Demon

Much more than playing games I like to invent games. In one of my other lives when I had more time, I then used to write a computer program for my Atari ST that could play the game better then me. This usually took three days: On day one, I would teach the program play, on day two, I would create a user interface, and on day three, implement a strategy.

Demon1

My favorite creation back then from 1987 was Demon, that I liked so much that I ported it to a PPC Mac. Because I still have a 10 year old G4 PowerBook that can run Classic, I can still play this game, but its days are counted. I have misplaced the source code, and don’t see myself to port it from MacOS 9 to MacOS X (or anything else). Maybe in a later life.

The rules are simple:

Demon is played on a 8×8 board on which initially lie 64 tiles. These tiles are white on one side and yellow on the other. They are placed on the board such that it looks like a chessboard.

Each player owns 4 knights which are put on the fields a1, c3, f3, h1 (first player) and a8, c6, f6, h8 (second player) in chess notation. In the screen shot above, the knights are represented by stylized (??) crowns.

These knights move the same way as knights in chess, but only from a white to a yellow tile or vice versa. The tile from which the knight has just moved away is turned over and hence changes color.

Demon2

Usually the players take turns, and each player moves only one of their own knights.

If a move creates a 2×2 square of unoccupied tiles that all have the same color (outlined below), the moving player must remove one unoccupied tile of his or her choosing from the board. This empty field can not be entered anymore. The players collect the tiles they remove for scoring.

Demon5

If a player is not able to move, he or she has to skip a turn. The game is over if both player cannot move anymore or one of them dies.

The player who has collected the most tiles wins the game.

The first version on the Atari ST used a simple alpha-beta strategy, which I still could beat on the highest level (with some effort). For the Mac version, I added tree pruning. This and the faster hardware made the game essentially unbeatable for me.

In about the same time period, chess programs advanced from being beatable by mediocre amateurs (like me) to being able to beat the chess world champion. Still, I would not have expected to see Go being played at a champion level, let alone beat the world champion.

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