Arimaa is a chess variant in which two groups of animals attempt to shove each other around and throw each other into pits in an effort to get their bunny rabbits safety across the field. Way better than it sounds.
The game was designed by computer programmer Omar Syed, who created it because he was disappointed by the dominance of computers over humans in modern chess play. He designed Arimaa to be similar to chess, using the same physical equipment, but making it harder for computers to solve while still being intuitively simple and interesting for humans. Syed created a contest along with the game, with a $10,000 prize, in which he challenges people to make such an AI that actually can beat the top players. It took 12 attempts, one each year, for the computers to finally win in 2015.
The pieces represent different animals of varying levels of strength. These pieces on each side are (in order of descending power): the Elephant, the Camel, two Horses, two Dogs, two Cats, and eight Rabbits.
Named after Syed's son, as a slightly-modified Sdrawkcab Name.
Arimaa can be played online at the official website here.
Arimaa provides examples of:
- Amplified Animal Aptitude: The armies are composed entirely of animals, yet they organize and move in strategic ways.
- Artificial Stupidity: Computers are far worse at this game than chess, by design. However, the creator still encourages programmers to prove him wrong. He has set up a time limit of the year 2020 to subvert this trope before assuming that processors will simply become too fast to stop. A brilliant programmer finally figured out how to get the computers to win in 2015.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Played straight, in contrast to chess. The relative strength of a piece is dictated by the traditional value of its equivalent piece in chess, with The King as the strongest and The Pawns as the weakest.
- Diagonal Speed Boost: Averted; no pieces can move diagonally. As such, official game boards remove the checkered pattern, and mark only the Trap Squares with a different color.
- Escort Mission: The goal of the game is to get a rabbit to the other end of the board. However, rabbits are weak and vulnerable, and need protection. If a player loses all of their rabbits, it's game over for them.
- Deer in the Headlights: Animals freeze in place when threatened by stronger animals.
- Field Promotion: Averted, unlike chess and most variants. The strength and effectiveness of a piece is limited by their species, and can never be improved.
- Instant-Win Condition: If a rabbit reaches the side of the board opposite their team's home territory at any point, their team wins.
- Large and in Charge: The Elephant, the biggest and most powerful piece, is the equivalent of The King.
- Obvious Rule Patch: Originally the game did not end if a player lost all their rabbits, since you can also win by making it impossible for the opponent to move. After a game where a player won without any pieces on the board at allnote , the rule against losing all rabbits came into play.
- Pit Trap: The board has 4 of these, placed at the spaces traditionally marked as C3, C6, F3, and F6. It is the only way to remove pieces from the game.
- Sliding Scale of Anthropomorphism: It is not explained, and left up to interpretation, as to whether the battles involve actual animals of surprising intelligence or civilized humanoid creatures.
- Support Party Member: The entire team. Having two animals adjacent to each other makes them immune to being frozen or captured, regardless of the strength of the two animals doing the supporting.
- Take My Hand: Animals prevent each other from falling into pits by being adjacent to them. Pieces hanging over pits may still fall in at a later time if the allies holding them up are forced away.
- You Shall Not Pass!: Pieces freeze weaker pieces, preventing them from proceeding until they are supported by an ally.
- Variant Chess: A case that intentionally sticks to using the same board and pieces, allowing anyone with a normal chess set to play.