LOA 1.0 and UNITE 2.0

Here's a short history of the LOA program that Andy and I wrote.

As I mentioned before, Andy McDaniel learned about LOA in the 1970's and wrote a PL/C program to play the game, although he had learned a nonstandard rule about what was necessary to win. I think he will tell you about that himself. He and I started programming the Mac in 1988. Our first game was Hex and our second was LOA. We spent a lot of time programming LOA with the idea that it might be sold commercially. After we finished it we didn't release it immediately. We were thinking of calling it Link'Em and trying to sell it to a publisher, but we were discouraged by the poor market for computer board games.

Then Kevin Gong released his Lines of Action as shareware. We were flabbergasted! Here was someone else programming the same obscure (we thought) board game for the Mac. I think I can speak for both Andy and myself here, that we were at the same time happy that someone else was also interested enough in LOA to program it, and yet disappointed that they beat us to the punch. As for selling our game, we didn't know what to do. We figured that if the market was small before, surely having a competing shareware version would kill any hopes of marketing our LOA sucessfully. Whether or not that was correct, after discussing the matter for a while, we decided to also release our LOA as shareware. Knowing how we felt when we saw Kevin's game, we always have wondered how Kevin must have felt when he saw ours.

When we put out our LOA we decided to call it Lines of Action which was what Kevin called his, and after all, that was the original name of the game. Then after a short time Kevin changed the name of his game to Unite. Since then we have thought about changing the name of ours back to Link'Em, but decided that would be too confusing.

A short meditation on the rules of LOA

If you really want to learn a board game, try to write a computer program that plays it. In doing this, one of the first tasks is to 'teach' the computer all the rules of the game. When we did this for LOA we eventually realized that there are positions possible in which one side has no legal move. Such positions are very unusual but they can happen, so we had to put in some provision for them. In our program when such a position arises, the person who has no legal move must 'pass' (as in Reversi), allowing the opponent to move until either a legal move is possible, or the game is won by either side. The other possibility would be that the person who has no legal move loses (or wins!). The situation is rare enough that it probably makes no practical difference which way it is handled. But the original rules in "A Gamut of Games" makes no provision for this circumstance; Claude Soucie presumably didn't realize it was possible.

- Mike Dickman MichaelD42@aol.com

for more discussion of unusual endgames, see Unusual Endgames

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