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 andwrote a PL/C program to play the game, although he had learned a nonstandardrule about what was necessary to win. I think he will tell you about thathimself. He and I started programming the Mac in 1988. Our first game was Hexand our second was LOA. We spent a lot of time programming LOA with the ideathat it might be sold commercially. After we finished it we didn't release itimmediately. We were thinking of calling it Link'Em and trying to sell it toa publisher, but we were discouraged by the poor market for computer boardgames.

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

When we put out our LOA we decided to call it Lines of Action which was whatKevin called his, and after all, that was the original name of the game. Thenafter a short time Kevin changed the name of his game to Unite. Since then wehave thought about changing the name of ours back to Link'Em, but decidedthat 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 programthat plays it. In doing this, one of the first tasks is to 'teach' thecomputer all the rules of the game. When we did this for LOA we eventuallyrealized that there are positions possible in which one side has no legalmove. Such positions are very unusual but they can happen, so we had to putin some provision for them. In our program when such a position arises, theperson who has no legal move must 'pass' (as in Reversi), allowing theopponent to move until either a legal move is possible, or the game is won byeither side. The other possibility would be that the person who has no legalmove loses (or wins!). The situation is rare enough that it probably makes nopractical difference which way it is handled. But the original rules in "AGamut of Games" makes no provision for this circumstance; Claude Souciepresumably didn't realize it was possible.

- Mike DickmanMichaelD42@aol.com

for more discussion of unusual endgames, see Unusual Endgames