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It's 3:20am Mongolia time. I just played 100 games of size 4 Dodo on Ludii - AI vs AI. Or, more specifically, MC-GRAVE vs MC-GRAVE with 1 second thinking time. This AI level is approximately equivalent to a very smart person with a little Dodo experience, or a reasonably smart person with a lot of experience.

The result was Player 1 [48], Player 2 [52] - statistically consistent with an extremely robust game having no discernable turn order advantage.

A few days ago I ran tests of insufficient length, and surmised a strong second move advantage in Dodo. I wondered, How can a game with such a large game tree, with such a wide array of moves per game, and virtually infinite ways of playing out, have this mysterious, magical, pervasive, indsidious, strong second move advantage? And I suppose a game could have such a thing. But in the case of Dodo, No. I had leapt to a conclusion based on insufficient data. There are streaks of luck, both positive and negative, in game playouts. In a sample of ten games, a streak is more likely than not. In a sample of 100 games, most of the streaks cancel each other out. You'd really have to play 1000 games to get an accurate estimate of turn order advantage. But 100 games is fairly definitive.

Dodo is a hard game. It has a way of making you feel stupid. But it isn't making you (lol). Dodo is kind of an IQ test - one that you'll probably fail. Don't feel bad. I'm in the same boat.

Why are otherwise respectable indivduals kissing Nick Bentley's ass with this notion of what designs he already "thought of"? As though he's an original design genius (rofl). I've known Nick Bentley for a long time. The only thing he ever "thought of" was other designers' games - before running off with them. His brainless head has never once produced an original thought. Innovation is a foreign concept to Nick Bentley. It hasn't happened, and it probably never will.

Classic emperor with no clothes. The bgg ass kissing convention is in full swing, and it's revolting.

First we had oaf Bill Taylor who, praise heaven, has departed. Nick once described Bill as "one of the greatest minds in abstract games" (rofl) - a mind boggling, baseless claim. The guy had a long career of lording over r.g.a. with next to nothing in the way of designs. The little he had was utterly unremarkable. Now it seems Nick has appointed himself the next emperor in the line of succession. The puzzling thing is why anyone is going along with it. Welcome to bgg I guess. As someone who actually has come up with original designs, I find this adulation over nothing nauseating.

Update: The guys talking about what Nick Bentley "thought of" were just being facetious. "It's just a bit of fun based on the fact that Nick goes around claiming he has thought of every loop idea that is presented." Thanks for letting me know. This restores my faith in humanity. There couldn't possibly be anyone less deserving of praise for having "thought of" anything than Nick Bentley.

Update 2: True to form and right on schedule, Nick Bentley's response to the latest looping game: "I tried something very close to this." This must be Nick's pretext to running off with design ideas. "Err, yeah I already thought of that." Funny he never mentions any "original" ideas until after someone else mentions the same idea. Nick, do yourself (and humanity) a favor. In the extremely unlikely event that you actually did think of something earlier... just keep it to yourself.

Every other bgg post, Corey Clark is giving a sermon on Christ. Then he says it might not be "appropriate" to discuss games with dice. The Christ nonsense is really irksome, especially contrasted with his complaint about dice. I'm working on developing a game with dice. It's not easy. I received my milled aluminum dice from America a few days ago. Psyched about that.

Corey sometimes makes disparaging remarks about Hex and its inventors, most recently calling Hex "reductive". Hex wasn't reduced from anything. It was created from nothing and became the seed of many ideas to follow. Hex is as excellent today as it ever was. The inventors of Hex were geniuses. Corey looks like a total vegetable staring blankly into space in comparison. Actually, strike the "in comparison".

Update: Bill Taylor died last year. LOL !! I was thinking about Corey sermonizing about Christ in an abstract games forum and then having the audacity to complain about a dice game being mentioned. I wondered, Can a person's head really be that fat? Then I remembered Bill Taylor. I googled him specifically to find out if he's still alive. He isn't. LOL !!

Note to "the game whisperer" (a name I gave Christian Freeling long ago that seems to have stuck), et al, about posting uninformed opinions. "Well, Dodo seems like it might be Nim-like, or non-robust, or vulnerable to blah blah blah blah blah." Play the god damn game once and the experience will answer most, if not all, of your questions. [The following is not directed at Christian.] Then you won't have to make "observations" that seem ridiculous and asinine to those of us who have actually played Dodo. New rule. Mark's rule. A rule of etiquette. Don't comment on games you haven't played. Your uninformed opinions aren't worth shit.

Imagine a movie review that starts with "Well, I haven't actually watched the movie, but..." You'd think it was a joke. Nobody could possibly take themself that seriously. But 15 pounds of shit stuffed into a 10 pound paper bag is a prized commodity in the game design community. Standards, people. Standards.

Nick Bentley: "Interesting. If I had to place a bet right now, I'd bet this game turns out to be fairly good. But it's a pretty uninformed bet, not having played."

Lol, ok. I guess this is a step in the right direction. Still an uninformed opinion, but with a positive slant for a change - not "intuiting" fucked up things about a game you never played.

Dodo is causing a stir. There's a feeling, by people who have never played Dodo, that it's so simple that there must be something wrong with it. Then after playing once, two things become clear: 1. There's nothing wrong with Dodo. 2. It's a hard game. You have only vague ideas about what you should be doing. I should have called it Einstein.

Misconception: Because both players are racing to opposite ends of the board, and because it takes them an equal number of moves to get there, it should be an automatic win for Player 1. Wrong. A directly forward move carries your checker twice as far as a diagonally forward move. So if both players manage to get all of their checkers to opposite ends (which rarely happens), and they both make the same number of directly forward moves getting there (unlikely), Player 1 will win. Otherwise, if players completely filter through each other, like two-way Pachinko, whoever made more directly forward moves wins.

Other misconception: Somehow it's a problem that play often ends with no moves to spare. E.g., Blue stalemates (winning the game) and Red stalemates immediately afterward. Dodo is a game of Yin and Yang. You rush forward to blockade yourself, and in doing so, you blockade your opponent. You open a channel for your opponent to pass through, and due to a cascading effect, he opens channels for you. So you're both "cooperating" in doing about the same thing at the same time, leading to a close finish. Don't get your panties in a bunch over this. It's not any indication of first or second move advantage. Turn order advantage is undetectable by AI, so it's virtually non-extistent for humans. As any designer or player can attest, a super simple, small board racing game being tremendously robust is unheard of.

Mike Zapala observation: "Hex4 Dodo is 'bigger' than Checkers in terms of board size, army size, state space, game length, branching factor and game tree complexity. Indeed, its game tree complexity is comparable to International Draughts."

Dodo is in a league of its own. I'm looking forward to skilled play emerging from the dense fog.

Update: Mike Zapala beat the Ludii AI. There is hope.


Mike explains... "Here you can move forward orthogonally or diagonally. Obviously it is 100% equivalent with your original setup in terms of gameplay, but I think it gives the game a nice 'ancient' look. Also makes it easier to play with a checkers set."

Nice. Thanks Mike. Cool how it worked out with 13 checkers each.

Some douche clot on bgg... I forget his name. Splooge or something. Anyway, he says there's "nothing original" about Dodo. NEWSFLASH: A game as simple the hydrogen atom will necessarily be comprised of only a very few generic elements. Kinda like one proton and one electron. The original (and astounding) feature of Dodo is that its incredibly simple rule set gives rise to solid, robust play.

Then the clot says let's see five years from now what's being said about Dodo. Ok Splooge. I accept your proposition. Let's fucking see. We can compare it to your game. Oh right! You don't have one! What a colossal asshole.

Meanwhile, Michal Zapala, who (unlike Splooge) does have a game people are talking about (Tumbleweed), and whose opinion actually matters, had this to say about Dodo...

"I think [Dodo] would be by far the most essential racing game in existence, ... Basically the Hex of racing games."

And... "It's just too simple, too pure, it's a total knockout. A game where the standard forward movement is the only constraint, and the final goal is as simple as self-stalemate, simply cannot be beaten."

Update: Splooge, the blowhard jackass, who still hasn't played Dodo, is still jabbering on about how it must be Nim-like. This in spite of people who have actually played Dodo reporting that it isn't remotely Nim-like. Now the jackass is trying to defend his idiotic comments with yet more uninformed blather. Here's a quote, just so you can see I'm not making this up... "My snarking remark was my attempt to give the most negative but still objective-sounding criticism I could muster." Go away!! What an ASSHOLE!!

I give Splooge a point for not going along with the crowd. That's always commendable. But like minus 100 points for gratuitous assholery. Here's a quote for you, Splooge, written by a well known abstract game designer (me). "If you don't have anything nice to say, SHUT THE HELL UP!!!!"

I don't have any hope of beating the Ludii AI at Dodo it seems. So, just for laughs, I played against the random move generator.

Me moving first:
Winner    Moves to spare
   Me        0
   Me        1
   Me        0
   Me        1
   Rnd       0

Random moving first:
Winner    Moves to spare
   Me        5
   Me        1
   Rnd       0
   Me        2
   Me        5

Is Dodo opaque? Not how I think of opaque. The first few moves of Gopher are opaque. There's a big open board and nothing to see. Dodo is just the opposite. Opposing armies start mixing it up right away and there's a lot to see. It's too much for my simple mind to process - at this early stage of development at least. Me not being good at a game, especially at first, doesn't speak to the game. It's just par for my course.

I don't know how people will react to Dodo. Let's wait and see. I've finished the graphics and started on my Board Game Arena program. It will be harder to program than Gopher because it has 1. A different board orientation for each of the two players. 2. Moving checkers, not just placing them.

What Dodo and Gopher have in common: Both extremely simple. Both extremely resistant to first move advantage (judging from the Ludii analysis). That's a rare combination already. Add to that... Both have no need for the pie rule.

Thanks to Michael Amundsen for programming a Dodo app for Ludii. It's fascinating to watch it play itself. Sometimes White wins. Sometimes Black wins. Sometimes the checkers completely filter through each other. Sometimes they jam up with no pass-through. Many times a player is just on the verge of jamming when a passage suddenly opens.

Dodo is a hard game. I don't understand it. It's complex. It's deceptive.

In its first two weeks Gopher blasted up to 185 turn based games in progress (plus a few real time games) at Board Game Arena. In the past week it dropped fairly precipitously to 105 and started to climb again. Now it's at 120. At first there were less players playing more games each. Now there are more players playing less games each. I probably don't need to give a daily blow by blow. I'll continue updating about Gopher, but less frequently. Meanwhile, I'm getting ready to program Dodo. I'm actually more psyched about Dodo. I've only played it four times, but it seems promising. Even though Dodo is arguably simpler than Gopher, it doesn't seem to be as vulnerable to winning algorithms. But who knows. Let's wait and see.

I won't attempt to characterize the subjective experience of playing Dodo. Like all simple abstracts, it is what it is.

As far as tactics, the basic idea is to get all your guys to the opposite end of the board as quick as you can, making directly forward moves. A directly forward move carries your checker twice as far as a diagonally forward move. But you also have to keep narrow channels open for your opponent to slip through so he doesn't get stuck.

West Wind (Favonia) contacted me on Board Game Arena. "Hi Mark, I felt I might have figured out a winning strategy for the red player in Gopher of any size. Please let me check more details before coming back to you...

"Okay, I checked all the details. I'm planning to create a web page on my website describing the solution. I certainly could not write this down in this textbox without a picture. My next step is to completely characterize *all* the winning/losing starting points. However, if the first player just wants to win the game, there are already 54 starting points that will provably work."

I started to write Gopher's apology/farewell letter. Like a politician forced out of office for inappropriate behavior with his assistant, "No! It's a lie! Well, actually, it's true. Sorry."

But then, another message blew in from the whispering West Wind. "Too bad I discovered a bug in my argument after the lunch. Sorry for celebrating it too early. But I have an even stronger strategy now, I think..."

To West Wind's credit, they are a polite, intelligent person, and an outstanding Gopher player. They are ranked 161 out of 3102 players. My very best players dedicate 18 hours a day to advancing Gopher strategy, but West Wind's Gopher stature is certainly admirable, in the top 5%. I sincerely appreciate their work on a Gopher solution.

Gopher is a tempting, but wiley, target. It will live to fight another day. If there is a solution, I want to know. I have a mathematical curiousity about Gopher, and a solution would be crucial. I owe it to Gopher fans to find out about any problems and let them know. Actually I've offered a $200 reward for such a discovery, which reward still stands. The solution would have to work on an even sided board, size six or higher, and must be an automatic win starting from a given set of cells, and an automatic loss starting from any of the remaining cells. In other words, something that can't be repaired with the pie rule, currently deemed unnecessary in Gopher.

What I'm looking for here is a "trick". Not some extraordinarily and incomprehensibly complicated algorithm, requiring extensive computation and analysis on every turn. We already have AI solving the size 4 board. So I don't need an algorithmic version of that. But, for the purpose of the reward, if I can comprehend the solution, it will qualify.

Of course I'll be a little sad if Gopher is solved, especially after putting a lot of work into programming it and seeing its popularity explode. But it's not like Gopher is my only game. It's not even my best game. But for reasons articulated below, Gopher is wildly popular.

Board Game Arena Games in Progress

Gopher 185. Growth a little slower on weekends but still advancing.

Is Gopher a success?
Absolutely. For a new, unheard of game to blast off like this is unprecedented. For comparison, consider Mattock - by all accounts (including mine) a fine game. Mattock came online at BGA two weeks before Gopher and now has a grand total of... 18 games in progress - a normal trajectory for an abstract game. Mattock will find its audience, but it will take time.

Why is Gopher doing so well?
I attribute Gopher's monumental success to two main factors:

1. Extreme simplicity. There's no odious learning curve. Just jump in and start playing. I see game descriptions on BGA. "[Random Game X] is amazing because all you have to do is juggle 3 tennis balls while playing a harmonica and hopping backwards on one foot..." No, it's not for me. The Mattock rule set isn't difficult. It's just complicated enough that it takes a few minutes to learn, and you might forget a detail or two. Like, "Wait, was that 'up to three...' or 'more than three..'?" Or, "Oh right, killed miners come back next turn." You'll completely understand Mattock after playing it once, but it's not in the same league as Gopher. "Place a checker next to one enemy checker and no friendly checkers." Gentlemen, start your engines.

2. Pseudo luck. Even a first time Gopher player has a chance of winning - maybe 20% against an experienced but unsophisticated player like me. I like Backgammon (except for the boring dice race at the end). Lucky dice can carry the worst of players to victory. Beginners win just often enough to feel encouraged. Same thing with Gopher. It doesn't have dice, but... while there's plenty of opportunity to apply clever strategy in Gopher, sometimes you just have to guess. If you make a few good guesses, you can win.

I also like Hex - in principle. But I just keep losing until I've had enough of Hex for a while.

Beyond those two main factors, I think the way I programmed Gopher may have helped fuel its rocketship. I photographed the Brazilian granite in my kitchen for the board. And I photographed my Crisloid checkers for the pieces. Every checker you place looks a little different from all the other checkers on the board, creating an extra touch of realism. Very beautiful and life-like. Makes you forget you're playing on a computer.

Stefan Löffler - international Chess master, journalist, and teacher - will be having his "8by8" students play Gopher.


Board Game Arena Games in Progress

Gopher 179. 15 points higher than yesterday.

Not much to compare Gopher to right now. Abstracts starting to thin out at this altitude. Coming up on Quoridor.

Board Game Arena Games in Progress

Gopher 164
Gomoku 160
Abalone 153

Gopher: "Hey Gomoku !! GET OUTTA MY WAY !!"

Nick Bentley: "Hmmm, maybe there's something to Gopher after all (frantically designing 'Golfer')."

Last night there were 93 Gopher games in progress on Board Game Arena. This morning there are 125.

Update: Now a few hours later Gopher has 137 games in progress on BGA. It's totally exploding.

Update: It's a lovely, crisp evening in Mongolia, and Gopher has 147 games in progress on BGA - up 54 from yesterday.

Gopher has more games in progress on Board Game Arena than all of the following:

Circle of Life
Lines Of Action
Murus Gallicus

The Blooms tournament starts in three days. Nick Bentley, your game science is really paying off. 2 people signed up for your tournament.

Day 3 in Board Game Arena beta, and Gopher is steadily growing. It just bypassed world classic Hex. I guess I need some new, worthy benchmarks. Not some cheesy knockoffs from the bgg rat pack. Chump change. Of course there are a few notable designers on bgg. Nick Bentley is not one of them. My "Not My Games" section about runs the gamut. Some of Dial Walltone's games were recommended for the list, but they all seem to be works in progress. I've never seen a rule sheet for any of them. Just scattered discussions in forums. And they're so mathy and complicated that I personally don't understand them. Then again, I don't understand a lot of things. So maybe they're good games. They would have to comprehensible by me to make the list though.

There's a je ne sais quoi about Gopher. An appeal. A beauty of play. Players seemingly cooperate in forming a pattern, though of course they're competing. People who play Gopher a first time want to play it again, right away. I play Gopher (and Backgammon, an unhealthy addiction). Gopher isn't Oust, but not every game has to be Oust.

Special thanks to Drew Edwards, who identified a problem on the size 5 board, prompting me to switch my Gopher program to size 6 in the planning stage. I would hate for a problem to develop after programming it.

And thanks to Michael Amundsen who jump-started me, terminating my eight year game design hiatus. He encouraged me, and programmed and play tested my games. Gopher wouldn't exist but for Michael's support. Nor would Zola, Kubodai... (so if you need someone to blame... lol). Good man.

Huge project. I haven't programmed anything in 235 years (no, not a typo). Big thanks to Sunil Patel for clues to solving project-derailing bugs. He didn't actually write any code, but he gave me hints... like the murderer drove a brown car in London. Not a lot to go on, but sufficient to turn it from mission impossible into mission difficult but doable. I was working on this for like 12 hours a day for the past few weeks.

Michael Amundsen got me going on game design again after an eight year hiatus. He contacted me about Cage to see if his understanding of the rules was correct. Reading the rule sheet didn't refresh my memory. Cage was gone. He asked me to let him know if I were to design any new games, and BOOM. I designed eight games in about as many weeks. Michael play tested all of my games, programmed them for Ludii, added them to BGG, and invested long hours investigating potential problems with Gopher. And... he suggested a change to correct deadlocks in Inchworm. I acknowledged Michael's contribution in the rule sheet (in fine print, lol).

Drew Edwards put extensive effort into analyzing Gopher and found a solution on size 5, 7, 9... hexagonal boards. Red starts in the center or a corner. Then, whichever way Blue branches out, Red continues the branch in the same direction. Drew is now mentioned in one of my rule sheets as well. This never used to happen.

My take on Gopher? After all of Drew's investigative work, without finding a solution on even sized boards, I don't think it'll happen. If there ever is a "solution", it'll be a combination of a futile attempt to play only on a certain subgrid (or avoid one) and trying not to form losing parity zones. More a set of tactics than a solution. I really appreciate Drew's help though. I'm currently programming Gopher for [unnamed game site; stay tuned...]. Drew's discovery led me to change the board from size 5 to size 6. Now I'm satisfied that I have a super simple game, which is not solvable, and doesn't require the pie rule. And... it's fun. I play Gopher several times a day. A lesser designer, with no appreciation for simple games, cautioned me, "Don't break out the champagne yet." Au contraire. I'm thrilled with Gopher. My ceiling is dimpled from all the cork popping.

There are a small number of well wishers, including Alek Erickson, and a long list of naysayers. Christian Freeling doesn't seem to be positive or negative. In discussions of my games, he only ever repeats the same comment. "This is like [insert Christian Freeling game here], because where and if but..."

Corey Clark contrived a non-finite game in which cycles wouldn't occur: Hex with the option of removing your own stones. The principles I outlined in the Cycles section below still stand. Fact: In Chess, Checkers, and Go (without ko), cycles never occur among beginners but almost always occur among experts. I'm not a mathematician or a game theorist. But I can see that there's a principle at play here. In perfect play of a non-finite game, there are three possibilities. A win for Player 1, a win for Player 2, or a cycle which neither of the players can break without losing. There will be zero or more first moves which guarantee a win for Player 1, zero or more first moves which guarantees a win for Player 2, and zero or more "equitable" moves which leads to a cycle. Maybe in a particular game there are no equitable moves. Every possible first move swings the advantage toward Player 1 or Player 2. I admitted as much in the Cycles section.

Just as a general principle, and I've yet to see a non-contrived example to convince me otherwise, there is a tendency toward cycles with increasing skill. The designer's argument that he's seen his game played hundreds of times by any number of beginners and never saw a cycle fails to convince me. I personally played Quadrature around 1000 times with one of my neighbors, before our skill advanced to the point where we had a cycle.

I believe that Cycles find a way in normal games. E.g., not a game of 100,000 moves that takes a month of continuous play to complete, not a connection game where players are gratuitously removing their own stones...

For me as a designer, finitude is more about architectural aesthetics than potential gameplay issues. Finite games are a solution to a challenging puzzle. They're harder to design. I've had plenty of interesting concepts that I've tossed out because I couldn't find any way to make them finite.

The recent trend of designers congratulating themselves for their latest soft finite game, that they've play tested ten times, is malarkey.

My designs are motivated solely by architecture. I like to make original, unique, and interesting rule sets. Of course if a game turns out to have outstanding gameplay, like Oust or Zola, it's gratifying. Gameplay is just not what drives me. Christian Freeling is the "game whisperer". He can intuit characteristics of a new design's play in advance. I don't have that superpower. And I wouldn't use it even if I did.

I see designers congratulating themselves for their ability to analyze a game's hotness, coldness, soft-finitude, and other esoteric qualities... and scientifically determine how much fun it will be to play. To me these discussions seem like malarkey. They usually result in uninspired variants, like Nick Bentley's Blooms (for which he extols his own "brilliance").

I usually, but not always, give my games at least half a run-through to see if deadlocks or cycles can occur. Or, if a design seems like it might be vulnerable to first move advantage, I'll play it until I'm satisfied it's solid. I've tossed out somewhere around a quarter of my designs because problems developed, or because they turned out not to be as original as I thought. Someone already had a similar game. Now if their game is based on yet more similar games, it's not such a problem. But I don't want to run off with anyone else's unique, original work.

I'm known for specializing in finite games. Or I guess I should call them "hard-finite" now since the emergence of "soft-finite" discussions. I don't want to take a chance on cycles developing. I don't want you to invest a year advancing your skill in a game that may ultimately fail you. I rule out cycles from the get-go. If cycles can't occur, they won't. I'm often criticized for my devotion to the finite, and for my antipathy toward the player experience. But I do what floats my boat. Not yours.

Particular Games
I've played a lot of Oust and a fair amount of Zola. There are no other games I'd rather play (except possibly Inchworm).

Inchworm, with its natural theme, is unusual and intriguing.

I played a lot of Flume. It's a parity/Nim experience, which is not really my forte. But there's something engaging about Flume.

Fractal is my favorite connection game. Beautiful to behold. Designed to minimize first move advantage.

Gopher is a super simple game.
Update: Gopher is an awesome game. It's the only game I like to play currently. I play it several times a day using Michael Amundsen's Ludii script.

Rive has an extreme churn rate. Full sized game on a tiny board. Good travel game.

Monkey Queen is well thought of.

Hex KB, like many of my games, is an interesting concept.

Like when Jeff Goldblum said, "Life finds a way," in Jurassic Park... Cycles find a way. So-called "soft-finite" games may be crappier than claimed. Cycles may not happen in the first 10 or 100 plays. It may take 1000 plays. That's what happened to me with Quadrature. Cycles are a force of nature, like a whirlpool. You don't realize you're caught in one until it's too late. Players can't break out of a cycle without losing. As skill increases, play "tightens". Advantage doesn't flop back and forth with each successive blunder. Expert opponents together chart a course for a distant whirlpool. Good and perfect moves keep them on course. Bad moves divert them.

Classic examples of cyclic games are Checkers, Chess, and Go. "But wait," you say. "Go has superko!" - an asinine, oft repeated by otherwise semi-intelligent individuals (Corey). Superko means you're not allowed to repeat a board position. You're saying in essence, "Go doesn't have cycles because you're not allowed to cycle." You could apply that "principle" to any non-finite game. Ko, triple ko, and superko are malarkey. Go - "minute to learn" (rofl). You about need a PhD to understand all the intricacies of Go rules.

Beginners may never experience cycles in the three aforementioned classics, but experts are plagued by them. My reasoning is inductive and intuitive. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there's a game out there in which cycles can happen but never will because intelligent, competitive play somehow thwarts them. I sincerely doubt it. Not to glorify my own design strategy. I really don't care. It's just my belief. Cycles find a way. For most games we'll never know. There are too many games, and not enough players, for play to become expert enough to find out. But do you really want to invest years of effort, advancing your strategy in a game that may ultimately fail you?


Corey Clark said, "Hex Oust was really decimated by the strategic ideas of Raph on iggc a decade on (not like it became a bad game but no more 1 stone comebacks)."

WHAT?? I played Raph many times and watched him play many times. He was just a super good player whom nobody could beat.

Sure, Raph destroyed the 1 stone comeback. And the large group comeback. And every other kind of comeback - against Raph.

Raph must have beaten Corey down to his last remaining stone. Corey presumed he could mount a comeback, and instead just lost his last stone. Like the tennis player who hits a bad shot and immediately examines his racket strings, Corey found an explanation for his loss other than his own inferior play. "Yeah, that's it! Oust is coming apart at the seams!"

It's not as though Corey gained any insight from playing Raph. Corey continued to be mediocre after Raph left (after Raph got tired of beating everyone and moved on to something else). Corey can today be beaten by a 1 stone comeback. Corey could himself execute a 1 stone comeback - against someone other than Raph.

Raph has a high IQ and was able to peer farther into the future than the rest of us. He also undoubtedly developed some tactics that would have been impossible to explain to mere mortals, had he wanted to. There's no shame in acknowledging good players. Most of them couldn't design their way out of a paper bag, and wouldn't want to. They're perfectly content playing what's there.

No, the death of the 1 stone comeback has been greatly exaggerated. It's still alive and well - between evenly matched players. I was there. Had Oust developed the slightest problem, I would have known about it. I think Corey got into a patch of bad mushrooms in the Canadian outback. Why else would he go on a flight of fancy and make up something absurd about Oust?

If Oust had revealed a flaw, I'd be the first to admit it. Other of my games are flawed. Quadrature, my first game, has what I consider to be a flaw. Move cycles can occur. I found out the hard way, after having played at least a thousand times, and it wasn't fun. Never again would I design another non-finite game.

Addendum: Witnessing the interminable flaw-fix cycle of Faust (Fussed?), I think I see the root of Corey's bizarre Oust critique. Faust is fatally flawed. So now Oust, the inspiration for Faust, must also be flawed. Classic post hoc fallacy.

Update: Corey claims to have occasionally beaten Raph after Raph's ascendance to Oust supremacy. Show me the replay. I'm having a little trouble with that, lol.

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