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February 1st, 2005

Open Source Board Game

The other day, this guy here announced “the first open source (or at least Creative Commons-licensed) board game.” The game itself seems similar to Go. I look forward to trying it out once the first freeware version comes out.

What this reminded me of, though, was a strategy game I designed for the Apple II in BASIC back in the late 80s. I forget what I named it (might have been “Reverse” as a nod to Reversi, perhaps), but I remember it as being pretty darn clever. Essentially, the rules were as such:

  • A board of x by x squares is filled with an even number of Xs and Os, randomly distributed.
  • On a turn, a player can then reverse all of the letters in any row or column, except for the row or column played previously by his opponent.
  • The game ends after a predetermined number of turns.

Pretty simple, and there’s probably room for some more rules (I’d add the “locking” of a box where a chosen row intersects with the previously chosen column), but it was honestly quite addictive even in its most basic form.

My version allowed you to choose the level of play of the computer, which essentially determined how often the computer would make a good choice versus a random choice. It was nearly unbeatable in the expert mode.

So, I’m officially “open sourcing” my idea as well under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 license. I’d love to see a Flash version of this game to play during my lunch break and would gladly provide the original source code to anyone interested in it and provide answers to any other questions about the game.

I’d also like to come up with a better name for it. Maybe “Reverse” in another language? Any ideas?

Posted in Board Games, Technology

FROM: Andy
DATE: Wednesday February 2, 2005 -- 3:20:47 pm
The name should be Esrever



FROM: Ryan [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday February 3, 2005 -- 11:33:51 am
Hey, I like.



FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Saturday February 5, 2005 -- 2:57:23 pm
"Open source board game" seems like an odd term to me. As some people at the linked-to blog note, what about chess, backgammon, etc? Who's going to come and sue you if you write a chess game?

Now, if you write Clue (or Cluedo), Hasbro is going to nail you to a wall. They do things like that. Then again, if you make a game where people move between different rooms (presumably on a different map), and, say, guess who cooked what food and for what meal -- that should be okay.

The hardest part of your game would, of course, be programming the computer. That's why every junior coder out there doesn't write a chess program (or checkers, even). AIs are tricky. Othello/Reversi is about as complex a game as you can get where the AI is still simple (greedy algorithm, with some weight on corners and some against corner-giving, is pretty darn good).

That said, if good AI algorithms were provided, it would not be too difficult. Heck, I could do it in JavaScript.

You did forget to include scoring instructions... without those, the game just isn't the same...



FROM: joe
DATE: Thursday March 17, 2005 -- 10:18:13 am
Actually writing a chess or checkers program is usually part of an introductory level AI course in school. It's not actually very hard once you know the algorithm to use.



FROM: Merle [E-Mail]
DATE: Thursday March 17, 2005 -- 4:29:55 pm
I don't play checkers, so cannot speak to it, but would be surprised that one could code a *good* chess algorithm that easily. Walking a forward decision tree is one thing, but without good libraries of opening moves, standard end games, and special tricks, it's not going to beat anyone but novice players.

Go is a great example of this. Opening moves in go are almost artistic.

And even though I call Othello/Reversi "easy", I've only run into one program that could give me a decent challenge, and even that one had an exploitable weakness.



Justin Operable May 17, 2007, 8:28 am

There’s a difference in my opinion between Public Domain and Open Source. Besides, just because Chess games can be made by anybody, doesn’t mean it not awesome to enrich the gift culture with more free games.

Curtis July 16, 2009, 12:34 am

Hi, I know this thread has been sitting idle for a while, but I just stumbled across it. I’m trying to form a community of people interested in making up “open source board games”, and I’ve set up a wiki-like web site where anyone can post rules, board images etc, and give/receive feedback. I’d invite anyone who might be interested to drop by http://www.grassrootsgamer.com, and check it out!

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