by David Levy
updated July 5, 2003
Copyright © by David Levy.
(This work is unpublished)
Congratulations on being one of the testers for Soumille! Soumille is the first available program to play Trictrac. This User Guide should answer most questions about using the product. Please email me with questions or comments.
Soumille now recognizes scoring for:
Soumille will explain how it arrived at the total of points scored. Click on the menu item "Score" and "Get Details." Click the radio buttons on the pop-up to toggle between points scored by the roller and points scored by the non-roller.
Soumille will provide a list of all legal moves and, if Soumille is on move, will evaluate each move. Click on the menu item "Move" and "Evaluate." The percentage is Soumille's estimate of the probability of winning the partie.
Soumille understands all rules of checker movement including bearing off (lois de la sortie).
Soumille has a very primitive (and buggy) ability to save and restore a partie. Select the menu item "File" and "Save" to save the partie in progress and "File" "Open" to restore the previously saved partie.
Soumille has a primitive (and buggy) ability to edit a position. Select the menu item "Edit," "Start" to begin editing a partie in progress. Drag checkers one at a time to the desired location. Select "Edit," "Stop" when editing is complete. If the position is not legal (for example a checker on the opponent's coin de repos) a pop-up will appear allowing you to resume editing.
The neural net for computer play is improved. In a 100,000 partie match against the previous version, it won 53.8% of the time.
The game log is significantly enhanced.
These instructions are for using the program and assume familiarity with the game of Trictrac. English language rules can be found on The Trictrac Home Page. Philippe Lalanne has published rules in French.
The User Interface
Beginning the Game
From the menu bar, select File-New (or use the shortcut CNTL-N). The checkers will appear in the talon.
By default, you will be playing the light colored checkers at the bottom of the board and the computer will be playing the dark checkers at the top. To play both sets of checkers, select Players from the menu bar and uncheck the item "CompIsDark." You may check and uncheck this during the course of the game. For clarity, this User Guide will assume you are playing against the computer.
To begin play, click the Roll button (or use the shortcuts Alt-R or Enter). Your die will appear on the right hand side of the board, the computer's on the left. If the dice are equal, roll again. If your die is high, it is your turn to move the checkers. If the computer's die is high, it will move automatically.
Marking Points for Opponent's Roll
If it is your turn to move, you must first see if you score any points as a result of the computer's roll. See Marking Points below.
Once you have marked any points, click the Roll button (or use the shortcuts Alt-R or Enter).
The dice will appear on the right side of the board.
Marking Points for your Roll
You must then mark any points you scored as a result of your roll. See Marking Points below.
Be sure to move the fichet for any trous won before moving the jetons.
Winning a Trou
If you win one or more trous on your roll of the dice, you have the choice whether to play on (tenir) or restart (s'en aller). If you correctly move the fichet to mark a trou, a pop-up message appears asking whether you want to restart. Click the Yes or No button to indicate your decision.
If you decide to restart, the program will return all of the checkers to the respective talons and return the jetons to the starting position. You then continue by clicking the Roll button.
If you decide to play on, you must move the jetons to indicate any points de reste and return the computer's jetons to the starting position.
Moving the Checkers
You use "drag and drop" to move the checkers. Click with the left mouse button on the checker you want to move. Keep the mouse button down as you drag the checker to the desired point. Then release the mouse button. The target area for selecting or dropping a checker is quite large and should feel natural. If you attempt to drop a checker on something other than a point, or drag it off the board, it will return to its original location.
If you play tout-d'une, you may move one checker the sum of the dice without stopping on the intermediate point. If you play tout-à-bas, you move one checker and then the other in any order.
Ending the Turn
To indicate that you are done moving, click the End button (or use the keyboard shortcut Alt-E or Enter). If your move is legal, the computer will then score any points as a result of your roll. If your move is not legal, there will be a pop-up message saying "Illegal Move." Click the "OK" button (or use the keyboard shortcut Enter). The program will restore your checkers to the original position and you will then be able to make a legal move.
After you have ended your turn, the computer scores points as a result of your roll.
You must then click the Roll button to roll the dice for the computer.
The computer will score any points as the result of its roll.
If the computer wins one or more trous on its roll, it will decide whether to play on or restart. If it decides to restart, it will return all the checkers to the respective talons and the jetons to the starting position. You will then need to click the Roll button for the computer to continue.
The computer then moves the checkers as it sees fit. It is then your play.
The entire sequence of computer play could happen instantaneously, but it would be very uncomfortable for the human opponent. The computer will delay for a couple of seconds at each step and indicate its progress in a status area on the lower left of the screen. The computer's checker movement is animated and therefore easy to see. I have not animated the computer's movement of fichets or jetons, so that is harder to see.
Marking Trous with the Fichet
Your fichet begins in the center of the board in the hole closest to you and moves along the holes at the bottom of the board to mark trous won. You will never be moving the computer's fichet.
You use "drag and drop" to move the fichet. To mark trous won, click on the current position of the fichet with the left mouse button. Keep the mouse button down as you drag the fichet to the desired location. Then release the mouse button. The target area for selecting or dropping a fichet is a moderate square around the hole and should be easy to use. If you attempt to place a fichet on other than in a hole on your side of the board, or if you drag it off the board, it will return to its original location.
If you win more than one trou at a time, move the fichet at once to the final location.
If you win the twelfth trou, there will be a pop-up menu saying "Game Over."
If you win trous in excess of twelve, move the fichet to the twelfth hole.
Marking Points with the Jetons
The three jetons de bredouille begin in the starting position at the left of the board. You move the jetons to mark the points as is customary in Trictrac:
You use "drag and drop" to move the jetons. To mark points won, click on the current position of the jetons with the left mouse button. Keep the mouse button down as you drag them to the desired location. Then release the mouse button.
The target area for selecting or dropping the jetons is a rectangle around the proper location. Dropping the jetons can be a little more awkward than dropping checkers or fichets, because there is nothing visually to indicate the destination, but the target area is large enough that you should not have a problem.
If you attempt to place a jeton on other than a proper spot, or if you drag it off the board, it will return to its original location.
When dragging jetons from their starting position, you do not need to do anything special to grab one jeton or two. The program will grab the correct number of jetons for you.
When you have scored first and the computer scores next, the computer will be marking points with two jetons to indicate the possibility of winning a double game. If you score next, you need to return one of the computer's two jetons to the starting position (débredouiller). Use the normal "drag and drop," but with the right mouse button instead of the left.
When the computer has scored first and you win a partie bredouille with points in excess of twelve, it takes a little work to get the jetons correctly. Suppose you have two jetons indicating ten points and win four points. You must end up with a single jeton indicating your two extra points. There are two ways to do that:
You can end the game by selecting File-Exit from the menu bar or using the keyboard shortcut Alt-F4.
Known Bugs and Workarounds
If you drag a checker, a trou or a fichet off the window slowly, the object will return to its original location. If you do it very, very quickly, the object seems to disappear. I have not yet found a reliable solution for the problem. Should you inadvertently lose an object, click on File-Refresh and it will return.
In the directory where the program is installed, Soumille writes
out a file "log.txt" when the game is over. The log shows one line
for each roll of the dice. It contains:
The program does not allow the option to play the obsolete scoring plays:
The program does not recognize écoles. It scores accurately and expects you to do the same.
If you make a scoring error, it will warn you and make you correct it before proceeding. If you have difficulty
scoring properly, use the menu item "Score" "Get Details."
Enhancements to the Neural Net
I think the neural net plays decently, but have many, many ideas to improve it.
I do wonder about some of the risks that computer is willing to take, particularly in leaving single checkers
in its outer board. One thing I want to do shortly is to give the computer the ability to "look-ahead."
Instead of choosing the move that will result in the position the computer thinks is best, I would like to
have the computer try each move, look at all of the opponent's replies for each roll of the dice,
and choose the move that will lead to the best position on average for all the opponent's rolls. The enhanced
game log is a step in this direction.
One need only look at the strong backgammon programs gnubg, Jellyfish and Snowie, to see what features could be added to the basic program. Here are some thoughts: