Tag Archives: Checkers

Feature Creep

Salta board
I’ve stumbled into another graphic redesign of a classic strategy game. I lay the blame on Schmittberger’s New Rules for Classic Games. Based on the marketing blurbs, I expected the book to be all game variants, but that’s not exactly so. Schmittberger also gets into regional variations on folk games (which is what got me thinking again about International Checkers) as well as lesser-known games that can be played using classic game parts. It’s this last category where I found Salta. Continue reading Feature Creep

That Was Quick

CheckerboardI got my orthogonal-board International Checkers set up on The Game Crafter’s online store. So that can be officially signed off.

I must say, even after working on a lot of projects with quite short schedules (by the standards of professional, team projects) there’s something really refreshing about doing little side projects which can be measured in days (and far from full working days at that).

The Match

The Game Crafter’s new website revision is live, so I’ll be putting my custom International Checkers up there soon. They’re requiring a bit more polish on the game pages than before, which has got me updating a bunch of my images from the DicePack project. Those are still a little rough around the edges after my first pass, but at least usable.

The MatchThat has got me thinking about images to put up with the other project, and right now I’d like to focus on just one. One component of the publisher’s site is “action shots,” allowing you to show close-ups of game components, how the game is set up and played, and such. Okay, so I’ll set up my proof copy of the checkerboard and take some shots.

But, wait, maybe somebody should be playing the game? Nobody here but me. That’s the train of thought that lead to this split-screen effects shot of me playing Checkers against myself. Continue reading The Match

Dots and Crosses

Corrected, color International Checkers boardCanny observers of yesterday’s entry will notice that I managed to either mirror-image or rotate the checkerboards. Conven­tion­ally, the lower-left corner is playable. This makes absolutely no significant difference to gameplay (hey, look, another example of an isomorphism), but is the sort of thing that any seasoned Checkers player would notice. That’s fixed, which segues nicely into the topic of finishing touches.

I now have a couple of design projects sitting unfinished. I feel like I’ve done the central work, but a number of small tasks remain. The temptation to move on to more interesting problems is strong, but I believe that finishing is what separates craftsmanship from Just Messing Around, so I’m fighting it. The definition of this is relative, by the way; if there were someone else responsible for the downstream tasks, I’d be finished. But no, things like instruction sheets, page banners for the print-on-demand shop, double-checking proofs — these are the i’s that must be dotted and the t’s that must be crossed. Honestly, if I were more serious, I’d be doing a blind playtest also, to catch whatever I’ve missed.

While I’m touching on the topic, by the way, it so happens that Spanish publisher Nestorgames has recently come out with a portable International Checkers board for €16.00 (plus shipping), or twenty-some US dollars. So, you still have to send away to Spain, but it’s better than the $50.00 or so you’d sink on a nice wooden board elsewhere.

Nestor always seems a nice enough fellow on BoardGameGeek, so I thought I’d mention it. It’s not like I’m in this to compete with him.

Isomorphism

Have you ever considered all of the empty space on a Checkers board? Half of the squares are unused. You might legitimately ask why they’re even there.

Transformed checkerboardThat, of course, raises the question of whether there’s any way for them not to be there, and it turns out that there is. Imagine removing all of the light spaces from the board, then rotate every dark space 45°. There’s some empty space now, so just sort of slide all the squares together. You’ll end up with something like this:

This is an example of what is called an isomorphism. Loosely put, an isomorphism is a translation between two things that preserves a certain set of their properties. In this case, the playable squares on the original board, with adjacency defined as diagonal, is isomorphic to the new board under orthogonal adjacency. In game design, isomorphism can be used to transform a game into a cosmetically different game, without altering the structure of its gameplay (a well-known example is that Tic Tac Toe is isomorphic to a game of picking numbers from a magic square).

I consider it a feature that the squares that were diagonally adjacent before are now orthogonally adjacent. Orthogonal moves are much more typical in most games, after all. This also seems like a good illustration of just how small the state space in Checkers really is. Of course, I’m talking about Anglo-American Checkers, or Draughts; most international variations are bigger.

Speaking of International Checkers, this leads us to something this variation might be good for. That game is played on a 10×10 board, is reputedly a better game, but is not readily available in the United States. I’ve just started reading R. Wayne Schmittberger’s New Rules for Classic Games, where he discusses both regional variants, and how to make your own equipment. If you were going to do that, you could use a lot less material (and have a more compact board for the same size of checkers) by throwing out the unused squares. Whether you’d like the un-Checkerslike appearance of the board is up to you.

Octagon grid for International CheckersBut, as long as we’re going with a different look, let’s go all the way. The checkers themselves don’t occupy all of the space within their squares, do they? You could squeeze things down a bit more by knocking the corners off. To preserve the common edge between adjacent spaces, let’s go with octagons. This actually restores the unplayable squares to the board, but in a form that can’t be mistaken for the playing spaces. And the pattern you end up with (shown here with the 10×10 international board) is, I think, very attractive.

It turns out, by the way, that this is only 75% of the width and height of the same thing as a square grid. This could be cramped to play, but is probably easier to print. At least it fits on an 11″×17″ sheet. In case you want to try, I’ve posted the same image at 10″×10″, 300 dpi.

This is the kind of thing my mind sometimes does when I’m falling asleep at night. I spent some time this morning coding up the pattern in nanDECK; maybe later I’ll put together a proper board.