Limit
Cameron Browne
(c) 2008

Limit is a tile-placement game of movement and capture for two or three players.

News: Limit is now available from Nestorgames.

Rules

Equipment: Two players, White and Red, each have eight balls of their colour and share a common pool of 32 hexagonal tiles.

Start: The playing surface is initially empty. White places two adjacent tiles and puts a white ball on one of them. Red then places two tiles and places a red ball on one of them. Each tile after the first pair must be adjacent to at least two other tiles.


Figure 1.  A typical opening sequence.

Placement Phase: Players then take turns adding two tiles (each adjacent to at least two other tiles) and placing a ball of their colour on one of them. There are two constraints:
1) Balls of the same colour cannot be placed next to each other.
2) No placement should remove the last freedom of any ball, i.e. every ball must have at least one empty adjacent tile following each placement.

Figure 2 shows a typical game after all pieces have been placed. Note that no two balls of the same colour are adjacent, and that every every ball has at least one empty adjacent tile.


Figure 2.  Typical position following placement.

Movement Phase: Play then alternates with each turn consisting of:
1)
moving a ball, and
2) removing a tile.
Both actions must be performed each move.

1) Ball Move: The current player must move a ball of their colour to any empty tile that can be reached by a series of steps through adjacent empty tiles (i.e. balls block other balls). Groups of enemy balls with no freedom are then captured and removed; a group has freedom if it is adjacent to at least one empty tile.

For example, Figure 3 shows a white move that removes the last freedom of a red group to capture it.


Figure 3.  A white move that captures a red group.

2) Tile Removal: The current player must then remove any tile that has at least one free edge. Any subsets of empty tiles isolated by the removal are themselves removed from the game; it is not permitted to isolate tile subsets containing balls. Groups of enemy balls with no freedom are then captured and removed, then friendly groups of balls with no freedom are captured and removed (self-capture is possible).

For example, Figure 4 shows a tile removal that both disconnects a tile and captures a red piece.


Figure 4.  A tile removal that disconnects a tile and captures a red ball.

First Move Equaliser: The opening player cannot capture any balls on their first move.

Aim: Any player who cannot both move a ball and remove a tile is eliminated. The last surviving player wins.

Three-Player Version: Limit may be played with a third player (Black). Placement is the same, except that the tiles will run out before players have placed all of their balls. When this happens, players take turns adding a piece of their colour to any empty tile that is not adjacent to another ball of the same colour and is not the last freedom of any ball. Any unplaced balls remain unplayed.

Movement is the same, except that only the last player to move can capture on the first round.


Figure 5.  Typical three-player position following placement.

For example, Figure 5 shows a typical three-player game after the placement stage. Black was not able to place one of their balls, as every available tile is either adjacent to another black ball or is the last freedom of a ball. Black is therefore at a disadvantage, but gets to make the first capture.

Notes

Figure 6 shows an end-game situation in which the player to move must win. The current player is forced to move their ball to the only available empty tile, then remove the tile just vacated to capture the enemy ball.


Figure 6.  The player to move wins.

Suicide by ball move is not possible. Suicide by tile removal is possible (but not advised).

The fact that players must move a ball and remove a tile each turn means the current player may be forced to remove a tile that they don't necessarily want to, or even move a ball in order to free up its tile for removal.

The requirement that the opening player cannot capture any balls on their first move reduces the advantage of moving first.

It is generally best to avoid too much thought in the tile placement phase, especially in the early stages. Players should place the tiles as quickly as possible while ensuring that same-coloured pieces are not adjacent. The use of random placement in computer play is encouraged.

The fact that tile removal is compulsory each turn means that no game will never last longer than 30 moves once the movement phase is reached, and will generally end much sooner.

The holes make it easier to pick up tiles with a single free edge. If the tiles did not have holes, then two free edges (possible opposite) would be necessary.

Update: The winning condition used to be: "The last player with pieces in play wins." However, this was found to allow stalemate positions to occur. Most games will still be won by the player to capture all enemy pieces under the new rules, but players must now plan their moves even more carefully to ensure that tile removal is possible.

History

Limit rules copyright Cameron Browne © 2008. Four-colour hexagonal tiling originally suggested by Stephen Tavener.

The name “Limit” embodies the overarching theme of the game, namely to limit the opponent's available territory and freedom.

Limit is an environmentally friendly game, being made almost entirely out of recycled ideas:
- four-colour piece placement (from Chroma),
- piece movement and freedom-based capture (from Trugo), and
- tile removal and subset disconnection (from Halves).
Like any recipe, the proof is not in the raw ingredients but in their combination!

Limit can be played on Richard's PBeM server - check out the help file for more details. Many thanks to the server regulars who helped test the game, especially Stephen Tavener who was instrumental in the development of the game. Please challenge me (camb) to a game any time.

You can buy Limit from Nestorgames.


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