Russ Williams
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Tiles may be placed on the table adjacent to
any two or more existing tiles, provided that the tile
placed does not directly threaten to capture the enemy
king next turn


If my own king is not yet placed, then I cannot move my pieces.

So in such a case, can I place a piece such that it could capture the enemy king if my king were in play, because in reality my piece can not capture the enemy king next turn?

Or is the intent that I can't place my piece "threatening" the enemy king if we pretend that my own king is in play?

We provisionally decided that the first interpretation (I can place it) is implied by a literal reading of the rules but hesitantly supposed that the second interpretation (I can't place it) is the intention... but we're quite unsure.

PS: Fun game!
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Cameron Browne
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Hi Russ,

Please use the literal interpretation of the rules, i.e. a piece can be placed to point at the enemy King, provided that the mover has not placed their own King yet.

But I'd be interested in your comments if you want to try the alternative interpretation. If you think it's better this way please let me know.

>PS: Fun game!

Great! Glad you're enjoying it.

Regards,
Cameron
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Cameron Browne
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Further: The bottom line is that we want to encourage players to place their Kings as quickly as possible, as that's when pieces can move, players have something tangible to chase, and things really start to heat up.

There are pros and cons for each interpretation of the "does not directly threaten to capture the enemy king next turn" rule, but the reward of freeing your pieces for movement is such a large incentive to place your King relatively soon in the game that it seems to outweigh other considerations.

The key thing is that the King does not immediately have to move in response to a placement.

Regards,
Cameron
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Daniel Shultz
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Not really on topic, but I'm really happy to see stax being played! I think it's a wonderful game.
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Russ Williams
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Ha, so we guessed wrong!

camb wrote:
The bottom line is that we want to encourage players to place their Kings as quickly as possible,

In that sense, our misinterpretation (that we couldn't place the pseudo-threatening piece) seems better, since presumably a player bringing out their king prefers having neither threats nor potential/pseudo-threats immediately brought to bear on the king.

But I'm happy to interpret it literally. I like when rules mean exactly what they say.

We'll play that way next time and compare.

We decided to guess the intent was that such a pseudo-threat was illegal because otherwise it seemed like it might lead to a swarm of placements all next to the king and pointing at the king, which might be hard to deal with them all (I'm not sure, we were just speculating) and then finally dropping your friendly king to move one of them for the win.
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Thinking more about this, the rule as it stands is probably due to an oversight on my part. I think the original intention was as you initially thought -- the fact that this was also your initial interpretation suggests that it's more "natural". It would make the rules more elegant ("can't place any piece that would point directly at the enemy King") and remove a possible incentive for a player to keep their King off the board, if they find a benefit to placing pieces to point at the enemy King.

It would also mean that King placement could possibly be used as a blocking move. Interesting!

Russ how would you like to be an official play tester?

If you get the chance to try both interpretations please let us know your thoughts on each.

Regards,
Cameron
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camb wrote:
Thinking more about this, the rule as it stands is probably due to an oversight on my part. I think the original intention was as you initially thought -- the fact that this was also your initial interpretation suggests that it's more "natural". It would make the rules more elegant ("can't place any piece that would point directly at the enemy King")

I think it might actually make the rule less elegant (or at least harder to state concisely). Does "point directly at the enemy king" imply "adjacent to" the enemy king? I suppose not, but then you have to also specify that all pieces between the placed piece and the enemy king also all point at the enemy king, otherwise the placed piece would not really be threatening the enemy king. Hmm, actually maybe that's sufficient (and avoids the need for weird "if it were to be able to move" type wording): "You cannot place a piece in a line with the enemy king such that the piece and all pieces between it and the king point at the king" or something. As opposed to something like "You cannot place a piece such that it could capture the king next turn (ignoring that pieces can't move if their owner's king is not in play yet)". Hmm, it seems tricky to work concisely AND clearly.

Quote:
Russ how would you like to be an official play tester?

Sure. Does the job come with a corner office with windows?
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russ wrote:
"You cannot place a piece in a line with the enemy king such that the piece and all pieces between it and the king point at the king"

The "all pieces between it" qualifier may not be necessary. If the player can't place pieces to point directly at the enemy King, then there won't be an uninterrupted line of intervening pieces doing so...

Unless the opponent places or moves their King into a position where it's pointed at, in which case that's their problem and adding one more King-pointer to the queue won't make things any worse. You'd assume that the opponent would only do this (move their King into potential check) if the player has not placed their own King yet.

russ wrote:
Sure. Does the job come with a corner office with windows?

Absolutely! Provided that you have a corner office with windows.

Regards,
Cameron
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camb wrote:
russ wrote:
"You cannot place a piece in a line with the enemy king such that the piece and all pieces between it and the king point at the king"

The "all pieces between it" qualifier may not be necessary. If the player can't place pieces to point directly at the enemy King, then there won't be an uninterrupted line of intervening pieces doing so...

But if you leave out the qualifier, then it unnecessarily prohibits me placing a piece which has intervening pieces between it and the king (where the intervening pieces are NOT pointing at the king), right? E.g. if piece B is not pointing at the king K, then I should certainly be allowed to place piece A pointing at the king in the following arrangement, right?

A B K
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No, I'd phrase it as "you can't place a piece that would point directly at the enemy King" where "directly" means clear line of sight. This allows the case you mention.

Regards,
Cameron
 
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camb wrote:
No, I'd phrase it as "you can't place a piece that would point directly at the enemy King" where "directly" means clear line of sight. This allows the case you mention.

Then you need to define "clear line of sight". Without it being defined or your discussion here, I'd have expected it to mean "no intervening units at all", but I guess you mean "all intervening units have arrows pointing away from the moving piece, i.e. toward the enemy king"?

(Or am I late-night confused, a distinct possibility after a long day at a game con...)
 
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Yes that's correct, I mean no intervening pieces, so I'm not sure any further qualification is needed.

Cameron
 
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camb wrote:
Yes that's correct, I mean no intervening pieces, so I'm not sure any further qualification is needed.

Oh, then I was confused: so you mean that it's illegal to do this:

A . K
X X


(with new piece A pointing at the king)

but it is legal to do this:

A B K
X X

(with new piece A and old piece B both pointing at the king)?

Wow, we thought the rules meant that both placements would be illegal, because in both cases, if A can move, then A can capture the king on the next move. But apparently you're saying the second placement is legal?
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russ wrote:
so you mean that it's illegal to do this:

Yes, when I revise the rules.

russ wrote:
but it is legal to do this:

Yes, when I revise the rules.

russ wrote:
Wow, we thought the rules meant that both placements would be illegal, because in both cases, if A can move, then A can capture the king on the next move.

Both placements would be illegal under the current rules if the player has already placed their King, and hence can move to capture the enemy King next move, but would be legal if they have not yet placed their King.

russ wrote:
But apparently you're saying the second placement is legal?

When I revise the rules it will be. If there is one piece pointing at the enemy King, then adding another won't make much difference.

Regards,
Cameron
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camb wrote:
russ wrote:
But apparently you're saying the second placement is legal?

When I revise the rules it will be. If there is one piece pointing at the enemy King, then adding another won't make much difference.

But the intermediate piece might not belong to me. If your own piece happens to point at your king, then me adding a piece pointing at your king with your piece in between certainly makes a big difference (a threat where no threat existed before).

Or am I misunderstanding another rule? As far as I understand the rules, I can fly over a piece which points in the movement direction regardless of whose piece it is, right?
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russ wrote:
But the intermediate piece might not belong to me. If your own piece happens to point at your king, then me adding a piece pointing at your king with your piece in between certainly makes a big difference (a threat where no threat existed before).

Aha! You're right, to avoid this the wording will need to be something like: "You cannot place a piece that would point at the enemy King, either directly or through a line of intermediate pieces also pointing at the enemy King".

The question is whether this is now starting to get a bit cumbersome. Could just leave it as: "You cannot place a piece that would point directly at the enemy King" and leave it to the players to avoid moving their King to spaces pointed at by any pieces including their own. This would be a case of a more elegant form of a rule resulting in more complex play, which is often a good thing in abstract games. Unless this constraint can be exploited to harass the enemy King too easily...

Thinking about it, the second (simpler) version of the rule would encourage players to avoid putting their King anywhere pointed to by their own pieces, which would probably be a bad thing. Games would be safer with less opportunities to achieve check, which sounds a bit boring. The first version of the rule might be more verbose but I think is probably best all round.

Sorry for the flow of consciousness, this is how I solve a lot of problems

Who'd have thought that this damned rule would prove so tricky?!

Regards,
Cameron
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camb wrote:
The question is whether this is now starting to get a bit cumbersome. Could just leave it as: "You cannot place a piece that would point directly at the enemy King" and leave it to the players to avoid moving their King to spaces pointed at by any pieces including their own. This would be a case of a more elegant form of a rule resulting in more complex play, which is often a good thing in abstract games. Unless this constraint can be exploited to harass the enemy King too easily...

I don't get how forbidding players from pointing directly at the enemy king would let players too easily harass the enemy king. Am I missing something?

Quote:
Thinking about it, the second (simpler) version of the rule would encourage players to avoid putting their King anywhere pointed to by their own pieces, which would probably be a bad thing. Games would be safer with less opportunities to achieve check, which sounds a bit boring.

I expect that, regardless of the placement rule, players would want to avoid making their pieces point at their own king, just on general strategic principles of reducing avenues to capture their king. Or am I missing something?

Quote:
Sorry for the flow of consciousness, this is how I solve a lot of problems

Can't you just give the various proposals for the rules to Ludi and have Ludi magically tell you which makes the gameplay most interesting? whistle

Quote:
Who'd have thought that this damned rule would prove so tricky?!

It actually looked like that kind of tricky messy rule to me once we first noticed the ambiguity...

Speaking of tricky rules, I realized that the "Step Rule" seems a little ambiguous to me as well:
Step rule wrote:
Step Rule: At the end of the turn there must be a path of
adjacent steps from every stack to the table level that
does not step up or down more than one level at any
step. In other words, a miniature person placed on any
tile or stack must be able to step down to the table
without dropping down a cliff of two or more levels.


Consider the following situation, where the numbers are the heights of the stacks:

1 2 2 1
2 2 2 1
1 2 2 1


Does the middle surrounded "2" violate the Step Rule or not? I'm not sure! It has no "adjacent step" down. But by following stacks of the same height it can reach a step down. I'm not sure what your intent is.

If it's illegal, then probably for consistency also

1 1
1 1 1
1 1

should be illegal, which seems in fact to be intended as legal. So I think it's legal, and "step" means "a move to an adjacent hex" (i.e. an action) instead of "step" in the sense of a physical object (like steps on a staircase). I.e. the word "step" ambiguously has 2 meanings, a concrete physical object and an action, and this makes the Step Rule seem a little unclear/ambiguous by leaving the reader (perhaps unconsciously) confused about which kind of "Step" is referred to in the rule.

===

PS: Vague tangent: another kind of rule which I've noticed is tricky for many rule authors is requirements that a selected set of pieces be a single contiguous group. E.g. I recently read a ruleset which botched that by saying that each piece in the selected group must touch at least one other piece in the selected group. Thus 2 non-contiguous groups, each with at least 2 pieces, satisfies that, but was clearly not what the author intended.
 
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Cameron Browne
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russ wrote:
I don't get how forbidding players from pointing directly at the enemy king would let players too easily harass the enemy king. Am I missing something?

If there are now more spaces where a player doesn't want to move their King, then this could make it easier for the opponent to dictate play. I don't have a concrete example, this is just a hunch.

russ wrote:
I expect that, regardless of the placement rule, players would want to avoid making their pieces point at their own king, just on general strategic principles of reducing avenues to capture their king. Or am I missing something?

I think in the past this has been a good rule of thumb but not critical, so players might move to places that are pointed to by their own piece(s) if that offered some advantage. But after the rule change it will be critical to avoid these!

russ wrote:
Can't you just give the various proposals for the rules to Ludi and have Ludi magically tell you which makes the gameplay most interesting?

Alas Ludi has been shelved. But I hope to be working on something soon that will leave Ludi in the dust...

russ wrote:
Speaking of tricky rules, I realized that the "Step Rule" seems a little ambiguous to me as well:
Step rule wrote:
Step Rule: At the end of the turn there must be a path of
adjacent steps from every stack to the table level that
does not step up or down more than one level at any
step. In other words, a miniature person placed on any
tile or stack must be able to step down to the table
without dropping down a cliff of two or more levels.


Consider the following situation, where the numbers are the heights of the stacks:

1 2 2 1
2 2 2 1
1 2 2 1


Does the middle surrounded "2" violate the Step Rule or not? I'm not sure! It has no "adjacent step" down.

But the rules don't specify "adjacent step down" as the only choice. They specify "adjacent step... that does not step up or down more than one level at any step" which includes flat steps, so there shouldn't be any ambiguity. That position is legal.

But I see your point, some people might misinterpret "that does not step up or down more than one level" to mean that pieces *must* step up or down with each step. I'll look at the wording of this as well when I update the rules.

Regards,
Cameron
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Hi Russ,

I've now updated the rules to include those clarifications. Thanks for your help!

Regards,
Cameron
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camb wrote:
Hi Russ,

I've now updated the rules to include those clarifications. Thanks for your help!

Regards,
Cameron


Now available on my site:

http://nestorgames.com/stax_detail.html

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Russ Williams
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Cool, happy to help. Thanks for answering our questions and updating the rules!
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