7-in-1 Magnetic Family Game: Draughts

By Kieron Gillen on June 9th, 2009 at 6:53 pm.

Yeah, we totally forgot to take photos of a draughts game when the Lady and I were in Hydra.

This speaks to how much Draughts left us both nonplussed. The Lady had never played it – which I don’t believe for a second, but let’s believe it while eye rolling in exactly the same way teenage boys do when girl peers claim to never masturbate. Yeah. Like, yeah. I played it, but not since being a pre-pubescent. If I was on a checked board, I would try and push people towards chess – and besides, it was a game my brother always excelled at, and I didn’t really see the reason why.

(Not that he didn’t excel at chess either, but I had more fun fighting uphill there…)

Which kind of point. Neither of us enjoyed the game of Draughts. This makes an interesting compare and contrast with Chinese Checkers, a game neither of us knew at all, and had a right giggle with. The reasons were threefold.

1) We fucked up the rules. I thought I knew the rules of draughts – move up the board, jumping over enemies to take them, get to the end and become a HYPERDRAUGHTSPIECE, kick ass. For some reason I’d forgotten about the huffing rules – in fact, I’m not even sure my pre-teen mind ever played with huffing rules. Actually, googling around reveals that what the printed rules in the magical 7-in-1 set said were Huffing weren’t actually what is huffing. Without getting into the details, it’s a case of if there’s a move where you can take something and you choose to do something else, the other person can force you to do that move (though the rules gave the option of either ignoring it or wiping out the taking piece). Anyway – we didn’t play with that when I was a kid, and we were into the game before I glanced at the rules and noticed it. We decided to carry on playing the way we were, which immediately made the Lady’s tactic of not moving with her back row ever brutally dominant.

Perhaps tellingly, she didn’t enjoy this tactical advantage she gained. She also didn’t like the forced move rule. It seemed to be cheap and… well, she didn’t use the word “unrealistic” but that’s the sense of it. An unnatural rule in a videogame, necessary for balance reasons normally exposes a weakness in the actual game. They’re the ones which you see why they exist, but don’t seem to naturally flow from the game concept. For a sports example, look at Football (Or soccer for all your checkers players). The Offside rule is after the fact nonsense, the one piece of over-ornate filigree in one of the most agreeably simple sports in the world. Equally, that games are little but the rules that make them, the second you add one of these rules to the game, you change its character. Mastering the core rules of the game provokes nothing but admiration. Mastering these patch-up rules provokes nothing but eye-rolling at your metagamery. In football, no-one likes the foul-diver, the Off-side trap-meister. And over in videogame, any time you’ve shouted CHEAP! you’re fairly likely to have found one of these.

The point being, an “unnatural” rule divorces you from the game and makes it less satisfactory. The sadder fact is that without the unnatural rule, the game is worse – and possibly unplayable.

2) We dug Chinese Checkers, because while our tactics were weak, we grasped the motivational end of getting to the other end of the board. We had trouble with Draughts as… well, we got the tactics – certainly far more than Chinese Checkers – but were never sure we were getting nearer to our goal or not, except in the indirect way of taking pieces. Its aim felt foggy – in which case, why wasn’t the same in Chess? I think this comes back to Chess’ embracing of an actual real-world situation, no matter how iconically rendered. In chess, it’s analagous to battle-lines. You can see the piece you’re meant to protect. It is, in a real way, despite being more complicated than draughts, a clearer game.

3) It shared a poor endgame with Chinese Checkers. However, rather than one being divorced from the other and not actually playing against one another, it was a case of one side having such a determined advantage over the other. Yes, I got a fair few pieces in the final section – I had freedom of movement, and reduced complexity of pieces to worry about to allow greater concentration on what I did – but it was never really in doubt. It was directly analagous to the RTS game ending where one side can steamroller another, in a way which Chinese Checkers wasn’t. Which reveals a way which the latter’s design choices are interesting. By removing the ability to actually take pieces, it means that throughout the game both players have the same number of physical toys to kick around. Last time I talked about how what we often considered were rage-quitting was actually boredom quitting in a shitty endgame… but Draughts make me think it’s not that simple. RTS – with the magnification of pleasure caused by their beautiful, intricate pieces – become exponentially less interesting because those toys are taken away from you. It’s like dumped while your best mate continues to get off with a hottie. It’s annoying. There was a flicker of this in Draughts, and it’s only going to be worse with an actual videogame.

All of which left Draughts as the game the Lady and I enjoyed least. But it’s not the worst game. That’s next.

, , .

61 Comments »

  1. Lewis says:

    Yeah they’re dead interesting, actually. We can learn a lot about our electronic hobby by examining the gaming ways of yore.

    EDIT: Hang on, what? That was a reply to somefink.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Alec’s presumably deleting stuff.

    EDIT: Nope, not Alec. Odd.

    EDIT: Ah, someone else. Problem solved!

    KG

  3. Wuhupah says:

    Opinions are clearly unwelcome

  4. Meat Circus says:

    You’ve just experienced RPS’s huffing rules.

    Huffing always struck me as an excellent rule, because it allows strategically forcing your opponent to choose between playing an unfavourable move or risk losing a piece.

    It seems a shame that the pros have de-huffed.

  5. Beastman says:

    It took me til about halfway through the article to realize that you were talking about Checkers.

    Bloody Brits…

  6. chris says:

    Is it Ludo?? Is it?

  7. JonFitt says:

    It was traumatic as a child to be forced to make unfavourable moves with the huffing rule. It was the bit I liked least about the game. Perhaps it taught me something about life though?
    At least it’s not Ludo.

    Fucking Ludo.

  8. Premium User Badge James G says:

    I’m loving this series, I’m also fairly surprised that Draughts is able to elicit moddable responses. It seems people will get slightly heated about anything.

    Oh, and apologies for the inevitable TV Tropes link, but in this case I feel it is directly relevant:
    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/ObviousRulePatch

  9. Radiant says:

    With finicky ‘added to fix the game’ rules it’s not just limited to football.
    You also have castling in chess designed to speed up moving the king into the corner.
    The doubling die in backgammon to force an end to the game.
    I think the huffing is designed specifically to stop players from holding the back row.
    Still it’s better then putting up an invisible wall round certain squares which you can’t pass move through or saying that the queen can move as far as it wants in any direction EXCEPT when taking a bishop down.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Radiant: Focusing in on chess, you’re right – but they’re less annoying somehow. I think it’s because they’re smaller. The less regularly a rule turns up – thus the less it’s in normal play – the less it matters. Off-side and Huffing are so present, they alter every interaction in the game.

    The larger stuff is interesting – doubling die especially. But we’ll come to that later.

    KG

  11. Wuhupah says:

    There was no heated response, I merely stated that I’m growing tired of these articals cropping up on a “PC” gaming blog… Well thats what I came to expect from RPS anyway.

    They are very clever and at times humorous but in my personal opinion this is the wrong place for such topics.

  12. Lack_26 says:

    I’d never heard of this ‘huffing’ rule, so the jist is that you have to take a piece if you can? That sounds stupid.

    Anyway, I quite enjoy draughts, since I can reliably beat my brother more than in chess, where I tend to make one mistake that costs me the game.

  13. Heliocentric says:

    There’s something to ponder. An pc strategy game without loss, actually they exist, but often they are modeled on things which are less popular than armed conflict, the political machine for example.

    World in conflict/ground control multiplayer is another example oft a game without loss, when your units die its more like they have been suspended for a minute. Indeed the loser of a fight gets to rechoose. While the winner will be depleted and exposed to artillary.

    Drafts was always chess’s stupid brother, huffing just expressed its a bad game too.

  14. Lewis says:

    Regarding the huffing thing, it kinda strikes me as something akin to a videogame shouting “NO! YOU AREN’T ALLOWED TO DO THAT BIT YET!”

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Wuhupah: It was more the positioning which caught Jim’s ire than the content. Starting a comments thread with a comment which says little more than “And this is a waste of time” just turns the thread into an argument about whether it’s a waste of time or not. If you were further down the thread – or had more content than “this is a waste of time” – it probably wouldn’t have been zapped.

    KG

  16. Okami says:

    @Wuhupah: When I read your (sadly deleted) post for the first time, I thought “what a twat”, considered writing a stupid remark about the typo in your post and then decided against it because that would have been… well stupid.

    Reading your second post did nothing to make me more sympathetic to your situation.

    Imagine my delight upon reading your third post, that you can actually express your opinion in a more civil manner (your first post did come across as a bit rude, even if I think that deleting it was overreacting on the hivemind’s part), because now we can have a serious discussion about the topic at hand.

    Two things:

    First, as Lewis allready remarked, things can be learnt about video games from the analysation of board games. Second, the articles are, as you admitted yourself, clever and entertaining reads and third..

    OK, make that three things.

    Third, there are only seven games in the box Kieron bought and we’re allready on the fourth game, so you won’t have to suffer through these articles for much longer and.

    And fourth (yea…): Nobody is actually forcing you to read this. It’s not as if you get less stuff about pc games as a result of these articles. It should be obvious that Mr.Gillen has written these articles on or shortly after his vacation, so he’s not spending time on boardgames he’d otherwise would have spent on pc games.

  17. Serondal says:

    I told my wife you had to do that in checkers, take the peice of you could and she called me a BOOB! I TOLD HER SO! That being said I can’t tell her I was right because she’ll think I’m holding a grudge or something. You should have seen it when I tried to teach her to play Magic the gathering! She thought I was making up rules left and right.

    Wots this about not being able to capture a bishop with a queen over a certian distance, never heard of that O.o The only rules I can think of in Chess that I could never make heads or tails of was En Passent or whatever where your pawn can capture another pawn if an extremly unlikely series of events were to take place. I always loved the pawn versus pawn action in BattleChess but I liked the one where the Queen has sex with the enemy piece then stabs him in the back the most ( I think that was went the Queen captured a king but i’m not sure)

  18. Xercies says:

    Actually i would like more of this kind of stuff, i always thought you could learn a lot about game design by looking at the traditional games out there because there’s got to be a reason why those games are so popular and played by millions.

    In fact i can’t wait till Kieron talks about Monopoly if he ever wants to expand this kind of thing… :)

    Anyway I have always liked Draughts more then chess for the simple reason that its a much faster paced game and its quite easy tactical wise. I think that may be the reason a lot of people play it over chess because they can actually grasp a lot of the tactics pretty much first go.

  19. Colthor says:

    I like these articles and find them interesting. And I’d never heard of ‘huffing’ either.

    Ludo does look tedious, but I don’t really remember playing it.

  20. Wuhupah says:

    @Kieron: Fair enough, understandable.
    Your writing is second to none without a doubt, I sincerely meant no offence. This topic clearly has fans and followers sadly I am not one of them thats all.

    @Okam: I can agree with most of your points but as an avid RPS reader you can understand my dismay when I check the site for the twentieth time that day in eager anticipation for the next slice of gaming gossip only to find another artical that doesnt involve something requiring the use of a keyboard or mouse (Virtual chess etc… well done for pointing that out, because someone will).
    Ofcourse I’m only one of the many people that read the site on a daily (possibly hourly) basis so my opion is null, but on this rare occaision I felt the need to express it albeit in a rather immature fashion.

  21. theleif says:

    I think the huffing (you are forced to take a piece if you can) is what makes the game interesting. Thats what the “middle game” is all about, forcing the opponent to take a piece, thereby weakening their defense, or open up for a double grab for you.
    But i agree that Draught/Checkers/Ludo/Dama or whatever you want to cal it is chess’s stupid brother.

  22. Serondal says:

    I would love to see one of thsee on GO , though I’m certain that wasn’t one of the 7 games in his package :P GO Has similiar rules that don’t make sense but make the game WORK like the rule that stops you from taking an enemies pieces if they just took your piece in the same spot (Hence reverting the board back to its previous state) since that would more or less end up in a stale mate with each player taking the others piece and flipping the board back and forth forever.

  23. Lightbulb says:

    Without the rule the game is too simplistic.

    You can form traps and things if you can force your opponent to make moves.

    But you can always SEE the trap since you can’t actually hide anything with such a simple game. So you have to come up with a way to counter the trap.

    Its all wheels within wheels.

    Otherwise theres no depth to the game.

  24. superking208 says:

    You know, I bought Clubhouse Games, but I got to Ludo in Stamp Mode and I stopped and haven’t touched it since. Fuck that.

  25. Aphotique says:

    I actually enjoyed the Huffing rule, it added a layer of Chess-like thinking to the game where you could maneuver your pieces in a fashion so as to force them to take one and open up for a long string of captures, especially grand if you use Flying Kings. Granted, your opponent can do the same to you. This added layer is probably why Chess is preferable to me personally, but you can’t capture six pieces in one turn in Chess. Sure, keeping the enemy occupied while flanking them from the sides and from behind in a maneuver of strategic genius is satisfying, but so is carpet bombing them. XD

  26. Serondal says:

    what is Ludo? never heard of it.

  27. Clovis says:

    @Serondal: Ya, I guess that rule is comparable to what Kieron is talking about but I think Go gets a pass because of the name: Ko. And when you play your different move in a way to stop your opponent from filling in it is called a ko threat, and the whole thing is a ko fight. I can’t not like a rule that has such cool language attached to it!

    Go should be discusses because it has such an elegant handicapping system that games could maybe learn from. I also second a look at Monopoly. Does anyone play that game with the correct rules? I do, but no one else I know does.

    Also, I’m really loving this series; you don’t even have to connect it to computer games.

    Bring on backgammon!!

  28. Bas says:

    KIERON!

    More of these please, even after you’re done with the 7 in 1 box. These are extremely interesting reads, and it would be a shame if Ludo were to be the last one ever.

    Fucking Ludo.

  29. Serondal says:

    I supose it does get a pass since the Ko rule does not ruin the flow of gameplay but rather it perserves the flow of gameplay and adds any entierly new element to it as well.

    I never played Monolopy with the proper rules (Say auctioning off every piece if you don’t decide to buy it the first time you land on it) Mostly because I only ever play with my wife and the game would be over shortly if she just pid a 1 and I bid 10 ect until every piece on the board is sold up

    The only Ludo I know is from the Labyrinth and I think he’s pretty awesome ;)

  30. Lewis says:

    @Lightbulb

    “Without the rule the game is too simplistic.”

    I’m a firm believer that the best games are pretty straightforward at the core.

  31. Cian says:

    I’d like to add my vote for more analysis of traditional games with a view to PC gaming. If only because it might lead to discussion of classic pen and paper games and the entertaining mechanics and player’s stories that come with them.

  32. Nick says:

    How dare you write whatever the hell you want on the blog you run with little to no support from readers. I’m calling you out Kieron, backgammon at dawn.

  33. Lack_26 says:

    @Serondal,

    Now Monopoly is a good game, especially with anything goes Capitalism. I love setting up deals with people, e.g. I give them a property in exchange for immunity from said group and a cut of the profits. Of course, if I persuade everyone to give me a cut I just end up sitting there immune from paying money while raking it in myself. Then counting it in the face of increasing irate (and increasingly poorer) players.

    Oh, Diplomacy’s good as well, especially with a large group (played with about 20 people, multiple people per team). All the backstabbing is fun.

  34. MarkN says:

    @Wuhupah: I’m thoroughly enjoying these articles, and if they weren’t here I’m not sure where I’d find anything like them.

    Admittedly they’re not about PC games per se (although I’m sure KG could force it, by name-dropping a few PC versions of the current game – but that would prove little), but they’re about games as a whole, and PC games being a subset of that is a good enough reason for me to have them here.

    Always hated Draughts, mind…

  35. Serondal says:

    I just don’t have enough friends to play most of these board games with. There is a GIANT comic book store where I used to live (they say the biggest one in the united states, I doubt it) They have board game nights but my wife won’t let me go :( I’m a D&D nerd that was SO nerdy he couldn’t even find enough friends to play D&D with LOL

    @Lack_26 We normally play no holds bar Star Wars Monopoly where if we land next to each other we have a light saber duel :P Other than that we can’t really make many deals since it is one on one. I can’t WAIT until my two kids get old enough to play games with me.

  36. Greg says:

    I accosted at the last Mind Sports Thingy by the Czech Draughts Lobby, who told me the game had lots of variants which were actually, and would we like to play Fresian Draughts? I do not know how to spell Fresian, but anyway, it was a surprisingly fun and subtle game.

  37. solipsistnation says:

    Hm, yeah. I had never heard of the huffing rule, and I’d always wondered what the point of checkers was. It’s not a particularly complex or engaging game otherwise– by adding that meta-level to it you suddenly have actual strategy. Yes, it appears to be a patch for the “not moving the back row” exploit, but even knowing that, think of the possibilities now open to you. Yes, forcing the other player to make a move is potentially cheesy, but now players must plan carefully so they don’t get into a situation where they could be forced to make that move.

  38. toonu says:

    LUDO IS NEXT !
    You have been warned.

  39. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Man. Checkers. I’m terrible at that game. I’m also terrible at Reversi, and I think with Huffing the sort of forethought required for the latter is present in the former. However, when it happens in play, then it just feels like the other guy’s bugging me and being a jerk. You don’t get that in Chess.

  40. a says:

    Took me a bit to figure out what Draughts was. Oh you silly englishmen.

  41. Dean says:

    As a regular boardgamer (though mostly of more complex stuff, Catan etc) am really enjoying these pieces.

  42. Clovis says:

    @Lack_26: No, no, no. Monopoly is best when you specifically cannot make those kind of deals.

  43. Thomas Lawrence says:

    I’m really enjoying these pieces as well, and I also defend their PC gaming content – Kieron’s always framing his thoughts in terms familiar to PC gamers and applying thoughts to familiar Pc game generes and mechanics.

    More to the point though: if you’re refreshing a site twenty times a day to see if it has been updated yet, you might want to look into an RSS reader?

  44. Dolphan says:

    Does no one else think that there’s something fundamentally ‘PC’ about board games, regardless of whether or not they’re realised on PC or linked to PC game mechanics? Somehow it feels like they’re something PC gamers would play.

  45. Morph says:

    As both a PC gamer and a boardgamer (though more with Eurogames than these sort) I’m often seeing parallels between the two, so these articles are excellent reads. Keep them up.

    Though I’d never play Monopoly. Fucking Monopoly.

  46. Xercies says:

    I play Monopoly with the auction rule. It pretty much makes the game a little quicker especially when people land on the greens, no one wants the greens so you would have a whole set not being used if you didn’t have an auction rule. But its definitly best if you put your own rules on it like you can only pay for it above £10 otherwise you would have a whole set of greens for £3 and that would be very powerful. And yeah for just two people Deals and Auctions don’t toatlly work since you don’t have that flexibility and you have less of the backstabbing.

    Man I love Monopoly.

  47. Kieron Gillen says:

    Regarding the Monopoly, here’s Rab Ex-Consolevania writing in Defense of Monopoly.. Was going to Sunday Papers it, but it can get an advance here.

    KG

  48. Rei Onryou says:

    I’d read a Monopoly article. It’d be interesting to see where the parallels between PC gaming and board gaming were drawn. There’s something about the underhanded dealing in Monopoly that makes it rather special.

    Although the red set are totally imba. Fucking red set.

    *Edit*
    Thanks for the link Kieron. You read my mind, and then zapped it to the internets (or read some other comments).

    Also, I’ve only used the huffing rule online. I find it can add some interesting tactics, when you force the other player to act in a certain way. Although it does kind of turn it into a one player game.

  49. Vandelay says:

    Count me in on the loving these articles. I think I would probably read anything written by the RPS crew (anything…) and these are no exception.

    I’ve never been a big board game player. Although I do like them, my brothers always hated them (bad losers) and as I was part of the 90s generation board games were going out of favour with the rise of their electronic counterparts, so many friends seemed to have little interest. Still, with my minimal knowledge of these games I’m really enjoying these articles. The way Kieron is linking these games to the PC games we all play is fascinating. Well done Sir.

    As for Draughts and Huffing, it is the rule I’ve always played, although this the first time I’ve heard it given a name.

  50. megaman says:

    Thanks for this article. I found it an interesting read because it made me think about “unnatural” rules in games and sports. If it makes me think and is even remotely related I don’t mind reading it here on a “PC Gamer” blog.