Shogi and some variants now available in Ai Ai — play against AI or online! (4/10/2021) - UPDATE (12 April): Stephen has updated Ai Ai to fix a bug with Chu Shogi’s Lion, and we also added several new variants including Goro Goro Shogi, Goro Goro Plus and Wa Shogi!  Grab the updated version here. ——- For the last few weeks, Stephen Tavener and I have been collaborating to bring Shogi and […]
Permute: Move by Move (3/13/2021) - Some time ago I introduced you all to my game, Permute — an abstract strategy game inspired by the Rubik’s Cube.  Since then, the game was implemented on Christian Freeling’s MindSports — an essential site for any fan of the genre — and in Stephen Tavener’s wonderful Ai Ai software.  Hopefully some of you may […]
A Beginner’s Guide to Hex, Part II: Sample Games (2/22/2021) - In Part I of our Beginner’s Guide to Hex, we covered some critical tactical and strategic concepts that will help you get a flying start in your journey to become a strong Hex player.  This time, we’ll look at a full game played on the 15×15 board between two strong players, so you can get […]
A Beginner’s Guide to Hex (2/15/2021) - Some time ago I talked a bit about Hex on this blog, discussing its history and how it kickstarted the entire connection game genre. Since then, a few readers have asked for a bit more detail on how to actually play Hex. So, for this post I have teamed up with Matthew Seymour, author of […]
Quick picks: interesting abstract games in brief (2/12/2021) - As some of you will be aware, as a way of keeping myself occupied during the pandemic I’ve learned how to use Adobe Illustrator to design stuff.  A particularly enjoyable, if slightly odd, area of design I’ve gotten into is designing game boards for abstract strategy board games.  I’ve had a good time getting to […]
Courier Chess, Part I: It’s like Chess, but Wider (2/8/2021) - As some of you may know, I’m a big fan of the large-board variants of Shogi, Japanese Chess.  These enormous games extend Shogi out from its normal 9×9 board with 20 pieces per player, up to Chu Shogi (12×12 with 46 pieces per player) and Dai Shogi (15×15 and 65 pieces per player), then through […]
Permute Update: Now available in Ai Ai! (10/13/2020) - Since my first post on my game Permute, there’s been a very exciting development.  Thanks to the efforts of Stephen Tavener — thank you, Stephen! — Permute is now playable in his wonderful abstract-gaming mega-package Ai Ai! Ai Ai is a fantastic, and free, collection of many dozens of excellent abstract games, all playable online […]
Permute: A Game About Twisting Things (10/4/2020) - As some of you are aware, one of my hobbies besides games is solving twisty puzzles, also known as 3D rotational puzzles.  The most famous example is the legendary 3x3x3 Rubik’s Cube, but since that set the world alight some decades ago a fascinating community of twisty-puzzle designers has emerged, producing some truly outrageous puzzles.  […]
Dai Shogi, Part II: A Sample Game (9/13/2020) - What with one thing and another, I haven’t had the time or energy to write gaming-related posts for a while, and in particular annotating very long games of large Shogi variants just seemed a bit too much to handle.  However, lately I’m in desperate need of distractions to keep positive and motivated, so it’s a […]
Symple: a game that matters (4/28/2020) - UPDATE 1 MAY 2020: Added ‘Playing Symple over the board’ section, and downloads for the Ai Ai .mgl files for large/oblong Symple boards and HexSymple. Way back in Connection Games III: Havannah and Starweb, I praised designer Christian Freeling’s games but expressed a bit of skepticism regarding his list of six ‘games that matter’: Christian […]
Dai Shogi, Part I: How to Play (4/13/2020) - Following on from my previous two posts about Chu Shogi (Part I, Part II), I plan to provide a full annotated Chu Shogi game for you.  This is still in the works, but Chu Shogi games are long, so that post will take quite a while to prepare. In the meantime, I’m going to work […]
Chu Shogi, Part II: Attack and Defence (4/9/2020) - “Despite this complexity, after playing [Chu Shogi] a few times, one begins to feel that each piece has its own personality, and that not one of the pieces could have been left out without harming the character and charm of the game.  A game as large as Chu could easily have been dull and ponderous; […]
Chu Shogi, Part I: How to Play (4/5/2020) - As some of you out there already know, I’m a huge fan of Shogi, the Japanese version of Chess, and its many variants.  Shogi is a dynamic, attacking game enjoyed by millions of players around the world, and in my view is the most exciting of the major Chess variants played today.  Chu Shogi is […]
Powerful pieces in Chess games (4/1/2020) - In preparation for writing up some detailed articles about my favourite Shogi variants in the future, I spent a bunch of my insomniac hours making Shogi diagrams in Illustrator recently.  I thought I might give these a trial run before the main event, so here’s a more off-the-cuff opinion piece of sorts, about the dominant […]
Connection Games VIII, Part I: ConHex (3/27/2020) - ConHex is a unique connection game invented by Michail Antonow in 2002.  You may remember that Hex was inspired by Piet Hein’s interest in the four-colour problem, which is related to map-colouring; ConHex makes this inspiration much more explicit. In ConHex, players compete to claim the corners of spaces on the board until they gain […]
Connection Games VII: Onyx (3/22/2020) - Today I’m going to talk about a game with a highly unique visual presentation and capture mechanism: Onyx.  I’m really fascinated by this game, which is helpful, because making all the boards and diagrams for this post took a lot of time! Onyx was published by Larry Back in the year 2000 in Abstract Games […]
Connection Games Part VI: Twixt (3/19/2020) - As promised, today we’re going to take a look at TwixT — a classic connection game designed by Alex Randolph in 1962.  Twixt (I’m giving up on the second capitalised ‘T’ because I’m just going to keep forgetting it anyway) is one of the relatively rare connection games that actually was released in physical form […]
Connection Games V: Side Stitch (3/12/2020) - We’re back looking at connection games again, and this time we’re going to cover a game invented in 2017 by Craig Duncan — Side Stitch.  Side Stitch is a game reminiscent of Star and *Star, where players must make connections between groups touching key cells along the edges of the board.  Where Side Stitch differs […]
Connection Games IV: Unlur (3/9/2020) - I promised last time to cover two of my favourite connection games, Unlur and Side Stitch , but you may notice the title of this post only mentions Unlur.  I should clarify that my plans haven’t changed as a whole, I’ve just decided to devote an entire post to Unlur instead of covering both games […]
Connection Games III: Havannah and Starweb (3/3/2020) - In keeping with Part II, today I’m going to introduce two games by one designer — Christian Freeling, who maintains an invaluable website full of his creations including versions playable in your browser.   Christian has invented a tonne of well-regarded games over the years, and he has his own opinions on the most essential ones […]
Connection Games II: Y, Poly-Y, Star and *Star (2/22/2020) - Welcome to part II of my series of posts about games, part of my mission to keep my brain busy while I’m on strike! Moving on from the last post about Hex, this time we’re going to explore a whole series of connection games, each by the same designer and each a clear progression from […]
Connection Games I: Hex (2/21/2020) - As you all have probably figured out by now, I really enjoy complicated board games — dense modern board games with tons of special components, 500-year-old Shogi variants with hundreds of pieces, all that stuff.  But I also have a great fondness for games on the other end of the scale: elegant abstract games with […]
An Introduction to Shogi (1/19/2020) - ANNOUNCEMENT:  There will be a special event at my workplace, the MRC/CSO Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, running at 5PM on 7 February 2020.  Dr Shuzo Sakata of the University of Strathclyde, Shogi player and teacher, will be showing us all how to play Shogi!  Sets will be provided — please RSVP to me […]
Chess Engine Update: Endgame Tablebases (2/11/2019) - In the background, while tons of work stuff has been happening, I’ve been continuing my mission to write a fully-featured computer chess engine in the C programming language.  My engine is named SpaceDog, in honour of my dog Laika, who is from space. Work on SpaceDog has been proceeding well, with lots of additions to […]
(Re-)Learning C Via Computer Chess (10/14/2018) - In recent months I haven’t had much time to do a lot of programming, what with the demands of my work. One thing I’d been meaning to do, whether it factors into my research directly or not, was to re-acquaint myself with the C programming language. I used it way back in the day, but […]
The Game of Go (8/27/2018) - I’ve been off work for a couple of weeks now, and rather than going on holiday I’ve mainly been trying to rest up after several months of really intense work.  As part of my attempted recuperation I’ve been playing a lot of the board game Go, a game I have a tremendous fondness for but […]
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