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Really unusual abstract game

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Anonymous

Byte is a fundamentally unique abstract game engineered for Checkers sets. No draws or ties. Highly resistant to first-move-advantage (and second-move-advantage). No jumping, capturing, racing, surrounding, in-a-rowing, or any of the usual ho-hum mechanisms.

Players cooperate in forming three stacks of eight checkers. Winner of two out of three stacks wins game.

Rules and FAQ at: http://bytegame.com

It's a short game (about 36 moves) but the game tree is gargantuan nonetheless. It makes Reversi look like Tic-Tac-Toe in comparison.

Hedge-o-Matic
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Really unusual abstract game

I love abstracts, and I'll certainly give this one a try! Your post had me worried, though, since it was a bit too much like a sales pitch, but, on visiting the link, I was pleasantly surprised to see it's freely offered.

Other plusses are the gorgeous checker set and board. Custom made, are they? Wow! Very nice.

Oh, and cool cat. Very cerebral looking.

CDRodeffer
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Really unusual abstract game

I've played a few enjoyable games of Byte over on Super Duper Games, but it can be played with only a Checkers set.

So far, long-term strategic planning has eluded me. Some players have said that it's generally important to control the mobility of towers (the bottom piece), but I can't help but believe that since the top piece ultimately decides who scores for a tower, that controlling the tops would be any less important. Unfortunately, trying to control both ends uses up so many pieces that it's then difficult to be flexible in the middle of the towers (several of your own pieces in a continuous internal stack), which is very useful when deciding where to split them when towers are combined. Balancing these three general strategic factors makes for, as Mark put it, a very broad movement tree.

But on a more tactical level, Byte is mainly about tempo, parity and position, with a bit of resource management thrown in. The game is driven forward by two requirements. First, adjacent towers must necessarily combine to form ever taller towers (to a maximum height of eight, when that tower is removed and scored), even if combining towers according to the rules is a disadvantage for the moving player. Second, non-adjacent towers must move ever closer to their nearest neighbor (there may be a choice), even if moving closer is a disadvantage for the moving player. Being able to control when a tower gets moved adjacent to another tower (tempo) requires control of the bottom pieces. Being able to control what splits and combinations will be available once any two towers become adjacent (parity) requires control of the interior of the towers.

From the beginning of the game, the movements of shorter (one- and two-piece towers) establishes the distances between the larger towers as they form (position, tempo) and their sizes and orders (parity, position). But as towers of eight are formed, scored and then removed, the relative distribution of pieces still on the board changes, which may limit the choices one player has more than those of the other (resources).

Anyway, after only a few plays, I think Byte is a good new game that takes some of the concepts from earlier column games (e.g., Bashne, Focus, Emergo) in a different direction. The rules are easy to learn, and the learning curve for tactics isn't too difficult to climb. But long-term strategy seems like a monster, at least to me.

Clark

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Really unusual abstract game

I'd agree. After a couple of games, I have to say that Byte is mostly tactical, as long-term strategizing is difficult. that said, foresight even two turns out is a powerful thing in this game.

But the width of the discision tree in a game is ot necessarily te best measure of its value as a game. While fun, I'm still puzzling out the value of the edges as opposed to the center, or the idea of splitting the central mass to force more movement for survivors. So far, it seems like there are few definate advatages to any given strategy, and I'm unsure of that indicates a deep game, or a shallow one. It's possible, of course, that the game is so deep that the players are only able to tread water at a tactical level, and so it plays shallowly.

I'd be interested to see this game played at a competitive level.

Byte is fun, though, and a valuable game to anybody at a loss of what to do with a checkers set (which is much of the world).

Anonymous
Really unusual abstract game

Thank you for your responses regarding Byte. There seems to be a widely perceived “downside” to Byte, which was touched on here. The first time you play Byte you may find it interesting or intriguing. And you might not have the tiniest inkling of strategy. But you won’t be concerned . . . yet. At two weeks you’ll be beaten by a first time player, and you’ll have to sit there and listen while they reveal their “strategy” to you.

Playing Byte is like piloting a boat that’s a little too small in seas that are a little too rough. You will have almost no control over the “direction” of play for your first couple of weeks. Beginner gameplay is eerily similar to Ouija. It takes a few weeks to develop your "sea legs" and begin to have a significant influence on the outcome of play. At three months you will dispatch newcomers handily (90% of the time).

Everyone has their own criteria for a “good game”. For me as a designer, a good game is a fair game. The first time you play or the 20,000th. No draws or ties of course, and the game must be as resistant to first-move-advantage as possible. A huge game tree doesn’t guarantee a fair game, but you can’t have a fair game without one. Uniqueness and simplicity are also design imperatives. If a game excels in all of these categories then I’ve succeeded.

Byte is about as good as it gets for me. Quadrature and Tanbo aren’t too shabby, but I think Byte has moved to the head of the class. Not everyone is going to like Byte, but I remain confident that a core group of dedicated Byte players will form.

Byte is presented as a long term investment. There will be some blunt force trauma to your ego in the beginning. In one of my writings I almost stated, “You don’t wring out Byte – Byte wrings you out.” I deleted that line because it sounded kind of mean. But I do think players are getting a little intimidated after playing me once or twice. Most of them, after some pause, have returned for additional beatings though.

Clark has correctly observed that long term strategy is a “monster”. That is the nature of Byte. It may take years for any proper strategy to develop (assuming the existence of that core group of dedicated players I mentioned).

I get into trouble when I say things like, “There is no other game like Byte.” I should temper that by disclosing my extremely limited knowledge of other games.

Moe's a bit of a ham. He has an uncanny sense for when the camera timer is due to expire, and he steps into the picture during the final second.

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