The Game of Y: rules of play

Rules for playing The Game of Y

About the gameboard:   The curved triangular playing board has 93 nodes (points of intersection) on which the black and white stones are played. There are 24 nodes along its 3 outside edges and 69 interior nodes. Each board side contains 9 nodes.

Three of the interior nodes are pentads (connected to 5 other nodes); the other 66 are hexads (connected to 6 other nodes).

Each corner node "belongs" to both of its two adjacent sides.

Start:   One player uses the black stones; the other uses the white. Board empty.

Play:   The players take turns placing one of their stones on any unoccupied node. Black plays first. Stones stay put for the duration of the game.

Goal:   Each player tries to form a "Y" — a continuous string of stones of their own color that reaches all three outside edges of the board, thus connecting all three sides together. You can think of this string as a "string of beads" where the thread between the beads is made up of lines on the board. This string can look a bit like a "Y" but could look quite different. For example, instead of three branches, it could even be a single string from a corner to the opposite side. Whoever first forms a Y wins.

Fact:   In every game, no matter how well or how inexpertly played, one of the two players will eventually make a Y. Only one player will make a Y — there will never be a "draw."

The Pie Rule:   The first player has a great advantage if allowed to play the first move wherever desired. As a result it is customary for equal players to use the pie rule, so called because it is derived from the puzzle of how two people can share a piece of pie fairly. The solution is: one person cuts the pie, the other chooses a piece.

The pie rule applied to Y says that one player decides what the first player's first move will be. The other player then decides whether to be the first player (with that first move) or the second player. The pie rule eliminates the large advantage the first player has, and it makes the game more interesting (the player who decides whether to be the first or second player has a slight advantage).

Handicapping:   If one player always wins, the game will not be very interesting for either player. Furthermore, neither player will know whether they played better in one game or the next, since the outcome is always the same — so they will both find it very difficult to improve. Ideally both players should win about half the time.

If one player consistently wins even with the pie rule, the weaker player can play first, playing wherever desired. For larger differences in skill, the first player can play two or more stones on the first move only. Always try to adjust the handicap so that the two players both win about half the time.

The Game of Y book also includes rules for these six other games: Also try your hand at these Solitaires:

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