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Subject: New games: Gonk and Engo rss

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Luis Bolaños Mures
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Two new games for your consideration. For a game with no removals, Gonk (recycled name) seems to pull off a remarkable impression of Go, complete with ko fights. It was inspired by Cation, which, in turn, was inspired by Go. Engo, a mutation of Gonk, is more of its own thing and I get pleasant tetris-like vibes from it.

GONK

Introduction

Gonk is a drawless game for two players: Black and White. It's played on the intersections (points) of an initially empty square board. Each player must have access to a sufficient number of stones of their color.

Definitions

A group is a maximal set of orthogonally contiguous, like-colored stones.

A liberty is an empty point orthogonally adjacent to a group.

A smothered group is a group without liberties.

Play

Black plays first, then turns alternate. At the start of your turn, you will face one of these situations:

a) There are no smothered friendly groups. In this case, you must place a stone of your color on any empty point.

b) There are one or more smothered friendly groups. In this case, you must move one stone from one of those groups to an empty point such that, after the move, the group that now includes the moved stone has at least one liberty.

If you have no moves available on your turn, you lose.

Pie rule

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

ENGO

The rules of Engo are those of Gonk, with one exception:

If, at the start of your turn, there are one or more smothered friendly groups, you must move the whole group, without changing its shape or orientation, to an empty area where it has at least one liberty (possibly as a result of merging into a bigger group).

For physical play, instead of moving a big group, it may be more convenient to replicate it with new stones on the desired location and then remove the original group.
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Nick Bentley
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I'm a big Cation fan even if it makes my neocortex bleed. Gonk looks like it might be an even cooler implementation of the concept. Kudos. I'll try to give it a shot this weekend.

Engo looks a bit too fiddly for me, but I'll give it a shot just in case.
 
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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milomilo122 wrote:
I'm a big Cation fan even if it makes my neocortex bleed. Gonk looks like it might be an even cooler implementation of the concept. Kudos. I'll try to give it a shot this weekend.

Engo looks a bit too fiddly for me, but I'll give it a shot just in case.

Thanks. I've added

Quote:
For physical play, instead of moving a big group, it may be more convenient to replicate it with new stones on the desired location and then remove the original group.

to my original post. This is feasible because the initial and final locations will never overlap. Does that make it less fiddly? Or did you mean something else?
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Nick Bentley
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luigi87 wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
I'm a big Cation fan even if it makes my neocortex bleed. Gonk looks like it might be an even cooler implementation of the concept. Kudos. I'll try to give it a shot this weekend.

Engo looks a bit too fiddly for me, but I'll give it a shot just in case.

Thanks. I've added

Quote:
For physical play, instead of moving a big group, it may be more convenient to replicate it with new stones on the desired location and then remove the original group.

to my original post. This is feasible because the initial and final locations will never overlap. Does that make it less fiddly? Or did you mean something else?


Yep, that's what I meant. This seems better.
 
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Florent Becker
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luigi87 wrote:

For physical play, instead of moving a big group, it may be more convenient to replicate it with new stones on the desired location and then remove the original group.


Or play with 4x4 lego blocks as the stones, and use 2x1s to link neighbors together.
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christian freeling
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Gonk seems very natural and organic indeed, great core behaviour. I assume there will be various 'local' issues in any given game - you already mention 'ko fights' which is remarkable in a game without capture. That suggests that there is a board size in which the overall strategy and the local issues are optimally balanced. What are your thoughts on this? All the way up to 19x19?

Engo has a much lower 'resolution', which doesn't necessarily make it worse as a game, but I prefer Gonk's behaviour.
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Nick Bentley
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Wording suggestion for Gonk:

Instead of saying "There are no friendly groups without liberties", say "Every friendly group has at least one liberty"

No double-negatives don't confuse people.
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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
Wording suggestion for Gonk:

Instead of saying "There are no friendly groups without liberties", say "Every friendly group has at least one liberty"

No double-negatives don't confuse people.

Good idea!

Or (probably a lesser alternative, but I mention it as food for thought) make a term for a group with no liberties and use that term positively, e.g.:

"There are no suffocated friendly groups."
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Richard Moxham
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russ wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Wording suggestion for Gonk:

Instead of saying "There are no friendly groups without liberties", say "Every friendly group has at least one liberty"

No double-negatives don't confuse people.

Good idea!

Or (probably a lesser alternative, but I mention it as food for thought) make a term for a group with no liberties and use that term positively, e.g.:

"There are no suffocated friendly groups."

I've found that the approach of coining a term to be used ever after is often the most economical (and most easily digested) solution.

I'd probably have gone for "smothered" over "suffocated", though.
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Russ Williams
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mocko wrote:
I'd probably have gone for "smothered" over "suffocated", though.

Or perhaps "asphyxiated" or "strangled".
 
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Joel Fox
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russ wrote:
mocko wrote:
I'd probably have gone for "smothered" over "suffocated", though.

Or perhaps "asphyxiated" or "strangled".

"Surrounded" might be most familiar, or the more detailed "no dang leg room."
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Corey Clark
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regardless any one of these would require a definition in the definition of terms section. I'm not really sure we need to define group every game though
 
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Nick Bentley
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CoreyClark wrote:
regardless any one of these would require a definition in the definition of terms section. I'm not really sure we need to define group every game though


Since this is a Go-ish game, it might be best to stick with Go terminology
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christian freeling
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milomilo122 wrote:
Since this is a Go-ish game, it might be best to stick with Go terminology

Goish is a good name in itself for a game.
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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christianF wrote:
That suggests that there is a board size in which the overall strategy and the local issues are optimally balanced. What are your thoughts on this? All the way up to 19x19?

There should be no harm in playing it on a 19x19 board, but the optimal size is probably smaller.

Gonk almost seems a Go variant built around the concept of aji (roughly speaking, dead stones that can still be dangerous if you don't spend time capturing them). Surrounding a group only displaces one of its stones, so the rest stays in place as a lump of aji. The effect is barely noticeable in small groups, and, in fact, surrounding a single stone is even slightly better for the attacker than in Go, as it restricts the opponent's next move. With bigger groups, though, you might need to invest a few more moves, now or later, to strengthen your surrounding groups and have the points vacated by the displaced enemy stones work as real eyes for you. This can be seen as a ko fight of sorts where you get to settle your groups for good while your opponent gets some unchallenged moves elsewhere. It's even possible to imagine a group that becomes unconditionally alive by virtue of getting surrounded, but this seems unlikely to happen in a real game, as it requires the group to be very clunky and inefficient to begin with. (Note: if this ever becomes a problem, it can be required that, for a stone to be elligible for eviction, it must be adjacent to at least one enemy stone on its original location. This way, moved stones can't leave eyes behind.)

It's hard to assess how much this all affects the character of the game without extensive testing, but having groups be a bit safer a bit sooner should result in the ideal board size being a bit smaller rather than a bit bigger.

christianF wrote:
Engo has a much lower 'resolution', which doesn't necessarily make it worse as a game, but I prefer Gonk's behaviour.

What I like about Engo is the potential for coldness in captures (for the attacker) and the need they create to make room for evicted groups in the endgame (for the defender). Whether this provides for a meaningful experience or just an amusing diversion is hard to say at this stage.
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Richard Moxham
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CoreyClark wrote:
Regardless any one of these would require a definition in the definition of terms section. I'm not really sure we need to define group every game, though.

Agreed, but of course we wouldn't be defining the noun 'group' - just an adjective which would attach to it in certain cases. It would be a matter of saying "***ed" instead of a longer phrase meaning devoid of liberties: a clear economy if the need to say it is likely to be recurrent.

milomilo122 wrote:
Since this is a Go-ish game, it might be best to stick with Go terminology.

With respect, this may be Insider Think. Why not cater for the possibility of punters who are not coming to the game via Go?

Having said which, I'm now going to argue that one of the virtues of "smothered" is the established use of the metaphor in Chess to describe a certain type of mate - and, come to that, a rare but brilliant Bridge coup.

 
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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milomilo122 wrote:
Wording suggestion for Gonk:

Instead of saying "There are no friendly groups without liberties", say "Every friendly group has at least one liberty"

No double-negatives don't confuse people.

Good idea. Confusion ain't no good.

mocko wrote:
I'd probably have gone for "smothered"

Say no more. Smothered it is then.
 
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Richard Moxham
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christianF wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:
Since this is a Go-ish game, it might be best to stick with Go terminology

Goish is a good name in itself for a game.

A slight tangent...

A propos of the convention that, in naming a tribute band, you must contrive to imply approximation - but only approximation - to the real thing, I recently came across the delightful Oasish.

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Luis Bolaños Mures
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christianF wrote:
Goish is a good name in itself for a game.

mocko wrote:
A propos of the convention that, in naming a tribute band, you must contrive to imply approximation - but only approximation - to the real thing, I recently came across the delightful Oasish.

Heh. My user name on the GoQuest app used to be Goistical.

And I should have called TenGo Gocentric instead.
 
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Meta-design question for Luis. You seem to release a flood of games around this time every year. Is that a result of your design process (i.e. year-long play-test) or is it that winter inspires you tremendously?

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christian freeling
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I second the question because in my case the virus also would hit late autumn. It was not related to play testing. More like seasonal flu. Spring and summer are too pleasant to come down with it
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Luis Bolaños Mures
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fogus wrote:
Meta-design question for Luis. You seem to release a flood of games around this time every year. Is that a result of your design process (i.e. year-long play-test) or is it that winter inspires you tremendously

I hadn't realized that. Maybe winter increases my alertness, which should make sense from an evolutionary standpoint.

I don't really have a structured design process, and I tend to shy away from designs that require extensive playtesting or refinement. Most of my game ideas either obviously work or don't work at all.
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Nick Bentley
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I got to play Gonk with Luis yesterday. It's as good as I thought it was going to be (aka really, really good). Another way to think of it is it's just like Go except:

a) when a group is captured, only one of its stones is removed instead of all of them; and
b) you can't place a stone so a group is without liberties, even if it would lead to a capture

This isn't precisely right because if two groups are captured on the same turn, still only one stone is removed, but I think putting it this way is illustrative, because it brings out the fact that Gonk is Go but with less positive feedback due to capture, and more positive feedback due to eyes. I found the game fantastic.

(Luis - if I've made any incorrect conclusions do correct me)

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Russ Williams
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milomilo122 wrote:
it's just like Go except:

a) when a group is captured, only one of its stones is removed instead of all of them; and
b) you can't place a stone so a group is without liberties, even if it would lead to a capture


Your point (b) isn't true in the case of a type (a) play, is it? At least I am not seeing such a restriction:

OP with rules wrote:
At the start of your turn, you will face one of these situations:

a) There are no smothered friendly groups. In this case, you must place a stone of your color on any empty point.
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Corey Clark
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I got a chance to play Gonk myself and I'll say that I was mighty impressed with what I saw. This is Go but everything is encoded on the board which for some design purists will be seen as a definite improvement. But unlike other games in this category the sacrifice of rich ko dynamics doesn't apply here, and if Ko is your thing this is your game because not only has ko been preserved but pushed front and center. In Gonk Ko takes on many new forms and just about any group can be pulled into a Ko fight even kicking and screaming as it may. Nice work Luis.
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