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Chesslike boardgame with double-roled pieces; too complex?

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SLiV
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The board

Although I have a passion for creating video games and games in general, I've never really set about making a decend boardgame. I came up with this idea a couple of days ago and began fleshing it out, but I'm a bit wary that it might be too complex to be fun. That's why I'd really like your feedback on whether it's too 'rule-heavy' or not.

It's a one vs one 'chesslike' boardgame; i.e. each player starts out with seven pieces on a (hexagon-filled) board and moves one of his pieces a number of spaces in a line each turn. When it lands on an opposing piece, one of the pieces is removed from the game. The first player to lose his Emperor piece, loses the game.

Each piece has a rank, and if you land on a piece of lower or equal rank, that piece is removed (or 'slain'). If it has a higher rank, your piece is slain instead (which is usually why you wouldn't go there to begin with).

However, the pieces all have two roles instead of one. Their visible role is an 'Animal' and underneath they have a 'Human' role. You assign the human roles to the animal pieces at the start of the game and you're not required to show each role, except in certain events.

The seven animals are:
The Dragon - has a rank of 3; can move up to 3 spaces.
The Tiger - has a rank of 2; can move up to 4 spaces.
The Monkey - has a rank of 2, but cannot be slain by the Hawk or the Fish; can move up to 3 spaces.
The Hawk - has a rank of 2; can move either 3, 4 or 5 spaces.
The Fish - has a rank of 2, but can slay every other piece on a Water tile (*1), and slays every piece when attacked on a Water tile; can move up to 3 spaces.
The Nightingale - has a rank of 1, but can slay a Dragon; can move up to 3 spaces.
The Lotus - has a rank of 0 (*2); can move up to 3 spaces. (And yes, I know a lotus isn't a flower.)

The seven roles are:
The Emperor - if this piece is slain, the owner has lost the game.
The General - this piece can slay every piece in the game when attacking, but must show himself to do so.
The Strategist - this piece can make an opposing piece show its role, but must show his own to do so.
The Empress - this piece cannot attack another piece, and cannot be slain. When it is attacked, it must show itself.
The Bodyguard - this piece can sacrifice itself to save another piece from being slain.
The Fisherman - this piece can slay the Fish, even (or rather: especially) on a Water tile and even if the Fish is a Empress (*3).
The Farmer - this piece has no special abilities.

As you might have noticed from the Dragon, Nightingale and Emperor, this game is set in or around China.

The boardgame, in its current form, is a squarish map covered with hexagons. The middle seven tiles are Peace tiles, you cannot slay another piece that is on a Piece tile (and of course, you're not allowed to move your Emperor there).

*1 On the game board, some of the tiles represent a part of the sea or the river. These are called Water tiles.
*2 Yes, this makes the lotus a near useless piece. But this idea really spoke to me, to have a piece that seems useless, but to the real strategic player, isn't.
*3 I have set up a hierarchic list of rules (currently 28), which should make it clear what piece slays what under what circumstance.

I haven't playtested it yet (I'm going to do so today), but I have my worries about of couple of things.

1: Aren't the pieces to 'role-heavy'? I.e., don't they have too many abilities for the game to be understandable?
2: Won't the game be over too soon, because there are only seven pieces?
3: Isn't it more a gamble than a strategy game, since slaying the Emperor immediately ends the game?
4: Isn't the fact that I'd need a rule-hierarchy enough to make the game too complex to be fun?

MondaysHero
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I wouldn't worry about a game

I wouldn't worry about a game ending too soon. Afterall, in Chess a game can end in a few as three turns. This will make for quick replayability. (Couple friends sit down and play several games in an hour). If you pieces look nice enough it will look good on a coffee table. That being said there are a couple of things that will "uncomplicate things." First, I assume you have these "carved" chess pieces, and then some sort of token that locks upside down under it (with images of Emperor and such.) I would suggest also having cards for every role. So, you have, say the Nightengale card face up, so you rember what they do, then you can hide, facedown, the General card. That way, players can check their cards without moving their pieces so they know which role is on what piece.

I would strive to make sure that each ability can be represented by icons (Like in Small World, each role has a symbol that represents their ability) This makes it MUCH easier for translation for printign in various countries. Then, start playing! You could easily just start using chess pieces, and just have a reference sheet for which chess piece represents what. Then, just use cards for your role selection (rather than trying to manufacture the role coins at first shot.) You'll soon find one or the other does not work, and you'll want to make something news. Cards are easier to mock-up.
-Good luck!
Monday's Hero

SLiV
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Empress, boxes and lids

I think I'll dub the non-fighting role 'the Empress', since Mason didn't really make sense, but having a non-aggressive Empress does.

MondaysHero wrote:
I assume you have these "carved" chess pieces, and then some sort of token that locks upside down under it (with images of Emperor and such.)
Well, I thought the roles could be little round boxes, and the animals would be the lids. So the role icon would be on the inside of the box, and the animal icon on the top of the lid.

Quote:
I would suggest also having cards for every role. So, you have, say the Nightengale card face up, so you rember what they do, then you can hide, facedown, the General card. That way, players can check their cards without moving their pieces so they know which role is on what piece.
Huh, I hadn't thought about that. Good idea.

Quote:
I would strive to make sure that each ability can be represented by icons (Like in Small World, each role has a symbol that represents their ability) This makes it MUCH easier for translation for printign in various countries.
Yeah, I think that will work. I figured images depicting the roles and animals should be simple icons instead of detailed drawings; I have come up with an object for each human role (e.g. a Pen for the Strategist, a Cup of Tea for the Empress, a Bowl of Rice for the Farmer etc).
Quote:
Then, start playing! You could easily just start using chess pieces, and just have a reference sheet for which chess piece represents what. Then, just use cards for your role selection (rather than trying to manufacture the role coins at first shot.) You'll soon find one or the other does not work, and you'll want to make something news. Cards are easier to mock-up.
Hehe, yeah, I knew chess pieces would do the job (although they're one short).

Quote:
Good luck!
Thanks!

MondaysHero
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Once playtested, it would be

Once playtested, it would be worth checking into Kickstarting it. This way, you're not putting a whole lot of money into it, plus, by sheer numbers of supporters you can gauge how successful it will be.
http://www.kickstarter.com/

SLiV
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I'll definitely look into that.

MondaysHero wrote:
Once playtested, it would be worth checking into Kickstarting it. This way, you're not putting a whole lot of money into it, plus, by sheer numbers of supporters you can gauge how successful it will be.
http://www.kickstarter.com/

I'll definitely look into that once the game's fleshed out.

Maaartin
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Nice ideas!

MondaysHero wrote:
I wouldn't worry about a game ending too soon. Afterall, in Chess a game can end in a few as three turns.

Well... a game of chess can actually end after two turns (f4 e5 g4 Qh4+). But this doesn't tell us anything as games below 10 turns never actually happen except among totally clueless.

SLiV wrote:
I haven't playtested it yet (I'm going to do so today), but I have my worries about of couple of things.

I really like it, it's quite original and be really fun. But let me state the possible problems coming in my mind:

The rules are fine for medium to heavy gamers, but such people may not like the "gamble" effect. To me it looks like a game of fair depth and sudden unexpected ending may spoil the fun a bit.

I could imagine that defensive players could leave all pieces near their starting position, which might give them a huge advantage. Maybe providing some motivation to move forward (e.g. something similar to pawn promotion) could help.

But these are just blind guesses made before even seeing the board.

SLiV wrote:
1: Aren't the pieces to 'role-heavy'? I.e., don't they have too many abilities for the game to be understandable?

I don't think so. When properly written, it can be easy to learn. I'd recommend to order them in a way, so that each rule takes precedence over all following rules (I think that's what you've meant with "hierarchic list"). Additionally, annotate each rule with numbers of all conflicting rules (e.g. the Dragon rule points to the Nightingale rule), except for those too universal (like the Empress rule) since they interact with all other rules. Or use the symbols instead of numbers.

SLiV wrote:
2: Won't the game be over too soon, because there are only seven pieces?

Maybe. Maybe you could duplicate some minor roles.

SLiV wrote:
3: Isn't it more a gamble than a strategy game, since slaying the Emperor immediately ends the game?

This is hard to tell without some playtesting. Because of this sort of randomness, the game should be a bit fast paced.

SLiV wrote:
4: Isn't the fact that I'd need a rule-hierarchy enough to make the game too complex to be fun?

I don't think so. It may be a bit hard to remember, but it's probably quite easy to learn.

SLiV
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I've playtested it by myself

I've playtested it by myself once, and I think it's working out. The only major thing that bugged me was the endgame. After a while, the white player was left with a Hawk-Emperor, a Lotus-Empress and a Nightingale-Fishermen, whereas the black player had a Monkey-Emperor, a Hawk-Empress and a Dragon-Fishermen.

At this point, it became a bit of a cat and mouse game, since none of the white pieces can kill the opposing Emperor. It's obvious that Black is the stronger player and ended up killing the Nightingale with his Monkey. But that just left us with an incredibly fast Emperor, i.e. one that could move 5 hexes at a time and fly over opposing pieces. Since the Dragon and Monkey could only move 3 hexes, it was impossible for them to catch or even corner the opposing Emperor.

So what do you think? Should I add a rule that states that if a player cannot possibly slay the opposing Emperor, he must give up? But wait... No, that wouldn't work either. Because if the opposing player has an Emperor and an Empress, you can't really tell which is which.

I also thought about making a lone Emperor able to slay the opposing Emperor, but that didn't work out at all, since an Emperor is almost always accompanied by the unkillable Empress. Besides, that would only worsen the cat-and-mousiness (e.g. imagine having two lone Tiger-Emperors).

Maaartin wrote:
I could imagine that defensive players could leave all pieces near their starting position, which might give them a huge advantage. Maybe providing some motivation to move forward (e.g. something similar to pawn promotion) could help.
Good point.

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But these are just blind guesses made before even seeing the board.
Well I've added a concept of the board as a picture. I think I'll cut out the four corner hexes, though, they seem useless and annoying to play in.

Quote:
I don't think so. When properly written, it can be easy to learn. I'd recommend to order them in a way, so that each rule takes precedence over all following rules (I think that's what you've meant with "hierarchic list"). Additionally, annotate each rule with numbers of all conflicting rules (e.g. the Dragon rule points to the Nightingale rule), except for those too universal (like the Empress rule) since they interact with all other rules. Or use the symbols instead of numbers.

Yeah, that's exactly what I meant. I'll try and write the rules as unambiguous as possible.

Maaartin
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Win or lose or draw?

SLiV wrote:
ISo what do you think? Should I add a rule that states that if a player cannot possibly slay the opposing Emperor, he must give up?

Give up? Why?? What if it holds for both players???

There was a rule in chess stating draw after 40 moves without an irreversible action (i.e, capture, casting, and pawn promotion). IIRC the rule was changed since positions were found needing more moves to checkmate. You game surely doesn't need to be that rigid, you can state that there's a draw after 10 moves without an irreversible action (i.e., capture and showing the human character). IMHO there's nothing wrong with draw, is it?

In case you want to avoid draws, you may declare the game to be a win of the non-starting player, the player with the most valuable pieces, or whatever. Or use an auxiliary goal like taking control over some fixed field.

SLiV wrote:
I also thought about making a lone Emperor able to slay the opposing Emperor, but that didn't work out at all, since an Emperor is almost always accompanied by the unkillable Empress.

As you wrote, in case there are just the two Emperors with the same animal character remaining, there's no solution.

ReluctantPirateGames
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This is a production

This is a production suggestion, not a game suggestion, but have you considered the Game Crafter? Each animal and role could be represented by a token with a sticker, making 28 stickers, 28 tokens and one mat. That only costs 7.05 to print. Plus it would make sense in gameplay: A pawn is made up of a face-down role token and a face-up animal token. When the role needs to be revealed, you could just pick up the stack and show the bottom. You could even place the role token on top once it has been revealed, since it becomes public knowledge at that point. The animal token would be face-up on the bottom of the stack for quick reference. Outside of this suggestion, I will say that this game seems like a great idea. An eastern Stratego with more intrigue.

ontheplus
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Awesome concept

Have you heard of the Game of the Generals? Same concept but with only 1 hidden role. Every piece has a rank, highest rank is the 5-star general, which can only be killed by a Spy. The Spies can only be killed by the Privates. Privates can be killed by everyone else except the spies. Spies and Privates have multiple pieces.

A good way to complicate or simplify the game would be to have optional roles that both players can agree to use or not. This would be a good way to have expansion packs as well.

SLiV
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No draws; wooden pieces.

Maaartin wrote:
Give up? Why?? What if it holds for both players???
Well, it can never hold for both players, since they start by being able to slay eachothers Emperor, and at some point a piece is slain, which prevents the one player from slaying the other's Emperor. It is impossible that that same piece was also the only possibility to slay the one's Emperor, since pieces shouldn't slay their own Emperors.

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IMHO there's nothing wrong with draw, is it?
Well, I think draws can be a bit unsatisfying, although it can be the most logical thing.

But no, I think a player should lose if he has no chance of slaying the opposing Emperor. It's the most logical and (IMO) satisfying result for a situation where the opposing player has an obvious advantage.

ReluctantPirateGames wrote:
This is a production suggestion, not a game suggestion, but have you considered the Game Crafter? Each animal and role could be represented by a token with a sticker, making 28 stickers, 28 tokens and one mat. That only costs 7.05 to print.
I'm not sure that would look nice enough. I was personally thinking about creating a lasercut wooden game, e.g. via Blue Panther. Although more expensive, I think it'd look awesome. But of course only after the gameplay is set in stone.

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Plus it would make sense in gameplay: A pawn is made up of a face-down role token and a face-up animal token. When the role needs to be revealed, you could just pick up the stack and show the bottom.
My idea was to have the animal token be a little lid that fits on top of the role token. That way you don't have to take the piece off the board; you only lift the lid and look underneath.

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You could even place the role token on top once it has been revealed, since it becomes public knowledge at that point. The animal token would be face-up on the bottom of the stack for quick reference.
That probably wouldn't work. Not only should a player be able to forget what role a certain piece has, but the animal part of the piece still has value after the role has been seen, since the animal part determines how the piece moves and functions.

Quote:
Outside of this suggestion, I will say that this game seems like a great idea. An eastern Stratego with more intrigue.
Yeah, that was more or less the idea. Glad you like it.

ontheplus wrote:
A good way to complicate or simplify the game would be to have optional roles that both players can agree to use or not. This would be a good way to have expansion packs as well.
Yeah, I think that would work. Since most of the pieces and rules are a bit unbalanced, adding or removing one shouldn't matter that much. After all, both players start out with the same pieces and play under the same rules.

Maaartin
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Some more thoughts

SLiV wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
Give up? Why?? What if it holds for both players???
Well, it can never hold for both players, since they start by being able to slay eachothers Emperor, and at some point a piece is slain, which prevents the one player from slaying the other's Emperor. It is impossible that that same piece was also the only possibility to slay the one's Emperor, since pieces shouldn't slay their own Emperors.

That's most probably right. But it changes the goal from "slaying the Emperor" to "slaying the Emperor or all pieces able to slay the Emperor".

Moreover, what about a player left with the Emperor-Fish only? It can slain any piece stupid enough to move into water...

SLiV wrote:
Quote:
IMHO there's nothing wrong with draw, is it?
Well, I think draws can be a bit unsatisfying, although it can be the most logical thing.

But no, I think a player should lose if he has no chance of slaying the opposing Emperor. It's the most logical and (IMO) satisfying result for a situation where the opposing player has an obvious advantage.

I could imagine a situation where the stronger player is practically incapable of killing the Emperor although he posses the needed piece.... Before I try to find an example I'd needed more exact rules, so please post the hierarchical version.

SLiV wrote:
Quote:
You could even place the role token on top once it has been revealed, since it becomes public knowledge at that point. The animal token would be face-up on the bottom of the stack for quick reference.
That probably wouldn't work. Not only should a player be able to forget what role a certain piece has...

I don't like the need to remember anything in a strategy game (when playing Stratego we turned the inspected pieces sideways, so both players can see them), many others surely do. Ideally, the game should support both. This could be done by making the human piece both-sided. On one side there'd be a small symbol, which gets hidden by the animal piece. On the other side there's a large symbol, visible even under the animal piece. Human pieces would obviously start with the small symbol on top. After inspecting a piece, players like me would turn the human piece over (so the large symbol gets visible) and the others would just have a look at the small symbol.

SLiV wrote:
ontheplus wrote:
A good way to complicate or simplify the game would be to have optional roles that both players can agree to use or not. This would be a good way to have expansion packs as well.
Yeah, I think that would work. Since most of the pieces and rules are a bit unbalanced, adding or removing one shouldn't matter that much. After all, both players start out with the same pieces and play under the same rules.

Yes, but I personally would prefer a fixed rule set, so that it's clear what the game is. Many people are capable of tuning the rules themselves if they feel the need, the others are mostly satisfied with the rules as given. Expansion packs could contain additional pieces and boards. They could be fairly small and cheap since even a single piece can change the whole game a lot.

Most probably you'll come up with many variants of the rules. Instead of providing them as alternatives, I'd try to optimize the rule set by removing everything what's nor really necessary or what's hard to understand. That said I don't mean that there are some useless or overcomplicated rules, but you may find some. I wouldn't be sorry for removing rules at all since they can easily come back with expansion pieces.

SLiV
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Fish is OP?

Maaartin wrote:
That's most probably right. But it changes the goal from "slaying the Emperor" to "slaying the Emperor or all pieces able to slay the Emperor".
True, but the goal has always been "slay the Emperor while keeping your Emperor from being slain", so the difference wouldn't be that big.

Quote:
Moreover, what about a player left with the Emperor-Fish only? It can slain any piece stupid enough to move into water...
Damn, I hadn't thought of that. Having a Fish Emperor, scouting for the Fisherman with your Strategist and killing the Fishermen would be a very solid way to success. Without an enemy Fisherman, you could just place your Fish Emperor on a Water tile and you're unbeatable.

I think the Fish might be overpowered. Perhaps it can also be slain by the General? I think I need to draw a little who-slays-who map, so I can tell if any combinations are OP.

Quote:
I could imagine a situation where the stronger player is practically incapable of killing the Emperor although he posses the needed piece.... Before I try to find an example I'd needed more exact rules, so please post the hierarchical version.
Will do. But I'd have to translate them first.

Quote:
I don't like the need to remember anything in a strategy game (when playing [Stratego](http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/1917/stratego) we turned the inspected pieces sideways, so both players can see them), many others surely do. Ideally, the game should support both. This could be done by making the human piece both-sided. On one side there'd be a small symbol, which gets hidden by the animal piece. On the other side there's a large symbol, visible even under the animal piece. Human pieces would obviously start with the small symbol on top. After inspecting a piece, players like me would turn the human piece over (so the large symbol gets visible) and the others would just have a look at the small symbol.
I'm not quite sure. I'll think about.

Quote:
Yes, but I personally would prefer a fixed rule set, so that it's clear what the game is. Many people are capable of tuning the rules themselves if they feel the need, the others are mostly satisfied with the rules as given. Expansion packs could contain additional pieces and boards. They could be fairly small and cheap since even a single piece can change the whole game a lot.

Most probably you'll come up with many variants of the rules. Instead of providing them as alternatives, I'd try to optimize the rule set by removing everything what's nor really necessary or what's hard to understand. That said I don't mean that there are some useless or overcomplicated rules, but you may find some. I wouldn't be sorry for removing rules at all since they can easily come back with expansion pieces.

Yeah, I'll definitely start with optimalising the rules, instead of thinking about variants. But it's nice to know you have options.

Maaartin
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Eat the fish :D

SLiV wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
That's most probably right. But it changes the goal from "slaying the Emperor" to "slaying the Emperor or all pieces able to slay the Emperor".
True, but the goal has always been "slay the Emperor while keeping your Emperor from being slain", so the difference wouldn't be that big.

Maybe. Maybe you'll find out that ignoring the enemy's Emperor and going for all the pieces dangerous to yours is a better strategy. :D

SLiV wrote:
Quote:
Moreover, what about a player left with the Emperor-Fish only? It can slain any piece stupid enough to move into water...
Damn, I hadn't thought of that. Having a Fish Emperor, scouting for the Fisherman with your Strategist and killing the Fishermen would be a very solid way to success. Without an enemy Fisherman, you could just place your Fish Emperor on a Water tile and you're unbeatable.

This is true, but this wasn't exactly my point. It was: Should a player left with the Fish as the only piece capable of killing the Emperor lose or not? The Fish can kill the enemy's Emperor if he's stupid enough to walk in the water... but he is not.

SLiV
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I playtested it with my father

Maaartin wrote:
This is true, but this wasn't exactly my point. It was: Should a player left with the Fish as the only piece capable of killing the Emperor lose or not? The Fish can kill the enemy's Emperor if he's stupid enough to walk in the water... but he is not.
No, I don't think he should lose. The other player can still try to kill this Fish with his Fishermen, Fish or General.

The point of the "must be able to kill the Emperor" rule is that players don't just run away all the time, stalling the game. A Fish must be in water to be effective, so the other player has plenty of opportunities to slay him.

At any rate, I've playtested it with my father (who happens to be a chess fanatic), and it worked out pretty well. Sure, the first game didn't last very long because I accidentally killed his king, but the second one lasted the better half of an hour. It was quite the strategic dance.

A small change I will make is that the Nightingale, not the Hawk, will be able to fly across enemy players. I discovered that the Hawk-Strategist was a bit too overpowered, and I think the Nightingale might enjoy the boost.

SLiV
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The current rules (download)

I've translated the rules to English, but it's still pretty much a work in progress. I'm not really familiar with the English boardgame lingo and some of the rules might be a bit off.

At any rate, the downloads:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth.docx (.docx)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth.doc (.doc)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/zonenmaankaart%202%20he... (one half of the map)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/zonenmaankaart%202%20he... (the other half)

I had cut the map in half for easy printing. It's confusingly enough called Zon en Maan, which was the games previous name.

Maaartin
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Some random comments

A trivial idea: Separate the rules into groups: movement, attack, others. This way you get more shorter lists, which makes looking anything up much easier.


You wrote "5. A piece cannot move over an opposing piece." but nothing about moving over a friendly piece.


It seems to me that some rules should be joined:

  • 13: When the Fish in Water is attacked, the attacking piece is slain.
  • 14: When the Fish attacks a piece in Water, the attacked piece is slain.

and

  • 16: When the Nightingale attacks a Dragon, the Dragon is slain.
  • 17: When the Nightingale is attacked by a Dragon, the Dragon is slain.

I'd try something like

  • ATTACK: A piece is said to be fighting another one if it attacks it or get attacked by it.

  • 13+14: Any piece fighting Fish in water is slain.

  • 16+17: Dragon fighting Nightingale is slain.

But it's a bit more complicated. Rules 10 and 13 together means that with Dragon attacking Fish in water, both get slain. Unless you specified somewhere that it cannot happen.

What about two Fish in water? Do both get slain, as follows from 13 and 14? Or does "the spirit of rule 10" apply here and the attacker wins?

If so, then I'd go for something like

  • 10a: Piece A is said to be stronger than piece B if its strength of A is greater than strength of B.
  • 13+14: Fish in Water is stronger than any other piece.
  • 16+17: Nightingale is stronger than Dragon.

I see that there's a problem with 13+14: The term "Fish in Water" is not exactly defined. I hope, everybody understands that the place of the attacked piece is relevant, but it should be stated explicitly.


The following statements are not equivalent:

  • The Monkey: Does not get slain by the Hawk or the Fish.
  • 12: When the Monkey is attacked by a Hawk or Fish, the attacking piece is slain.

There's nothing about Monkey being the attacker. Does Monkey survive when it attacks Hawk? What happens to the Hawk?


Must slain pieces show their character?


What's the difference between 27 and 29?

SLiV
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Thanks for the comments.

Maaartin wrote:
A trivial idea: Separate the rules into groups: movement, attack, others. This way you get more shorter lists, which makes looking anything up much easier.
Hmm, that might work.

Quote:
You wrote "5. A piece cannot move over an opposing piece." but nothing about moving over a friendly piece.
True. A piece can in fact move over friendly pieces.

Quote:
It seems to me that some rules should be joined:

- 13: When the Fish in Water is attacked, the attacking piece is slain.
- 14: When the Fish attacks a piece in Water, the attacked piece is slain.

and

- 16: When the Nightingale attacks a Dragon, the Dragon is slain.
- 17: When the Nightingale is attacked by a Dragon, the Dragon is slain.

I'd try something like

- ATTACK: A piece is said to be fighting another one if it attacks it or get attacked by it.

- 13+14: Any piece fighting Fish in water is slain.
- 16+17: Dragon fighting Nightingale is slain.

True. But wouldn't that be more complicated? Since with some pieces, it does matter who is attacking who.

Quote:
But it's a bit more complicated. Rules 10 and 13 together means that with Dragon attacking Fish in water, both get slain. Unless you specified somewhere that it cannot happen.

What about two Fish in water? Do both get slain, as follows from 13 and 14? Or does "the spirit of rule 10" apply here and the attacker wins?

No. In both cases, rule 14 overrules rules 1 to 13, so the fact that a Dragon is stronger than a Fish is negated because the Fish is in Water, and the fact that any piece attacking the Fish is slain, is negated by the fact that a Fish attacking any piece in water, slays that piece.

Quote:
If so, then I'd go for something like

- 10a: Piece `A` is said to be stronger than piece `B` if its strength of `A` is greater than strength of `B`.
- 13+14: Fish in Water is stronger than any other piece.
- 16+17: Nightingale is stronger than Dragon.

But saying that a Nightingale is stronger than a Dragon might imply that because the Dragon is stronger than a Tiger, the Nightingale is also stronger than a Tiger, wouldn't it?

Quote:
I see that there's a problem with 13+14: The term "Fish in Water" is not exactly defined. I hope, everybody understands that the place of the attacked piece is relevant, but it should be stated explicitly.
Yeah, it should. I mentioned it in the 'Board' section, but that leaves my definitions a bit scattered.

Quote:
The following statements are not equivalent:

- The Monkey: Does not get slain by the Hawk or the Fish.
- 12: When the Monkey is attacked by a Hawk or Fish, the attacking piece is slain.

There's nothing about Monkey being the attacker. Does Monkey survive when it attacks Hawk? What happens to the Hawk?

No, there's nothing about the Monkey being the attacker. So the 'normal' rules apply: a Monkey has strength 2 and a Hawk also has strength 2, so the Monkey can slay the Hawk when attacking.

But I agree, the "does not get slain" part is really confusing. I'm finding it hard to express that idea in clear words, without creating further confusion.

Quote:
Must slain pieces show their character?
No. I should mention that.

Quote:
What's the difference between 27 and 29?
Well, rules 28 and 29 are more or less backup rules. They state that if player A slays player B's Emperor and claims victory, but either player notices that player A's Emperor had either been slain or had moved in the Garden, then player B is victorious and not player A.

Maaartin
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Some more thoughts

IMHO the rules could be read more easily when ordered the other way round. Now, as a beginner, I need to scan them starting at the botton until I find a rule telling me what happens. It also follows the "important things first" principle.

SLiV wrote:
True. But wouldn't that be more complicated? Since with some pieces, it does matter who is attacking who.

Joining the two rules leads to one rule less to scan through. Sure, you need an additional rule defining "fighting", but such a rule is trivial to remember and never needs to be looked up. Actually, it's not a rule, it's a definition. The difference is that the definitions are listed in a separate area and needs hardly ever be read again.

SLiV wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
But it's a bit more complicated. Rules 10 and 13 together means that with Dragon attacking Fish in water, both get slain. Unless you specified somewhere that it cannot happen.

What about two Fish in water? Do both get slain, as follows from 13 and 14? Or does "the spirit of rule 10" apply here and the attacker wins?

No. In both cases, rule 14 overrules rules 1 to 13, so the fact that a Dragon is stronger than a Fish is negated because the Fish is in Water, and the fact that any piece attacking the Fish is slain, is negated by the fact that a Fish attacking any piece in water, slays that piece.

So you're assuming that only one piece can be slain, not both. This is a rule I did see nowhere.

SLiV wrote:
But saying that a Nightingale is stronger than a Dragon might imply that because the Dragon is stronger than a Tiger, the Nightingale is also stronger than a Tiger, wouldn't it?

Yes, some people would probably assume that "stronger" is a transitive relation. So another idea:

Maybe formulating the rules like

  • The piece with the higher numerical strength slays the other.
  • Fish in Water slays any other piece.
  • Nightingale slays Dragon.

Here, it's important not to intermix the above rules with others, so the exception may be found quickly.

SLiV wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
I see that there's a problem with 13+14: The term "Fish in Water" is not exactly defined. I hope, everybody understands that the place of the attacked piece is relevant, but it should be stated explicitly.
Yeah, it should. I mentioned it in the 'Board' section, but that leaves my definitions a bit scattered.

I see. In HTML you can make each occurrence of "in Water" to a link. In text you can mark the term so that it's known to be defined somewhere. Finding the definition may take some time, but nobody needs to make it more than once.

SLiV wrote:
No, there's nothing about the Monkey being the attacker. So the 'normal' rules apply: a Monkey has strength 2 and a Hawk also has strength 2, so the Monkey can slay the Hawk when attacking.

So actually, the Monkey always wins. Because one half of the rule follows from the "normal" rules, it's tempting to express only the other half. However, saying simply that "Monkey slays Hawk or Fish" makes it easier to follow, doesn't it?

SLiV wrote:
But I agree, the "does not get slain" part is really confusing. I'm finding it hard to express that idea in clear words, without creating further confusion.

There are two trivial obstacles in the formulation: Passive voice and negation. I'd go for the straightforward "A slays B".

SLiV wrote:
Well, rules 28 and 29 are more or less backup rules. They state that if player A slays player B's Emperor and claims victory, but either player notices that player A's Emperor had either been slain or had moved in the Garden, then player B is victorious and not player A.

That's fine, but the explanation is needed as you can see. Maybe I'd go for a single rule replacing 27, 28, and 29.

I wouldn't be afraid of too many rules. While 29 is a too big number, there are actually maybe 12 fight rules, 6 movement rules, etc., that's not bad at all. I'm sure you should separate them, since any beginner must look rules up several times. Such a separation makes it much easier and it also looks much simpler.

SLiV
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New version of the rules.

I've rewritten the rules. Hopefully they're a bit clearer this time round.

I have dropped the hierarchic list and added more clarification with each rule, e.g.: "The Nightingale is stronger than the Dragon, even if the Dragon is a General."

The new version (yes, the link stayed the same):
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth.docx (.docx)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth.doc (.doc)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/zonenmaankaart%202%20he... (one half of the map)
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/zonenmaankaart%202%20he... (the other half)

Maaartin
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It's better

SLiV wrote:
I've rewritten the rules. Hopefully they're a bit clearer this time round.

I think so.

SLiV wrote:
I have dropped the hierarchic list and added more clarification with each rule, e.g.: "The Nightingale is stronger than the Dragon, even if the Dragon is a General."

This seems to work better. I'll have a closer look at it later.

I'd think about dropping rules which hardly ever influence the game. A few ideas without knowing what's really going on:

  • I think that 12-a-i rarely applies, since the player simple don't move the Bodyguard into the Garden.
  • The same for 5-a, or does anybody ever need to attack own piece?

SLiV wrote:
The new version (yes, the link stayed the same):

OT: Do you use version control? I think it's a very useful tool for everybody, even when working with binary files like DOC.

SLiV
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Grand strategy.

Maaartin wrote:
- I think that 12-a-i rarely applies, since the player simple don't move the Bodyguard into the Garden.
No, that could very well happen. It happened during the second playtest.

Quote:
- The same for 5-a, or does anybody ever need to attack own piece?
I'm not quite sure, but I'd like the player to be able to, just the same.

I also purposefully allow the player to attack pieces it cannot slay (e.g. a Lotus attacking a Dragon). It's probably a waste of your pieces, but it just might be a part of your grand strategy.

Quote:
OT: Do you use version control? I think it's a very useful tool for everybody, even when working with binary files like DOC.
I use something similar. Dropbox automatically saves backups. Or do you mean I should keep track of what rules I change (e.g. moving 'can move over opposing pieces' from Hawk to Nightingale)?

Maaartin
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...

SLiV wrote:
Maaartin wrote:
- I think that 12-a-i rarely applies, since the player simple don't move the Bodyguard into the Garden.
No, that could very well happen. It happened during the second playtest.

Maybe it was just a beginner's fault? I'm no expert in the game, well, I'm not even a newbie, so I can't tell. When there'll be a few experienced player, they'll be able to say if the rule improves the game or not.

I like thinking about each rule like having a cost (proportional to its complexity) and a reward (improving the game experience). If the reward is less then the cost, I drop the rule. Obviously, both criteria are very subjective.

SLiV wrote:
Quote:
- The same for 5-a, or does anybody ever need to attack own piece?
I'm not quite sure, but I'd like the player to be able to, just the same.

We'll see.

SLiV wrote:
I also purposefully allow the player to attack pieces it cannot slay (e.g. a Lotus attacking a Dragon). It's probably a waste of your pieces, but it just might be a part of your grand strategy.

This is a different case: By allowing this you save one rule. So it's fine regardless of such a move making any sense.

SLiV wrote:
I use something similar. Dropbox automatically saves backups. Or do you mean I should keep track of what rules I change (e.g. moving 'can move over opposing pieces' from Hawk to Nightingale)?

I know about Dropbox saving backups, but it's by far not as good as VCS, which saves old versions forever and can do much more things. It's true that it gets more important when working with multiple files (what you don't) and using text files (what you don't either). Comparing the versions of text files works really well (so you can easily identify the changes rules), unless you reorder it completely (which happens quite often in the initial design stage and quite rarely later).

SLiV
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Got rid of the Fish

I've playtested it a third time with someone different, and I have decided that the game did feel too complex.

All three test opponents were having a difficult time figuring things out (and remembering all the rules during play) and, as Maaartin suggested, they more or less thought the game could do with less rules.

So I've decided to simplify a few things and cutting the amount of rules, in order to make the game easier to learn (but just as hard to master), while keeping the original base principles intact.

Most importantly, I've gotten rid of the Fish, and therefore also of the Fisherman and 'the Water'. Mostly because the Water wasn't obvious enough; people forgot they shouldn't attack a Fish if it was on a blue tile. It was also a bit weird that the colours of the tile didn't matter, except for the blue tiles. The Fisherman was nice, but without a Fish it's pretty useless; changing it wouldn't work since it would just be a weaker version of the General.

I have decided not to add a new body and character, but to simply reduce the number of bodies and characters to six. I've also removed some edges from the board. I figured having slightly less piece would make it more managable.

Secondly, I have changed the role of the Garden. Instead of making pieces inside the Garden unslayable, the Garden has now become a safe haven for the 'weaker' pieces. The Dragon, the Tiger and the Hawk are not allowed in the Garden, only the Monkey (which is now equally strong to the Tiger and the Hawk), the Nightingale and the Lotus can move to the Garden.
The Garden keeps its original intention, but prevents players from simply smacking all their Dragons and Tigers in the Garden as a forward base. As a consequence, the King is allowed in the Garden and the Bodyguard can sacrifice himself from within the Garden.

Furthermore, I've revamped the Empress. Instead of being completely passive (which kinda overlapped with the Lotus' role), the Empress is now able to move to an empty space in the Garden from any space on the board. This keeps the Empress a bit defensive, but no longer passive. Logically, a Dragon-, Tiger- or Hawk-Empress cannot do this.

All in all, I've managed to completely do without a rule hierarchy.

I've also given the (prototype) board a new look:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/kaart%20v2%20helft%20A.png
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/kaart%20v2%20helft%20B.png

I haven't gotten round to testing these changes yet, but any thoughts on these changes would be welcome.

Maaartin
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SLiV wrote:Most importantly,

SLiV wrote:
Most importantly, I've gotten rid of the Fish, and therefore also of the Fisherman and 'the Water'. Mostly because the Water wasn't obvious enough; people forgot they shouldn't attack a Fish if it was on a blue tile. It was also a bit weird that the colours of the tile didn't matter, except for the blue tiles.

There's another way: dropping all the function-less colors. But I see that having a nice board is important.

One more idea in case you want to reintroduce the Fish one day: Make all the non-water colors more similar, so that Water gets visually more distinct.

That said, I agree with the simplification making sense.

SLiV wrote:
I have decided not to add a new body and character, but to simply reduce the number of bodies and characters to six. I've also removed some edges from the board. I figured having slightly less piece would make it more managable.

Compared to Stratego with its 40 pieces per side and 12 unit types, it seems to be very small. OTOH, most unit types in Stratego differ by the strength only, while your pieces are all unique. Moreover each pieces of yours has two characters, so it may be fine.

SLiV wrote:
Secondly, I have changed the role of the Garden. Instead of making pieces inside the Garden unslayable, the Garden has now become a safe haven for the 'weaker' pieces. The Dragon, the Tiger and the Hawk are not allowed in the Garden, only the Monkey (which is now equally strong to the Tiger and the Hawk), the Nightingale and the Lotus can move to the Garden.

I like it.

SLiV wrote:
The Garden keeps its original intention, but prevents players from simply smacking all their Dragons and Tigers in the Garden as a forward base. As a consequence, the King is allowed in the Garden and the Bodyguard can sacrifice himself from within the Garden.

Simpler and better.

SLiV wrote:
All in all, I've managed to completely do without a rule hierarchy.

I haven't gotten round to testing these changes yet, but any thoughts on these changes would be welcome.

I'm looking forward to your new ruleset...

SLiV
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New rules

The last playtest worked out pretty good; my opponent made some nice tactical moves. I've been thinking of a way to write down moves for analysis, but it still feels a bit cumbersome. Also, I've translated the new rules.

Here are the downloads for the new rules:
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth%20...
http://dl.dropbox.com/u/3757149/andere%20uploads/Heaven%20and%20Earth%20...

All feedback is appreciated.

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