Thursday, March 7, 2002

Ninuki-Renju (Pente) and Hex

For my wife's birthday last year, she asked for a copy of Pente, a
commercialized version of Ninuki-Renju, a stone placing game. The
goal is to try to get 5 in a row or capture 10 stones by capturing
pairs. I'm normally only a moderate fan of pure abstract games, but I
was very impressed with this. One factor that made it very enjoyable
is my wife and I are very evenly matched (neither of us is very
good). Further, it is short enough that you never feel like an early
mistake fates you to a long and drawn out loss, as I feel some
abstracts have as a flaw.

I recently played a couple of games agains the href=""> Zillions of
Games AI (which, incidentally, runs reasonably well on Linux under
the latest build of WINE), and was soundly crushed, reassuring my
perception that there was a lot of improvement that could be made in
my play. It may be one of the first pure abstract games that I'll
spend some time improving at since Chess. If you haven't played it, I
highly recommend it.

On an only somewhat related note, some time ago I learned Hex, another
2-player abstract game. This one is a connection game, and it seemed
fun/interesting, but not that deep, when I first played it. Most of
the moves seemed obvious, but I never really played it very much, so I
din't know how much was just my perception. Well, at some point, I
stumbled across
Queen Bee
, a computer Hex player. As above, I was thoroughly
crushed and only had a hope of winning at the lowest level. Maybe
there's more to this game. I'll have to print out/make a hex board
and play against players who are closer to my level of play.

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