Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Game of Dejarik Part 2: Meet the players (or rather, the pieces.)

Continuing with a breakdown of the dejarik game from Star Wars: A New Hope, I identified the pieces and their positions. Each piece has a detailed bio and history on Wookieepedia, but this actually hampered my progress and made me dizzy (trying to determine whether the physical traits of the monsters were clues to its place in the game: maddening.)

Chewie’s pieces:

Chewie 11x7.jpg

R2 D2’s pieces:

R2D2 11x7.jpg

The unique nature of the pieces suggests that each has individual movement and capture rules, or that each piece represents a hierarchy, like the rook, knight, bishop and royals of chess. Star Wars expanded universe books have suggested that the pieces are generated randomly at the start of each game and the players must use what they are given, forming a strategy based on each unique mix. That idea would eliminate the possibility that certain pieces are mirrors of each other. Rather than each player having a “king,” “queen,” “bishop,” etc., each piece provides a unique set of moves the player can choose from during the course of a game.

In earth chess, each piece has a point value based on its power in the game but there are many subtle variations on this calculation and many depend on whether the piece is mid- or endgame (another maddening part of my research.) I decided to skip this complication and focus strictly on movement and capture capabilities.

I think I will save the “individualized pieces” idea for a more complex rules variation. For now, I will work with the idea that each piece represents a type. Offensive (queen: no limits; an attack piece), Defensive (rook and bishop: mobile, able to hold swaths of board from a single position), Controllers (knight: move them into position and control multiple spaces at once; watch the enemy squirm.) To determine which piece is which, I looked at the moves and actions shown in the movie. The finished game should be able to duplicate the movie’s game in principle, thereby maintaining consistency.

The moves shown in the movie progress like this:

Move 1.JPG

R2’s Ng’Ok moves through the center-point to end in front of Chewbacca’s Monnok. He also turns his back on the Monnok (the only piece to change its facing during the game); does this mean it has nothing to fear from the Monnok? I make a note of this.

Move 2.JPG

Chewbacca’s Monnok slides left one space, ending adjacent to R2’s Grimtaash and diagonal to the Ng’Ok. This looks like a threat move to the Ng’Ok (was it blocked from moving to the center? Or can it only capture diagonally, like a pawn in chess?)

Move 3.JPG

The Houjix now moves to the center. This could indicate defensive positioning with respect to the Ng’Ok (if the Monnok moves in, it will be threatened by the Houjix.)

Move 4.JPG

Instead of capturing, Chewie moves his Kintan Strider around behind the Houjix (however, it does not change its facing toward the Houjix.) Threepio’s warning for R2 to “be careful,” makes me wonder about the Strider’s positioning. Most likely it is a stand off: R2’s move could begin a series of captures, reducing the population of the board.

Move 5.JPG

Instead, R2 eliminates the undefended piece. The Mantellian Savrip literally throws down with the Strider and Chewie gets angry (a frustrating loss because he cannot respond in kind? Potentially, if his Monnok captures the Ng’Ok--as I suspect its threat to be--it could in turn be captured by the Houjix from the center-point. And now that the Strider is out, the Houjix has nothing to fear?)

Move 8.JPG

Things here get very weird. The conversation about Wookiees ripping arms from sockets occurs and Han makes the statement, “Let him have it.” Does this imply that the capture should be rescinded? In any case, we do not see the game board for a time because the scene focuses on Luke’s lightsaber training, but when it is shown again the Savrip is back in its original spot, the Strider is still missing, and the Monnok slides two spaces sideways: still diagonal from the Ng’Ok, but closer to the K’Lor’Slug (maybe it is in a position that can be defended by the Slug?)

The game ends here as the characters rush off to discover the fate of Alderaan. My biggest question is the Savrip’s return to its space of origin. did it give up the advantage of center space positioning as a concession to Chewbacca? (Was this in response to Han’s warning?) Or was it a rule of the game that once it eliminated the Strider it returned to the outer ring? (This seems arbitrary and unlikely. Reducing the game to a points-war of elimination seems to devolve its value from “chess” to “tic tac toe.”) While that is not impossible, I doubt valuable star ship space would be devoted to a high tech game of circles and exes.

What do you think of the game’s breakdown? Do you see something I missed? Post in the comments below, please. I welcome other viewpoints. Next time I will explore each move more fully and what I see as the piece’s strengths and limits, hopefully developing a ruleset that stands up to play-testing.

Next: Part 3: Moves and Threats (the strategy of the game.)

Thursday, November 6, 2014

When I Feel...

You can feel however you want to feel, as long as you don’t hurt anyone, even yourself.”

My wife and I always said this to our children, because sometimes--in our respective extended families--emotions were suppressed. People were not allowed to feel or to express what they felt for fear of upsetting things or offending people. There is a fine line between being aware of how your thoughts and words will affect those around you, and not being concerned with what others think of you. Expression is important, and so is fair treatment of others.

As human beings, we are going to have some very extreme thoughts, things we would never in a million years want others to know about, actions that we would never actually go through with (how many times have you said you wanted to kill that driver ahead of you in traffic and how many times have you actually done it?)

Allowing ourselves to feel the way we feel is important. If you are constantly pushing your feelings down without at least reflecting on them briefly, you are doing yourself a disservice. Suppression and repression are what lead to anger management issues, self-loathing and sudden violent temper tantrums. We need to remind ourselves that it is okay to be angry, sad, disappointed just as much as it is important to feel happy, excited and joyful.

We have these emotions for a reason, and we are still reasoning beings. Just because we picture in our heads the obnoxious politician being run over by his own bus, we know that would not solve anything. The sudden movie in our heads is just a passing flash; life goes on and we can write an angry letter, peel some potatoes with a very sharp knife or just snap our fingers at it and dismiss the inconvenience from our consciousness (okay, I wish it were that easy.)

The point here--getting back to it--is to give our children (and ourselves) the tools to handle life’s challenges. And part of that is the emotions we feel. When I was in school, we had an assignment to write our own children’s book. We could do whatever topic we wished, whatever format we liked but it had to conform to children’s literary standards.

I created a book out of construction paper using circles, triangles, squares and other shapes to convey simple scenes with one line of text at the bottom of each page. It was similar to a poem in structure with each back to back set of pages showing a before and after. For example, the first page would go something like:

MomDadGetLoud Branded.jpg

Turning the page over would then show this:

MomDadGetLoudB Branded.jpg

The idea was to show a situation and the response from a child’s perspective. My thinking was to provide a talking point for parents and their children to discuss potentially difficult topics. But in class, some suggested that it gave the children permission to feel unsure about things, that not everything had to have a conclusion and that was okay.

I began to think about this again recently. Here is a more light-hearted sample:

5secondruleA Branded.jpg

Wait for it…

5secondruleB Branded.jpg

What do you think?

What do you do when faced with things that are frustrating or disappointing or downright infuriating?

Tell me how you feel in the comments.