assigned a black or a white marker. (Any predetermined order will do.)
The play of the game:
A turn in cardless Mate consists of two moves: a lead and an answer. White leads on the first turn. If black’s answer beats white’s lead, black leads in the next turn; if not, white leads again. If at one point a lead cannot be answered, the player who couldn't answer is mated and the game is over. (The last turn is the only exception to the rule that a turn is two moves.)
The black markers belong to only one of the players ("black"), and the white markers only to the other player ("white"). A move consists in picking up a marker one owns. A lead is picking up any of ones markers, but an answer must be picking up a marker from the same corner-group if one has any. If the player following the lead (answering) doesn't have any markers on the same corner-group, they have to answer with one of their markers on the same square. If the player cannot do this either, they are mated.
The squares are ordered in the obvious way (1<2<3<4<5), as are the corners (A<B<C<D). This means that the move B3 (picking up a marker from the square B3) is beat by the move B5, or the move C3. The player who played the beating move on a turn leads on the next turn.
The point of the game is not simply to mate ones opponent, but to maximize ones score by mating them on the latest possible turn with the most valuable move. Ones score after one game is the value of the mating move. The value is the number of the turn in which you mated your opponent times the value of the square from which you lifted the marker. These numbers are not especially pretty, but this is a feature of the original card game:
5-square: 11 points
4-square: 10 points
3-square: 4 points
2-square: 3 points
1-square: 7 points
This means that mating your opponent by picking up a marker from a 3-square on turn 7 gives you 28 points (4x7).
It might be a tiny bit easier to remember something like:
5-square: 10 points
4-square: 8 points
3-square: 3 points
2-square: 2 points
1-square: 5 points
Or maybe this would work (I don't know):
5-square: 5 points
4-square: 4 points
3-square: 3 points
2-square: 2 points
1-square: 1 points
Playing both sides:
In order to duplicate Mate exactly every game must be followed by a game with the exact same distribution of markers where the player switch colors. There are many ways of doing this. Here are three, none of which are very elegant: (1) Take a picture of the layout, (2) write down a 20-long string of ones and zeroes representing the order in which the pieces was drawn and placed (1=black, 0=white), or (3) have two boards and follow each move by putting down the marker you just picked up on the corresponding place on the other board.
One could also replace the switching with the pie rule: One player picks the first move, the other whose move it is.
The advanced rules for Mate can be found in Sid Jacksons A Gamut of Games, and the advanced rules for Chess Cards can be found on The Chess Variant Pages. These should all be as translatable into the board game version as the rest of the game.
Playing without a board
The game can also be played without a board, in which case I find it more natural to think of the corner-groups as "arms" and the squares as layers (the 1-square being the innermost layer). I like the idea of replacing the deck of cards with nothing but 20 pieces of wood and a bag.
I hope someone finds this interesting
PS: This can easily (bar the switching of "hands") be played with an International Checkers set. You only need half of the pieces.
Translation from the cards to a board is, indeed, interesting. I imagine the that board layout may be easier to see the game state better than a random collection of played cards.
However, it seems to me that you've made the layout unnecessarily complicated. Instead of having "corner groups" and "squares" and laying out the cubes in a pattern of 4 diagonals, why not just have a table that is five rows of four cubes? Corner groups become columns and squares become rows.
Then, the rule for answering is "pick a piece from the same column (if you have one), otherwise pick a piece from the same row (if you have one), otherwise you lose". If answered, the player who took the higher/left-most (or right-most depending on how you want to order the columns) leads next.
That seems far more understandable.
it seems to me that you've made the layout unnecessarily complicated
I should have addressed that. You're right, Richard. There's no good reason for doing it my way. But here are the bad reasons that nevertheless lead me to doing it that way:
(1) Rows and columns felt generic, (2) I didn't want it to have the same layout as Stucco, (3) I find the "X" cool, and (4) I like squares better than other rectangles.
I tried to find a way of translating the game that I felt wouldn't fit other card games just as well. The "rows and columns"-layout feels generic in the sense that it seems to be a layout for any card game with perfect information (where suits matter). I didn't realize that I had complicated things. It felt natural to me.
My translation of Stucco uses rows and columns, but it feels different because you move your pieces around as if the geometry is inherent to the game. The rows don't feel like suits, and the intersections don't feel like cards.
tl;dr: I liked it that way (too much too see that it made the game less understandable).
(1) Rows and columns felt generic,
(2) I didn't want it to have the same layout as Stucco,
(3) I find the "X" cool,
Best reason yet.
and (4) I like squares better than other rectangles.
Sounds good to me.