New Game: Glorieta

[UPDATE: Since posting this, I’ve introduced a revised version of this game. See here]

This is the first game I’ve designed in a long time that doesn’t have a terrible name.

Glorieta is a game for 2 players on this board:


It’s played with black stones, orange stones, and neutral stones which look like this:


Note that if you put together your own set, it’s helpful if you make neutral stones which actually look like this. They make it easier for your brain to perform what we neuroscientists (really – I’m a neuroscientist) call “perceptual grouping”, which refers to the ability to see a bunch of separate things as one contiguous thing. Like when you look at a christmas tree you don’t just see a bunch of individual pine needles, you see a tree. Same goes for stones in this game. You need to be able to group a bunch of stones, including neutral stones, into one perceptual object, and it’s easier for your brain to do it when the neutral stones look like this.

Neutral stones are considered to be both black and orange at the same time.


  • Group – a set of connected stones on the board, all of the same color, which can include neutral stones.
  • Loop – a group which completely surrounds one or more spaces, regardless of what’s in those spaces.
  • Drop – to place a stone on any empty space.

There are 2 versions of the game. I imagine that one of these will end up being “standard” but I don’t know which.

Version 1: “Chicken” Glorieta

  1. The board begins empty. To start, black drops a friendly stone.
  2. From then on, starting with orange, the players take turns. On your turn you must drop 1 friendly and 1 neutral stone such that they’re not part of the same group.
  3. On any turn, you may decline to play a neutral stone. If you do, from then on, neither player may play any more neutral stones (each plays 1 friendly stone only).
  4. The first player to form a loop wins. If the board fills up without a loop, the player who first declined to play a neutral stone loses.

Version 2: “Landscape” Glorieta

  1. Players begin by placing 12 neutral stones on randomly selected spaces so that none of them are adjacent to each other.
  2. Player 1 drops a black stone and then player 2 decides whether to take ownership of the orange or black stones.  Player 1 takes ownership of the opposite color.
  3. Starting with orange, the players take turns, dropping one friendly stone on each turn.
  4. The first player to form a loop wins. If the board fills up without a loop, the game is a tie.

Note 1: the number of neutral stones can be adjusted game-to-game to make it easier or harder to form loops.  I don’t actually know if 12 is the best number for this size board so please experiment. If you experience a tie, consider including an additional neutral stone the next time you play.

Here’s a finished game of “Landscape” Glorieta between two beginners, which Black won by forming a 12-stone loop:


Glorieta (the word is an antiquated Spanish term for a roundabout) has its origin Christian Freeling’s game Havannah. In Havannah players race to be the first to build any of three different patterns on a hex board by placing stones on it. One of those patterns is a simple loop of stones surrounding at least one space on the board. It’s both my favorite and least favorite of Havannah’s 3 goals.

It’s my least favorite because rarely does a loop ever actually form. Rather, players threaten to make a loops to force opponents to waste stones, without often completing them. So the loop pattern feels subsidiary to the other goals. It’s good for Havannah’s gameplay but as an objective in itself it’s not so good.

But it’s my favorite because it occured to me that if, somehow, loops were easier to make on a hex board, they might make a fantastic objective. There are two reasons:

  1. Loops can be built at many different scales. The smallest loop is six stones, whereas the largest can be a massive winding chain the length of which is greater than the perimeter of the board. This suggests that loops can be both tactical and strategic objectives and everything in between. You could build nested loop-threats, stringing together a bunch of small and medium loop threats on your way to stringing together The Big One, for example. Maybe.
  2. Loops are local connection goals, meaning they’re not defined with reference to any fixed feature of the board as all other connection goals are. This endows them with an unusual feel, which I can’t describe but which I like very much.

So I started trying to to solve the problem and went through a bunch of designs, one of which, Coil, I posted here. Even though I like it it has problems:

  1. It has two phases with different objectives in each phase, which is weird and makes Coil seem like 2 games smushed together.
  2. It has asymmetrical goals: after a chicken ballot phase, one player tries to form a loop and the other tries to stop him. The second goal isn’t particularly fun.

Coil taught me something though: trying to build a loop can be as fun as I thought it could be. If you end up being the player whose goal it is to form a loop in Coil, you usually have a fabulous time, even if the player tasked with stopping you doesn’t get to enjoy himself as much.

So I decided to proceed by trying to make a symmetrical-goal, loop-forming game on a hex board that doesn’t end in a stalemate. I tried a few designs, but nothing worked.

Then I discovered what is in retrospect an obvious thing: neutral stones that count as both black and orange can fix the problem. They must: a board full of neutral stones contains every possible loop.  So the more neutral stones you have on the board, the more likely a loop becomes.

The key is to figure out how to include neutral stones to make the game as fun and as stimulating as possible. I’ve tested several methods and the two described above are my favorites so far.

Note that these neutral stones could be employed in many different pattern-forming games where the pattern is otherwise too difficult to be an objective. Examples: a game where the goal is to create a row of 8 stones on a square grid, or a game on a hexhex board where the goal is to create a group which connects to all 6 edges, or a “square/rectangle loop” of any size on a square grid. A little thought will reveal many others.

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