Different strategy with new rule? Catchup

21 replies. Last post: 2017-10-22

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Different strategy with new rule?
  • Rex Moore ★ at 2015-06-08

    I’m curious if people are playing differently because of the new rule (which gives your opponent 3 stones not only for increasing the largest group, but for moving into a tie for the largest group as well).

     I haven’t found it hard to get used to, and it seems to me to be a positive change (so far, anyway). 

  • blueblimp at 2015-06-09

    The biggest specific difference is that matching a first connection with groups of equal size no longer makes much sense, while it was probably optimal play in many case under the old rules. For example, it was common before to respond to making two groups of 3 with three of your own groups of 3, and now I think you want to connect bigger. I like this change to the game, because matching at equal size usually leads to not having much of a midgame, which is the most fun part. Maybe responding with size-2 groups is sometimes correct too, now.

    It’s harder to play a light style (catchup receiving) than before, because your groups can’t be as big. The style still seems to work sometimes though, but the tactics need more cleverness. In the new rules, I find myself playing a variety of light and heavy (catchup giving) depending on the situation, unlike the old rules where light play was almost always best. This is also a nice improvement to the game.

  • jugular at 2016-03-03

    Has the game sped up since the new rule? I think because of the weakening of light play (as blueblimp calls it) we have more catchups and the board fills more quickly. I wonder when it will be worth expanding the board?

  • Florian Jamain at 2016-03-03

    I don’t understand this rule.

    It means that if you are the second player after your 1st move of course you tie the largest group constituted by one stone and so you give him 3 stones ?

    Or it is only for groups of at least two stones ? And then even the rules of the game are not nice, with stupid particularities. The previous rule seems more “beautiful” but maybe it is more interesting now.

  • Rex Moore ★ at 2016-03-03

    It’s an interesting question, jugular. I personally resist calls for bigger boards in various games just because it seems like it would provide... what? More strategy/tactics? Some think bigger is always better. Usually I’m not convinced. I think a board should be just large enough, and no larger. But at least you’re citing a reason here.

    I do think Catchup would be quite a different game on a larger board. A lot of the strategy now involves establishing a sort of “coast line” that the opponent has to limit, and the edge of the board is a critical limiting factor. Another row there might make the game feel less “tight” and balanced. Then again, it might open up new strategies that increase enjoyment! I’ll bet Nick (the designer) has tested it out.

    As for your question, has the game sped up? The more boring opening phase has become more interesting and finishes up earlier, I’d say. 

  • morphles at 2016-03-04

    Just a minor not not particularly related to catchum, but to board size. In my opinion as board size increases importance of “strategy” over “tactics” increases, and on decreasing size revese is true.

    Though for certain games I’m not sure how much distinction there is. I have played quite some copolymer on some other site, and for example in that game it seems that it is always just tactics no matter what (and I atribute this to why I kinda suck at it), possibly catchum can be (and to me seems to be) similar kind of game, where tactics very strongly dominate strategy. So size increase is unlikely to “enhance game much”, maybe...

  • Richard Moxham at 2016-03-04

    It’s strange, though, how people tend to write as if tactics/strategy were a dichotomy, whereas in fact that’s a category error.  It reminds me (once a literature teacher, always one, I’m afraid) of the humour/seriousness thing, which is misunderstood with similar frequency.  (Consider Tom Stoppard’s side-splitting play Every Good Boy Deserves Favour, about the confinement of political dissidents in psychiatric hospitals.)  But it’s true that tactics (which are local effects) will exert more influence on a smaller board, where the locality constitutes a greater proportion of the whole.

  • christian freeling ★ at 2016-03-04

    I agree, though morphies has a point too: some games are more dominated by tactics than others.  To name two games at either side ofthe spectrum: Hex is all deep strategy because there isn’t any locality. Emergo has a very simple strategy but mindboggling tactics to serve it.

  • jugular at 2016-03-05

    There is no locality in Hex? I don’t get that bit Christian.

    More on topic. To check the game length question; is there a way to mine data on LittleGolem?

  • Richard Moxham at 2016-03-05

    I think Christian and I must have been making different uses of the word local.  Certainly I can’t see how any spatial field could exist to which the concept of locality wouldn’t apply.

  • christian freeling ★ at 2016-03-05

    In Hex, if we’re talking about a balanced game between seasoned players, every placement is made with just one goal: making the connection. If you fail your opponent has implicitly succeeded. In Go there are different areas and different fronts. They all interact, for sure, and prioritising is essential, but given a certain area of conflict, placements may have a strictly local character. Sure, the group thus saved or the territory thus gained counts in the end result, but it isn’t necessarily decisive. That’s why in Go local conflict may be just that. In Hex conflict is never ‘local’ because you can’t win locally – you only can win or lose.

    In a trivial sense one may entertain the idea of locality in Hex. Sure, every stone has its immediate surroundings. 

  • Richard Moxham at 2016-03-05

    Well, I’ve never played Hex in my life, but can’t it happen that you get the better of an exchange in a given region of the board, by virtue which you force your opponent into a situation disadvantageous to him – for instance, having to go a longer way round?  If so, then that’s local.  And in what sense, exactly, is it trivial?

  • Rex Moore ★ at 2016-03-05

    (Completely an aside: Richard, why have you never tried Hex?)

  • Richard Moxham at 2016-03-05

    (Same reason I’ve never played a game of ... well, name pretty much anything else.  Because, although I’m fascinated by abstract games and regard them as a very important art-form, I don’t have the sort of brain which is good at playing them – and I dislike doing things I’m no good at.)

  • Rex Moore ★ at 2016-03-05

    Wait, I don’t understand. You design abstract games, but you dislike playing them?

    I’d think if you’re fascinated by them, you would at least try the quintessential ones like Hex, Go, Chess... etc.

    For Hex, I’m fascinated enough by the designer (John Nash, and actually how he and Piet Hein independently came up with the same game), and how it’s so damned simple (just connect two sides) yet so hard to grasp.

    For many games with such rich history on their sides, I definitely want to try them out even if I think I won’t like them. At least once. :)

  • Rex Moore ★ at 2016-03-05

    P.S. Like Arimaa, for instance. I read about it and looked through the tutorial. I’m really resisting playing it because it doesn’t look fun to me. But it has drawn raves from many people I respect and has a reputation for being a great design, and I know I’m going to give it a fair chance sometime soon.

  • Richard Moxham at 2016-03-06

    Rex, this threatens to derail the thread completely, but I guess I’ll take the risk, firstly because it doesn’t look like anyone has much more to say for the moment on the specific Catchup question (of which, in any case, you were the OP J ), and secondly because – although self-analysis in public is bad manners and bad taste – I think you’re touching on general issues which may not be wholly without interest.

    I did quite a bit of acting at school and some at university, but as soon as I was mature enough to take a clear look at myself I realized I was actually rubbish. Arriving at that conclusion, I immediately stopped being in plays.  Directingthem, on the other hand, was something I not only enjoyed but felt I also had some kind of aptitude for.  So ever since I’ve concentrated on that instead.  There’s nothing terribly unusual there, and certainly no inherent contradiction.  Plenty of cases exist of successful sports coaches, for example, who either never played themselves or (more commonly) were no better than mediocre when they did.

    And the same goes for abstract games.  Christian Freeling is a classic instance of the preternaturally gifted designer who seems much less interested in playing and is recurrently at pains to emphasise that he doesn’t regard himself as playing well.  Apart possibly from Draughts/Checkers (a family which occupies a special place in Dutch culture), I think the games he plays are largely his own, which isn’t – as it might seem – egotism, but a perfectly understandable desire for deeper insight into his own creations.  Without in any sense seeking to compare myself to Christian, I might add that in the same way I almost never, and I think for the same reason, play anything except Morelli and The Summer-House Floor – for which, incidentally, I found myself taken to task by a certain LG player who appeared to consider it (that phrase again) bad manners.  Christian and I played Morelli together a few times after he was kind enough to have it implemented on his Mindsports site, but I don’t think he enjoyed it all that much; reciprocally, I played several games of Emergo with him, which was salutary for me because I was able to see how perfect a game it was while simultaneously hating the way my ineptitude made the playing of it such a joyless experience.  Even in the case of Morelli – of which, mainly because of its small player base, I’m still one of the more knowledgeable exponents – my ideal is to see it fully exploited by third parties with the appropriate talent.  As I remarked to Christian, a Morelli match between Carlsberg and Marijuana would do me just fine.

    Anyway (to get back to the point), playtesting is not necessarily a prerequisite for developing a game, and neither is playing them a prerequisite for appreciating the games of others.  The moment the board format and movement rules for Morelli came into my head I knew how well it would work, and the same was true when I read a description of Amazons on BGG.

     Finally, I’d just like to say that I don’t “design abstract games” (Habitual Present Tense).  What I do is make things that I’ll call ‘intellectual artefacts’ of various kinds, and because I consider abstracts games to be systems of great beauty they were on my tick-list.  Now that I’ve made two which work very well, I might conceivably try for a third sometime, but I’m sure that would be it.  There are too many other projects, and so little time. 

    PS: Was I right about locality in Hex?

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  • blueblimp at 2016-03-07

    I’m not a strong Hex player but I don’t know how else I would describe edge templates and ladder escapes except as tactics.

  • Carroll at 2016-03-07

    On the local vs global or tactics vs strategy problem, here is my 2 cents.

    When we say local tactics, I think what we mean is that there will be some immediate advantage coming from the local fight which is somewhat isolated from the rest ob the board.


    This is the case in chess when you win a piece, or in a certain extent in Go when you kill a group.

    So why isn’t a ladder escape in hex a local advantage? Because it changes the whole board structure and puts some pressure even when it will not be directly used during the game. Every stone is connected to the fabric of the game. This may be also true in Go where stones have both a local and a global influence (in space and time).

    In this sense I think that Morelli is a more strategical game than tactical as each move changes the global structure of the board, this makes it a very difficult game when you don’t feel all the factors included in the influence.

  • morphles at 2016-03-07

    Some more of my takes.

    In hex you can try to play localy, but I would say that is very bad Problem is you can not really make up “local”/sub goals in hex. if you miss one step, fail one local fight, you are done for. You can try to fool your opponent though, trying to move attention from certain connection paths to others, and trying to lure them into certain local plays. But if he falls for that, well he misses on strategy :). As said previously you have to take into account everything. Though I would rather call hex all tactics, even if very involced and largish scale.

    In my view strategy vs tacits is more a question of “goal subdivision”. In hex there is none, so it is indivisable, ergo it is all tactics.  Now looking say at havannah, you have strategyc options. You can can choose to make fork, and hope if works, you can try tricking opponent and going for “Stealth ring” (or even bridge). Point is you can have viable different goals, likely chaning during game. (while again, on hex realistically there is no such thing). In this sense possibly catchup has some strategy to it. As you have to often consider when/how/if you wan’t to merge your groups. While still doing local/tactical play around each group. Also you are looking at which paths of connection you want to block or secure.

  • NickBentley at 2017-10-22

    Nick the designer here. I’m not a regular here so I’m waaay late to this discussion. 

    "Sure, the group thus saved or the territory thus gained counts in the end result, but it isn’t necessarily decisive. That’s why in Go local conflict may be just that. In Hex conflict is never ‘local’ because you can’t win locally – you only can win or lose."

    It’s worth noting Catchup is the same as Hex in this regard:

    "If you fail your opponent has implicitly succeeded."

    Catchup has the same property. There can be only one winner and achieving the winning condition is identical to preventing your opponent from achieving that winning condition. Ultimately, the game must be played globally (regardless of board size). Begin aware of this will make you a better player. It’s harder to get into that mindset for Catchup than it is for Hex (for me anyway). 

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