Anchor

This one is my favorite. (I hope to make a nice wooden board for it at some point, to go with some glass Go stones and wooden Go bowls that I have.) It was presented by Kerry Handscomb in Issue 5 of Abstract Games, in the article "Redefining Life and Death." The title sounds dramatic, but it just means that the issue of territory is decided differently in Anchor than it is in Go. Instead of occupying liberties to capture opposing groups, you try to prevent your opponent from connecting his groups to two non-adjacent edges of the board, or to two adjacent edges that meet at a "home corner." As Kerry observed, the designation of alternating home-and-away corners balances the struggle for territory, as well as adding to the game's strategic interest.

Note: There is a very similar game called HexGo, which was independently invented by Greg van Patten. As with Anchor, the themes of connection and territory are combined on a hexagonal board. Greg's website providing the rules for HexGo is not currently active, but you can e-mail him for information (vanpag@mail.alum.rpi.edu).

A word on the issue of symmetry: If the pie rule is not being used in a game of Anchor, the first player can guarantee a draw by playing his first stone on the center point and thereafter mirroring his opponent. To fix this problem I've included a rule which forbids ten or more consecutive symmetric plays. (I've gone ahead and included this rule in all my games, just for the sake of completeness.) The rule is crude yet effective. A more elegant solution to the problem is the one used by Ea Ea for his game Star --- alternating sides are different in length by one unit. I considered doing the same thing for Anchor but decided against it for aesthetic reasons. It turns out that the issue of symmetric play --- and of the power of symmetry-breaking plays --- is fundamental to the realm of abstract games. Some examples: In the game of Go, the mirroring issue is resolved through capture --- one player makes a capture which cannot be symmetrically reciprocated, because one or more stones required to make the capture are no longer on the board. In the game of Y, the mirroring issue is resolved by the shape of the board itself, there is no need for capture. The triangular playing area ensures that any existing symmetrical conditions can be broken at a higher level. The winner of a Y game is in fact the player who breaks symmetry on the highest level (the n level, where n is the number of points/cells per side of the board). He does this by winning two out of the three n-1 games inside it. BTW Y (of which Hex is a special case) is in my opinion the world's single most beautiful game.

homepage | Trellis | Orbit