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Subject: Tic Tac Toe for anyone over 10. rss

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Ryan McGuire
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South Euclid
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Number of Players: 2

Board: A 3x3 super grid of 3x3 mini grids. i.e. A sudoku board.

Pieces: One color or symbol for each player. Since the pieces don't move, you can make marks on paper, a la Tic Tac Toe.

Placement Rules: Each player's first piece can go on any vacant space. After that plays must be on any vacant space in the 3x3 mini grid indicated by the space within a mini grid of that player's previous play.

Example:
(For the sake of discussion, let's say the columns of the board are A-I left to right, and the rows are 1-9 bottom to top.)
Let's say your first play is at B3. That is the upper-middle space within the lower left mini grid. That means that you next play has to be in a vacant square in the upper-middle mini grid.

Note: Since your previous move determines the valid possibilities for your next move, you should have some way to make the most recent move stand out. The game designer, suggests crossing out the previous moves as part of your turn. (...but not so much so that it becomes unrecognizable when scoring the mini grid.)

Scoring: As each 3x3 mini is filled, it is scored. Each player scores points for having certain patterns of orthogonally adjacent pieces or "glyphs". The score for each glyph is equal to the number of pieces in it. Here is the list of glyphs with a mnemonic name for each:


X Single XX Double XXX Line

X XXX XX
XXX Pipe X Sqat T XX 4 Block

XXX X XX
X T XXX Cross XX 6 Block
X X XX

XXX X X
XX Bomber XXX Chair X X J
X X X XXX

XX X X X
X X Earring XXX House XXX H
XXX XXX X X

X X XXX XXX
X X U XXX Ottoman X X O
XXX X X XXX

XXX
XXX 9 Block
XXX


A glyph can be in any orientation, including mirror image. i.e. The follwing all count as the Pipe:

XXX XXX XX
X X X
X


A player can have multiple glyphs in a single block. Pieces that are orthogonally adjacent that make up a "glyph" not listed above do not count for scoring. i.e. If you had the Garden of Eden glyph from Conway's Game of Life...

X
XXX
X

Such a configuration could not be broken up into five Singles to score five points. This glyph is worth zero points.

Examples:

XOX O: 2 (Double) + 1 (Single) = 3
XOX X: 4 (Pipe) + 2 (Double) = 6
XXO X wins this mini grid.

XXX O: 2 (Double) + 1 (Single) = 3
XXO X: 0. This cofiguration of 6 Xs is NOT one of the scoring glyohs.
OXO O wins this mini grid.


There are two options for the determining the winner:
Majority Version: Whichever player wins the most mini grids wins the game.
Superglyph Version: The pattern of which player wins each mini grid is "glyph scored" like the mini grids to determine the winner.

((END OF RULES))

This is a grown-up version of Tic Tac Toe. With only 81 spaces total and at most nine options for any move after the first, the game is just a little too vulnerable to being solved to be taken too seriously. I'm sure it would take less than a minute of computer time to determine the optimal strategy, with a forced win for the first (or maybe second) player.

Ok, so there will never be a million dollar Scribe tournament. So what? It's still a perfectly fine game to play in the back of the car on long rides. Players can try to look ahead as much as they want, leading to the possibility of some analysis paralysis -- depends on the player. The rules are short enough and the game is small enough that it can be taught and played in 30-45 minutes.

I'm not going to suggest to my Railways of Europe/Agricola group that we get together to play Scribe this weekend. However I do have a handful of pre-printed Scribe sheets, with the scoring glyphs listed, ready to go.

Favorite game scoring method: While the Superglyph Version of game scoring is certainly true to the glyph mechanic that is the basis of the entire rest of the game, it sucks to play 90% of the game well only to realize too late that you're being forced into a 7-2 majority of mini grids won't score any superglyph points. I think I like the Majority Version scoring.

In the right context I'd defeinitely be willing to play this game. I guess that means I give this game 6.5 or maybe 7 stars.

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Mark Steere
United States
Palo Alto
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Thanks for the review, Ryan. One thing I would subtract and one thing I would add. Subtract the notion that a computer could determine an optimal strategy for Scribe in less than one minute. If it were only the glyphs or only the mapping then it'd be a lot easier to make inroads. Combine those two simple concepts together and you've got something way complicated. 81 moves is a fairly respectable number of moves for a game, rule of thumb. There's no indication, at least to me, that Scribe is vulnerable to being solved, especially not the super glyph version.

What I would add to your review is, and I forget the name of these things, a folded up and cut sheet of paper with a few different boards on it and a section for the glyphs.

-Mark
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Ryan McGuire
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Solvability: I will retract my time estimate and grant you that it may take quite a bit of time to "solve" Scribe. However, I'm not going to take it back completely.

I do think we can meet on middle ground and agree that even if a computer could solve the game, it would be too difficult for a human player to memorize the optimal series of moves and counter-moves. This is especially true, as you pointed out, of the super glyph version, where a seemingly good middle game position can still lead to a lost game.

Fold-up paper thingies: If I understand you correctly, you're talking about Pocket Mods. Just google that (either with or without the space) and you can find any number of online resources.

Good call on thinking of pocket mods for Scribe.

[Edit: Now that I look at it, PocketScribe.pdf in the Files sections is for a Scribe pocket mod. Go to http://www.pocketmod.com/ for folding & cutting instructions.]
 
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