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Nimber-Preserving Reductions and Homomorphic Sprague-Grundy Game Encodings

by   Kyle Burke, et al.
University of Southern California

The concept of nimbers–a.k.a. Grundy-values or nim-values–is fundamental to combinatorial game theory. Nimbers provide a complete characterization of strategic interactions among impartial games in their disjunctive sums as well as the winnability. In this paper, we initiate a study of nimber-preserving reductions among impartial games. These reductions enhance the winnability-preserving reductions in traditional computational characterizations of combinatorial games. We prove that Generalized Geography is complete for the natural class, I^P , of polynomially-short impartial rulesets under nimber-preserving reductions, a property we refer to as Sprague-Grundy-complete. In contrast, we also show that not every PSPACE-complete ruleset in I^P is Sprague-Grundy-complete for I^P . By considering every impartial game as an encoding of its nimber, our technical result establishes the following striking cryptography-inspired homomorphic theorem: Despite the PSPACE-completeness of nimber computation for I^P , there exists a polynomial-time algorithm to construct, for any pair of games G_1, G_2 of I^P , a prime game (i.e. a game that cannot be written as a sum) H of I^P , satisfying: nimber(H) = nimber(G_1) ⊕ nimber(G_2).


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