Monday, July 8, 2019

I fail at Abstract classification

I have this really silly tendency to divide abstracts up into putting pieces on the board and moving pieces on the board. 

Which is nonsense as a taxonomy. Not only are there abstracts where you do both, like Hive (or ZERTZ or Amazons or Six or YINSH or...), there are games where neither term really fits. The Mancala family really doesn’t fit the concept of moving pieces on a board, for instance. It’s its own thing. And an abstract like Zendo is completely off the grid.

I think the reason I tend to do this is because I have found that I like putting stones down more than moving stones. I admire Chess but I don’t really have any desire to play it. I admire Go and I do want to play it more. There’s a number of reasons but putting stones down is just more satisfying for me.

I don’t think it’s the biggest reason anymore but this tendency started for me because putting stones down also acts as a timer. You know the maximum number of moves in a game. Someone once wrote Othello was a great game for kids before bedtime since it had a predictable time frame.

However, stones on the board also lets you see the history of the game at a glance. For me at least, it’s a lot easier to read. It also makes it easier, at least for me, to feel the tempo of a game and to have a strong sense of what stage the game is at. 

And for me, it feels less likely for a stones on the board game to stall out. Stale mates in Chess just make me feel depressed. 

Atlantean, one of Knizia’s more minor games, has stayed in my collection in part because there’s a maximum of eleven moves per player. (Variable opening set-up that’s under the player’s control also helps) When I want a quiet, thoughtful abstract that will take ten, fifteen minutes, it’s one I consider. 

And, while I consider it to be one of the weaker Pyramid games, I still occasionally play Branches and Twigs and Thorns because being a stones on the board game on a very small board turns it into a knife fight in a telephone booth very quickly. Mind you, the first few moves tend to determine the game but it’s so fast that the rest of the moves don’t take very long.

But I’m not just saying I like stones on the board because I can play some quick games. Go, the ur-example, is a longer game but you get to see the board develop and it becomes so wonderfully complex. The history of the play is there for you to see, even at my pathetically limited understanding of Go. It’s a living tapestry, which is a great turn of phrase even if it is too pretentious for words.

For me, I find myself using stones on the board as a category because I find that mechanic an act of meditation and creation as well as competition.

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