Kodrek, A Game of the Kotaht Archipelago

A Kodrek board
A game of wrestling spacecraft

During last night’s game of Human Contact, there was a scene in a rough ‘n’ tumble bar where there was a gambling game going on between a couple of background characters in the Kotaht Archipelago. There was some hustling going on, so we wound up describing the game a little bit. Vincent wanted there to be stuff you hid under your hand. I wanted there to be a board where you made your commitments based on your hidden hand.

After the game ended for the night (Rob had to go home), Vincent and I talked it out a bit. We came up with Kodrek. The people of the Kotaht have a clan structure and they fight over stuff all the time in a fairly ritualized, low-casualty, high benefit form of spacecraft warfare. This game is to their warfare the way Chess is to ours: grossly abstracted to the point of being a poor simulation, but much more fun, really.

There are a number of local variations to the game, of course, but these things remain constant:

  • It is played on a triangular grid
  • Each player has two pieces: a Craft and a Speaker. These represent spacecraft and the Speakers on board who have access and the mathematical skill to plot a course. The big piece is the Craft. The little one is the Speaker.
  • It’s a gambling game. Everyone antes the same amount into the pot at the beginning of the game, then takes their money back out turn by turn.
  • The object of the game is to do one of the following:
    • Fling another ship off the board on your turn, in which case you win the pot. Some variants have the pot split between the remaining players.
    • Impact another craft on your turn (some variants say you must end a turn on top of another craft, some say you end a turn within one “point” of another craft, some say that you merely cross paths in a turn) which gets you money from the target immediately. If the target doesn’t have enough, you take the balance from the pot.
    • Get off the board on your turn, in which case the game starts anew. Everyone pays an equal amount to get the pot up to full strength.
  • You have a number of coins, (5 to 8, determined by the local variation, which also determines the size of the board). You turn coins Heads up to draw ships closer to you and Tails up to move your ship. You cover the coins with your hand and reveal them, then make your moves based on what you see revealed in others’ hands.
  • You play a bunch of games in a row. In some places, you play a set number of games, and in some, you quit any time, dividing the pot three ways. If anyone leaves in the middle of a game, the remaining players split the pot in half. If there’s a remainder, it goes to the barmaid.

We’re gonna sketch up this game and get the numbers ironed out. Then we’ll do something or other with it if it’s as fun as we think it is.

5 thoughts on “Kodrek, A Game of the Kotaht Archipelago”

    1. Ah! Right! Your Speaker is where your Craft will be next turn. As you grab ahold of an opponent, you’re really affecting their Speaker.

      More simply, it’s a vector marker.

  1. OK I have to come to the defense of Chess. It has no coins to toss, no dice to roll. There is no randomness, period. (unless you count the human element). Chess is not grossly abstracted. I would call it accurately abstracted. It has a very well set of definitive characters that fill out very defined roles. It developed as an emulation of Middle Eastern Royal Courts where battles were fought over intellectual boundaries.

  2. Why 8×8? Why do rooks move, and why rank and file, while bishops move diagonally? Why do knights move two then one? What does en passant represent? If it’s supposed to accurately represent battle, then why no randomness? Why no weather or terrain? Why no treachery? Why no errors in the chain of command?

    Chess — particularly modern chess — has much, much more to do with modern conceptions of chess than it does with warfare, particularly modern warfare.

    None of this is a problem with chess as I understand it, mind you. These are just characteristics of the game. But it is very abstract.

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