What are Solved Games?

The concept behind solved games is pretty weird. These are games that are ‘mathematically solved.’ This means that the game predetermines who will win the game. Then is there any purpose in playing the game at all?

Solved games have predictable outcomes. They are highly abstract games that are mathematically predefined winners based on the position of the board and the one who starts the game. There are two types of solved games. Partially solved games and fully solved ones.

Here are some examples of solved board games, both fully solved and partially solved. Let’s see if these games are still worth playing.

The Best Solved Board Games

1. Checkers

This game predetermines who will win the game based on who starts the game first. The game is very simple. There aren’t many rules or regulations in it. This is a solved game, even if there is perfect play. By perfect play, I mean even if you try your best to win the game, the winner is already determined.

But that doesn’t remove the fun of the game, does it? Checkers is still a popular game with kids around the world.

2. Mancala

This is, again, a game that has a predetermined winner. I think it’s a good example of a partially solved game. You know who will win the game based on who begins.

And yet, the game does involve some strategic thinking and planning. For instance, it’s still up to you which load of pieces you would pick in order to avoid ending on a black spot.

Mancala is still a fun game to play and a personal childhood favorite. Most kids don’t realize it’s a solved game, so they enjoy playing Mancala.

3. Go

This game is also a partially solved board game that is still fun to play. There are many different variants and possibilities in the game, and there is strategic thinking involved too.
When there is no AI involved, humans play on a 19×19 board, which makes it more complicated than the 5×5 or 7×7 computer game.

solved games

4. Hex

This game is a solved game that guarantees a win for the first player every time. This also greatly depends on the size of the board, whether it is a 6×6 or 8×8 board. Smaller-sized boards are solved, but larger ones may have some variations, which makes it a partially solved game.

5. Chess

I really didn’t think chess would be a part of the list here, but here it is. It is difficult to think of chess as a solved or partially solved game because there is so much strategic thinking and IQ involved.

I think the fact that chess is a partially solved game has a lot to do with the ‘first player advantage’ in the game. However, there is no real proof that the one who begins the game will win.

Chess falls under partially solved because there is a limited amount of movements that can be made. Most of the movements are predictable through AI, which is why AI chess robots have unbeatable chess scores.
Some other variations of chess with fewer chess pieces have been fully solved.
Does this remove the purpose of playing chess? No, the game is still only predictable by AI, and there is a lot of strategy involved.

6. Tic-tac-toe

This is a solved game, even in perfect play. If no mistakes are made, the game is a draw. So yes, personally, I think playing Tic-tac-toe is plain boring.

7. Reversi(Othello)

This is another solved board game, whether played on a 6×6 or 4×4 board. It’s always a win for the second player.
But on an 8×8 board, the game is mathematically unsolved. Computer analysis shows that it’s most likely a draw. But there are greater chances of winning in a 10×10 board for the starting player.

Solved Games: Conclusion

Many simple games we have enjoyed playing as children are actually solved games. And games that involve so much strategic thinking and wisdom, like chess, are actually partially solved.
But does that make these games any less fun? When we played Mancala and Tic-tac-toe as kids, we were blissfully unaware of it being solved. I think playing a game knowing that the winner is predetermined does remove the fun of it to an extent. But partially solved games are still a great way to relax and have fun with friends.
What do you think?

Also, read: Why are board games called board games?
*All pics are taken from Unsplash.com


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