Ketchup was a finalist for the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge
Ketchup is a simple, drawless game with a devilish dynamic. The goal is to end up with the largest group of stones on the board, but as you get closer to winning, your opponent gets more powerful. Whereas most stone placement games are about position, Ketchup is about timing, position, and the interplay between them.
It's for two players, played with black and white stones on this initially-empty board:
- Group – a set of connected, like-colored stones on the board.
- Group Size – the number of stones that a group contains. The smallest possible group contains 2 stones. The figure below shows three groups with sizes 2, 5, and 11.
- To Drop- to place a stone on any empty space.
The ovals around the board are called the scoring track. Before the game starts, set aside one white stone and one black stone. These will be moved along the scoring track as the game goes along to mark the size of each player's largest group.
- One player owns the white stones and the other owns the black stones.
- White begins by dropping 1 stone. From then on, starting with Black, each player must drop 1 or 2 stones on her turn.
- If the largest group on the board (regardless of color) is larger at the end of your turn than at the beginning, your opponent may drop up to 3 stones on her next turn.
- The game ends when the board is full. The player with the largest group wins. If the players’ largest groups are the same size, compare their second-largest groups, and so on, until you come to a pair which aren't the same size. Whoever owns the larger of the two wins.
You can play online, in realtime games against human opponents here:
You can also play turn-based Ketchup at Christian Freeling's site for abstract games, Mindsports.
Here's a printable pdf board with a green scoring track, for playing Ketchup with full-size Go stones (it's 15x16 inches so you'll have to print it at a printing store if your printer can't handle oversized jobs. Alternatively, you can use a free program called Posterazor to print segments of the board onto multiple standard sheets such that they can be combined to construct the full-size board):
Here are pics of this board being in action, after printing and mounting on foamboard:
Ketchup around the web [last update: 3-7-12]
- Ketchup was a finalist in the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge
- Ketchup has been implemented at two online sites, Mindsports (turn-based) and igGameCenter (real-time).
- At igGameCenter, Ketchup has been played 208 times, and 46 players have played at least one game.
- There's a game group in Minnesota playing Ketchup a lot face-to-face. Here's the Ketchup tag page for that group's blog (with pics of people playing).
- Somebody from that same game group has posted a Ketchup opening analysis on BoardGameGeek.
- That same person posted a substantial, and super-positive review of the game, in which Ketchup is likened to a Bach Fugue.
- Ketchup was played at the 2011 U-Con Abstract Games Tournament (in Michigan)
- "Ketchup is a work of genius..."
- "Nick's latest 'tweak' turned Ketchup into one of the very best games I've seen in a long time."
- "Nick's game leaves little doubt about his intuitive notion: he definitely sensed a beautiful new game, a natural organism - only thing was how to capture it, and this has been a reluctant cookie to say the least. Now that's it's all cleaned up and polished, we have a new definition of territory and new mechanics to match, and a beautiful new game awaiting deep investigation."
- "Nick Bentley's Ketchup has the most sophisticated balancing mechanism I know of... Ketchup being highly regarded is a victory for architecture. Architecture does not always triumph, but when it does, it triumphs big."
- Two noteworthy Ketchup variants have been developed by other people: Spice (Ketchup translated onto a 3D, pyramidal stack of balls; this game has itself been entered into another design contest), and Ice Ketchup (a variant played with Looney Pyramids)
- Ketchup page at Boardgamegeek
- Ketchup image gallery at Boardgamegeek
Rules and printable boards with scoring tracks for paper-and-pencil play: