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  • Writer's pictureDavid Knell

In Search of a New Kind of Board Game

Updated: Dec 12, 2022

In the previous post, I mentioned my love of the ancient board game Go. People often compare it to chess, and while they are not all that similar, what they do have in common is they are both abstract strategy games.

An abstract strategy game is one that has no theming (like Settlers of Catan or Monopoly) and is based on will rather than chance (like any game with dice or a shuffled deck of cards). Checkers is another example. 

I didn't grow up playing chess more than two dozen times. And I didn't discover Go until my thirties. The games I played most through my teenage years were realtime strategy games. 

Realtime strategy games, or RTSs, are computer games that simulate a battle and all players play at the same time rather than taking turns (like Civilization). At our house we had Warcraft II, Age of Empires, Homeworld, and a few others. 

I'm not good at any of these games, but I enjoy playing them. RTSs simulate growth with a goal to employ that growth towards a purpose (defeat an opponent). Attract strategy games, I read somewhere I can't remember, are a series of puzzles that each player presents to his or her opponent to solve. 

I would love to find or create an abstract strategy board game that has piece mechanics similar to a real-time strategy simulated battle. A game with a large field of play like Go but where pieces move across the board like units in Age of Empires, turn by turn like in chess. And I'd love to see formation mechanics like in Homeworld and Go where the shape of a group of pieces affects how the pieces interact with each other and with opponent pieces. 

For example, groups of pieces can move faster across the board than individual pieces. Asingle piece can move one space or three adjacent pieces can move three spaces all together. But the way to attack an opponent is to move a piece into an opponent piece, killing it and all pieces adjacent to it (including your own). So clustering pieces together makes them faster but more vulnerable; spreading pieces apart makes them less attractive targets but slower. And a speedy attack on an opponent cluster can take them by surprise but will also result in at least two casualties of your own, requiring you to be strategic about the shape of your clusters, in other words, formations. 

For Christmas last year, my wife bought me a goban (Go board). But so intrigued by this challenge of creating a realtime strategy game that feels like a physical turn-based RTS, I spent hours that morning experimenting. 

So if you know of an abstract strategy game where pieces move across the board as in a battle or where formations are a core game mechanic, please let me know!

​Thanks for reading. 

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