Full Report for Yavalath by Ludi,Cameron Browne

Full Report for Yavalath by Ludi,Cameron Browne

Get 4 in a row to win; but if you get 3 in a row first, you lose


Place a piece of your colour each turn. Get 4 in a row to win; but if you get 3 in a row first, you lose.


General comments:

Play: Combinatorial

Family: Yavalath

Mechanism(s): Line

BGG Stats

BGG EntryYavalath
BGG Rating7.1331
BGG Weight2.2857

BGG Ratings and Comments

mrraow10Simple rules, surprising depth.
fogus7.25[2015.08.12] Yavalath was a near perfect discovery for me. First, I already had the bits on hand to play, but more importantly it is amenable to pen and paper play -- a category of gaming that I've recently been exploring. However, during the course of play I've found it to be a very good 3-player abstract, which is a near mythical beast IME. Draws are possible for sure, but I've never been one to discount a game because of that fact. That said, my opinion of this might change if we ever get to the point where draws become too frequent. For now... Huzzah!
Sonicwarhol7Got in a quick three-player version of this game. It was quick and interesting. I though I had come up with a good plan but then a more experienced player schooled me by trapping me.
Barticus888.1The first published gamed designed by a computer.
freechinanow8I've wanted to try this one for awhile now, being the first game published that was designed by a computer program. Very interesting. Felt like the same sort of strategies I use when playing Go-moku or Pente, but obviously the hex board changes it up nicely. Plus, the one rule about losing when creating a line of three is so smart! We messed up our first few games, not understanding that the line had to be straight. Why isn't this mentioned in the rules or in any example?!
danrodz7.5Clever, fast playing with an interesting back story
pdubb127.5Using a thrifted chinese checker board and marbles. The center works perfect for this game.
sbszineN/ASounds like fun.
David H9Great game base for many excellent games Such a good vote for it's versatility and the number of completely different games you can play. Reccomend Nestor games book on the game
LurkingMeeple8I, for one, welcome our new A.I. game designer overlords.
Paolo Robino7Other than being an excellent abstract game for 2 or 3 players, it's worth noting that with a [gameid=33767] set you can also play [gameid=51401], [gameid=42556], [gameid=526], [gameid=32350], [gameid=26135], [gameid=30936], [gameid=81034], [gameid=24697] and a [gameid=3406] [geekurl=/thread/443360]variant[/geekurl].
pkufahl7I made a copy with a printed board plus some glass beads from a craft store. It was interesting to see how the strategy emerged after a few plays.
nycavri8A decent 2-player game which becomes genius with 3-players.
mjf71N/A2-3 10m
danielmleitao6First Impression! Need to play this more.
Wentu7.6this game really surprised me. They introduced it to me as another 4 in a row but this is quite different in that you have a continuos strain toward forcing the opponent in chains of moves, much like zertz. Rules couldnt be simpler: put 4 of your pieces in a row but never have 3 of your pieces in a row. Apply pie rule at the beginning. That's it ! but it is really really interesting to play
cymric6Four-in-a-row, but if you make a stand-alone three-in-a-row (as a four-in-a-row automatically entails a three-in-a-row, or course), you lose. Very simple rules, very fast play with lots of forced moves, highly portable. What's not to like? [b]Update[/b] I really don't like the game at 3. Every time I played Yavalath at this number it proved far too easy to create a game state where nobody wins save the player who moves last; necessitating a fixed strategy where players #1 and #2 strive to eliminate player #3 as soon as possible, and reduce matters to a 2 player-game. So best to leave player #3 out of the proceedings from the start then.
MakeLemonadeN/ANot related to Yinsh but maybe use same board?
walkie9Really great, super simple game. Takes literally 30 seconds to start playing with a new player and induces several early "aha!" moments as new strategies become apparent. This is really fun. I admit I haven't played it enough yet to get a sense for the depth, but this is one of my current go-to fast abstracts. P.S. Immediately after adding this comment, I saw that russ also noted the "aha" moments this game creates. I wonder if there's a name for that effect, and funny that we described it in the same way. :)
seneca29N/Aastratto in tavoliere esagonale con 5 esagoni per lato (Tintas o Catchup)
unic4.5Interesting concept, but seems fatally flawed in that the starting player has a huge advantage.
AdamCarney10The truly great and timeless abstract games are ones with minimal rules and maximal tactical and strategic potential. Yavalath fits the bill. The tiny size of the game makes it easily portable, and the 15+ other games that can be played on the board with the discs gives this a permanent place in my collection.
cdunc1237.5An excellent, elegant abstract. Simple rules: take turns placing stones; if you make three-in-a-row, you lose; if you make four-in-a-row, you win. Essentially, that is it. From such simple rules, surprising tactical depth emerges. I'd say gameplay is about a rating of 7; I've added 0.5 for the fact that you can play three players too (indeed, many people report that they prefer it with three). 03-2015 update: I've lowered my rating by 0.5 because it seems that as you and your opponent get better at the game, you often reach an endgame of simply trying to outlast your opponent, by avoiding having to play in a space next to two of your pieces (thereby giving you three in a row, and eliminating you). There is still skill in that (i.e. in playing the mid-game such that you minimize the number of dangerous spaces you create), so it's not a fatal flaw of the game. But I find the cold endgame a bit anti-climatic, when it occurs.
barnyams366.5This game has been created by a computer, which is a strange concept to me. It is a variation of 4 in line, in which 3 in line is forbidden. That makes you think much more. Interesting package and board, as all games from this editor.
grasa_total7"Adult tic-tac-toe", apparently a category of game I enjoy but can't quite respect myself for. Update: Have now played an opponent with a radically different style; I suspect there's at least a little more depth than I thought.
lulu35N/AAbstract b2 yourturnmyturn
Gola7Sixteen plays, twice with three and the rest two-player. It's a relatively short abstract where you're trying to set yourself up in such a way that your opponent cannot block your four-in-a-row without losing to the no-three-in-a-row condition. As far as the two-player game goes, Yavalath feels more like a quick diversion than a deep strategic contest. Two thoughtful players might enjoy developing their moves and countermoves, and in doing so tease out a deeper game, but they could do the same with a game that has more complexity. That said, it is sometimes fun to play a quick fifteen-minute contest such as this. I find it interesting that the game was generated by a computer program.
Puzzler9I grew up playing Pente. I loved it, and eventually burned out on it. 15 years ago, I discovered the Keryo Pente variation which injected new life again into the Pente genre for me, for a little while. Now, Yavalath comes along, and again turns the stones-in-a-row genre into something new, making me feel the way I felt when I was a kid, discovering Pente for the first time. Great game. Has that just-one-more-time quality that makes me play it several times in a row once it comes out.
rynelf7.3--Jan2014-- Intriguing game of simple rules and an awful lot of forcings. Needs more study if I'm going to have the ability to rate it correctly. --Jan2015-- Had so much fun with the Android app, I was motivated to buy a "real" copy from Néstor.
ponsonbybritt6Easy to transport and play a few games back to back. I can gauge I am doing better when games last minutes instead of seconds.
nestorgames9Publisher :) First game designed by a computer. Fun and deep.
no_where_dense9Great abstract game of "stones in a row" category. Deep.
Triumph447Solid, functional, tiny abstract
safety pin5Skynet is coming.
trapeze8Surprisingly enjoyable, and fast abstract (we have the Nestor Games set). One is on the lookout for a sequence of forcing moves that result in a win. I’m curious if the game will have staying power. We play best of 3 as the game is so quick.
fiddly_bitsN/AI'm pretty sure I have a homemade one of these around.
guitarsolointhewind7currently pretty interesting. i and the people my wife and i teach this to seem to enjoy the fact that it was designed by a computer. We play on an abalone travel board (which needs a few more marbles for long games).
wolf9545N/APrint & Play
Deleted0105187.4The game features interesting choices and both move-by-move decisions and overarching strategies can be employed. I didn't like the seeming likelihood of a draw in 3-player games. Interested to play again.
mikeweeney9Yavalath is very good. After the first game Meg and I both said "OOooh, let's do that again." We are having a lot of fun discovering the strategies of the game, learning to see the patterns on the board and how to take advantage of them. So far there have been lots of surprises and "a-ha!" moments. Probably our favorite Nestorgame we've tried so far!
rarevosN/AA game designed by a computer. On a 5x5 hex-hex board, place one stone at a time on your turn. The object is to get 4 in a row. If you get 3 in a row, you lose. And that is 100% of what you need to know. This is a fantastic game, and a great gateway game. I've had loads of luck teaching it to pretty much everybody, and since a game of it is so short, you can play a lot right away. This one is a total joy.
Friendless7I haven't played enough but it does seem to have some of the same strategies as Zertz or Checkers, and is much more like them than Go-Moku.
mmazalaN/APnP from Nestorgames
megamau9Very good game and much better than what can be inferred from the rules. I like both the 3-player suitability and the "cold" phase when 4 in a row is unlikely.
Pensator7First player have huge advantatge but is a good game. You can bid for first player (how in hex)
molnar7I like the idea. Looking forward to playing this more.
touchstonethefool8Plays nice and fast, very easy rule-set, great emergent game play. It doesn't seem to tolerate mistakes very well: Most of my games ended within 30 seconds when one person slipped up without knowing it and the other person went in for the kill (only recognizing it as a kill around the same time that their opponent did). Seems to want to be played quickly, but hard for my molasses brain to register better play over a single game. At least re-setting and going again is a breeze!
aspoN/AInteresting game. Very tactical, but I'm not sure there's much room for strategy. Not sure how to rate.
mothertruckin7enjoyable qualities: short, fun abstract. pnp
YeosterN/A7 after 2 plays Attractive and high quality game components. Extremely simple rules, making it very simple to teach. However, gameplay is a little dry. The balance between 3 players is done well, with significant player interaction.
clayhaus8Very enjoyable fast paced game. I can see this one being explored for quite some time.
Warren dM6An abstract which was created by a computer and is super-easy to learn.
Toynan6.5Interesting abstract. Game are very quick at the beginning because it's not easy to see what to do to win without loosing (because there are victory condition and loose condition). I think that to good players can easily make draw games. Need to try with 3 players...
erak8Really shines with three-players. Plays like a run-of-the-mill abstract with 2.
rayr10:gg: Top 10 Of All Time :heart: We both love it! Pros: :star: Shortest rules explanation of any game I own (see below) . :star: Extremely simple setup and cleanup. :star: Played on an Abalone board with marbles (or Gerhards wooden Rukuni board!), the game has a beautiful look and feel to it. It's also portable and indestructible. :star: From that moment you feel there's no chance of winning to the moment you're setup for the next play is under 15 seconds. :star: Immediately enjoyable, even for a novice. You don't have to wait until you're an experienced player before you're able to enjoy playing this game. :star: Good strategic depth and tactical variability. [b]2018-07-16 - R:10[/b] Bumping to a 10. We've always got a game of this going. It's permanently setup in the living room, with the old 1999 Abalone board and a crystal bowl full of 7/8" marbles from Moon Marble. I've now got marbles in 8 colors. The game has been spreading a bit at the office too. A coworker recently ordered an Abalone board and when I placed my latest marbles order, he added on. He said his wife instantly took to the game (and to Manalath). I'm even making plans to build a bunch of wooden hexhex5 boards (for smaller marbles) for X-Mas gifts. Love this game. [b]2018-05-14 - R:9[/b] Fantastic game. Loving it. Starting at a 9, but could go to 10 if the games don't start to feel "samey" after a while. When showing this game to new players, I start by claiming this game has one of the shortest rules explanations they're likely to ever see. My "teaching script" goes something like this: "Take turns playing a marble of your own color. Three in a row loses. Four in a row wins. Go!". I don't give them any time to think about the implications. Most people will start by trying to make a line and when they go to put down that 3rd marble, there's a look of joy that comes from the sudden appreciation of a very clever and fun idea. I've been spending some time in the Abstracts sub-domain of BGG and their smug and reproachful attitude is no doubt the reason fresh blood doesn't venture their way as often as they should. Yavalath is one of those games that makes me think they've got good reason to feel smug.
getareaction5Bought as part of a giant nestorgames order in June/July 2019.
morelli2N/A3 in a row loses, 4 in a row wins, take turns placing tiles
TurboGeistN/ACategory: Abstract Strategy Mechanic: Pattern Building Family: Combinatorial, Computer-generated games, n in a row $ - ?
sundaysilence7fills that right niche about where pente and connect 4 would go. Also has very classic and easy rules. Also gets credit for innovation and likely impact on future games. Rating based on the liklyhood to play, whereas in terms of originality more like 10.
dispatch1347119.4Incredible. My favourite type of design, only one rule, from which comes complex and intriguing behaviour. A game designed by a computer using genetic algorithms. Four in a row wins, three in a row loses. That's it! Yet belying these simple rules is a wonderfully intense and interesting game. Patterns emerge, the game shifts dramatically from opening to endgame, and play proceeds on a knife edge. A true triumph from Cameron Browne, a prolific and interesting designer. His monte-carlo type bot is a tough challenge when given enough time to think.
vetinari78785Interesting and very easy to learn abstract game, which is however not my cup of tea.
russ8Simple elegant abstract with nifty gimmick: 4 in a row wins, but exactly 3 in a row loses. Leads to amusing aha-effects as players learn strategy. 2-player games always seem to end decisively. 3-player is a fun less serious twist. So far they usually seem to end fairly soon (but not as fast as 2-player), but sometimes they enter an interesting endgame where you need to try to maximize your number of "safe spaces" where you can play but opponent's can. We had at least one game where one player lost (due to 3 in a row) and the others tied. Great filler game for a con or club meeting - portable, very easy to teach, works with 2 or 3 players.
arimarima8Been meaning to rate this for a few years now. What an abstract should be: simple rules that generate deep play. Novel mechanic - get group of 4 and win, but not 3, or you lose - opens up a great deal of brain burning fun.
pulla7Only tried the two player version... feels a bit like Go. Might be too easy for the player who begins. Have to try some more.
Whoshim8My brother and I played this one to death a few years ago. This game plays super fast, with a lot of intense action. This was the last game I played before I got married. :) My brother (my best man) and I were playing this in the back room until the time for the ceremony to begin.
bazyn7I'm surprised how much I liked this one. The 4 in a row wins 3 in a row loses forces you to think different than in other similar games. One of the best n in a row out there.
rseater5played 3p, there's a lot of kill-doctor-lucky-ing
mickwoodN/A2-3 player PnP game played on a 5x5 hex board. No expansions but several variants.
milomilo122N/AThe present trend among abstract games is short, tactical affairs, I suppose because those are easier to get people to play. I like big sweeping abstracts more than I like short tactical ones, but this one is very good. Yavalath short, draws are rare, the rules are very simple and familiar even if the feel of play is novel. This is now either my favorite or second favorite N-in-a-row game, depending on whether you think Yinsh is one or not. Yavalath is also proof of principle that computers can be programmed to design good games, since that is how this one is designed. I wonder what other games the same program has designed.
Kaffedrake5Fun game that can be played at a quick pace or with some more thought put into it, and at least early on inspires that "one more game, I'll show you" feeling when you lose. [url=http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/483373/a-review-some-people-will-read-of-a-game-some-peop]Review here.[/url]
wtanaka8Can be played online at http://games.wtanaka.com/yavalath
ingo_althofer8The mechanism (make 4, avoid 3) is simple, but very effective. Maybe, the game would win still some more quality by making the board a little bit smaller (something like 46 squares instead of 61). Then, in endgames the danger of being forced to build a 3-chain might become an attractive element.
dshortdesignN/AResearching still... not sure yet.
Zalbar7B: 2 C: 2,32 T: 10 PnP
STICKPIN8Homemade ... repurposed Abalone board. It's clever and "nasty" ... I like it.
bakaiadam8egyszerű érdekes játék. kipróbáltuk ketten és hárman is.
FiveStars9.5The game is quite deep.
AndrePORN/APrint & Play Edition

Levels of Play

AIStrong WinsDrawsStrong Losses#GamesStrong Win%p1 Win%Game Length
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=0.01s)360036100.0055.568.28
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=0.03s)360134973.4759.1819.98
Rαβ + ocqBKs (t=4.03s)360036100.0047.2218.42

Level of Play: Strong beats Weak 60% of the time (lower bound with 90% confidence).

Draw%, p1 win% and game length may give some indication of trends as AI strength increases; but be aware that the AI can introduce bias due to horizon effects, poor heuristics, etc.

Kolomogorov Complexity Estimate

Size (bytes)39786
Reference Size10293

Ai Ai calculates the size of the implementation, and compares it to the Ai Ai implementation of the simplest possible game (which just fills the board). Note that this estimate may include some graphics and heuristics code as well as the game logic. See the wikipedia entry for more details.

Playout Complexity Estimate

Playouts per second146333.61 (6.83µs/playout)
Reference Size402349.72 (2.49µs/playout)
Ratio (low is good)2.75

Tavener complexity: the heat generated by playing every possible instance of a game with a perfectly efficient programme. Since this is not possible to calculate, Ai Ai calculates the number of random playouts per second and compares it to the fastest non-trivial Ai Ai game (Connect 4). This ratio gives a practical indication of how complex the game is. Combine this with the computational state space, and you can get an idea of how strong the default (MCTS-based) AI will be.

Win % By Player (Bias)

1: White win %70.57±2.93Includes draws = 50%
2: Black win %29.43±2.77Includes draws = 50%
Draw %0.00Percentage of games where all players draw.
Decisive %100.00Percentage of games with a single winner.
Samples982Quantity of logged games played

Note: that win/loss statistics may vary depending on thinking time (horizon effect, etc.), bad heuristics, bugs, and other factors, so should be taken with a pinch of salt. (Given perfect play, any game of pure skill will always end in the same result.)

Note: Ai Ai differentiates between states where all players draw or win or lose; this is mostly to support cooperative games.

Playout/Search Speed

LabelIts/sSDNodes/sSDGame lengthSD
Random playout229,3458874,500,13117,297206

Random: 10 second warmup for the hotspot compiler. 100 trials of 1000ms each.

Other: 100 playouts, means calculated over the first 5 moves only to avoid distortion due to speedup at end of game.

Mirroring Strategies

Rotation (Half turn) lost each game as expected.
Reflection (X axis) lost each game as expected.
Reflection (Y axis) lost each game as expected.
Copy last move lost each game as expected.

Mirroring strategies attempt to copy the previous move. On first move, they will attempt to play in the centre. If neither of these are possible, they will pick a random move. Each entry represents a different form of copying; direct copy, reflection in either the X or Y axis, half-turn rotation.


Game length18.74 
Branching factor52.13 
Complexity10^31.69Based on game length and branching factor
Samples982Quantity of logged games played

Computational complexity (where present) is an estimate of the game tree reachable through actual play. For each game in turn, Ai Ai marks the positions reached in a hashtable, then counts the number of new moves added to the table. Once all moves are applied, it treats this sequence as a geometric progression and calculates the sum as n-> infinity.

Move Classification

Distinct actions61Number of distinct moves (e.g. "e4") regardless of position in game tree
Good moves26A good move is selected by the AI more than the average
Bad moves35A bad move is selected by the AI less than the average
Samples982Quantity of logged games played

Change in Material Per Turn

This chart is based on a single playout, and gives a feel for the change in material over the course of a game.


This chart shows the best move value with respect to the active player; the orange line represents the value of doing nothing (null move).

The lead changed on 96% of the game turns. Ai Ai found 2 critical turns (turns with only one good option).

Overall, this playout was 12.00% hot.

Position Heatmap

This chart shows the relative temperature of all moves each turn. Colour range: black (worst), red, orange(even), yellow, white(best).

Good/Effective moves

MeasureAll playersPlayer 1Player 2
Mean % of effective moves48.9944.1153.88
Mean no. of effective moves19.4217.8021.04
Effective game space10^54.5210^26.0510^28.47
Mean % of good moves49.9849.9450.02
Mean no. of good moves20.9021.1620.64
Good move game space10^56.2910^28.8310^27.45

These figures were calculated over a single game.

An effective move is one with score 0.1 of the best move (including the best move). -1 (loss) <= score <= 1 (win)

A good move has a score > 0. Note that when there are no good moves, an multiplier of 1 is used for the game spce calculation.


Table: branching factor per turn.

Action Types per Turn

This chart is based on a single playout, and gives a feel for the types of moves available over the course of a game.

Red: removal, Black: move, Blue: Add, Grey: pass, Purple: swap sides, Brown: other.

Unique Positions Reachable at Depth


Note: most games do not take board rotation and reflection into consideration.
Multi-part turns could be treated as the same or different depth depending on the implementation.
Counts to depth N include all moves reachable at lower depths.
Inaccuracies may also exist due to hash collisions, but Ai Ai uses 64-bit hashes so these will be a very small fraction of a percentage point.

Shortest Game(s)


58836 solutions found - search incomplete.



Opening Heatmap

Colour shows the success ratio of this play over the first 10moves; black < red < yellow < white.

Size shows the frequency this move is played.