STRATIC Home • Created 2020/4/20 • Updated 2023/2/12 • v0.7 • Read time 9min • Discord
Stratic is a strategy board game designed to stop AI from outperforming humans. I made
Stratic so we could test AI edge cases as well as human cognitive limits. I have also
included a very simple resource management function so Stratic technically qualifies
as a tactics-level wargame and can be used to teach basic war theory to people.
To clarify how this combats traditional AI engines: the board continually grows in
size, the number of pieces on the board generally increases over time, and the game is
designed to continue potentially indefinitely, with no asymptotic difficulty limit.
This means the state-space complexity, game tree size, and decision tree size are all
infinite as well as the computational complexity since you can't calculate end-states
in finite time. Stratic is not computationally trivial; players have imperfect
information as there are no preset starting formations and new pieces can be placed
randomly on the board. Genetic algos (demonstrated by
are thwarted by Stratic since there aren't a finite or closed number of endstates to
To clarify how this combats modern AI engines: we are
working on implimenting mechanics to stop DNNs from being able to use scaling
effectively by requiring win conditions for the game to be dynamically determined
using things like a score or point assessment every round and making the algorithm
for determining the score/points cryptographically non-trivial. Something like
can force realtime delays and significantly hinder engines from training at
accelerated speeds. If that's not enough, I have also considered making the score
calc be dramatically influenced by the amount of time you take to make a move, where
the longer you take to make a move increases the move's scoring, incentivizing an AI
engine to waste as much time as possible each move. This forces engines to train many
orders of magnitude slower than they would normally, on timescales that make it easy
for humans to outpace them.
We need help testing Stratic, so if anyone wants to help try it out, @ me. We have a
bot for it on our Discord and
soon we should have a web-end as well (this page you are on now will become a portal
for playing the game) so you will be able to play it online like most other strategy
board games. Here is a
to a gdoc showing a recent game.
Pieces, Movement, & Rules
There are two ways to win in Stratic, either capture the commander (equivalent to
capturing the king in chess) or someone surrenders; attrition is a real strategy we
allowed so the games could continue forever and get exponentially more complicated
over time — it is up to the player to win outright or test their will by simply never
There are four kinds of pieces: Fortifiers, Aggressors, Interdictors, and Commanders.
There is only one Commander on the board per player and the game is over when it is
captured. You must place at least one of each piece and have a total of 19 pieces
placed before starting. 19 was chosen for the starting formations since you can't
score 19 in cribbage and an odd number of pieces on an even board works out well in
the meta. Players do not know each other's placements until starting the game. You can
only move onto a space if it is empty, you are capturing a piece that is currently
positioned there, or you are occupying a Fortifier (explained below).
FORTIFIER: can move up to 2 spaces in a straight line;
can only capture other fortifiers; cannot occupy any other piece's space; can be
promoted to an Aggressor or Interdictor if behind the enemy starting line; when
occupied, can only move 1 space at a time. Fortifiers are worth 1 point and promotions
also gain you a point.
AGGRESSOR: can move up to 3 spaces straight or 2
spaces in any direction; can capture every piece except Fortifiers; can chain one
additional capture if the first capture is within 2 spaces of the originating
position; can occupy Fortifiers — doing so allows unlimited unidirectional movement
but you cannot move through other pieces. Aggressors are worth 2 points.
INTERDICTOR: unlimited unidirectional movement; can
capture every piece; can occupy Fortifiers — allows for unlimited unidirectional
movement in which you can jump over as many other pieces as you want. You can only
have one Interdictor on the board at a time unless you promote a Fortifier.
Interdictors are worth 4 points.
COMMANDER: cannot move on its own unless in check or
its position is swapped with another piece that had the Commander in its range; can
capture any piece within 1 space of it even if not in check; can occupy Fortifiers.
When a Commander occupies a Fortifier, attempting to capture that Commander instead
results in the occupied Fortifier & the attacker both getting removed from play. The
Commander cannot place itself in check, the same as Chess, however unlike Chess the
Commander does not have to move when in check. This is due to the way draws occur in
Stratic (see rule on draws). If a draw is not possible, then the Commander does have
to move out of check. Commanders are worth 8 points.
Occupation means two pieces occupying the same space, stacked in 3D (like Gungi). Any
Fortifier can be occupied by any other piece except other Fortifiers. To remove an
occupier you must capture the occupying piece, which means you must be capable of
occupying that same space after as well. An occupied Fortifier cannot be targeted for
capture by any piece except its occupier. An occupied Fortifier can move even if its
occupier is an opponent's piece, but it takes the occupying piece with it. The
benefits of occupation do not apply until the next movement after you have occupied a
Fortifier. The benefits only last for the first movement of a piece off its Fortifier.
You cannot start a game with occupied positions.
Turns in Stratic allow the movement of only one piece at a time, with turns
alternating between players. There is no zugzwang, meaning you do not have to move if
you don't want to, including during your first turn. You can indefinitely pass your
turn if you desire. This is to allow the realism of battles of attrition and also
means you can wait to see how your enemy develops their pieces, breaking the
strictness of strategy around being first to move. Special conditions allow doubled
movement — these are called operations. If you pass on two or more turns in a row, you
get one extra movement on the next turn you take to move. This does not stack, you
only get one extra movement no matter how many turns you passed on.
The board refers to the 10x10 grid the pieces start on. Starting formations can only
be placed within a 2-row space on one of the opposing ends of the board and the space
this occurs in is demarcated by the colored 'starting lines'. The 'midboard' is the
rectangular space between the two starting lines; it is static and does not grow with
board expansion. The 'trough' or 'trench' is the horizontal space between the two
starting lines which does grow with board expansion.
Expansion refers to the growth of the board in every direction by one unit (inspired
by Prosfair from BBB). Expansion starts occurring after the first two rounds pass
(four turns total), then again after three more rounds have passed (six turns), then
again after four more rounds have passed (eight turns), then five more rounds (ten
turns), and so on, growing by 1 each cycle. The reason for this non-constant expansion
is to quickly expand the board in the beginning of the game and then slow expansion
for the mid-to-late game. Infinite expansion occurs in the official game, but this is
obviously not possible on physical boards so we limit physical boards to an expansion
range of eight. Physical boards also don't require infinite rulers to identify their
grid spaces with, and so using A-Z and 1-26 instead of negative letters and numbers
may be preferable.
Reinforcements are new pieces placed after the game has started (like Shogi). There
are two ways to gain reinforcement pieces. The first is by having control of the
midboard during expansion (you must have more pieces in the midboard than your
opponent) and the second is from your opponent taking more than a set time to make a
move. The first method gains you a number of reinforcement pieces equal to how many
more pieces you had in the midboard (up to 3). The second method is only applicable in
games with time controls and can help games end faster; this mechanic may not be
applicable to games against an AI engine (we aren't sure yet). If a player takes
longer than a minute to move, it skips to the other player's turn and awards that
other player a single reinforcement piece. Both reinforcement methods can be stacked
for a given turn.
When you gain a reinforcement, it can only be a fortifier or aggressor, but it can
be placed anywhere on the board as long as it is not past the opponent's starting
line. An exception to this is if your Commander is past the opponent's starting line,
as you can also place a reinforcement within one unoccupied square of your Commander
no matter the position of your Commander.
You do not get additional time during your turn to place reinforcements, they must
be placed before any other movements are made that turn, and you must place allotted
reinforcements. If you place a reinforcement Fortifier in a position that would also
allow for promotion, you may also promote that piece in the same turn before moving.
Direct checks (next-turn single-movement mates) need to be called but indirect checks
(next-turn multiple-movement mates) do not. This means double movements from attrition
or double captures from Aggressor pieces can mate and end the game without warning.
Draws: if your Commander gets captured but you could have similarly captured your
opponent's Commander in the very next turn, you may do so and call the game a draw. A
draw can also be called if the players agree to end the game without a clear victor.
This will usually occur when it becomes clear that the game will go on infinitely and
neither player has the will to outlast attrition.
Truces are when both players agree to pause the timer on the game and come back at a
later time. This is a necessary function for indefinite and correspondence games.
Time controls: to make Stratic games capable of continuing infinitely, the default
game mode for Stratic uses time controls that count up instead of down. There must
always be a limit on the amount of time a player can take to move (with 1 minute being
an ideal time in our tests), and if that limit is hit, it becomes the other player's
turn, with a single reinforcement piece granted from the idleness of the prior player.
There will obviously be time controls that count down as well, to force games to
complete so the human players can move on, but these finite games are less important
to the ranking system.
The two on the left were the starting formations of the first game ever played, before
the rules for piece movements and board size were finalized (this setup is no longer
possible). The game was played by Snax (top) versus Sphlem (bottom).
True Endless: capturing the Commander no longer ends
the game and every captured piece is a piece the opponent gets to place back on their
next turn, so the number of pieces each player has never goes down and no win
conditions can be met.
This variant is designed to be truly endless so we can host The Endless
Tournament, in which all users of the site are automatically added to a side in a
single endless game. You can vote for a piece to move on your side and for any
reinforcements to be placed. Your ELO is the weight added to your vote, meaning if you
have 1500 ELO then it is like 1,500 votes were cast for whatever move you selected. At
the end of the one-hour voting period, the movement with the most votes is what
actually gets played for your side. At the end of each week, the side that scored the
most points through captures is the winner of that week's cash prize which is then
distributed evenly between all the accounts that voted on moves that actually got
Antistratic: the goal in this variant is to lose all
your pieces first. Just like Antichess, the main mechanic is that if a piece can
capture, then it is forced to capture, and the Commander is no longer a special piece
since all pieces must be lost in order to win. This is difficult because having a
presence in the midboard means you are likely to get reinforcements, and
reinforcements must be played.
4D Stratic: add one dimension to the board so it goes
from a 2D square grid to a 3D cube grid. Pieces still move and behave the same as
normal but have another dimension to act in. We call this 4D instead of 3D because the
normal game is technically already 3D. Just as normal, multiple pieces can occupy the
same space in the 3D cube grid and so there is technically another dimension of space
being utilized, making it 4-dimensional. Plus the joke of 4D Chess. This also
works to loosely simulate space combat.