To make a short story even shorter, my mind was wrapping itself around the idea of a more 'advanced' version of Jeson Mor. And it happened just the same way as it used to: the game began to 'autoshape' in my head. Not by deliberately thinking about it, but by passively letting it happen, in between and during the daily routine of translating, taking care of the animals and getting the groceries. It felt like swimming in familiar waters all the way, despite the unusual theme and the unusual mechanics that began to unfold. Two days later it had turned itself into a soccer game. 'Advanced' Jeson Mor is still very recognizable: basically a ball, initially on the center square, must be grabbed and kicked it into the opponent's goal. It was the reason I decided for eleven pieces.


That same night I mailed the rules and the story of its genesis to Arty Sandler, to Ed van Zon and to Benedikt Rosenau, a German games expert, as an illustration of how I invented games. For the same reason I posted it in a thread at the Arimaa Forum, where the owner of the site, Omar Syed had started a thread on the essay. My claims were not received without controversy. Here's an example:
"I'm surprised he doesn't call himself Cassandra, gifted with prophecy but cursed that no one will believe him. But he does put his faith in generations. He believes that time will tell. I suppose prophesy is like emergent complexity: if other people could judge your claims to be true at the time you made them, then you wouldn't be a prophet."

The thread breathed an atmosphere of polite scepsis, so putting the game up for playtesting and predicting that it would behave properly, meant sticking my neck out.

In the days following its publication, two important modifications were suggested by members of the Forum. The first one, suggested by 'JDB' was a generalization of the shots at the keeper rule, so that it now holds for all shots of either side.
The second one, suggested by Greg Magne solved an actual problem that had emerged by giving a new and perfect definition of obstruction. It shows once more that if the concept is sound, the rule will be there.

Playtesting for a week or two at iGGameCenter revealed that the game's tactics satisfied its spirit. However, a not anticipated problem emerged, in terms of strategy. iGGC's Arty Sandler was the first to formulate it:

"Get the ball (black can get to it first), bring it to the left or right backfield and build a 'narrow passage' along the b- or h-column where you keep the ball save from invasion by a knight's move. To get in, the opponent would need a Lion or an Elephant, and a lone invader runs the risk of being captured.
Now here's the puzzle: move the whole narrow passage towards the opponent's side, taking the ball along, till you're close enough to the opponent's goal to make a break for it with a Lion and the ball.

That's it in a nutshell. It was provisionally coined catenaccio, and though it revealed no inconsistency in the rules, it wasn't the way the game wanted to be played. It clearly needed a rule to limit the number of pieces and their distribution around the ball.
Arty Sandler finally solved the problem with a rule against clustering. This was a sufficiently important change to qualify him as a co-inventor.

HanniBal has been implemented on the Zillions machine in June 2009.
HanniBal has been implemented at IGGameCenter in May 2010.

Enschede, april 21, 2009 / june 1, 2010

christian freeling

HanniBall © MindSports and Arty Sandler