Are asymmetric games a recent invention?

It seems most “classical” games, such as Chess, Poker, Bridge, Checkers, Go, Basketball, Soccer, etc are symmetric by design, both parties (or all parties) having the same pieces, and the same objectives. I’ve googled on asymmetirc board games, and only come up with a game called “Fox and Geese” that was asymmetric by design - the fox had to “eat” all the geese, and the geese had to pin the fox.

However, modern games seem to include a more asymmetric approach to games, such as Magic: TG, and video games such as Counter-Strike, Capture the Flag type games, and most spectacularly, the latest Splinter Cell, where the style of play for both sides are totally different - most akin to the “Fox and Geese” game I referred to earlier.

Why this sudden trend in games?

I have a Tibetan (Nepali?) game with Tigers and Goats. I don’t know Fox and Geese, but this one has the same idea. There are four Tigers, though. It was marketed as a “traditional” game, but I don’t know anything about its history.

I don’t know about “sudden” - Fox and Geese is medieval…
I also don’t agree about M:tG - theoretically, I could have an identical set of cards to my opponent, since we have the same range of cards to choose from. By that token, all 1-deck card games are one-sided, and there have always been a lot of those.
But as to your question, my WAG is that it is more strategically challenging when the opponent has a different objective and toolset to oneself. And way more realistic. Which goes hand-in-hand with the increased realism of both the AI and graphics in new games.

So they are more asymmetric because they can be?

The concept of a high-low split in poker comes to mind. Everyone at the table is playing the same game, typically seven card stud, but all the players have the option of trying to make the best high hand or the best low hand. The best high hand splits the pot with the best low hand.

I cannot contribute to the “are they new” question, but “Command And Conquer:Generals” comes to mind, where you play against opponents with different units and weapons that have different strenghts and weaknesses. Balanced, but not symmetrical.

Something you may also want to check out is wargaming, or miniatures wargaming … basically re-enacting battles with tiny metal or plastic men … the sides might well be unbalanced or have different objectives. It’s popular today, but somewhere in the back of my mind tells me it goes back a couple hundred years.

Well, I recently saw this article in the April issue of The Game Journal, which mentions Fox and Hounds in detail. Perhaps you’ve just caught a recently floating meme?

Seems like these examples are more like simulations of real world situations. A civil war re-enactment might not start both sides evenly. But in sports, it would be “unfair” if the conditions were not symmetric.

In games such as Risk, the pieces are identical because it’s easier to stamp them out in quantity. MTG can print a lot of different cards for very little expense, but they have to pay an artist each time they produce a new card. The numerous interesting combinations of different decks and card strategies justify the added expense.

In fact, check this out.

There’s a sport called “Real Tennis” that has a few dozen courts in the world that has has been around for a very long time. Take a look at the court:

I believe this is the sport I saw described on TV once – the rules are outlandishly complex taking several years for fully understand.

Another asymmetric game that I thought of, similar to chess, is Archon. The light and dark forces were supposed to be fairly balanced, though I remember that the dark side always had a bit of an advantage (trying to kill that damn phoenix…)

Asymetric games are very common in computer games where you play against the computer simply because it is very difficult to program AE sufficiently well that the computer can provide a good opponent if both sides are equal. It is usually much easier to give the computer more units and a defensive position, and or to allow the computer knowledge that is unavailable to the human player (such as computer moves being hidden from the human player, but all human moves being ‘visible’ to the computer.
There are many assymetric sports, they are simply made fair by having the advantage move from player to player (or team to team) Tenis for instance has a huge advantage to the server, this is countered by swapping which player gets to serve.
Even chess is assymetrical because white goes first. The only symetrical sports would be those in which a neutral umpire makes the first move against which both sides get to react (such as Judo, Boxing, track athletics where both sides start at the signal from an umpire) or where each competitor is competing against themselves (such as golf, shooting, field athletics).

By AE (Artificial Eggheadedness?) I of course mean AI (Artificial Inteligence)

Baseball of course, is utterly assymetric except for each team having an at-bat per inning.

Hide and Seek and Tag are both asymmetric games and I think you would be hard pressed to find anything more classic.

Tablut goes back a long way, and is both asymmetric (the two sides have different goals) and seriously unbalanced (it’s a lot harder for black to win than white).

Wait a minute…wasn’t the phoenix one of the light pieces? I distinctly remember phoenix vs. shapeshifter battles (man, those were dull) and the shapeshifter was definitely a dark piece. So how is that an advantage for the dark side?

I was gonna suggest these–curse you for stealing my points! :wink:

I think there are plenty of children’s games that are assymmetric. Dodgeball, Mother May I, Simon Says, Red Light/Green Light, and Marco Polo are all assymmetric. However, they often don’t have strong win/loss conditions; in the case of the last four games, one “side” may be more of a referee than a player.

It’s an interesting question!

Board games have been doing the assymetric thing long before videogames. Lots of Avalon Hill and similar games from the 60’s and 70’s had assymetric setups. I’m sure there’s something between Fox and Geese and the 60’s, of course. I just don’t know it offhand.

It’s more prevalent in videogames, of course, but the concept of each player representing a culture, faction or species with different powers goes back pretty far. (Dune, Cosmic Encounter, D-Day, Axis & Allies, …)

Steve Wright beat me to tablut/hnefetafl, so I’ll just mention Thud, the Discworld board game. It might look similar to hnefetafl, but the capturing mechanism is quite different. You generally play two games per match, switching sides, and there’s a scoring mechanism that attempts to compensate for the different strengths of the two sides.

I’m sorry…you’re right. It’s been a while since I played, so I grabbed a ROM (fully legal, since I have the cartdrige in my possession) and gave it a try last night. Fun game, and I can’t wait for Archon: Evolution to come out of beta.