Oxford 2005 Colloquium

--{ Oxford 2005 }--

Who we are
Friend sites
Research notes

Board Game Studies Colloquium VIII


Andrew Perkis


Many board games do not have complete rule sets. Aspects of play which can be disputed add scope for a game to evolve on a democratic basis, so efforts to eliminate them could often be sterile and pointless.

It is, however, a different matter if a game is to be played in organised competition. As Alex de Voogt pointed out, "most games ... change when they are played in championships ... special impasses in the game need to be determined and solved".

In this paper I look at the game of Halma. My contention is, that IN THIS PARTICULAR GAME, the fact that the flaws in its rule set have not been been tackled in a thorough manner has not only prevented its play in organised competitions but also stultified its refinement into more satisfactory formats, which would provide a richer playing experience. An offshoot of such evolution could have been- and still could be- a desire to play variants of the game in a more organised manner compatible with championship competitions.

Concern for fine print rules for Halma has been given impetus by the interest value of "super jumps"- a term arising from the game Wayne Schmittberger named Super Chinese Checkers. "Super Halma" was first described in1963 as "Halma mit Weitsprung" and has been played in certain circles since, though without becoming widespread. Super jumps are utilized in the versions of Halma I propose because they make play more exciting- and, in one case at least, enable a more interesting game format because of their impact on the problem of blocking.

Blocking, together with the linked issue of proportion of occupied squares to playing board area, is one of the major problem issues in Halma. Another is SPOILING- by players leaving pieces in their home camps. In my introduction I describe these problematic aspects of the game which operate beyond the scope of current rules. I then present my understanding of how not dealing with these issues halted the game in mid evolution- so that the version that endured can be demonstrated not to be the best. There follows an hypothesis as to why this state of affairs persisted- with standard Halma even coming to be regarded as the classic game of its type. The introduction ends with a glance at some of the anti spoiling measures which have been proposed or used, none of which are totally satisfactory.

Finally, in the main part of the paper, I look more closely at the technical issues, and, having dealt with the blocking/ density issue, put foreward three effective approaches to deal with the problem of spoiling, in each case giving an example of a version of the game to illustrate these. As these examples all involve super jumps, I then give an appendix showing applications to standard Halma versions (standard 16 x 16 and the two nineteenth century "grasshopper" versions).

[ Home Page | Journal | Colloquia | Who we are | Friend Sites | Research Notes | Search ]