The Ai-Naidari game of Rivers and Bridges involves two players, and is played on a board1 divided into small squares. The object of the game is to design and supply an imaginary city with features. The city is not drawn on the board; it must be envisioned in the mind of the player as they put down pieces in pursuit of their imagined design.

River pieces go in two directions, into the city (shanul, "potable water") and out of the city (kreva, "waste water"). Bridge pieces can be laid down in single squares (ilaven shuni, "weak pavement") or across multiple squares (ilaven raji, "strong pavement"). The intersection of different pieces creates the city features: for instance, two perpendicular river pieces, one incoming and one outgoing, form a fountain. Two weak pavement pieces, also perpendicular, form a courtyard. One incoming river piece and one weak pavement create a well. Multiple strong pavements, depending on their direction, form city walls or town squares. It is important that a city have both basic road systems (single lines of weak pavement) as well as basic water systems (a sufficiency of both incoming and outgoing streams).

The competitive version of the game concludes either when the players have no pieces left or when one of them declares their city realized (a state that requires the meeting of a series of conditions). At this point, the players are scored by counting the number of features they created whole (double points) or participated in (partial points), minus the number of pieces they used on the board.

It is very easy for games to drag on as two players fight to make the city of their design work on the board the fastest, while trying to design around the other player's vision. The most effective players, then, are those who are capable of guessing what their opponent's design is and moving either to block it or adapt it to their own purposes. In a way, this makes Rivers and Bridges like an Ai-Naidari version of chess.

In addition to the competitive version, there is a cooperative version of the game played on a larger board; using a random generator, players arrange environmental features on the board such as mountains, lakes, beaches, gorges, etc... then together they attempt to design a city on it.

Rivers and Bridges is a popular game, and there are public tournaments for both the competitive and cooperative versions. Ai-Naidar of multiple castes help arrange and sponsor the tournaments through a game league, with prize money or services offered to the winners and donated by local Merchants or Nobles. While this is considered a hobby (there is no "gamer caste"), there was at least one incident involving the elevation of a Servant who played so well she was re-evaluated and assigned to the Public Servant caste and put to work at city-planning.

A final note, in terms of linguistics; while the term eshan has been translated as "rivers," a more nuanced rendition would be "running water," as this word can be used to refer to anything from a stream to a mile-wide river at its mouth, or even a waterfall. Similarly, rulen is a term that can apply to anything that bridges or covers a gap, and is often used lyrically or emotionally (forming bridges in the mind). However, "running waters and covering gaps" did not trip off the tongue quite as handily as "rivers and bridges," so we stand behind our choice.

Game ComponentsEdit

  • Board - standard sizes for both styles of play (the cooperative version is larger), or special edition and tournament versions.
  • River pieces
  • Bridge pieces

Sample Conformations of StructuresEdit

  • Basic Road Systems - single lines of weak pavement
  • Basic Water Systems - a sufficiency of both incoming and outgoing streams
  • City Walls or Town Squares - multiple strong pavements, the exact form dependent upon on their direction
  • Courtyard - two weak pavement pieces, also perpendicular
  • Fountain - two perpendicular river pieces, one incoming and one outgoing
  • Waste water treatment - a combination of outgoing stream and pavement (the exact number of pavements depends on the size of the city and the number of sites and is one of the "series of conditions" for declaring the city complete)
  • Well - one incoming river piece and one weak pavement