Mancala World

See also Mark Steere (SPOV).

Mark Steere is a very controversial person.

Bill Taylor, mathematics senior lecturer at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, called him in the newsgroup "too dimwitted to follow a simple example", "beyond help", "sociopathic", "hopeless", and wrote that he has an "obsessive compulsion with claiming standard games as [his] own, and with priority generally" (February 10, 2008).

Steere is notorious for getting into innumerable and unending flamewars, racist remarks, public and private insults, and manipulations using sockpuppets.

The quality of Steere's games

Steere has invented numerous abstract strategy board games starting in 1992. At first he only invented a few, but in recent years he announces a new game about every second month. His increasing productivity goes along with the declining quality of his designs. (One could even postulate that this ever-accelerating pace of ideas is a symptom of his deteriorating health; see chapters below).

Levee (2007) was solved by the German mathematician Bertram Felgenhauer (TU Dresden) just six days after the game was published on the web. Mike Terry commented: "Boy that'd be embarrassing, wouldn't it? I hope I never release a game with such an obvious flaw."

Other games were considerably changed after they were published. This is true for the initial position in Dipole (2007) and Palisade (2007).

Many of his newer designs are simply variations of well-known games. Diffusion (2006) is a variant of Waurie, Box Hex (2006) is a variant of Hex, Net Y (2006) a variant of Y, Starboard Y (2008) a clone equivalent to Y. Atoll (2008) is a generalisation of Hex, Grand Hex (2009) is an unnecessarily complicated variant of Obtuse-Y, Slash (2008) is the same game as Hex.

A common criticism of his games is that they lack clarity. That is, it is very difficult (if not impossible) to decide whether a move is good or bad. Byte (2005) is particularly opaque, thus "tends to become more of a puzzle than a game" (Ola Mikael Hansson, "unic"), while as a result Ryan Hackel ("Cerulean") states: "Painful to play. The learning curve is nearly vertical." Other rather opaque games are Dipole (2006) and Diffusion (2006).

Tanbo (1993), Steere's second game and the one most widely known, can be extremely lengthy: the longest Tanbo game played over the web (on Richard's PBeM server) took 1,114 turns. Atoll (2008) has a strong first-move advantage according to mathematics scholar Bill Taylor. Scribe (2006) is unfair too (second move advantage is about 65%), while Cephalopod (2007) and Four-rank Diffusion (2006) tend to be lengthy (called "dry" and "slow" among gamers).

The reason why his games are unfair is their very design principle. Steere abhors draws and ties (except for his first game, Quadature (1992), which can end in a draw), so game theory dictates that their game theoretic value must be either a win for the first or for the second player.

Impasse (2003) has been criticized by renowned game expert Clark D. Rodeffer on BoardGameGeek for being "a game of almost pure tempo", which "quickly loses interest" (June 2006). Rush (2007) was called a "fill-up-the-board-before-anything-happens game" by Paul B. van Wamelen, associate professor at Louisiana State University.

His games are usually not very much appreciated by players of abstract strategy games as can be seen by the rather low ratings of most of his games on BoardGameGeek (BGG). This is because Steere "judge[s] games, (...) on architecture - design interest, as separate from gameplay." Steere admits: "I don't care how fun they are to play. I don't care if my games are fun to play." (February 2008)

Game Ratings on BGG
Game Designer Average Rating (Number of Games) Highest Rated Game (Rating) Lowest Rated Game (Rating)
Mark Steere 5,1 (16) Cephalopod (6,47) Oust & Net Y (each 4,0)
Kris Burm 7,0 (12) Tzaar (8,20) Balanx (5,40)
Christian Freeling 6,4 (8) Glass Bead Game (7,33) Grand Chess (5,0)

Note: Abstract strategy games with perfect information only. Data as of February 24, 2008.

Steere as a Wikipedian

Steere on the English Wikipedia (2006)

Steere created a biographic vanity article on Wikipedia characterized by "peacock language" and "inflated claims" in its original version before it was edited by Ralf Gering (who tried at this time to reconciliate with Steere). In the deletion discussion and the deletion review (both July 2006) Steere resorted to personal attacks calling an American editor a "not very competent wikistalker", a "wikitaliban", and a "deletion yahoo". In return he was called "dishonest, incompetent, and fanatical" and "Mister Textual Analysis". It was then recommended that he might look up "psychological projection" and (...) "narcissism".

Steere acknowledged that Advocron and CluePuppet were his sockpuppets, while it was assumed that PearlMcPurry was probably the same person as well. Steere used these sockpuppets to pretend support for his article that in fact did not exist.

Steere eventually left, his account(s) were closed and his article was permanently removed.

Steere on HexWiki (2008)

Steere turned up on HexWiki (a defunct wiki on the game of Hex) on January 29, 2008. His first edit was to change the main page claiming that his game Atoll is "*the* general form of Hex". It was immediately reverted. Harald Korneliussen ("vintermann") then wrote on Steere's talk page at HexWiki: "be careful calling it *the* generalization of Hex and such. For one thing, there are many ways of generalizing Hex (...) and most importantly, it's not the way to win over Hex fans!".

Steere in Yahoo Groups

Steere in the Yahoo Group stacking-games (2005-2009)

stacking-games is a small Yahoo group about games, in which stacks of pieces are manipulated during the course of gameplay. The group had not a single message for 11 months until Ralf Gering, a Cultural Studies major, joined it in November 2005, after which the group was revived by him. Walter Sandsquish, the group owner, made him moderator, and Gering invited Steere to join the group. At this time Gering posted a review of Christian Freeling's description of Emergo in which he criticized him for promoting his games by slurring other designs. Steere then posted a stereotype about Russians being alcoholics ("I once went out with a very lovely Russian lady who could pound down a bottle of vodka like it was a carton of milk. I don't want to join the ranks of the racists but some stereotypes are more well deserved than others.") to which Gering replied: "You're spreading and defending stereotypes. You try to silence criticism of a game inventor (...) who thru his own offensive web site makes himself a public person. You try to remove Bashni [a Russian stacking game] players from this forum by suggesting a split. You want to remove the moderator [Ralf Gering] who invited you to this forum a few days ago. (...) Your behavior is well-known among moderators. I also know that a group in which nobody dares to write about controversial matters will certainly die because nothing is more deadly than boredom. Don't take it personal but I firmly believe that the group needs your messages to be moderated." - Gering stepped down from moderation when the owner of the group defended Mark's behavior. After Gering left the group, Mark told the group that there might be "10 reasons" that Gering is a "Nazi", to which Dieter Stein, a well-known German game designer replied: "I am German and I do not feel urged to always dispel the myth that Germans are Nazis. That myth is your problem." Gering started a new group on stacking games (taking all his uploaded files with him), and Sandsquish's group became largely inactive after a short time. Therefore, it can be said that Steere in effect destroyed the forum.

Steere in the Yahoo Group mancalagames (2006)

Steere joined the Yahoo group mancala games in January 2006 to promote his game Diffusion. The group is also moderated by Ralf Gering, but its owner, Paul Smith, a renowned British Oware player, fully backs him. Steere and Gering first tried to avoid any conflict and it even appeared that both had become friends. However, Steere's tone became increasingly rough again. He compared Viktor Bautista i Roca, Spain's leading mancala expert and one of the best European Oware players to "a terrorist priding himself on how many buildings he has blown up" (October 2006). Steere decided to leave on his own when the relation between him and Gering deterioated again elsewhere on the web.

Steere in the Yahoo Group abstractgames (2005-)

abstractgames is a rather large Yahoo group (>200 members) about abstract strategy games. Steere and Gering are battling against each other since November 29, 2005. Steere posted a mail on this day, Gering's birthday, calling him a "Nazi" and asked him: "How old are you now - four?" When Steere questioned Gering's "intellectual credibility" on October 31, 2006, he was admonished by Paul van Wamelen: "Here is another thing you don't do: gloat about someone else's being kicked off a list for doing things you do yourself. brag about how good you are in your own games! I don't see you playing many games that you didn't design yourself. [editor's note: as of November 3, 2006, Steere played 270 games (96.8%) at Super Duper Games that he designed himself, 9 games (3.2%) that were designed by others] - 'establish your intellectual superiority with bluster, belligerence,' - yes, a perfect description of yourself. Why don't you just shut up and play the games." Steere continued the flame war by comparing Gering with Hitler's Wehrmacht, stating that he wanted to turn the forum into "Normandy". Sadly, Steere's action was defended by Ron-Hale Stevens and a few others, proving that some Americans still find it politically correct to spread stereotypes if they are directed against Germans. Steere continued to insult Gering by calling him an "infant" consumed by an "paranoid conniption". He believed that Gering "might walk into his local Weinerschnitzel and massacre some innocent frauleins." When Ralf defended himself, Steere called his efforts "Ralf's Kampf" (again insinuating that he must be a Nazi because he is German) and wrote to him: "Your butt must be getting sore from all this abuse." Steere then used a sockpuppet called hermanreichmeister to send two posts, although this Nazi pseudonym was mainly used by him to send Gering harassing e-mails privately. On June 8, 2007, he wished Gering to be murdered, writing that "the rapidly dissipating wisp of toxic gas may have the final word." On December 2007, Richard Hutnik critisized Steere for behaving "like a child", "act(ing) like a child", being "the one who is going to cause more harm" by his "stubborn refusal to be constructive". In a later post Hutnik insinuated that Steere's "label troll [given] by individuals who have read [his] posts" might be correct, saying "As I read you more and more, I see a person who isn't going to do anything, and is immensely trollish in language. You are profanity short of being a full-blown troll." When Gering confirmed Hutnik's description, Steere replied: "You've awakened the sleeping commandant. This guy actually runs around in the snow totally naked except for knee high leather boots, whipping his own butt with a riding crop, just to give you an idea. Hard to imagine, I know, but well documented on various S&M forums. He's also the only member ever to be banned from SDG. I can't prove that though. He was so vile that all evidence of his presence there had to be cremated, and the ashes transported to a hazardous waste dump in Skull Valley, Utah." Steere then continued his insults by writing that "[Hutnik has] more credibility in [his] toenail clippings than Herr Hermann [Gering] has in his whole family history, dating all the way back to Australopithecus afarensis of the Pliocene epoch." and "Herr Hermann's groups are ass kissing conventions. If you fail to constantly worship Herr Hermann's derriere, you're expelled on criminal grounds." Gering simply replied by calling Steere "mentally disturbed".

Steere in Usenet Newsgroups

Steere on (2005-) is a high-quality newsgroup devoted to abstract games and much frequented by mathematicians and respected game experts from all over the world.

Steere insulted Sudoku fans by calling them "idiots [that] think sudoku appeals to abstract gamers". His only contribution to another Sudoku discussion was: "F Sudoku" (both in December 2006).

When Dennis Kriz invited the group to participate in his ethnomathematical Khipu Decifferment Project (January 2007), Steere responded to him: "Go peddle your pupu somewhere else." He called Kriz' assumption that deciphering can be approached as a game "completely fucked" and Kriz a "spam boy" and an "idiot". Steere also claimed to be the "Tzar" (of abstract strategy games).

Steere claimed that his game Atoll is the "only one generalization of Hex" (Hex was invented by an American Nobel laureate and a famous Danish mathematician and poet over 60 years ago), but was soon taught by Harald Korneliussen, Torben Aegidius Morgensen and other connection games experts that Atoll is only one of many generalisations of Hex, depending on what aspects of Hex one sees as crucial. Steere eventually stated that it "[wi]ll take people at least a decade to accept Atoll as the generalization of Hex." Korneliussen then compared the size of Steere's ego to Copernicus, to which Steere replied: "I'm entitled to it." (January 2008)

Steere released on February 7, 2008, a game he calls "Torus". It was soon proved by Bill Taylor, a mathematics scholar, that the game is flawed because of its enormous first-move advantage. He also showed that it is an unequal-goal game. Taylor advised him to "better to reflect for a while (before to respond)", telling Steere that he is "making it very difficult to be polite to [him]", and stated: "I had previously formed the idea that you were a logical and careful thinker and designer of games. I see I was wrong!" The group agreed with Taylor who eventually called Steere "sociopathic", suffering under "obsessive compulsion[s]" (ie. being mentally disturbed). Taylor suggested that Steere behaves like a megalomanic who always needs to have the last word. The arguing continued for months. Eventually Taylor concluded:

"If I may humbly suggest to all reasonable group members, we might stop treating Mark Steere as an adult, and responding to him as such. He seems to have little idea of adult behaviour. (...) Steere has obviously no concern for the feelings of others, nor of their concerns, nor barely that they may have another view worth considering. 'I don't care' is the watchword of such people. He belongs in a kindergarten." (December 11, 2008)

Steere continued to insult Taylor ("get the fuck out", "Fuck you!"), then announced he would "retire" from usenet, but broke his promise after a few days.

Taylor commented on this behavior: "I thought the local paranoid egotistical brat had gone away; but I suppose one can't rely on his promises any more than his other nonsenses." (January 5, 2009)

The following day, Steere started a thread called "Bill Taylor - A Crapulent Clown".

On May 24, 2010, Steere initiated a one-man crusade against the game of Arimaa called "Arimaa grandmaster society". He wrote that the game "seems to be poised for world domination" and that "switching from Chess to Arimaa would be like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire, minus the checkmate." A discussion followed, in which Steere called another user repeatedly a "lying Thomas", "stupid Thomas", "retard", "idiot", "brainless" and "stupid, lying, dumbass".

Steere on rec.puzzles (2007)

rec.puzzles is a heavy traffic newsgroup for puzzles, problems, and quizzes (an average of >600 posts per month). On March 23, 2007, Steere presented his first puzzle in the group. The puzzle was immediately critisized for its bad layout that was looking like "an x-ray of a motherboard". It was characterized as a "trivial CA problem" and a "monster", which causes "visual fatigue" and "pain". The best puzzle minds around offered him suggestions to improve the puzzle, but Steere "bat them away" by calling their statements "baby complaints", "tough crap" and "dummifying". Brian Tung, a computer scientist at the University of Southern California and an avid amateur astronomer (member of the Los Angeles Astronomical Society), described Steere's behavior as following: "He's interested in praise, not constructive criticism." Then Bobo The Chimp told Steere: "You're a desperately lonely googler who thinks that there might be another being on the planet with a mind as twisted as your own. Maybe you should go troll "Myspace" or something."

Steere on IAGO

IAGO (International Abstract Games Organization) is a small organization which wants to promote abstract strategy games. The group was founded by Richard Hutnik and Mark Steere was a main contributor in its first year. At this time insults were typical for the IAGO forum.

On February 19, 2008, Steere lashed out against Harald Korneliussen ("Vinterman"), one of IAGO's last non-American members. He called him "vinterdoggy" who appears to "have [his] nose up Burm's ass, as one would expect from a little doggy". Steere called the games of Kris Burm, the most successful European inventor of abstract strategy games, "crap" and then stubbornly claimed that this isn't profanity. He then compared Burm's Yinsh to "last weeks leftovers dumped into a cauldron, boiled to a gray mush, and served lukewarm with a spork". After David Whitcher ("Dralius") asked Steere to be careful with his "oppionions", Steere called Whitcher a "biotch" (partly removed/censored on IAGO).

Early in November 2008, Steere called Richard Hutnik a "spineless communist" and an "a-hole" for deleting commentary in a IAGO forum. Steere repeated his attacks in a Yahoo group, adding that Hutnik is a "poser" and "fraud".

Steere and Super Duper Games

Super Duper Games (SDG) is a mostly "non-commercial hobby site for playing various freely available games over the web". It is run by Aaron Dalton, a student of musicology, in Calgary, Canada. Steere sponsored the site with at least $3000.00 according to SDG's own support page (or over 92% of all non-anonymous donations). A recent anonymous donation of $300.00 could well have originated from Steere, too. SDG has 96 games implemented, 12 of which had been designed by Steere. However, Steere's influence extends to other areas of the SDG community, such as having a license for insults and intimidations. Ralf Gering was an SDG member for about half a year. When two of his games (55Stones and Afrika) were also implemented late in 2006, Steere tried to have them removed, but eventually concentrated his efforts to have Gering ousted from SDG. He started a discussion on SDG in which he claimed to have the sole power of defining what "simultaneous" means (Gering were arguing from an ethnological point of view, Steere from a mathematical) and later Steere sent him numerous harassing e-mails to achieve his goal (partly published on the Yahoo group abstract games by Gering). Gering requested from Dalton to protect him against these intimidations, but Dalton banned Gering and manipulated the SDG discussion forums by deleting all of Gering's contributions.

Steere on the Arimaa Forum

In 2010, Ralf Gering received numerous e-mails from Arimaa players who complained about Steere's rude manners on their forum. Mark Steere, who is only superficially familiar with Arimaa, claimed to know "exactly" what will happen in its future, although he advances neither argument nor evidence to support his claim. Instead he threw in inflammatory comments.

Private e-mails from Steere with harassing content

Ralf Gering published several e-mails in Yahoo groups which he received from Steere who used at least 10 e-mail accounts between November 2005 and November 2007 to send him harassments. The origin of these mails (mostly sockpuppets) could easily be identified by the IP numbers in their extended headers which were also published on the web. They were marksteere (hotmail), marksteere (gmail), darkleer aka PrestonShleppenpepper, Lily Hammer aka naryacanary, Freckles Z Deutsch, Herman Reichmeister, Bearer Of Friendly Advice, Zee Gestapo Boots, Billy Martini and John Smith aka blackchecker. Gering considered these mails as cyberstalking and "criminal insults", but couldn't do much about it as he lives on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean and has neither the financial means nor the time to start a lawsuit in the USA. - On December 23, 2007, Steere sent Gering the following Christmas greetings: "Totally Emasculated Repugnant Destiny. Happy holidays Hermann!! :D"


It appears that Steere's behavior is driven by a huge inferiority complex. The more Steere tries to compensate it by inventing games in an ever-accelerating pace, the more he insists on the superiority of his designs and ideas, the more he gets rejected. The more he is criticized for his obnoxious behavior, the more he strives for recognition. It is a vicious circle. One may wonder where he is heading to and why society does not step in to help him.


Arimaa Forum




Private harassment


Super Duper Games


Yahoo groups


Adapted from the Wikinfo article, "Mark Steere (critical views)", used under the GNU Free Documentation License.