Readers may have noticed my obsession with connection games this year, culminating in me voluntarily playing Ticket to Ride last night. The more I know about games the more I have to admit that Ticket to Ride is a sweet design and a perfectly decent game. I lost to Scrabblette, by the way. Anyway, that's not the point of this article. The point is that my obsession comes from reading a book called Connection Games by Cameron Browne. That book was probably one of the defining characteristics of my 2007 gaming year.
Somehow late one night I looked up Cameron Browne on the internet and discovered that he was actually a Ph.D. student at the Queensland University of Technology (sound of jaw dropping here) which is the same university that Scrabblette is a student at. And he's in the same faculty. In stunned amazement I stalked him a little further, only to discover that he currently lives overseas and is finishing his Ph.D. remotely. But, it was amazing to find that the author of such a good book used to live in Brisbane, and with a slight twist of fate we would have met years ago.
Anyway, I contacted him by email and just over a week ago Scrabblette and I attended his final seminar for his Ph.D. I sort of assumed his research was on Hex but it was actually on computer generation of (what BGG calls) abstract strategy games. He implemented a rule description language, an algorithm to combine games using a genetic algorithm, and some automatic criteria to judge the goodness of the games. He then generated some games and tested them with real people and with the automatic criteria. The correlation between those results told him which of the automatic criteria corresponded to what people wanted in a game. He then generated some more games. In his seminar he present 4 games generated by Ludi, his computer program.
The games sounded pretty decent to me (in a Hex / Go / Connect 4 sort of way), so I emailed him asking for the rules. So now I present Yavalath and Teiglith, by Ludi and Cameron Browne.
For two players. The board starts empty. Players take turns adding a piece of their colour to an empty cell. A player wins if they make 4-in-a-row of their colour, but lose if they make 3-in-a-row of their colour without also making 4-in-a-row.
For two players. The board starts with a White piece on each edge cell. Players take turns moving a piece to a connected cell (diagonals are not connected). The destination cell need not be empty; pieces may stack. The first player who cannot move wins.
(I think there's a rule that you can't unstack pieces, and presumably that you can't move stacks.)
I'll see if I can get someone to play Yavalath with me. Let me know if you try it.