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January 19, 2013 10:47 PM   Subscribe

In November 2007, a new board game called Yavalath was invented. The rules of Yavalath are simple: Players take turns adding a piece of their colour to a hexagonal board and win by making four-in-a-row of their colour – but lose by making three-in-a-row beforehand. Yavalath has proven reasonably popular as its simple rules allow interesting and surprising situations to develop due to its innovative win with four but lose with three winning condition. But Yavalath is really set apart from the many other board games invented in 2007 by one remarkable fact: Yavalath was designed by a computer programme.

The article is written by Cameron Browne, the creator of the software which generated the game. Details of Ludi can be found in the PhD thesis [PDF] it was designed to investigate.
posted by rollick (20 comments total) 54 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow. This is so cool!
posted by ORthey at 11:21 PM on January 19, 2013


Agreed, coolness certified.
posted by JHarris at 11:27 PM on January 19, 2013


I'm curious what the other results of the program were, now.
posted by DoctorFedora at 12:01 AM on January 20, 2013


All other programs designed were hypothetical thermonuclear war games where there were no human survivors and you then built a robot utopia. Who knew.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 12:21 AM on January 20, 2013 [6 favorites]


It looks almost overly simple in regards to winning. Make a 3-piece touching triangle, and you've essentially done the same as "win either way" in tic-tac-toe. Hm..
posted by mafted jacksie at 1:15 AM on January 20, 2013


It looks almost overly simple in regards to winning. Make a 3-piece touching triangle, and you've essentially done the same as "win either way" in tic-tac-toe. Hm..

How do you figure? Two adjacent pieces doesn't threaten victory; two adjacent pieces with a third piece a hex away from them threatens victory. Sure, the 3-piece touching triangle six total places where such a structure is one turn away from existing, but the opponent gets to block it each time.
posted by jsnlxndrlv at 1:41 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


This game has famously been played and enjoyed by The Ramones and Blondie, among others.
posted by Anything at 1:55 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Hey, Anything, this ain't no party, this ain't no disco.
posted by hattifattener at 2:09 AM on January 20, 2013


A strange game. The only winning move is to connect four.
posted by panaceanot at 2:53 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Silly jokes aside, I would indeed be quite curious to read a summary of the method used to machine-rate the expected interestingness of the games that are generated.
posted by Anything at 4:20 AM on January 20, 2013 [3 favorites]


mafted jacksie: "It looks almost overly simple in regards to winning. Make a 3-piece touching triangle, and you've essentially done the same as "win either way" in tic-tac-toe. Hm.."
You might want to read the article, which discusses triangles. A 3-piece touching triangle is indeed strong, but not a guaranteed win.
posted by brokkr at 4:54 AM on January 20, 2013


The name "Yavalath" was randomly created from a list of Tolkien-style word forms by a Markovian process.

Dude, your nerd cred was already established when you built an AI that designed a game, this is just gilding the lily.
posted by BrotherCaine at 4:57 AM on January 20, 2013 [22 favorites]


I love the title joke.

There's a joke to be made about Eurogames' disconnect from their themes, their general wonkiness, and the resulting feeling that they were made by computers, but my wit's not working today.
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 7:33 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


More on Cameron Browne: home page (with framed links to his CV, other games) and his BoardGameGeek profile.
posted by Nelson at 8:13 AM on January 20, 2013


On making a triangle: it is a strong position, strong enough that the second-player-switches-places rule was put in specifically to counter the ease with which player one can make a wide-open triangle if he plays near the middle of the board. Because the real power of the triangle is that it's unbounded on all sides. The closer it is to the edge the less powerful it becomes, because there's fewer potential winning sequences to be made.
posted by JHarris at 1:42 PM on January 20, 2013


BTW, I'm wondering if it's possible for a player to pass a move if he wants? Because although unlikely, I can see the possibility of a board filling up, making it impossible for a four-in-a-row to be made, but not a three-in-a-row, and so the game becomes both sides trying not to make a sequence.
posted by JHarris at 1:44 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


Is there an iOS or web playable version?
posted by odinsdream at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2013


Is there an iOS or web playable version?

Yeah right, that would require an AI smart enough to figure out how the hell Objective C or Javascript work.
posted by Jimbob at 5:56 PM on January 20, 2013


Hex paper PDF generators are available if anyone needs to print a board. The default settings will give you room for a 5x5x5 board, but change the hex size to .4 inches for the 6x6x6 variant.
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:17 PM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]


JHarris: "BTW, I'm wondering if it's possible for a player to pass a move if he wants? Because although unlikely, I can see the possibility of a board filling up, making it impossible for a four-in-a-row to be made, but not a three-in-a-row, and so the game becomes both sides trying not to make a sequence."
No. The article (also) deals with this. As far as I can tell, it is more common to win by forcing your opponent to make 3-in-a-row than by making 4-in-a-row yourself.
posted by brokkr at 1:05 AM on January 21, 2013


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