Oct 052007
 
Atom Smasher
David Artman
 
A game of dexterity inspired by billiards, carrom, and marbles
Players: 2–10
Icehouse stashes: One Treehouse set or Icehouse stash
Other equipment: One token per player, some form of relatively smooth playing surface
Setup time: 1–5 minutes
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Low
Strategy depth: Low
Random chance: Low
Mechanics: Dexterity, turn-based
Theme: Science
BGG Link: not ready yet
 
Created in October, 2007

When particle physicists compete for grant money, they usually do it with proposals and plans. But this time around, a lunatic angel investor has asked you to prove yourself worthy of his full support by competing on a different level: the atomic level. He has gathered the world’s most capable physicists to demonstrate their prowess with a particle accelerator, using it to carefully and precisely chisel off subatomic particles from a huge atom.

Overview

Players take turns flicking or sliding a small opaque pyramid (called the smasher) into a cluster of pyramids (called the atom). Each pyramid which is smashed a sufficient distance from the atom scores points equal to its pip count for the player.

Equipment

One Treehouse set or Icehouse stash (or more, for a truly massive atom to smash).

One token for each player, which can be a stone, poker chip, coin, or whatever is handy.

A relatively smooth playing surface, which may be of any shape or size. One need not use an entire table, but a chessboard is probably too small to be a challenge. A surface about three feet in diameter is ideal.

Setup

Set aside the smasher, and then determine who will go first and the order of play.

Put one token for each player in an easily accessible location (called the sink).

Starting with the small pyramids (except for the smasher), give one to each player in reverse order of play. When the smalls run out, immediately switch to mediums, then to larges. This process should ensure that the first players to play have to place fewer and larger pyramids than those who must wait to play, which in turn tends to ensure that the more valuable large pyramids are closer to the center of the atom.

Building the Atom

Starting with the first player, each player places all of his or her pyramids onto the playing surface, flat or upright. Every pyramid that is smaller than the player’s largest pyramid must be placed so that at least one full edge of the pyramid completely touches one or more other pyramids; that pyramid is said to be bonded to the other pyramid(s). Further, the player’s largest pyramid must be bonded to one or more of the pyramids already in the atom (if any). The goal is to create a contiguous cluster of pyramids with few (or no) small gaps between them, when viewed from above.

For example, if a player has only a medium and a large to place, he or she must make one edge of the medium completely touch the large (and/or other pyramids already in the atom, if the player wishes) to bond to it; the large, in turn, must be bonded to one or more of the pyramids already in the atom (again, if any).

The first player to place is encouraged—but not required—to place his or her pyramids in a position equidistant from every edge of the playing surface. Doing so maximizes the challenge of smashing, which extends the length of the game.

Smashing the Atom

On each player’s turn, he or she attempts to separate pyramids from the atom by flicking or sliding the smasher into the atom. Though the player may shoot from any side of the playing surface, the player’s wrist may not cross the edge of the playing surface (which means that the smasher must be placed very near the edge of the surface, of course, before flicking or sliding it). Violation of this wrist rule causes a meltdown (see below).

It is recommended that another player be the assistant for the shooting player by moving to be opposite the shooting player, so that an errant or over-powered smasher can be caught before it heads off the table (or under a lab bench or behind the reactor).

A pyramid is split from the atom if the shooting player can completely circle the pyramid with the smasher in upright position—using only one finger that is touching only the smasher tip—without touching or otherwise disturbing any pyramid on the playing surface. If the player touches any pyramid while trying to circle an allegedly separate pyramid—including the pyramid that he or she is trying to circle—then the player causes a meltdown (see below).

Do not remove and score any pyramids until every pyramid that the player wants to try to circle has been circled without a meltdown. A pyramid that is smashed completely off of the playing surface need not be circled, though it still may not be claimed until all other attempts have been made and no meltdown occurs.

The wrist rule does not apply when the player is trying to circle pyramids. Once the shooting player begins to remove and score successfully circled pyramids, he or she may not try to circle other pyramids later on that same turn.

Every circled pyramid is worth its pip count in points to the player who successfully circles it.

Meltdown

A meltdown occurs when a player violates the wrist rule or tries to circle an allegedly separate pyramid and touches another pyramid (separate or not). A meltdown must be called by another player, and there must be at least one other player who agrees. In a two-player game, be honest and be civil: generally, if a meltdown is called, take it like a stoic physicist should; there will be other grants!

A player that is guilty of a meltdown immediately ends his or her turn, without picking up any pyramids, be they successfully circled or not. The player must take a token from the sink; and on that player’s next turn, he or she returns the token to the sink instead of smashing the atom.

It should be obvious that causing a meltdown is bad for the guilty player, as it results in the effective loss of two turns and (usually) leaves separated pyramids for the next player to try to claim. In general, a player should not try to circle an allegedly separate pyramid unless he or she is nearly guaranteed to avoid a meltdown.

Ending the Game

When all pyramids in the atom have been removed and scored, the player with the most points is the winner. It is traditional for the now-wealthy grant winner to buy a round of beverages for the other players, though all players should agree to this price of victory prior to play.

In the event of a points tie, the player with the most larges wins. Should that be tied, the player with the most mediums wins. Should that also be tied, the player with the large opaque wins, regardless of whether or not that player has the most points, most larges, or most mediums—the lunatic investor likes opacity more than bickering physicists.

License

Creative Commons 3.0 BY-NC-SAThis work is distributed by David Carle Artman under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.

Entered in the Icehouse Game Design Competition, Summer 2008
Winner: Ambush 2nd: Logger 3rd: Albiorix 4th: Virus_Fight 5th: Atom_Smasher
6th: Dog_Eat_Dog & Martian_BattleSpires 8th: Pass_The_Pyramids 9th: T-Minus 10th: Tresurion

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