Cameron Browne
(c) 2008
Gates is a simple Y variant played with special split path tiles.


Tiles: Two players, White and Blue, share a common pool of identical hexagonal tiles showing the same pattern of white and blue paths on each side. There are three orientations in which tile corners of the same colour lie in the same positions (Figure 1).

Figure 1.  Three rotations of a Gates tile.

Play: The board is initially empty. White places a tile on the cell of their choice, rotated as they wish. Blue may then elect to swap colours in lieu of making the second move (swap option). Players then take turns adding a tile to an empty cell in any of the three valid rotations.

Aim: A player wins by completing a path of their colour depending on which version is being played (see below). Each game will have exactly one winner.

Y Gates

A player wins by connecting the three sides of a triangular board with a path of their colour. For example, White wins the following game.

Figure 2.  A game of Y Gates won by White.

Hex Gates

A player wins by connecting their sides of a rhomboidal board with a path of their colour. For example, White wins the following game by connecting their top left and bottom right edges.

Figure 3.  A game of Hex Gates won by White.

Cross Gates

A player wins by connecting three non-adjacent sides of a hexagonal board with a path of their colour, but loses if a path of their colour connects two opposite board sides before doing so. If a move completes losing paths for both players then the mover loses. Corner cell edges shared by consecutive sides count as connections to both sides.

For example, Blue wins the following game by connecting three non-adjacent board sides (top left, bottom left and right) with a blue path. Note that Blue has also connected opposite board sides (left and right sides as well as top left and bottom right sides) hence Blue would have lost this game if the triple connection did not also exist.

Figure 4.  A game of Cross Gates won by Blue.


Each game will have exactly one winner and there will be no ties. A winning path is guaranteed even if the board fills up, as shown in Figure 5. The situation in Cross Gates is slightly more complicated as two paths of different colour between the same two opposite board sides will preclude a triple connection for either player, however such a situation would constitute a loss for the player completing such paths between opposite sides.

Figure 5.  Exactly one player must win.

The split paths of each tile result in more complex winning paths than those found in standard Y/Hex/Cross played with plain (uniformly coloured) hexagonal tiles on the same board size. Gates therefore allows more interesting contests to develop on smaller boards.

In addition, the meandering nature of the split path patterns means that corner cells play a greater part in the game than in many connection games, making greater use of more of the board.

Note that the paths in each tile rotation lie parallel to a different side of the board in Y Gates. Given the three rotations shown above, Blue can form an outer wall on all three board sides (Figure 6, left) which may appear to give them an advantage. However, White can easily connect around most such walls before they are completed; for instance, White can connect to the bottom edge around Blue's potential block shown below (right) with either move x or y. If the three tile rotations were to be rotated 60 degrees then the situation would be reversed.

Figure 6.  Blue's outer walls.

In other words, White pieces connect strongly to each edge as well as connecting strongly to the centre on the Y Gates board. Y Gates should be played with the invert option described below.

The opening player may be given the option of playing the first piece as shown in Figure 1 or rotated 60 degrees. In either case, all remaining moves must be chosen from the three rotations that agree with this first move.

This phase difference that favours one player or the other is not present in Cross Gates, which is the most complex and most successful of the Gates games.

The fact that each tile contains path segments of both colours means that players may extend enemy paths to the opponent's detriment; players may actually be forced to kill off their own paths if the opponent threatens to run them into oppoiste sides.


Invert: The invert option allows all six rotations to be played on the same board, with colour clashes resolved by inverting the colours of the offending tiles (tile colours can be inverted by rotating them 180 degrees). Only the minimum number of inversions that resolve the colour clash may be made; if the choice is equal then offending tiles are aligned to the piece just played.

Align: The align option allows all six tile rotations to be played on the same board, with colour clashes aligned to the tile just played. No tile is allowed to cause a colour clash unless it also has at least one matching neighbour (i.e. clashing moves require a support piece).


Gates rules copyright Cameron Browne © 2008.

The name “Gates” refers to the way in which each tile directs connective flow in one direction or another. Any association with famous software monopolists - living, dead or somewhere in between - is coincidental.

Cross Gates was designed to address problems with the original Y and Hex and versions. The Y version has a serious phase problem due to its three-fold radial symmetry; the three tile rotations connect more strongly to the three board sides as well as the interior for White (the align and minimal inversion options help address this). The Hex version is rather awkward in shape, requires larger board sizes for meaningful games and may suffer from a winning strategy as it appears that the first player to establish a strong connection along the short diagonal can extend it at will. The Cross version addresses these problems by providing six-fold radial symmetry and equivalent goals within an elegant, compact board shape.

The Gates tiles are equivalent to duotone (white/blue) Mambo tiles.

Gates can be played on Richard's PBeM server - check out the help file for more details. Many thanks to the server regulars who helped test the game. Please challenge me (camb) to a game any time.

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