Looney Labs Icehouse Mailing list Archive

[Icehouse] Re: Ice Age Question

  • FromDavid Artman <david@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • DateThu, 07 Dec 2006 13:36:34 -0700
> However, if you've found a relatively simple unbeatable strategy for one side or the other, 

It works something like this (ASCII art, whooboy...):
. = empty square
M = Mastodon
H = Hunter
Y = Youngling

First, the Mastodon player almost has to stick to an edge. I can't prove this without a HUGE e-mail, but it's sort of intuitive: being at the edge means there are only five adjacent squares instead of eight; and herding can reduce that to three or even less. So I will arbitrarily place them on the top edge, then show the distribution of Cavemen that pretty much seals the deal:
2 .Y.Y.
3 H.Y.H
4 Y.H.Y
5 .H.H.

Notice how the two front Younglings (2b and 2d) effectively "pin" the whole herd? Any Mastodon that goes down to kill any Caveman will be immediately surrounded, as one step from the back ranks (3 - 5) will make for three Cavemen adjacent to the roaming Mastodon. The Hunter at 4c ensures that the corner Mastodons stay polite; and the 5b and 5d Hunters are the last line: they will kill nearly any Mastodon that moves off rank 2.

If the Cavemn go first, they will begin to pick apart the herd, starting with the center Mastodon (1c). Once the Cavemen have a single Mastodon, without losing more than a Hunter and a Youngling, the Mastodon loss becomes inevitable, as it becomes trivial to get to 12 points (4 Mastodons).

if the Mastodons go first, the one that sallies forth is doomed, and a quick swoop in from the back ranks (4c, 5b, and 5d) exploits the new adjaceny square that the Mastodon vacates on rank 1.

> If the problem does exist, we should both see if there is another, perhaps simpler fix.
> e.g. Is there a way to modify the Cavemen's moves to limit them a little more.
> For instance, what if a Hunter (a medium) can move only 1 diagonally but 2 orthogonally?

That doesn't matter: see the above again. Most of the "killing moves" for the Cavemen are either 2 space orthogonal run-ups or diagonal one-steps (which I consider non-run-ups and which was what seemed to be the real rub: all these Cavemen, each able to control eight or sixteen squares).

Further, I think changing the movement rules to make for a non-intuitive Hunter move isn't the best plan: teaching someone "these can move two in any direction" is a lot easier than "two orthognally but only one diagonally". And it's just not as elegant, to me: the piece pips show you what they can do; why introduce a hard-to-remember inconsistency? (Yes, I realize that the Mastodons can move up to four, which goes against this point, but that exception is easy to teach: "it's a Queen in chess.")

More likely, for a truly simple solution, we might reduce the numbers of Cavemen or to let the Mastodons move diagonally (which eliminates an existent inconsistency in the rules). There's a balancing act to do there, but that's a way in.

> What if the Mastadons move first?

They die faster. For the Mastodons, movement usually means leaving a herd (assuming the player is smart enough to setup in herd(s)). Once one is out of the herd, in that sort of "staggered grid" formation of Cavemen, a one-step hop-around will usually snag it. And, as above, trading a three-point Mastodon for a one- or two-point Caveman is a death spiral.

> Neither one of these would increase the complexity of the rules by adding a new rule or restriction
> they merely change an existing rule "in-place".  Of course, if no simple rule change fixes the problem,
> then we may have to fall back on adding that "running start" rule/restriction.

I am open to suggestions, sure; and it's your game. If you can find a simple fix, go for it. I feel I have found the simplest one already, which seems to balance play, and so I have less motivation to keep searching. ;-)

Heck, maybe we can fix it with some fiddly stuff, like "The Cavemen player may not move the same Caveman on two consecutive turns" or "A Youngling can not be the one to move to capture; only a Hunter can make a capturing move, though the Younglings count for adjacency to add up to 3 or 4 Cavemen."

But I would stear clear of rules that make a piece move X in one direction but Y in another.

> On a side note: notice that since this is a single stash game, color doesn't matter, and therefore 
> it can played with a Treehouse set and a Volcano board.  Sweet.

Oh, yes, it can. You will be hearing more from me about this soon, if we can fix the apparent problem with the game)....

Thanks for being out there to help;
David Artman

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