Kuta Beach

Kuta Beach

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Connect6


I'd like to talk about a game that I have been playing recently. It's called Connect6. The rules of this game are so simple it will take the average person literally less than a minute to learn. A Connect6 paper from the 2006 Computer Olympiad explains the rules as follows:

Players and stones: There are two players. The first player, called Black here, holds a set of black stones, like Go or Go-Moku games. The second player, called White here, holds a set of white stones.

Game boards: In theory, the size of game board can be infinite. However, practically, it is hard to support such a game board. Therefore, our proposal is as follows.
- For casual players, simply use 19×19 Go boards.
- For professional players, use 59×59 boards.

Game moves: Black plays first and places only one black stone on one unoccupied intersection, also called square in the rest of this document. Subsequently, Black and White alternately place two of their own stones on two unoccupied squares.

Game winning: The one who first gets six consecutive stones (horizontally, vertically or diagonally) of her/his own wins.

What I love about Connect 6 is that is such a simple game to learn yet has very complex gameplay. The simplicity allows you to teach new players quickly, whereas games like chess require more time to teach. Another benefit is that because the game involves trying to connect lines and involves no capture, Connect6 can easily be played on pen and paper like tic-tac-toe, meaning that you don't need any special equipment. This makes Connect6 an excellent game for moments when you're bored with friends and don't have chess sets nearby.

Another good point about Connect6 is its fairness. In most turn-based games like chess and Go, the player who moves first gets an advantage. For the game Gomoku (Connect5), mathematicians have proven that the first player can always win with perfect play. It is a solved game. Checkers too is a solved game. Connect6 is fair because the first player can only put down one stone at the beginning and subsequently each player puts two stones at a time on the board. Because there is no official limit on how large the board is, Connect6 as a game can be infinitely complex.

There are two sites where I play Connect6: Vying Games and Little Golem.

Vying Games has very good graphics and it also has bots (computer opponents) if you cannot find human opponents. At first I found it difficult to beat the bots at Vying Games, but over time I improved dramatically and now I can beat every single bot without raising a sweat. I've taken on all human challengers at the site. I have beaten many, including the website's designer Eki, but many of the human players there are tough and my results among the high-rated players have been mixed. Looking at Vying Games's Connect6 League Table, you will see my name near the top. Unfortunately many of the top players there are reluctant to challenge newcomers, perhaps to preserve their high ranking, and I suspect many of the top-rating players there won against easy bots very many times to gradually increase their rank. This is the problem with Vying Games. There are too few people and the bots are too easy.

The website Little Golem is different. There are very many players here, and many of them are very good. Unfortunately there are no bots, so you have to play correspondence games against humans. The graphics at Little Golem are also not good.

For beginners, I recommend you start at Vying Games and play against the bots. Once you are good enough to beat all the bots at Vying Games, start playing against humans both at Vying Games and Little Golem.

Also very fun are Connect6 puzzles at Connect6.org.

The image at the top is from a game I played with black stones against Piau with white stones. The whole game can be seen here.

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