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Some games lead a basic principle of placement and capture to its logical conclusion - one can only follow and see where it leads, whether illustrious like Go or modest like Checkers. Emergo is the quintessential implementation of a mechanism of movement and capture aimed at eliminating the opponent, called 'column checkers'. Its name is derived from the Latin 'Luctor et Emergo', the motto of the Dutch province of Zeeland, and meaning 'I wrestle and emerge'.
Its origin is a game called Bashni, invented some two centuries ago in Russia. Actually it's fun to play, but that isn't quite enough to make a good game. Competing at running a mile with one foot in a bucket is great fun too, and somebody will win for sure, but that doesn't make it a great sport.
The great Emanuel Lasker made things worse with his game Lasca, that has a better structure but is far less fun. And Lasker made the same classic 'inventor's mistake': he left a great idea where he found it.
To the lobbyists Lasca was 'obviously superior to Checkers' - they ignored its contamination. To the skeptics it was too erratic to be taken seriously - they ignored it altogether. As a result the potential of the concept has been grossly neglected.
Column checkers - for dire want of a better name - suffers from a 'weird checkers' image. As it turns out, Emergo is so wide that Chess, Draughts and Go simultaneously drown in it in terms of the number of possible positions. Yet it has less material than any of them. Its inner logic is as flawless as one would expect. Its strategy is basically simple but its tactics are fabulous, both in variety and depth.
However, the small player base for 3-dimensional games doesn't work in its favor.
The game is a joint effort with Ed van Zon, who got me interested in Lasca's way of capture in the first place.
A hexagonal variant eventually turned out to be intrinsically flawed, ironically due to the very properties that make the square version such a great game. It is featured in R. Wayne Schmittberger's 'New Rules for Classic Games' (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. New York - ISBN 0-471-53621-0) and in Games Magazine (February 1986).
Emergo © MindSports
Java applet © Ed van Zon