David A. Wheeler's Blog

Fri, 19 Nov 2004

Cool new board game: Arimaa

I like playing chess, but the effort to memorize enough chess opening moves to be just a passable player isn’t that much fun. I’ve enjoyed Fischer Random Chess (aka Chess960); it’s a nice board game, without the endless memorizing.

But I’ve also found something new: Arimaa. Arimaa is a fun board game that you can play using chess pieces, but it’s really a completely different game. Its rules are very simple, much simpler than chess — kids can learn the rules in a few minutes. Yet with those simple rules you end up with a very strategic and interesting game.

The official Arimaa web site has lots of great stuff - a fancy presentation on how to play, official rules, and ways to sit down and start playing both computers and humans right away. The Wikipedia entry on Arimaa has lots of good information, and Wikipedia also has information on Arimaa Tactics and Arimaa Strategy.

Arimaa was designed to be hard for computers to play (while being easy for humans), and there’s even a prize for a computer that can beat the best human Arimaa players. Which is an interesting angle, story-wise. Its creator hopes that by creating better computer players, we might learn more about computerizing strategy. If that turns out to happen, I’ll certainly be interested in those results. But either way, it’s a fun game to play, and that’s a useful thing in its own right.

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