Tuesday, November 30, 2010

3D Nine Men's Morris

The great game inventor Robert Abbott (Eleusis, Ultima, Epaminodas) sent along some very kind words about State of Play, as well as this illustration from a 3D Nine Men's Morris set he acquired years ago.
Click to view full size.
3D board games can be notoriously unsatisfying, but Bob says this one not only works; it's actually fun. I can see that from the illustration, which shows the traditional mills expanded into a series of nested wire-frame boxes. This is a clever design, with a logical application of dimensionality to an abstract board game. 

Not every classic game survives this kind of dimensional experimentation. 3D Chess, for instance, is not a particularly logical use of dimensionality. Adding two more planes of movement upsets the delicate balance of strategic planning and tactical maneuver that defines chess. Rather than adding complexity, it merely muddies the waters. If chess is a game of military precision, then 3D chess is more akin to a soccer scrum. 

Wayne Schmittberger, the editor-in-chief of Games Magazine, tried to solve the problems inherent in 3D chess by modifying the componants into Parallel Worlds Chess. Instead of trying to approximate chess in three dimensions, Parallel Worlds emphasizes the chaotic elements to create a deliberately crazy game. For example, every piece on the second level can move like a Queen, but they can't capture or promote. The result is entertaining, which is more than you can say for Tri-D Chess.


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