Below this post you will find the current rules of Owlman. At the end of 2010 a change in the rules was made. This was because we discovered a winning strategy for Doc under the original rules. Although my hunch had been that the new ruling might tip the balance in favour of Owlman, this has not yet been demonstrated on Super Duper Games. Of the last ten games played there, five were won by Doc; five by Owlman.
The basic issue relevant to this rule change is that of repetition of position. This issue, of course, has an impact on many games, Chess and Go, included. Many games (such as Chess) have no problem surviving the rulings necessary. Other games (such as Go) may even be enhanced by these rulings. Nevertheless many modern games, if they are to be played at a high standard of proficiency, are designed so that repetition is avoided altogether.
It has been said many times that if Chess were a newly invented games, no-one would put up with such a demanding set of rules. However, I am not so sure the repetition rule itself is really such a bugbear. After all, if you are playing at a high level, this is the least of your worries. And if you're playing casually, and are in a loop, you would either vary yourself, or offer your opponent a draw. (If he was perverse enough to refuse the draw- but still not vary- then you might do better finding another opponent.)
In Owlman itself, positions often occur where Owlman's best move is to attack a particular helper, whereupon Doc's best option is to move it, whereupon Owlman's best move is to attack it again- and then Doc does best to move it back where it started! The result of this equilibrium, without any ruling, would- if neither player wanted to risk a sub optimal move- be a never ending (drawn) game. This is a problem in Owlman because it happens quite frequently. Formerly it was effectively Owlman who was forced to play sub optimal moves when this occurred- as Doc could demand that he DIDN'T repeat a position. As explained below, however, it became clear that this enabled Doc to achieve a long drawn out, and rather boring, win.
The new rules favour Owlman instead. Now there is no rule which prevents repetition, merely a requirement that Doc win before 'nightfall (ie on his 49th move or earlier). The effect is to force Doc to avoid repetition, which means that HE will have to play sub standard moves sometimes (sub standard that is compared to the proscribed repetition). While this does not seem to allow Owlman to win by use of a clear cut strategy, such as can be boiled down to a few principles, nevertheless, it does make the game very challenging for Doc. If Owlman plays with any verve, Doc's helpers will have run screaming from the woods in next to no time!! Doc, I think, needs to figure out a puzzle- like strategy to inch forward while keeping a sufficient number of advancing helpers on board.
Tricky, but difficult! On the other hand, Doc is still winning games. Either I'm wrong or Owlman isn't swooping as freely (and frighteningly) as he should!