The Crossroads Challenge Week 1, Day 3

Challenge: Make a thousand year game.This Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons image is from the user Zereshk and is freely available at http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Shatranj.jpg#

Yesterday I looked at a bunch of thousand year games to get a feel for what might actually last a thousand years and I came up with a few criteria for what I think my game should be:

1) It should be abstract. Although a little flavor would be ok, it seems like the more abstract the better. This helps dislodge the game from this specific time period and won't limit the games appeal for the next few hundred years.

2) It should have simple rules. By simple I mean that they should be easy to communicate and few in number. I don't mean that the game itself should be simplistic. Go has about 9 rules (depending on who you ask and who is playing) and you can spend your entire life learning new things about it. 

3) It should be easy to reproduce. If it is going to last for one thousand years, it should depend on as little technology as possible. Who knows what the world will be like in the year 3012? We could be all one great machine mind (thanks singularity!) or back to subsistence farming due to the decline of a future super-empire or something that is so far out that we can't conceive of it. If you could use items that you could find anywhere, machine minds and farmers alike could still play the game.

I settled on a token-based, abstract, positional, strategy game (like go or chess). I like this because it fulfills all of my criteria. I'm not going to use dice or cards because they are both pretty difficult to make. A simple grid for a board makes it so that we can explain the board layout very easily. Tokens make it so that you can use just about anything as pieces. Good so far.

I also want the game to be for two players. That is kind of the minimum number of people required to play a game like this and it also makes it so you don't have to find any more than two people. As anyone who plays board games on a regular basis can tell you, finding a third person to play a board game consistently can be a pain (stupid trading based euro-games, always needing at least three people). Heck, there might only be two people left in a thousand years. If there is only one, there is always solitaire.

After taking all of these things into consideration, here is what I came up with:

1) The game takes place on a 9x9 grid. You also need 15 tokens in four different colors. Let's go with red, blue, green, and yellow.

2) Each corner is the source for one of the colors of tokens. Going clockwise around the board, place a red token in one corner, then a blue token in the next, then a yellow token in the next, and finally a green token in the last corner.

3) Each player controls 2 colors. One player will control red and yellow, while the other controls blue and green.

4)When you place a token on the board, it must be adjacent (on a side, not diagonal) to a token that is connected to that colors source. A token is connected to the source if it is part of an unbroken chain of tokens that lead back to the source. 

5) Play moves around the board clockwise. Each color has a discrete turn, so each player gets 2 turns per round. During a turn, a player has 2 action points that they can spend. Placing a token costs 1 point. Capturing an opponents token that is connected to the source costs 2 points, while capturing an opponents token that is not connected to the source costs 1 point. 

6) The game ends when any color runs out of tokens.

Scoring: Every token connected to the source is worth 2 points. Every token not connected to the source is only worth one. The token to occupy the center space is worth 10 points. Every space that is completely surrounded by tokens of a single color and/or a wall is worth 1 point to that color. Add up the points for both colors that each player controls and the highest score wins.

I think that I have a skeleton that I like. There are several tweaks that I want to make in the coming days, but it is a start. Now to play it with someone besides myself...