Stacktics

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Under development


This game is currently under development, in the Nearly Complete stage. Feedback is strongly encouraged! Feel free to give comments on game design or structure on the talk page.

Stacktics
Adam B. Norberg
A game of Stacktics just finished
A 3House game for 2 players. The goal is to capture half of your opponents' force (by pip count) before he can do the same to you.
:Players Players: 2 - 2
:Time Length: Medium?
:Complexity Complexity: Medium
Trios per color: 3
Number of colors: [[Number of colors::3 Treehouse sets]]
Pyramid trios:
Monochr. stashes: [[Stashes::3 Treehouse sets]]
Five-color sets: 3
- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -
Volcano board
Setup time: 1 minute
Playing time: 10 minutes
0.167 Hr
- 30 minutes
0.5 Hr
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: Nil
Game mechanics:
Theme:
"" cannot be used as a page name in this wiki.
BGG Link:
Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2987



STACKTICS

A 3House game for 2 players

Goal: To capture half of your opponents' force (by pip count) before he can do the same to you.

Pieces

For the regular version of the game, each player needs three Icehouse trees of the same color. (Players with only two Treehouse sets can improvise by assigning two colors per player and considering those colors to be identical throughout the game.) This "size 3" game is played on a Volcano board (or some other 5x5 board; pieces remain upright throughout the game, so space to lie down is not required).

The introductory version requires two Icehouse trees per color for each player. (One Treehouse set can be used by, again, assigning two colors per player.) This is played on a 4x4 board (quarter chessboard).

A more complex version of the game can be played with four or five stashes per player; these are best played on a 6x6 and 7x6 board, respectively. (A 7x7 board can be used for the "size-5" game, but it may be more prone to stalled games in which players can indefinitely evade capture. This variant has never been playtested.) [Board sizes for large games are very much still up in the air. For that matter, 2x2 on a 3x5 board needs to be investigated.]

Setup

Place the board between the two players. For the size-5 game, the board should be set up wide; the 7-square edges should be closest to the players. Assemble each players' pieces into trees, then place them upright (as trees) in the rows of the board closest to the players, leaving the corner squares empty. (The piece armies will be on opposite sides of the board.) Choose a player to make the first move by any random method.

Play

First Turn

On the size-2 game (played on a 4x4 board), the pie rule is required to balance the start of the game. (The small armies and the small board make the first move a massive advantage without this balance.) The first player moves one of the pieces; the second player may then take the opposite set of pieces and make a response move, or switch sides (claiming the stash moved by the first player) and the "first" player now makes the response move with the second army (and will, of course, be referred to as the second player for the remainder of the rules.) (Designer's note: The 4x4 game is too small to not give a massive winning advantage to the first player. There is a fairly obvious opening move that gives the first player control from the start and it requires a blunder by the first player to ever lose it. All pure strategy games are either solvable or drawn, and 4x4 Stacktics is small enough for it to be solved slightly too easily. The pie rule forbids the first player from taking this unstoppable advantage. The problem is much less severe in a larger game; the board size is less relevant than having three of each size of piece rather than two. However, the pie rule may need to be implemented for larger games if it turns out to be simpler than playtesting has indicated.)

Regular Play

All subsequent turns (and all turns in larger games) simply alternate, players alternating single moves as described below. Captured pieces should be counted after every capture; if one player has captured more than 3 * gamesize pips worth of xir opponent's pieces, that player has won the game.

Movement

Pieces can move individually or in stacks, although stacks have a limited move range. Every move has a "base piece". If a single piece is being moved, it is the base; otherwise, the bottom of the stack is the base. A move does not have to use a piece on the ground as its base; a stack may be split in the middle, or a piece peeled off the top, by using the middle or top of the stack as the base.

The shape of the move is specified by the size of the base piece, while the maximum distance of the move is specified by how heavy the stack on top of the base piece is ("weight" is the sum of the pip counts of the pieces on top). Pieces above the base do not affect the shape of the move. Small Icehouse pieces move along diagonals, like bishops in Chess. Medium pieces move along straight lines (like rooks), and large pieces can move as either (like queens).

The maximum distance of a move depends on whether a piece is moving alone, moving loaded, or moving overloaded. If a single piece (instead of a stack) is being moved, the piece is moving alone and there is no maximum distance on its move. (A piece may never move over other pieces along its movement path, although it may under some circumstances land on top of other pieces, forming a stack if that piece is friendly and making a capture if it is not.) A stack in which the sum of the pip-counts of the pieces on top of the base is less than the pip-count of the base is moving loaded. On a size 2 or size 3 game, it can move at most 2 squares; a size 4 or 5 game allows it a move of 3 squares. A stack with an equal or greater pip-count of carried pieces compared to the single base piece is considered overloaded, and it may move only a single square. ("Overloaded" is probably a bad term. Despite the restricted move, "overloaded" stacks are often some of the most important strategic arrangements in the game, mostly because matched pairs of pieces moving together are surprisingly powerful. The overload rule is triggered on "equal weight" *because* pair stacks need to be restricted in this way, or else they are far too effective.)

Pieces may stack if the base of the move is the same size or smaller than the top piece of the friendly stack in the square that would be the target of the move. If the stack is legal, place the moved piece or pieces on top of the piece or pieces already in the square; do not reorganize them. If the top piece is smaller, the move is illegal and the square cannot be entered by the active stack. (Remember, you can't jump over pieces already on the board.)

Captures can only be performed by a SINGLE piece moving off the top of a stack. A pair of pieces moving off a stack of three cannot capture and therefore cannot enter a square occupied by opposing pieces under any circumstances. A single piece flat on the ground (not part of a stack) also cannot capture. The only legal attacking piece is a piece starting its move on top of a stack containing at least two pieces, counting itself. Captures are done by occupation; move this piece to a square occupied by opposing pieces to capture the entire stack on that square. (The attacking piece stays in the square.) Size is irrelevant; a small can capture a stack of three large pieces the same way a large piece can capture a single small. Captured pieces are removed from the board and cannot be re-entered.

Game End

If at any time a player has captured half or more of his opponents' force by pip count, that player has won the game. Half the force can easily be calculated by multiplying the number of trees per player by three.

Clarifications

Move shape is decided only by the bottom piece of whatever stack (or single piece) is being moved; the maximum distance of a move is determined by how many pieces are above it. A small (which can only have smalls stacked on top of it by the stacking rules) that is not moving alone is always Overloaded. A full tree is very versatile: the entire tree can move one space in any direction, the top two pieces can be moved as a stack up to two spaces as a rook, or the small on top can be moved any distance as a bishop, and may capture.

Maximum move distances are not the only permitted move distances; a Loaded stack may move one space instead of two, and a single piece can stop at any distance. Passing is prohibited; pieces may not choose to move zero spaces.

Pairs of identical pieces stacked on each other are among the most important strategic configurations in the game. (The first capture is devastating in a size-2 game because it prevents at least one size of stack from being created. If the first capture is a Queen, the player losing the queen has probably lost the game unless an immediate forced counterattack has been planned. Losing a large in a size-2 game is worse than losing both a small and a medium; protect a single queen in preference to a 1-2 stack.) This is the *only* configuration in which attacks can advance along the board. The piece on top can move freely and attack, and then the second piece in the stack can make an identical move and re-form the stack any distance away in two moves- possibly after the first move was a capture. This is in contrast to all other positions, in which the attacking piece is smaller than the piece it rests on; it would be an illegal stack for the second piece to try to move on top of the first, even if the move shapes would allow for it in the first place.

This game is much deeper than it might seem at first. Chess skill is very beneficial to quickly understanding the strategy of the game. All your pieces are important as they are flexible in different ways; large pieces are valuable and offer the widest variety of moves, but small pieces can go on top of any other piece and are therefore the most common piece to make attacks. Queens can only attack in pairs, and a two-queen stack is Overloaded and is relatively unmanuverable- but because attacks have unlimited range (they are single pieces; single pieces are never loaded) they control very large portions of the board.

Endgame terms, board sizes, and starting positions are the most mutable parts of these rules. Board sizes are semi-arbitrary for the large games and there may be better ways of doing them. Restricting diagonal moves by making a size-2 game play on a 3x5 board instead of a 4x4 board may greatly even up the opening game; on a board this size, position the board so the short edges are to the players and start with trees in the corners. The pie rule may not be necessary for this board, but more playtesting is required to determine this; at the very least, it plays very differently from a 4x4.

The size-2 game is nowhere near as interesting as the size-3 game because the first unmatched capture often confers a devastating advantage. The size 3 game may be the best version for normal people, but chess fans are likely to prefer the longer games of size-4 or size-5 boards. Endgames on larger boards play quite differently, because single stacks control smaller proportions of the board.

Part of my design goal for this game was to invent a game that plays best with a 3House set (help Andy sell 'em!), but can be played in some form with just a single stash of Treehouse pieces to give people an idea for the game... and make them want to buy at least one more set to play the better version of the game.

Sorry about how badly written these rules are. I write like a computer scientist: I specify everything in unambiguous detail and in the process create something completely illegible to anybody without a law degree. These rules *should* by all rights be one page long; I can explain the entire game to someone in under ten minutes. Help with a rewrite, with playtesting, and with fixing the size-2 game (and improving other versions!) would be greatly appreciated, and I'd love to hear what those of you more experienced at inventing games have to say about this one! I think it's the best of the games I've invented so far, no matter what the game system; this is the first one that I'm truly happy with instead of "okay, well, it's sort of interesting but I can't think of how to do better, let's just play something else" like I am for my other designs.

I'd like all the feedback I can get. Thanks for your attention, and I hope you enjoy the game!Windrider 16:20, 6 Jan 2007 (GMT)