The idea for Rotary came from Ploy, a proprietary game (3M) in the seventies. In the past, the market has provided some good examples of bad abstract strategy games and Ploy, invented by Frank Thibault, was one of them. Eventually it disappeared of course. You can fool all people sometimes, and some people all the time, but you can't fool all people all the time.

Ploy is a chess variant with 'rotational' pieces and no pawns. Each player has one 'commander, six 'lances', five 'probes' and three 'shields'. These pieces have arrows on top indicating the directions in which they may move. Instead of moving a piece may rotate to a different direction. Shields may move and rotate (in that order) in the same turn.
Pieces have a limited scope: they may move as many spaces as they have directions to move in. That's the first indication something may go wrong. Coupling 'strength' with 'scope' is positive feedback. Positive feedback creates imbalance.

It's not necessarily wrong. In Focus 'scope' is coupled with a column's height. But in Focus the column must move precisely as far as it is high, not 'up to and including'. This restricts positive feedback. Focus is quite volatile, but not imbalanced.

Frank Thibault however was so blatantly unaware that he was going down the wrong track, that he actually increased the dubious effects of his coupling by allowing six lances, able to move up to three squares in three directions, but only three shields, able to move one square in one direction, albeit with the right to rotate in the same turn. What the hell are these guys doing there? It's like having six pitbulls to fight with, and, to make sure, three pekingese.

So I did a better job with Rotary. And it wasn't too difficult either. I needed a couple of minutes. A complete and consistent set presented itself so emphatically that it would have been hard to miss.
  • The first piece is the Axe. It has a middle direction flanked by two directions in a 45o angle.
  • The second piece is the Rook. It has a middle direction flanked by two directions in a 90o angle.
  • The third piece is the Trident. It has a middle direction flanked by two directions in a 135o angle.
  • The fourth piece is the Scythe. Here the variable directions melt into one. The Scythe's right to rotate after any move compensates for the actual loss of one direction.

The mechanism by nature is very capricious, so I transposed regular Chess pawns to provide a strategical framework. Rotary may not be a great game, but it's certainly a good game.

Rotary © MindSports
Java applet © Ed van Zon