For those who can manage to read about this game one more time without retching, I’ve found what I believe is another refinement. I won’t dwell on it, but I’m convinced it’s better.
The idea: instead of giving the trailing player an extra stone on each turn on which she trails, she now only gets an extra stone on turns after her opponent creates or extends the largest group on the board. The effect is to:
- Shorten and liven-up the early/midgame, since it creates an incentive to take the lead earlier (due to reduced negative feedback).
- Creates a more varied decision-space in the late game, since now a leading player has reason to occasionally avoid extending her largest group in the late game.
- Further shorten and clarify the rules.
I can’t believe how much thought I’ve put into this thing. I’ve learned that iterative design is nothing to scoff at. I used to want games to pop out of my brain whole. Ketchup could *never* have popped out whole. The devil’s in the details in ways I couldn’t have seen without lots of play testing.
Ok, the new rules:
Ketchup is a game for two players, played with red and green stones, on this board:
- Group – a set of connected, like-colored stones on the board.
- Group Size – the number of stones that a group contains. The smallest possible group contains 2 stones. The figure below shows three groups with sizes 2, 5, and 12.
- To Drop- to place a stone on any empty space.
- The board begins empty. One player owns the red stones and the other owns the green stones.
- Red begins by dropping 1 stone. From then on, starting with Green, each player must drop 1 or 2 stones on her turn.
- If, on your turn, you create or extend a group larger than any other on the board (of either color), your opponent may drop 3 stones on his next turn (and only on his next turn).
- The game ends when the board is full. The player with the largest group wins. If the players’ largest groups are the same size, compare their second-largest groups, and so on, until you come to a pair which aren’t the same size. Whoever owns the larger of the two wins.
Printable boards with scoring tracks for paper-and-pencil play: