Life, One Step at a Time

Gamedev is having a board game contest next Tuesday. This had me excited enough to come up with a new board game, before the contest (so I can’t use it for the contest, because you’re supposed to come up with one on the spot!). The constraints for the contest are: has to be played on a Go board with Go stones, and cannot have more than 5 rules (which is tough to measure, but essentially it should be simple). It’s an exercise in emergent complexity.

When you think about a grid and emergent complexity, what comes to mind? That’s right, Conway’s Life. Here’s my board game based on it:

The initial board state is two π heptominos, facing each other and offset by one, like so:

 x x
 x x

o o
o o

Don’t let the picture fool you, the board is bigger than that. I think 19 (standard Go board) is a good width. “o” can also go past the line at its back, but if “x” makes it there, then “x” wins (and vice versa, of couse).

On each player’s turn, he may add or remove a white or black piece (there is no restriction that the white player may only add or remove white pieces) according to the rules of Conway’s life:

  1. If an existing stone has fewer than two or more than three similarly colored neighbors, it may be removed.
  2. If an empty space has exactly three similarly-colored neighbors, then a stone of the same color may be added.
  3. If a piece has exactly three oppositely-colored neighbors, then it may be replaced by the opposite color, and it is considered to be “captured”. For example, if you had a board like this:

    Then an “o” may be placed (by either player, but it’s obvious who would want to do it) and replace the left “x”, which gives the “o” player a capture. If this is done 5 times, then the “o” player wins.

Winning conditions are twofold: if you reach the opposite edge of the board (which we’ll say is the farthest point of the initial setup (the dashed lines in the first example)), then you win. Or if you succeed in capturing five pieces, you win.

And, the killer sixth rule which is a necessity: the ko rule. The board may never return to a previous state.

I was originally going to call it Conway’s God, because it’s life that you are “playing god” over. But Jude asked what we were playing, and Namaste said “Life, one step at a time”, so that is the official name now :-). It can be shortened to Losat if you wish.

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