Comments on Proximity

# 8 Comments. # Hey, has anyone out there played this before? I get the feeling the Games On Our Table bloggers are going for deep cuts with their LudicAdventCalendar, but this is just amazing. I utterly don't remember this game, but the bloggers say it's fantastic. If so, that's very good news.

-- RonHaleEvans 2018-12-12 04:11 UTC

I'm actually having trouble understanding the rules, which are only three pages long. My fellow piecepackers may remember my quest for lost piecepack treasures a few months ago. I may have completely missed this one, if the ludic calendarists are correct. Marty Hale-Evans said she'd play this with me tomorrow. I'm eager to try it.

-- RonHaleEvans 2018-12-12 05:52 UTC

Marty and I tried it the next day, but her head exploded. I'm instructed to play it solo before we try it again together. :)

-- RonHaleEvans 2018-12-13 21:24 UTC

So far I have tried the game solo. This one definitely leaves a strong aftertaste...

First of all, it took me several reads of the ruleset to get a feel of how the game was supposed to work: there might only be two-and-a-half pages of rules, but they are very dense and some of the concepts involved (the sums, the ages of the pieces in moves) are explained very dryly, which doesn't help when these concepts aren't particularly intuitive. It would have worked wonders to include examples or explanations such as "the age proximity rule basically means that players should keep the pawn and the coins in the trail as close together as possible: if the pawn or a coin get too far ahead of the next coin in the trail at some point it won't be allowed to move".

The note-taking process is crucial for the enjoyment of the game - apart from following the instructions in the rulebook I found it useful to include the "age in moves" of every piece in brackets after each turn. It helps visualize which pieces can still move. I didn't find it necessary to write reminders of the open sum or the suit sums, since the open sum only really limits the options to move once the board is rather full, and the suit sums can be worked out very quickly once you get used to the procedure.

All my test games of Proximity have started slowly. It does take quite a long time for the game to unfold, actually - sometimes I did up to thirty moves to experience some kind of turnaround (!). The dynamics of the game are certainly interesting: rather than playing with different "time strata" or whatever the word (as in for example George Marino's "Timeline") it feels like players are leading two lines of sheep that grow along the way, trying to avoid that the sheep walk into each other. The limited size of the board means that relatively often trails of pieces get stuck, and pawns can be sacrificed quite quickly. Coins gain freedom to move when promoted - sometimes promotions feel like coming back to where we were twenty moves ago.

I suspect that an average game of Proximity already needs more than a hundred moves. This is not necessarily a bad thing (see for instance Christian Freeling's "Glass Bead Game"... funnily enough another game that could be played with a Piecepack!), but it means that the game was probably designed to be played in a light, relaxed way. I hope so, at least.

I can completely understand the fascination of the reviewer of the Piecepack Advent Calendar with the game - it has got some extremely original elements, the ruleset is short and concise and only half a piecepack is actually needed to play (plus some paper). Nevertheless, my tests of the game have unfortunately been slow and tiring due to the oblique mechanics, the overall lack of clarity and the long duration of the game. Proximity is definitely worth exploring (I will certainly keep at it), but not for everybody - I would hold my horses before recommending it enthusiastically as the game that is good enough to build a Piecepack for.

-- Ottia 2018-12-18 17:33 UTC

Thank you for your thoughtful review, Ottia! I plan to try it solo myself after work demands and holiday frenzy subside. I'll let you know if my findings agree with yours. I've been considering rewriting or summarizing the rules in the manner of the one you summarized above, possibly with graphical examples. However good a game Proximity might be, the author certainly didn't do us any favors with the text of his rules.

-- RonHaleEvans 2018-12-19 01:04 UTC

My friend Karl Erickson (one of the playtesters in the recent contest) read Ottia's comments above and suggested the mechanics are implementing a cellular automaton or flocking algorithm. Marty Hale-Evans suggests the mechanics are similar to a Snake video game. This game is an enigma wrapped in a rabbit hole.

-- RonHaleEvans 2018-12-20 01:40 UTC

> The note-taking process is crucial for the enjoyment of the game - apart from following the instructions in the rulebook I found it useful to include the "age in moves" of every piece in brackets after each turn.

This is interesting. Would we know the age in moves of each piece by simply counting the MarksInTheProximityNotes.

-- Anonymous 2019-04-24 00:34 UTC

Of course you can - writing it in number made the visualisation faster for me than counting (particularly with older pieces), but nothing is set in stone...

-- Ottia 2019-04-27 16:46 UTC

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