We’ve done some fun play-testing in the past couple of weeks (thank you to those awesome guinea pigs) and it’s been a blast playing the game with out cobbled together sets:
Our current play test kits: (They almost look professional from this angle :-))
In all the play testing two important things came out:
- The length of the game is affected fairly heavily by the size of the board and amount of handicap stones (not particularly surprising)
- The original endgame, based on Japanese counting was complex to apply and understand (especially for non-go players). This was also pointed out on the Baduk subreddit.
We’re tuning the board size and game run time now to try to find some optimum run times and figure what factors affect this. The second problem though was a bit more interesting.
Methods of scoring in Go
The objective of each player in Go is to “surround” as much territory as possible and the winner is determined broadly by one of two methods of scoring:
- Area scoring: often referred to as “Chinese Scoring”. Using this method at the end of the game each player counts the stones of their color on the board + the points of territory they surround to determine their score. The highest score wins. Prisoners are ignored.
- Territory scoring: often referred to as “Japanese Scoring”. Using this method, a player does not count the stones they have on the board – only the territory surrounded and the prisoner’s captured.
When first designing Mitropia we picked Territory scoring because it was what we were used to from our Go play. However it does introduce a number of problems:
- Using Territory scoring, playing behind one’s own lines looses a point. Now this is normally compensated for by taking prisoners. Hence if an attack fails, the prisoners make up for the extra stones player. However, in multiplayer go, just one player may be attacking another: worsening their position which non-involved players benefit from that player falling behind.
- At the end of the game, prisoners count. However, one cannot use the method of placing them in another player’s territory because it is not clear which player’s territory to place them in.
- For novices especially, it can be quite complex to look ahead to see what will happen at the end of the game.
We do have solutions for this: such as splitting the prisoners from a group capture and rules for how to use prisoners in counting, but they did feel a bit loose.
Applying Chinese / Area scoring
From the play tests it’s become clear though that area counting removes most of these issues and is all round cleaner in the multiplayer scenario. Specifically now, to determine who wins:
- Each player counts the stones they have on the board + the territory they surround.
- Prisoners are discarded.
The full detail of the counting method is here: Chinese counting. We’ll be adding a concise version to the rule book.
There is one problem however which is that this change removes prisoners from being significant in counting. It would be possible to add prisoners in as an extra counting factor (something we should consider) but if we do not they become value-less. As a result the various game cards which permit prisoner swaps also become useless.
These have so far proven a bit hard to use, so it was probably time to consider removing them anyway.
If we remove them, it’s still something to think about what kind of cards to replace them with. A couple of suggestions:
- A “slide one” card: which allows a player to MOVE (shock, horror!) one of their stones by one location.
- A “slide two” card: two locations
- Another option would be a “Spy Slide One” card: this one is more powerful and allow the sliding by one of another player’s stone.
- A “Skip turn” card: which can be player any time and causes the player whose turn it is about to be to miss their turn!