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Fungi, The Game

"FUN-gee". A two player game derived from John Horton Conway's "sprouts". All you need to play is a sheet of paper and one or two pencils/pens.

The name comes from an analogy of how some fungi ("FUN-guy") mate: by extending "tentacles" to meet each other and exchange genetic information.

Begin by drawing a horizontal line across the center of the paper, extending from one edge to the other. Agree on an even number of "diamonds" (usually 6 or 8), and draw half that number of diamonds on either side of the line. Place one less than that number of dots on the line itself. For example, for a game with 6 diamonds:

        <>    <>    <>

<----*----*----*----*----*---->

        <>    <>    <>

That's called a 6/5 game, for there are 6 diamonds and 5 dots. Note that if the number of dots is not exactly one less than the number of diamonds, it is a wildly unfair game. Leave a good amount of space between the line and the diamonds.

A valid move (for either player) is connecting two dots, considering diamonds as dots as well, with a line and then placing another dot somewhere along that line. "Line" here is used in a topological sense, in that it can curve and bend and twist (?), so long as it passes through no other lines. A dot may have no more than three lines emerging from it, considering a line passing through a dot as two emerging lines, one on either side. I know it seems very complicated, but it's quite simple; you just have to see it. Bear with me.

There are two players, the "offense" and the "defense". The goal of the offense is to interconnect all diamonds. So if the offense wins, you could start at any of the diamonds and run your finger down some series of line segments to get to any other diamond. The defense's goal is to stop this from happening. Offense goes first.

So, on the board above, a simple opening move could be:

    <>    <>    <>
     \
      *
       \
<---*---*---*---*---*--->



    <>    <>    <>

Don't forget to put the dot on your new line!

An example of a situation in which this game would be considered an offense win would be:

           /------\
    <>    <>-*--<> |
     \             /
      *-------*---/
       \
<---*---*---*---*---*--->
    \              /
     \------*-----/
            |
    <>   /<>|   <>
     \--*---*   /
            \--/

Admittedly, the defense played rather poorly in this game. A similar game in which the defense won would look something like:

           /------\
    <>    <>-*--<> |
     \             /
      *-------*---/
       \
<---*---*---*---*---*--->
    \        /*/   /
     \------*-----/
            
    <>    <>    <>

Connecting that dot back into the line made it impossible for any of the three lower diamonds to connect in with the rest of the crowd. Thus, it's an offense lose.

Play a little with a friend or just experiment with it by yourself. At first it will seem like either the offense or the defense is greatly biased toward (for me, it seemed impossible to defend), but soon new strategies will emerge and you will see that it is, in fact, quite balanced.

Two defensive strategies to get you started:

  • Don't forget that you can connect a diamond to itself. This is often a good idea, as it reduces the number of possible emergences ("lives") by one. If you can connect a diamond to itself, and then connect that diamond to the dot you just made, you have automatically won. This is also something to watch out for when you're playing offense.
  • Subdivide space as much as you can. Put two of their diamonds in one section of space, and the third in another. (That is, drawing a line from one point on the baseline, around one of their diamonds, and back to another point on the baseline is a good idea.)

And two offensive strategies:

  • Think in terms of the baseline. "What do I have to do to connect this line to the baseline?" Remember, connected is a loose word; a line connected to a line connected to the baseline is just the same as a line directly connect to the baseline.
  • Think also in terms of "exits" to a particular space. "Which dots are on the border of this space?" Make sure that you always have more than one "way out" of a space, if your diamonds are in it.

One more tip: Start at a 2/1 game, and observe why that is an obvious defense win. Move to a 4/3 game, and analyze its strategy before going to the more challenging 6/5 and 8/7. I played on 20/19 once, and that wasn't too fun: too much to keep track of. But maybe I just don't understand its strategy yet :)

Happy gaming!