I’m posting to show off my abstract game Glorieta with an example match (click through slide show above) and commentary (below), because I’ve gotten fond of it and because the rules alone don’t fully convey how the game unfolds.
In the game, 2 players compete to be the first to form a loop of stones on a hexagonally tiled board. This would be an impossible task except in each match, stones on board are slowly converted to neutral stones, owned by both players. As a result, the barriers to forming a loop gradually erode, and the player who most cleverly navigates the rubble completes a loop.
Completing a loop, especially a big one, feels good to me. Like I’ve successfully threaded a bunch of needles in succession. Like I’m the most precise badass on the planet. Like I’m Inigo Montoya.
In a normal connection game, you aim for a big target: a wall. Here you aim for the tail ends of chains of stones strewn about. I think the sense of “hitting a small target”, combined with having to overcome the minefield of your opponent’s short-loop threats, is where the feeling of precision comes from. There’s also something wholistically nice-feeling about completing a loop on a hex board, but I don’t know why. In addition, the many shapes and sizes of the winning loops lend a sense of variety.
The example above was a match between two beginners with experience in connection games. We allowed take-backs (not shown), which means the match didn’t end in a short loop like it often does for beginners. It ended with a big cross-board loop.
If you don’t want to go through the whole game, just look at the last 5 or 6 slides to see how the game ended. Note how the Blue player won by simultaneously making a short loop threat and a long loop threat, such that his opponent couldn’t defend both.
It’s a good example because it illustrates how the neutral stones and perimeter spaces come into play in loop formation: the winning loop here utilized 5 neutral stones and 6 perimeter spaces, as you can see by looking at the last two slides. It’s also more advanced than a normal beginner match thanks to the take-backs.
More on the Origin of Glorieta
When I play a game, generally speaking, I like it when there’s a threat of a game-ending move throughout. I like the “sweating bullets” feeling that I get under such circumstances, and the possibility of both long and short matches adds to my sense of variety.
It’s a little strange then, that I love connection games, because they generally don’t have that quality. They tend to be heavily strategic, and the threat of game-ending moves doesn’t arrive until many turns in. I like connection games for their wonderful strategy considerations, but I think I would like them even more if there were some short threats to contend with as well.
A few years back, it occurred to me that a connection game where the goal is to form a loop might be different. The reason is that loops can come in a wide range of sizes. For example, on a hexagonally tiled board, a loop may be comprised of as few as 6 stones, or it can be a many-lobed monstrosity draped across the board, or anything in between.
The existence of small loops allows for short threats, in principle. In fact, one game, Christian Freeling’s Havannah, employs them to this end, and it works beautifully.
In Havannah, loops are a side dish, not the main course. There are two other goals in that game, which tend to be the focus, and a loop is what happens when you concentrate too much on them.
So for a long time now, I’ve been trying to invent a game where loops are not only the main course, but the only course.
There’s a problem though: depending on the board you use, loops are either too easy or too hard to form, so if you try to design a straightforward loop goal connection game, you either end up with a tactics-fest or a stalemate-fest.
I’ve come up with several solutions to this problem, and Glorieta embodies one of my favorites so far.
It’s a bit more “grand” than the games I typically design. These days I usually strive to make complexity hidden so that casual players won’t realize it’s there. Glorieta isn’t like that. You’re aware you’re playing something challenging. The game tree is both large and bushy, and it takes experience to reliably see the basic tactical threats.
I’m interested in knowing what kind of first impression this game makes on you, if you look through the example game. I’m so deeply into these kinds of designs that I have no sense of what kind of impression they tend to make.