The Genesis of Adomoc
Around the world, and for a significant part of human history, games like Go or Chess have fascinated players. They’re fun. They energize our minds; sometimes we gain perspective into other situations in our lives. Sometimes these perspectives are simple, like a route through busy traffic, other times they’re more abstract–a post-dinner debate between buddies, or colleagues in the workplace meeting on a course of action. But what has our present era introduced in terms of an equally fun and fascinating form of play? What modern game could push our perspectives into the next millenium? I hope Adomoc answers those questions.
Before explaining what makes Adomoc special, I’d like to introduce some context by reflecting on the well-known game play of Chess.
It struck me one evening (2001) how the insight Chess offered me in my daily living was bounded in the sort of play that takes place on the game board, between the players. While each game is different in its seemingly limitless variations, the recognizable patterns and perspectives are enabled by the rigid rules of the game. This is not a negative criticism but a reckoning of the birth of certain possibilities via rules, namely rules of the game of Chess.
I wondered why so few modern games are invented with that sort of universal appeal, and with rules that might enable players to access additional perspectives on their daily living. I decided I would try to introduce something new, it would have to be first-of-all, fun; using rules, goals, and strategies, which were different from those espoused via confrontationally-oriented games such as Chess.
Chess rules are strict, bounded, and once we’re used to them they’re simple. In spite of rigid rules, Chess play remains astonishingly organic. We always find different patterns growing and new ways to manipulate its strategic intricacies. Sometimes these grow in synchronicity with surges of well-being in the players, other times they decay.
In chess play, both players know the game resolves in checkmate and they organize everything they do within the game in order to bring about the checkmate. Certainly, there are strategies within strategies, and small battles within larger contexts, but ultimately these are all for the sake of the final confrontation: the checkmate. Yet obtaining a checkmate is not the most interesting thing about the game. We already know it will happen. The interesting part (and the reason we anticipate the checkmate) is the process each player affects toward the checkmate.
The checkmate is a death. It’s cessation organising our lives in the game and we have, with the game, the tantalizing means for constructing this organisation entirely. Or, at least the two players engaged in a game do.
The players each have sixteen pieces and a world in which the pieces move (the board). Sixteen is important: we can pair the pieces. Pawns in twos, two rooks, two knights, two bishops, and the reigning couple. All of these twos push out conceptions in terms of polarities, opposites or complementary parts. They define back-and-forth interplay since it’s not simply the fact that each player has couplets, but the couplets each correspond precisely to the other player’s pieces; one player’s will interacts with the other player’s will, represented by the game pieces. The players manipulate patterns, pushing their wills against each other to eventually vanquish the other.
Although I think that Chess patterns provide one of many valuable perspectives, in Adomoc I wanted to open a different perspective. With Adomoc, I’d like to introduce a perspective that is not based on couplets, polarity, or a death principle organising play.
How can a game work differently? How does Adomoc work?
The organising principle in Adomoc is transcendence. Rather than focusing on the viability or death of the opponent’s king. Adomoc players struggle toward reaching the same goal and might even collaborate to obtain it.
In Adomoc, a player must transcend his or her origin to a new space, the first player to do so is the winner. A player needs to organise strategies in ways that both defend and enable the paths from a piece’s origin while simultaneously changing the course of the other player’s efforts at the same task. Small ripples in Adomoc play create continuing effects in the overall play.
Adomoc has two sets of fifteen pieces. The pieces are grouped in trios rather than couples. Trios initiate plurality–that is, many facets to problems, which could apply more generally to modes of thinking.
Although Adomoc has fewer pieces in both number and variety than Chess, Adomoc pieces have a greater variety of possible behaviours. When developing the game, this was a concern to mediate. While the ideas the game enables are important, Adomoc should be no greater in complexity than other abstract strategy board games. Sometimes the simpler something is, the more profound; the game of Go, for example.
By nature, Adomoc is different from other games and learning anything new may seem difficult at first. Learning Chess, for example, is difficult, confusing, and not at all intuitive in the beginning. But the more a person plays, the more simple the rules seem, and the more the real, interesting complexities of the game become rewarding. I wouldn’t accept Adomoc as a successful game until it exhibited similar characteristics. I hoped it would reward players with pleasure in playing together and add something valuable to their lives.
Although I wrote the initial set of rules and designed the first prototype for Adomoc in 2001, initial conceptions of a game are generally flawed and require much testing, feedback, adjustments, and polish. I began playing it with lifelong friend and collaborator, Mike Keigher. Through playing together we identified problems and evolved the rules, in particular Mike’s greatly improved, unique artwork for the board became the official game board used today.
We introduced Adomoc to other friends and family members and received more feedback. Ian Lanphier contributed critical play testing, helping us to further refine the rules, and he went on to develop the first electronic version of the game.
In playing Adomoc with a variety of people over a decade, we finally solidified the rules and design so that everything worked cohesively, without logical hiccoughs, and most importantly, was fun. In playing it, new strategies unique to Adomoc, rise to the surface. New patterns of play reveal themselves. And as players, we get excited to recognise these patterns, which would be totally foreign and impossible in other games. I hope to see people I’ve never met, in cafés, having fun with the game.
– Joshua Chalifour