On combining games, part 1: Introduction

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Part 1: Introduction
Part 2: Chess and shogi

So I've always liked playing around with games, and what you could do with them if you fuddle with the rules. Usually not for the sake of creating playable games, much less so balanced ones, but simply "what would happen if I did that?", "What other changes would be required?". This is also what lead me to modding and hacking games of the video variety, but we are not talking about those here, but about board games, about chess and other games like it (chess-like games/chess-likes). And were also talking about a topic that is difficult to do with video games, and their strict code. How to combine two games into one?
This article is meant as the first in a series (or several) where I output my thoughts on games not written in computer code, and their reliance on another set of instructions called "rules", and how these rules can be played around with. At some point I want to move over to card games/TCGs, but as those are more complicated than chess-likes we are starting there. "Combining games" will also be a recurring topic, but as I managed to ramble for much longer than I thought I would, it will get its full introduction in the next installment.

So what is chess, and what is a chess-like games? Chess is a board game played on a 8x8 gridded board, where the goal is to move your pieces between different squares, as to capture your opponent's pieces and ultimately win the game by check-mating your opponent's "king" piece. I won't go into the details of chess more than necessary, as I assume most of you have some familiarity with the game. Chess-like games, or "chess-likes" as I will call them, are games that are like chess - in a very broad fashion. Basically any game where you move multiple pieces across a geometrically aligned board will be considered a chess-like. This of course includes chess, but also shogi, checkers, Chinese checkers, and many many more. But rummy (the card game) is not one, because it has no pieces, and neither is monopoly and other games in the snakes and ladders family, as their boards are very straight-forward, and players only control a single piece. Go and othello pieces do not move. I do not count backgammon either, though it is closer than the others. Another interesting group of close-liers is n-mens morris, whether or not they are chess-likes I cannot say.
In addition to the broader definition of chess-likes there are also "chess variants", a closer knit family with a common ancestor in chaturanga, an ancient Indian game. The "chess variants" include orthodox FIDE chess as played in most western countries, but equally Chinese xianqi, Korean janggi, Japanese shogi, Burmese sittuyin, Thai makruk, etc.. All of these have variants of their own (see the chess variants website), though I cannot guarantee their definitions are the same as mine), historic and modern. There are also some modern games (congo) that are arguably chess variants without any clear basis in a single older one. Common to these games are the goal of check-mating (or capturing) your opponent's king piece, and having many different types of pieces with different movement options.

Chess-like games are also traditionally a form of non-digital games, even though most popular versions have digitalized versions, and even computers playing them better than humans can. Like games in the computer, non-digital (let's just call them "traditional" for lack of a better word) are bound by a set of instructions. These are called "rules". Unlike the code of digital games, rules are quite plastic, and may even change during a game session. This can be observed when small children are allowed to re-do their rolls, or when games go on too late in the evening and the players agree that the person with the most wins can be considered the winner before calling a night. Or rather, rules are always in the heads of the players. This is true even when written rules exist, the players have precedence. Of course, to make a game fun to play some rules need to be common (barring calvinball), so players will refer to predetermined ones to convince others that is the way.

Chess-like games have another thing in common. They are part of the bigger category of "games using set items" - the items being the pieces and the board. This puts them apart games like charades and 20 questions (usually called "parlor games", because you play them in a parlor, but perhaps more reasonably because they are played by speaking only), and also stick-fighting in the forest, playing with dolls, and throwing snow balls, because neither sticks, snow balls, nor barbie dolls are set items. On the other hand, they are in the same category as all other board games, card games, as well as rugby (and most/all other modern sport, even wrestling has mandated clothes in the olympics). The thing with games using set items, is that these items remain after the fact, and are of little use for things other than playing. Basically, unless you are playing with a chess set/deck/rugby ball it will just be laying there. This incentivices using the items as much as possible. This is where playing cards shine. There are many types of playing cards ( French-suited, German-suited, hanafuda, tarot, etc.) but they all have in common that there are no set game for them, instead the same cards are used for a plethora of different games, many that can be categorized into families, and many yet that can't.

However, this property is not one privy to playing cards. As long as an item exists to be used for one game, it can also be used for another. This is where set items tie in with rules. Even though the need for certain items is set by the rules, the same items can be used by a different set of rules. I mentioned rugby before as the example sports, because its ball has been re-used in the confusingly named sport "American football". This happens to chess too. While most "other rules" using a FIDE chess set and nothing more than minor variants, this is not true of all. Aarima is a chess-like (but not a chess variant!) made to use the FIDE chess set, where the main goal is move a piece to the opposite side of the board, instead of check-mate. The pieces are adorably named after animals (Rabbit-Cat-Dog-Horse-Camel-Elephant) instead of the vague military theme of FIDE chess.

The point is, rules are disconnected from game items, and game items are disconnected from rules. This applies to all games, no less so chess. In the following installments of this series, we will move from "What if we use other rules for the same items?" to "What if we used items meant for different sets of rules, and tried to make a set of rules allowing for all items to be used in a similar way to how they were used in the original rules?". Starting with chess and shogi.

==> Part 2: Chess and shogi

Originally written by Voliol 12022-02-15, HE.