Nov 122007
 
Chicken Run
David Artman
 
A barnyard sport simulation
Players: 2
Icehouse stashes: 2 Treehouse sets: 1 Rainbow and 1 Xeno (or 3 matched sets)
Other equipment: A 5×9 grid (a chessboard is suitable; see below)
Setup time: 3 minutes
Playing time: 10–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Medium
Mechanics: Chessboard, Dice
Theme: A whimsical chicken roundup with overly enthusiastic spectators
BGG Link: 33846
 
Created in November, 2007

Problems

There are three basic problems, annotated next to the rules (below) which attempt to resolve them:

  • The Stall Problem (S)
  • The Roll-Off Problem (R)
  • The Blockade Problem (B)
  1. A tied roll can always be used to move a Chicken, even if it is captured.(S)
  2. A larger family member may tackle smaller opposing family members, pushing them to an adjacent orthogonal square.(S)
  3. High-roller (or tied-rollers) must use all movement points, even if that requires uncapping a Chicken. If the highest roll results in no possible moves, then the high-roller must move Spectators instead of family members (but not Chickens).(S,B)
  4. Both sides may use their rolls, high-roller moving first. In ties, previous low-roller moves Spectators or Chickens first, then previous high-roller moves Spectators or Chickens.(R)
  5. During a roll, low-roller moves Spectators or Chickens first, then high-roller moves his or her family members. Ties resolve the same as current (previous low-roller moves only Spectators or Chickens, previous high-roller does nothing).(R,B)
  6. In a tie, both players may move Spectators or Chickens (previous lowest roller moves first).(B)
  7. A family member or Spectator may trample same-size-or-smaller pyramids.(B)

The folks down in Looney Hollow ain’t famous for their culture, which is most evident when one notes their favorite sport: chasing down chickens. People come from all around the Hollow to watch when two families challenge each other to a Chicken Run. The only problem is that the spectators are usually so unruly and fanatical that they feel obliged to join in the game.

 

Objective

Be the first player to capture (put a pyramid on top of) two chickens with family members of the same size as the captured chickens, while dodging and trampling (moving over top of) unruly spectators and opposing family members.

Equipment

Two Treehouse sets: one of the Rainbow spectrum, one of the Xeno spectrum (or three matched sets, with an alternate setup).

Any 5×9 grid of squares. A chessboard works fine, if one player is willing to have his or her pyramids start on the border (i.e. off the squares), in “imaginary” squares.

Two six-sided dice (d6), ideally one black and one white, though the players can be careful to roll into separate areas, to keep each player’s die distinguishable from the other.

Setup

Set the board between the players so that the five-square-wide sides face each player.

Give each player a d6 (ideally, use a d6 that matches the color that the player will be playing).

Use the white opaque pyramids to build one nest (the large on top of the medium on top of the small), and use the black opaque pyramids to build another nest. Each player takes his or her color nest and sets it on the center square of the edge of the board that is nearest to him or her. The pyramids in this nest comprise the player’s family.

Place the yellow chickens upright in the center of the board, and place the spectators upright along the edge of the board, as shown:

Chicken Run Setup - Rainbow and Xeno
Chicken Run board setup: Rainbow and Xeno sets

Note: The colors that you use for the spectators do not matter; but the placement of the large, medium, and small pyramids does matter.

If you have three matched Rainbow (or Xeno) sets, this is an alternate way to setup the board:

Chicken Run board setup: three matched sets

Playing

Determine who will go first.

Chicken Run is comprised of rounds during which one of the players will get to move either his or her family or the spectators and chickens. There is, however, a slight twist to the standard turn-based play common to other games.

Beginning A Round

At the start of every round, each player rolls his or her d6. One of three outcomes is possible:

  • Black’s result is higher than White’s result – This round is Black’s round to act.
  • White’s result is higher than Black’s result – This round is White’s round to act.
  • The results are identical values – This round is the round to act for whichever player least recently had a round to act (i.e. if Black acted on the previous round, then White gets this round to act; and vice versa).

Note: If the results are identical on the first round of the game, roll again.

Determining What Moves

Those same die-roll results also dictate what pyramids the acting player may move:

  • Black’s result is higher than White’s result – Black may only move black pyramids (i.e. his or her own family).
  • White’s result is higher than Black’s result – White may only move white pyramids (i.e. his or her own family).
  • The results are identical values – Whoever gets to act may only move transparent pyramids (i.e. chickens or spectators).

Moving Pyramids

Once you know whose round it is to act, the result of his or her die roll represents movement points that the player may use to move pyramids that he or she is allowed to move. Pyramids always move orthogonally—never diagonally—for these movement point costs:

  • A small pyramid uses one movement point to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.
  • A medium pyramid uses two movement points to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.
  • A large pyramid uses three movement points to move to an adjacent orthogonal square.

A player need not use every movement point on his or her turn.

If a pyramid legally moves into an occupied square (see Movement Restrictions) then one of two things has happened:

  • The family member is capturing a chicken, if the square is occupied by the chicken that is the same size as the capturing family member.
  • The pyramid is trampling the occupying pyramid(s), if the square is occupied by non-chicken pyramids smaller than the moving pyramid.

Note: Capturing a chicken is not like it is in chess or checkers: at no time are pyramids removed from the board. Rather, a capture must be maintained—tying up the family member—until the game ends or until the player who controls that family member decides to release the chicken (move off of a capture), for whatever reason.

Movement Restrictions

There are a few restrictions on how pyramids may move:

  • Only the top-most pyramid in a stack may be moved; a captured or currently trampled pyramids may not be moved.
  • Family members and chickens may not leave the central 3×9 area (see the yellow lines on the images in the Setup section). A spectator may move freely around the full 5×9 area of the board.
  • Spectators may not capture chickens nor trample family members, though they may trample each other.
  • Chickens may not trample any other pyramid.
  • A family member may not capture (or even trample!) a chicken of a different size.
  • A family member must be larger than opposing family member(s) or spectator(s) to trample them (e.g. a large family member may trample a medium and/or small, opposing family member and/or spectator).

Winning

The first player to capture two chickens is the winner. For example, if White captures the medium chicken with his or her medium family member and captures the large chicken with his or her large family member, then White wins.

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, Winter 2008
Winner: Martian 12s 2nd: WreckTangle 3rd: Timelock 4th: Chicken Run
5th: Timberland 6th: Hunt 7th: Virus Fight 8th: Martian Gunslinger

Atom Smasher

 Board Game, Games  Comments Off on Atom Smasher
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
Aug 052007
 
Wormholes
David Artman
A mind-warping space battle for 2 or more players.
Players: 2-10 (see Equipment)
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse set per 5 players
Other equipment: One set of Martian Coasters per 4 players, plus up to two Black Coasters; one six-sided die
Setup time: 5 minutes
Playing time: half hour to an hour
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: Medium
Mechanics: Dice, Move & Fire, Placement
Theme: Space
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in August, 2007

The Ancients thought space was mostly empty, a vacuum, a void through which a spacecraft could creep for eons without getting anywhere important. They were wrong.

Space is teaming with wormholes: bridges between regions of space that are free of time, through which spacecraft may instantly travel. But space is also teaming with Others: sometimes allies, ofttimes enemies.

Equipment

For any number of players, Wormholes requires a Treehouse die and a six-sided die (d6) numbered 1 through 6.

Further, each player needs a stack and a Martian Coaster of a color different from every other player. Common ways to break this down based on Looney Labs products is as follows:

  • A two- to four-player game requires one Rainbow Treehouse set and one Martian Coasters set.
  • A five-player game requires the above plus one of the following:
    • A Black Coaster
    • One stack from a Xeno Treehouse set and the corresponding coaster from another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A six- to eight-player game requires a Xeno Treehouse set and another Martian Coasters set, marked to indicate that it is associated with the Xeno set.
  • A nine-player game requires the above plus a Black Coaster.
  • A ten-player game requires the above plus another Black Coaster, which is marked to indicate that it is the White coaster.

Note: Everywhere “Rainbow” or “Xeno” appears above could be switched to “Xeno” or “Rainbow,” respectively; the point is that everyone has their own color stack with that color coaster, and the Xeno coasters are marked to distinguish them from their Rainbow counterparts.

Setup

Determine the order of play by whatever means. Determine who will play what color. Each player gets his or her color coaster and a small, medium, and large pyramid of his or her color1.

The first player places his or her coaster in the middle of the playing area; this is that player’s home system. Then, in turn order, each player places his or her own home system on the playing area such that his or her coaster is squarely and completely adjacent (i.e. lines up “cleanly”) to at least one other coaster. After placement, all of the coasters are collectively referred to as the galaxy.

After all coasters are placed, each player then, in turn order, places a nest of his or her pyramids flat on any square on his or her home system, with the point of the pyramid stack pointing in any orthogonal (non-diagonal) orientation. (Throughout play, pyramids are always flat and are always orthogonally oriented.) These nests are the players’ ships, with two ablative shields (the large and medium pyramids) and an inner hull (the small pyramid).

Throughout setup, players tend to notice and comment upon the relative strengths and weaknesses of various home system placements in the galaxy. Such observation typically leads to early advice, alliances, and deals: all such “table talk” is perfectly legal throughout the course of play, but it is never enforced by the game rules.

Play

A player’s turn consists of rolling both the d6 and the Treehouse die, moving his or her ship, and firing on another ship (in that order).

Movement

The d6 result is that player’s movement points for this turn.

To move from one square to another square, the ship must be oriented to point at the destination square, there must be an arrow (called a wormhole) pointing from its currently occupied square to the destination square, and the destination square must be unoccupied. (There is no “collision” or “capture” in Wormholes.) A player uses one movement point per wormhole crossed (but see “Double Movement” and “Warping” below) or per 90 degrees of rotation (see “Turning” below).

A ship may not move out of the galaxy (i.e. all ships must remain on squares on coasters).

Double Movement – If the player’s ship is moving in or into its home system, each movement point is worth double movement (i.e. half of a movement point to move one square or to turn 90 degrees). Likewise, if a ship is moving in or into an ally’s home system, each movement point counts double, but only if the ally agrees to it during the player’s turn: the ally must confirm the alliance.

Warping – If the player’s ship is resting on the center square of its (or an ally’s) home system, it may “warp” to the center square of an ally’s (or its own) home system. As with double movement, the ally must confirm the alliance to permit the warp to or from its center square; and as with any movement, the destination square must be unoccupied. Likewise, a ship may warp between two of its ally’s center squares if both allies confirm the alliance and the destination square is unoccupied. A warp uses half of a movement point.

Once a player is eliminated from play (see Damage), that player’s home system becomes “allied” with all other players for purposes of warping, but not for purposes of double movement. In other words, anyone may warp to (or from) that system’s center square, from (or to) one’s home system or an ally’s system.

Finally, a player is not required to use all of his or her movement points on a turn, and any unused movement points or half-points are lost at the end of the player’s turn.

Turning

A ship must use movement points to change orientation, at the rate of one movement point per 90 degree turn (or half of a movement point per 90 degree turn, in its or an ally’s home system). Thus, a ship may make a complete reversal of course if it uses two movement points (or one movement point, in its or an ally’s home system).

It is permissible (but pointless) to “spin in place”—use four movement points to end up in the same orientation—or to “go the long way around”—use three movement points in one direction to effect a 90 degree turn in the other direction.

Cosmic Flux

The Treehouse die represents cosmic flux, and its result indicates one of the following:

  • TIP = “Turn In Place”—The wormholes are unstable; the current player may only use movement points to change the orientation of his or her ship within the square that it currently occupies.
  • SWAP2 = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, the current player’s ship swaps places with another player’s ship (do not change the orientation of either ship). This swap does not use up a movement point.
  • HOP = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “hop out of space-time” to move from its current square to an unoccupied orthogonally adjacent square (do not change its orientation). Unlike normal movement, neither the ship’s current orientation nor the wormholes on the current square are relevant when choosing a destination square. This hop does not use up a movement point.
  • AIM = One time before, during, or after the current player’s movement, he or she may orient his or her ship in any orthogonal direction. This aim does not use up any movement points.
  • DIG = One time during the current player’s movement, his or her ship may “dig through space-time” to enter a square at which it is pointing even if there is no wormhole pointing from the current square to the destination square. This dig does not use up a movement point.
  • WILD3 = Choose one of the above.

Firing

At the end of a player’s movement, he or she may choose to fire a torpedo. An imaginary missile travels out of the front of the ship in a straight line until (a) it hits a ship and does damage or (b) it hits the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line and detonates harmlessly or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.

Put another way, the torpedo “moves” like a ship that has unlimited movement points and can not turn or warp, but can leave the galaxy.

Damage

When a ship it hit by a torpedo, that ship immediately removes its outermost shield: the large first, then the medium on a subsequent hit. If a ship with no more shields (i.e. just its hull, the small) is hit, it is destroyed and that player is out of the game.

Winning

The last player with a ship on the board is the winner.

Two or more players can win if they are in an alliance and are the only players with ships on the board. Alliances may be formed overtly or covertly throughout the course of play; but to break an alliance, a player must declare his or her split from it before (or at the same time that) the alliance declares victory. Should such a last-second break occur, play continues as normal until only allied ships remain on the board (even if it ends up an “alliance” of one!).

Variations

Players should decide in advance whether any of these game variations are in effect:

  1. Tag Team: Players choose more than one color each. All of that player’s colors are considered allied to each other. Regardless of the number of colors that each player controls, make sure that turn order is preserved and that color order remains consistent. Thus, a player should never be allowed to take a turn with the same color as he or she used previously until every other color that he or she controls has been used on turns subsequent to the one on which the first color was used.
    For a variation on this variation, allow players to take their turns with whatever color they want, each turn.
    Both of these variations help to make a more dynamic game for smaller play groups. At no time, however, should a player be allowed to use all of his or her colors on a single turn: that sort of mass, uninterrupted coordination will make for very fast, lop-sided games that favor those who take their turns earliest.
  2. System Swap: SWAP = Choose any two home systems: those coasters swap positions in the galaxy (do not change the orientation of either coaster).
    This variation is best suited to smaller games where a critical system swap can temporarily save a lone player from an early assault by an alliance. In larger games, the frequency of system swapping will make for a game with a lot of movement compared to firing, which some players might find tedious.
  3. The Wild Shot: WILD = When you fire your torpedo, if it reaches the edge of a square with no wormhole pointing to the next square in line then it turns to the right in that space and tries to continue. It will continue until (a) it hits and damages any ship, including your own, (b) it must turn right twice in the same square, which makes it self-destruct, or (c) it goes off the edge of a coaster completely and leaves the galaxy.
    This variation is best suited to smaller games or games where the players appreciate more complex turns. A wild shot requires significant pre-planning of movement to end up in the right square at the right orientation to send a torpedo careening across the galaxy to hit someone who never expected it. Such pre-planning can make for much slower turns.

Credits

Wormholes was inspired by and borrows much of its mechanics from Chris Kice’s Zamboni Wars and Andrew Looney’s Martian Coasters.

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

Aug 052007
 

Created in August, 2007

I have this idea for a pyramid soccer game that works something like Subbuteo.

I’m thinking basic position play plus some effect due to pyramid size: maybe determines who wins a tackle attempt, or determines the “range” within which a piece can “receive” a pass that doesn’t directly hit it.

Summary:

  • Position pieces and ball for kick-off.
  • Take turns flicking a piece:
    • Basic move – Piece doesn’t hit an opposing piece (else Foul) or the ball (else Tackle Attempt).
    • Dribble the ball – Ball doesn’t hit an opposing piece, and your piece ends up within its “range” of the ball after all motion ceases.
    • Pass to another piece – Ball hits recipient piece without hitting an opposing piece and ends up within the recipient piece’s “range.”
    • All tipped over pieces are set upright (by pivoting at base edge in contact with table) at the end of their player’s subsequent turn (ball position is unaffected by tipping a piece).
  • Attempt to tackle by flicking a piece into an opposing piece in possession of the ball (or the ball itself).
    • Foul if you knock the opposing piece flat.
    • Tackle won by largest piece; tie goes to piece in possession prior to the Tackle Attempt.
  • Flick-kick into the goal (past the keeper?) to score:
    • Must be past Shooting Line: half way between goal and midfield.
    • Reset to opening position afterwards.
  • Timed game or play to predetermined score.

More to come….

Moon Shot

 Games, Parlor Game  Comments Off on Moon Shot
Jul 052007
 
Moon Shot
David Artman
 
A game of dexterous strategy for any number of players.
Players: Any
Icehouse stashes: one stack (or one stack per player for the turnless variation)
Other equipment: A smooth surface; one Treehouse tube (or one tube per player for the turnless variation)
Setup time: 1 minute
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Low
Strategy depth: Low
Random chance: None
Mechanics: dexterity, miniatures
Theme: Space
BGG Link: 33853
 
Created in July, 2007

It’s the mid-1960s, and the Space Race is heating up. You are the launch commander of a mission to land on the Moon and, eventually, to colonize it. But your opponents want to plant their flags there first and claim the high ground as their own!

Overview

After determining order of play by whatever means, players take turns1 trying to “launch” a small pyramid into a Treehouse tube that is resting on its side. Each successful “landing” earns points for the launching player. The game ends when a player establishes a “colony” or “cracks” the Moon, intentionally or not.2

Shot Setup

Make a tree stack and set it upright on a smooth surface. This stack represents the current player’s two-stage “booster rocket” (large and medium) and “capsule” (small).

Set a tube on its side on the surface, with its open top facing the tree, no closer to the tree than the length of the tube. A player may place the tube further away, if desired, but never closer.3

Shot Play

Using the tip of a finger, gently knock over the tree so that it separates and sends the small—and maybe the medium and possibly the large—sliding and skittering across the surface.

Shot Scoring

If any part of the small4 enters the tube, that player has Landed on the Moon:

  • If the small is flat and still points away from the original site of the tree (even if only by a half a degree) then it is a Crash Landing and is worth 1 point, for the limited scientific gains made before the crew dies from oxygen depletion.
  • If the small is flat but now points back towards the original site of the tree (even if only by a half a degree) then it is a Controlled Landing and is worth 2 points, because the crew not only completes scientific objectives but also returns safely to Earth.
  • If the small is now upright then it is a Perfect Landing and is worth 3 points, because the crew not only completes scientific objectives and returns safely to Earth but also demonstrates the superiority of its piloting and technology in the world press.

(Note: If there is any doubt about whether the small points away from or towards the original site of the tree, it is considered a Crash Landing and is worth 1 point. Usually, however, players can settle disputes by using a tube top placed on the upper side of the tube as a right-angle gauge.)

If any part of the small enters the tube and any part of the medium5 enters the tube, that player scores point(s) based on the orientation of the small and that player has Colonized the Moon.

(Note: If the medium enters the tube alone, that player has not Colonized the Moon: he or she left the crew in space!)

If any part of the large enters the tube—regardless of any other pyramids entering the tube—that player has Cracked the Moon, destabilizing its orbit and sending it winging off into deep space.

(Note: If a small or medium also enters the tube with the large, that player receives no point(s) nor can Colonize: the Moon is leaving the warmth of Sol behind, and anyone along for the ride is doomed.)

Game Ending

When a player Colonizes the Moon, the player with the most points is the winner, which may or may not be the player that established the Colony! If two or more players are tied with the most points after the Moon is Colonized then the winner is determined as follows:

  • If one of those players Colonized the Moon then that player is the winner.
  • If none of those players Colonized the Moon then the one among them who most recently Landed is the winner.

If a player Cracks the Moon, the player with the least points at that moment is the winner, which may or may not be the player that Cracked the Moon. If two or more players are tied for the least points when the Moon is Cracked then the winner is determined as follows:

  • If one of those players Cracked the Moon then that player is the winner.
  • If none of those players Cracked the Moon then the one among them that least recently Landed is the winner.

Variations

Players should decide in advance whether any of these game variations are in effect:

  1. Players that have enough tubes for everyone may elect to play without turns, the better to simulate the original Space Race. In this turnless variation, players may attempt Landings as often as they wish, but another player or an impartial judge must confirm a Landing for it to score. As with the turn-based game, the first Colony ends the game, and the player with the most points at that moment is the winner (or the player that is the first to reach the determined score, if playing the variation below).
  2. For a quicker game, players may elect to play to an agreed-upon number of points to win (usually around 10 points); Colonizing or Cracking the Moon is irrelevant. This variation, however, eliminates the give and take of playing to Colonize while one has the points lead, then playing to Land (or to Crack!) when one does not: one need only Land repeatedly and consistently to win the game.
  3. For a really quick game, players may elect to allow the tube to be placed as close or as far away as they want. This variation makes it trivial to get 1-point Landings and even makes it simple to establish a Colony. Basically, this variation can ruin the game… or save it, for folks having a lot of difficulty with control.
  4. For a longer game, players may require that the entire small be in the tube to count as a Landing.
  5. For an epic-length game, players may require that the entire small and the entire medium be in the tube to count as a Colony. Good for playing solitaire or for long, rainy days.

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 2007
Winner: Pylon 2nd: Subdivision 3rd: Zamboni Wars 4th: Geomancy
5th: Penguin Soccer 6th: Moon Shot 7th: Martian Coaster Chaturanga 8th: Trip Away
Apr 052007
 
Icecaster
David Artman, David Cherryholmes
A two-fisted spell-casting battle for 2 or more players.
Players: 2 or more
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse stash per player
Other equipment: 1 stash pad per player
Setup time: 3 minutes
Playing time: 10–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: High
Random chance: None
Mechanics: Dexterity, turnless
Theme: Mystical
BGG Link: not ready yet
Created in April, 2007

Inspired by Spellcast (AKA Waving Hands, by Richard Bartle), Icecaster is a game of dueling wizards battling to be the last mage standing. Each player uses both hands to setup spells (similar to Zendo koans) which are finally cast by tipping a pyramid to point at the target.

But using magic has a cost: the very pyramids you use to build spells are those which comprise your life force. Further, when damaged, you lose pyramids from your life force, reducing your spell casting options. Run out of pyramids, run out of life force and lose the battle.

Equipment

One Treehouse set per player.

A stash pad for each player to put pyramids on until they are cast or lost due to damage or overload. This can be as simple as a small napkin, or could be a Looney Labs’ Icehouse Stash Pack pad, if you are lucky enough to have gotten one—anything which clearly shows available pyramids versus lost pyramids.

Setup

Players first organize their sets on their stash pads in whatever way they feel will best suit their play style and strategy.

Icecaster is turnless, so there is no “first player.” Rather, all players signify readiness by putting the tip of one finger of each hand on one pyramid each. When all players are ready, the game begins immediately.

Playing

Each player places pyramids either into a left hand spell configuration (with only the left hand) or into a right hand spell configuration (with only the right hand). Furthermore, at any given moment, a player may only handle one pyramid per hand, whether that involves placing a pyramid into that hand’s spell or reorienting a placed pyramid in that hand’s spell. As such, a player may place or handle a pyramid with each hand simultaneously.

A player may choose to remove a pyramid from a spell, placing it back on his or her stash pad. Usually, such a removal is done to shift the spell being cast to another spell.

Overload

An overload occurs whenever a player catches another player doing one of the following:

  • Touching a placed pyramid while holding another pyramid in the same hand.
  • Holding more than one pyramid in a single hand.

The player who notices this calls “Overload” plus the offender’s name, and the pyramids involved are immediately removed from play (i.e. set aside, not on the player’s stash pad or near a spell configuration).

Spells

Various combinations of pyramid size and orientation combine to create a spell (see Spell Lists, below). A spell is cast at a target when the requisite pyramid in the spell is tipped or reoriented to point at the intended target. The casting player then announces the spell name, target, and effect; and the target must immediately do what the effect requires, after first setting any held pyramids back onto his or her stash pad.

If a spell has an instantaneous effect then, once it is resolved, the casting player may put the spell’s pyramids back onto his or her stash pad or may begin to reorient them to setup another spell. As with any pyramid manipulation in Icecaster, only the hand that controls that spell may be used, and only one pyramid at a time may be handled with each hand.

Damage and Winning

Many spells do damage of some kind to the target. Whenever a player is damaged, he or she loses a pyramid (or pyramids) from his or her stash pad, per the spell effect.

When a player has no more pyramids on his or her stash pad, that player is eliminated from the game. The last player with pyramids on his or her stash pad is the winner.

Spell Lists

There are two levels of complexity to Icecaster—Neonate and Magus—which are primarily distinguished by whether or not color is relevant in a spell configuration. Beginning players should use the Neonate Spell List, but more experienced players (or those with better memories) might prefer the Magus Spell List.

A spell is defined with a spell name, the pyramids it requires, and a brief description of the effect.

Pyramid size is designated using the the following letters:

  • “L” for large
  • “M” for medium
  • “S” for small

The pyramid which must be tipped to point at the target and cast the spell is surrounded by parentheses ().

In the Magus Spell List, the pyramid color follows the size designation, using the following letters:

  • “bt” for blue or cyan (referred to as “teal” to avoid confusion with clear)
  • “ro” for red or orange
  • “yc” for yellow or clear
  • “gp” for green or purple
  • “kw” for black or white

Finally, if a spell requires both hands to cast (i.e. the configuration must be setup in both hands) then the whole spell is surrounded by curly braces ({}).

Examples:

Neonate spell:

Foo
L(M)S (large, medium, and small; tip the medium to cast) Do foo to target.

Magus spell:

Bar
LbtMro(Syc) (large blue or teal, medium red or orange, small yellow or clear; tip the small to cast) Do bar to target.

Neonate

[TBD-colorless]

[spell]
[pyramids] [effect]

Magus

[TBD-color using]

License

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

Stacktors!

 Games, RPG  Comments Off on Stacktors!
Mar 202007
 

Roleplaying with Pyramids

© 2007 David Carle Artman & David Mark Cherryholmes, All rights reserved.

Contents

Overview

A role-playing game requires, at a minimum, Characters, Situations, a Resolution System, and Rewards for playing. In Stacktors!, the abilities of each player character (PC) are represented by a stack of pyramids. Each pyramid’s position contributes an ability, be it physical, mental, or social. A game group decides what sort of setting—game world, time period, seriousness—in which they wish to play; and then the game master (GM) presents the players with challenges, situations, and story lines in which they can engage. When there is a conflict of interest between characters, a resolution system determines the victor. To the victors go the spoils….

Characters

A character in a game—whether controlled by a player or by the GM—is comprised of a stack of pieces called a character stack, which is positioned on the game map. Similarly, objects—things that the character possesses—are represented by a single equipment stack, which is placed in front of the character’s player.

To indicate a piece’s facing or orientation, character stacks are built on top of a teardrop-shaped piece or paper. Alternately, a small marker may be placed touching the side of the stack which is considered the front face.

The position of a piece and its color determine what ability effect the piece provides to the character. The size of the piece determines its strength, value, or efficacy in such situations.

Piece Positions

A piece can be in one of four general positions in a character stack:

  • Brains – (optional) All of the topmost pieces of a stack that are above the neck. Brains typically provide mental or social abilities to the character.
  • Neck – (required) A small piece which divides the character’s brains from its guts. Necks do not provide any abilities. A gray neck (i.e. a Volcano Cap) indicates a player character; a black or white neck indicates an enemy or potential ally/burden, respectively.
  • Guts – (optional) Any piece which is not feet, brains, or neck. Guts typically provide physical or social abilities to the character.
  • Feet – (required) Any and all pieces in a stack which are touching the playing surface. As such, the minimum number of feet is one and the maximum number is three (a full nest). Feet provide movement abilities to the character. Note that equipment stacks do not have feet because there are no feet abilities granted via objects: all pieces below the equipment stack’s neck are guts pieces.
    Variation Note: If the playing group has access to a full stash of gray pieces then the GM may choose to use them for Feet objects.

Piece Colors

The following table shows the abilities that each piece color provides, for each position in a character stack:

Character Stack Abilities By Position

Color Brain Guts Feet
Clear Identify (special) 

Claim the piece(s) under a solid piece, once per pip.†

Perfection (physical) 

Attack – Automatically succeed with one attack, before or after resolution (if after, all committed pieces remain committed), once per pip.†

Defend – Ignore one attack, before or after resolution (if after, all committed pieces remain committed), once per pip.†

Agile (movement) 

May move partially, act, and then finish movement.

Note: Do not count clear pieces when calculating total movement points.

Red Intimidate (social) 

Force the defender to flee—move away from the attacker and its allies at its full movement rate—for a number of rounds equal to the pip value of the active red pieces.

Ranged (physical) 

Attack – Attack a defender that is a number of inches away equal to 3 + the pip value of the active red pieces.

Defend – Add the pip value of the red piece to defense against ranged attacks, without committing the red piece.

Fleet (movement) 

Move at double speed (i.e. double movement points), adjusted for the terrain in which beginning movement.

Pink Shrewd (mental) 

Exchange one of the attacker’s pieces with one of the defender’s pieces (attacker’s choice; must be at least one piece from each character), limited to a total pip value equal to or less than the pip count of the active pink pieces.

Flexible (physical) 

Attack – Your current physical attack affects multiple adjacent targets equal to the pip count of the active pink pieces.

Defend – Reflect the attacker’s result back onto it, once per pip per turn (refreshes each turn). Attacker may commit additional pieces to reduce the reflected result to zero (no effect).

Graceful (movement) 

Disengage from enemies without being at risk of a parting shot, once per movement. The number of enemies must be equal to or less than the total pip count of the active pink pieces.

Orange Persistent (mental) 

Immediately re-attempt a just-failed social attack, using the same committed pieces; the defender must commit different pieces to defend against this attack.

Dexterous (physical) 

Attack – Repeat your current physical attack twice, using the same committed pieces; the defender must commit different pieces to defend each attack.

Defend – Defend and counterattack as a free action immediately; the defender and attacker both must commit different pieces for the counterattack.

Nimble (movement) 

Change directions while moving without it costing a movement point.

Yellow Calming (mental or social) 

Force the defender to stop fighting for a number of rounds equal to the pip value of the active yellow pieces. Any attack on the defender during this time period will break the effect and allow it to resume combat on its next turn.

Medic (special) 

Perform healing a number of times equal to the pip value of the active yellow pieces.

Steady (movement) 

Move at normal speed when beginning movement in slowing terrain (e.g. ice, sand), instead of at half speed.

Green Persuasive (mental or social)  

Somehow convince a reluctant potential ally to join the PCs.

Hamper (physical or social) 

Attack – Rather than do normal damage, increase or reduce the pip value of one of the defender’s Feet by one (attacker’s choice), if that is possible with the available unused pieces.

Defend – The attacker immediately reduces the pip value of one of its Feet by one, if that is possible with the available unused pieces.

Dynamic (movement) 

Move at normal speed when beginning movement in cluttered areas (e.g. woods, factory), instead of at half speed.

Cyan Morph Other (social) 

“Heal” the defender 1 pip value, up to a number of inches away equal to the pip value of the active cyan pieces.

Morph Self (special) 

Change the color of one of your pieces whose pip value is equal to or lower than the pip value of the active cyan pieces, if that is possible with the available unused pieces. This ability also commits the affected pieces for this round.

Fly (movement)Move at normal speed through air, instead of at zero speed.
Blue Cunning (mental) 

Force a defender within a number of inches equal to the pip value of the active blue pieces to commit its pieces first, the next time it is defending against any attack.

Freeze (physical or social) 

Attack – Rather than do damage, force the defender to stay in its location for a number of rounds equal to the pip value of the active blue pieces.

Defend – End the attacker’s turn immediately, even if it still has available actions or movement.

Swim (movement) 

Move at normal speed through water, instead of at quarter speed.

Purple Compel (mental or social) 

Force a defender within a number of inches equal to 3 + the pip value of the active purple pieces to use its next turn to attack the character of your choice, moving into range if necessary (and possible).

Maneuver (physical) 

Attack – Instantly relocate the defender away from its current position a number of inches equal to the pip value of the active purple pieces, without it engaging or being obstructed by terrain, characters, objects, or challenges.

Defend – Instantly move up to a number of inches equal to 3 + the pip value of the active purple pieces, without engaging or being obstructed by terrain, characters, objects, or challenges.

Teleport (movement) 

Instantly move up to full movement points without engaging or being obstructed by terrain, characters, objects, or challenges. If teleporting while engaged, the teleporter may be the subject of an optional parting shot from the adjacent enemy or enemies.

Opaque pieces represent either objects—pieces that the player characters may add to their equipment stacks—or NPCs or challenges. 

Variation Note: If the playing group has access to a full stash of gray pieces then the GM may choose to use them to indicate objects which provide feet abilities. If so, all players must unground their equipment stack with any available opaque until a feet object grants a feet ability, after which time the object’s piece(s) replace the grounded opaque. Note that you might have to use an extra small opaque to make only the feet pieces grounded; often, however, you can simply rearrange your equipment stack guts pieces to unground any of them that are still grounded when on top of the feet pieces.

White NPC – If on top of a stack or used for a neck (i.e. a small), White indicates a potential ally. This ally might or might not require persuasion to accompany the players; or it might force itself on the PCs, thereby becoming a burden to protect for an undetermined period of time or until a specific goal is reached. 

Object – If on top of completely hidden piece(s), White indicates an unidentified brains ability (or abilities). A character must use the Identify ability to remove the opaque and claim the granted ability (or abilities), which the character may then put into its equipment stack (above that stack’s neck) or give to another character to do so.

Black NPC – If on top of a character stack or used for a neck (i.e. a small), Black indicates a potential enemy or a challenge (as decided by the GM and the situation). A challenge is further indicated by an opaque foot, called a base, which shows that it is immobile and which distinguishes it from an NPC. Sometimes, the GM may place pieces under the opaque base so that it simultaneously serves as an object reward for surmounting the challenge. 

Object – If on top of completely hidden piece(s), Black indicates an unidentified guts ability (or abilities). A character must use the Identify ability to remove the opaque and claim the granted ability (or abilities), which the character may then put into its equipment stack (below that stack’s neck and above its feet, if any) or give to another character.

Footnotes: 

† = When a “once per pip” ability is used, replace the pyramid with the next smallest pyramid. If it is already a small, remove it from the character stack. Also, such abilities may not be healed, though the character could regain them with additional CP expenditure.

Character Creation

A given play group will choose one of the following means to create characters, based on the game tone or player preferences:

  • Free Creation – Each player get [TBD] character points (CPs) to distribute amongst any number of pieces, to make a character stack. A piece costs a number of CPs equal to its pip value—1 for smalls, 2 for mediums, and 3 for larges.
  • Group Creation – Each player gets [TBD] CPs to distribute amongst pieces. Piece purchasing, however, follows a rotation, with each player choosing one piece at a time and paying its CP cost from the player’s total available CPs. This method allows for negotiation between players, to avoid overlapping abilities or to shore up abilities that are lacking for the anticipated challenges.
  • Unique Creation – To ensure a really diverse group, with little or no overlap of abilities, the GM might restrict the available pieces to those that come in one Rainbow and Xeno Treehouse stash. Following the above Group Creation method, with only the 24 transparent pieces available in one Rainbow and Xeno stash, will ensure that every character “trumps” the others in at least one ability category.

Character Evolution

Throughout the course of play, situations and challenges won and lost can lead to changes in a character’s total CP or to a character’s stack itself. For instance, a character might lose brains in mental conflict or guts in a social conflict. Likewise, a character might gain a new foot that ungrounds all the other grounded pieces: the new foot grants a (possibly new) movement ability, and all previous feet become guts abilities.

This direct coupling of stack changes to character changes informs most, if not all, of the dramatic outcomes of play. Stacktors! characters can go through significant losses, develop massive sets of talents through advancement, and even die, in the most extreme situations.

Notation Methods

For brevity, a number of notation methods are used to shorten character, challenge, and object descriptions. All notation methods write out a stack from bottom to top, which may seem counterintuitive but is the order in which a stack is built. In addition, various symbols delineate brains, guts, feet, and bases in the stack.

General Notation Guidelines

The color and size of a piece are shown in the following order:

  1. Color – (C)lear, (R)ed, (O)range, (Y)ellow, (G)reen, (Cy)an, (B)lue, (P)urple, (W)hite, and (Bl)ack
  2. Size – 1, 2, 3, or x (where x is any arbitrary value; see Challenges).

Character Notation

Follow the general notation guidelines above, putting a hyphen (-) between feet and guts (to make it easier to see how many are grounded) and between guts and brains (to represent the neck). Additional details may or may not be provided in a character description.

Example Soldier – G1O2-R3O2C1-R1

  • G1 – Dynamic: All those obstacle courses, all the calisthenics… they pay off.
  • O2 – Nimble: All those days marching… they pay off, too.

(feet = 3 MPs)

  • R3 – Ranged: Got a big old gun…
  • O2 – Dexterous: …and it’s a machine gun.
  • C1 – Perfection: Maybe it’s a flak jacket, maybe it’s a grenade—something in his arsenal will save his bacon or drive home damage.

(neck = any)

  • R1 – Intimidate: The grunt can be pretty scary to those dumber than he is (which isn’t many folks—but could include most burdens or any character who has already committed all of its brains!)

Challenge Notation

Follow the general notation guidelines above, putting parentheses or braces ({}) around the base (parentheses for white brains object rewards, braces for black guts object rewards) and an equal sign between guts and brains (to emphasize that a character may eliminate either guts or brains to overcome the challenge). Note that, because only the topmost guts or brains color is usually all that matters in a challenge, there is usually only one piece notation followed by any number, which is comprised of any available pieces. Additional details may or may not be provided in a challenge description.

Variation Note: Though none will be presented in these examples, a gray foot object reward is signified by putting double quotes around the base.

Example Locked Chest – (C2)R8=B5

  • C2 – Identify (because opaque base is white): A scroll will be found! Note that if this were C1, it would be a break-even proposition, as the object must be Identified, even if part of a challenge. Not much of a reward, then.

(base = white)

  • R8: It can be shot open…

(neck = black) Note that the neck will always be black, for a challenge.

  • B5: …or a Cunning character can figure out how to pick the lock.

Object Notation

Follow the general notation guidelines above, putting parentheses or braces ({}) around the base (parentheses for white brains objects, braces for black guts objects). Additional details may or may not be provided in an object description.

Variation Note: Though none will be presented in these examples, a gray foot object is signified by putting double quotes around the base.

Example Fine Bow – {R3}

  • R3 – Ranged (because opaque base is black): So well strung, it fires up to six inches away!

(base = black)

Turn-Based Resolution

A given conflict is broken up into rounds—a series of turns during which every character has a chance to act.

To determine turn order, each character totals the pip values of its brains or of its feet, ignoring all ability effects (e.g. Fleet). The character with the highest total may go first or pass; if it passes, the next highest character may go first; and the group continues to “count down” in this manner, offering the opportunity to act or pass. Once the character with the lowest total takes its turn—which it is forced to do when its total is reached, or it loses its whole turn—begin to count back up through the totals, offering the opportunity for those who passed to take their turn. If a character passes again on this “count up” stage, it has passed its entire turn away.

On a given character’s turn, that character may do any or all of the following, in any order:

  • Move up to its maximum range, determined by the medium or terrain in which the character begins its turn.
  • Make one or more actions, determined by the abilities that the character possesses.
  • Make a brief statement, usually limited to one sentence.

Movement

A character may move a number of inches equal to the pip value total for all of its feet (including those in its equipment stack, if any). This sum is called the character’s movement points. Note that a small on its side is almost exactly an inch tall; the sides of a large’s base are exactly an inch wide. Many GMs, however, will use battlemats, which typically have a grid of 1″ squares or hexes.

A character must use one movement point to change direction (unless it is Nimble), regardless of the new direction (i.e. a character may turn up to 180 degrees in either direction for one movement point).

A character may not split movement into two stages divided by actions (unless it is Agile); it must move then act or act then move.

Movement Abilities

Every foot color ability effect applies on every movement (including those in the character’s equipment stack, if any).

Example: A character has a large green, a medium red, and a small yellow foot. On its turn, it may move up to 6 inches (3 + 2 + 1) times 2 (because of the red), for a total of 12 inches. Plus, it may move that full value even if it begins its movement in or passes through slowing terrain or cluttered areas (because of the yellow and green).

Terrain Effects

If a character begins movement in terrain, an area, or a medium which reduces movement, it must adjust its total movement points to the fraction of their total, rounding up, as in the following list:

  • Slowing terrain (half MPs) – sand, ice, dense underbrush, highly irregular floor, shallow water.
  • Cluttered area (half MPs) – forest, factory, ship engine room.
  • Water (quarter MPs) – waist-deep or deeper liquid in general; shallow bodies of water are merely slowing.
  • Air (zero MPs) – any gaseous medium, presuming gravity is present; if there is no gravity, a gaseous medium is merely slowing.

If a character enters one of the above terrains during its movement, its remaining movement points are immediately adjust by the indicated amount, rounding down. This reduction can result in the character having no remaining movement points.

Encountering Enemies

At any point during a character’s movement, if it becomes adjacent to an enemy—less than 1″ away, or in a neighboring square or hex—then it must immediately stop. It is not required to attack that enemy (and the enemy is not required to attack it), but it is nevertheless considered engaged for the remainder of the round. If the enemy is somehow defeated or relocated before the end of the character’s turn, the character may resume movement, if permitted (i.e. if it is Agile).

An engaged character may move away from an enemy on its next turn, and can move freely around or past that enemy during that turn (i.e. the enemy does not instantly re-engage the character just because it moves into another adjacent position). The enemy, however, may choose to take one action to attack before the character moves away, even if it is not yet the enemy’s turn; this immediate attack is called a parting shot. Also, if an engaged character is moved away from an enemy by another character (i.e. with a Maneuver Attack) then the enemy may make a parting shot. The pieces that the enemy commits to a parting shot are unavailable for the remainder of the round (as is generally true of any committed piece).

Actions

Some actions occur during freeform narration, while others occur during conflict rounds. The guts and brains colors determine what actions a character may take.

Piece Applicability

In most cases—the GM will say when this is not true—a conflict engages only guts or brains.

  • Physical conflicts may only use guts.
  • Mental conflicts may only use brains.
  • Social conflicts may draw on either guts or brains.

A character may draw up pieces from both its character stack and its equipment stack, unless the GM says otherwise.

If there is any question about the applicability of a piece—say, if a recent loss of a piece in the stack changed some guts pieces to feet—then assume that the piece is only applicable based on its current position; ignore earlier positions or the timing of events.

Attacks

If an action targets another character or a thing which has defensive abilities (i.e. it is created with some kind of stack, though that stack may or may not include feet and brains), then that action is called an attack, whether it’s physical, mental, or social:

  • The attacker choses which pieces in its character stack are contributing to the total attack value and states which type of attack is being done (i.e. which piece color is active). For the rest of the round, these pieces are committed—they may not be used on follow-up actions or for defense against other characters’ actions.
  • The defender then choses which pieces in its character stack are contributing to the total defense value and states which type of defense is being used (i.e. which piece color is active). For the rest of the round, these pieces are committed.
  • Neither the attacker nor the defender may activate more than one color per attack.

The total attack value for the action is compared against the total defense value:

  • If the attack value is higher than the defense value, the attack succeeds (see Damage, below). If the attack value is a whole number multiple of the defense value, multiply the effect (e.g. a 6 attacking a 2 does triple the effect).
  • If the defense value is equal to or higher than the attack value, the attack fails. If the defense value is more than double the attack value, the defending character may immediately counterattack as a free action—it does not cost the defender its action(s) later in the round, nor does it require that the defender not have acted yet this round, though the pieces that the defender uses are committed for the whole round.

Assistance

An adjacent ally or player character (an assistant) may contribute pieces to either character in a conflict—attacker or defender—up to a pip value equal to the sum of all of the assistant’s brains’ pip values. In other words, the “smarter” or more “perceptive” an assistant, the more it can contribute in a given action; as such, NPC burdens typically have few or no brains. For the rest of the round, these pieces are committed.

Note that the contributed pieces need not only be brains (brains total pip values are merely the limiting factor) and the contributing character does not lose the pieces or give them to the acting character; their pip values are merely summed and added to the attacker’s attack value or to the defender’s defense value.

Damage

A successful attack forces the defender to reduce the pip value of one (or more) of its committed piece(s) by one pip value (more than one, if the attack value exceeds the defense value by whole number multiples). If the defender reduces a small piece’s pip value (reducing it to “zero”) then that piece is removed from the defender’s stack and the defender loses its associated ability.

In some cases, the attacker’s active piece will dictate the result, rather than doing damage. If so, do as the piece requires, with the restriction that the total pip value of all pieces in a character’s stack (except its neck) may never exceed the character’s current spent CPs.

Note: Hamper can result in a change of feet and, subsequently, guts.

Healing

Instead of moving or taking any actions, a character may choose to stay in place and heal in one of the following ways:

  • Add a small piece to its stack, out of the available unused pieces.
  • Upgrade one of its existing pieces to the next largest size, if that is possible with the available unused pieces.
  • Downgrade one of its existing pieces to the next smallest size, if that is possible with the available unused pieces. If there is no smaller size (i.e. the piece is already a small) then it is removed from the stack.

A character may not use any of the above healing methods to gain an ability which it did not have at the start of the play session. Note that Morph trumps this rule, allowing character abilities to change.

An ally or another player character may choose to use its movement and all of its actions for its turn to heal an adjacent character. Note that Medic trumps this rule, allowing the assistant to commit only its yellow guts piece(s) to perform healing(s) and leaving all other uncommitted pieces available to perform actions on its turn and move.

The total pip value of all pieces in a character’s stack (except its neck) may never exceed the character’s current spent CPs. Furthermore, these effects may not result in new feet or guts.

Death

Some games might have options for resurrecting dead characters: for instance, allowing another character to heal the character (i.e. add a small guts piece) within a certain number of rounds.

Most games, however, will treat death as final. The character’s player should be allowed to create a new character using starting CPs, spent CPs, or even total accumulated CPs (if the GM feels generous), and that character should be introduced into the story as soon as is possible.

Extra Actions

If, during a turn, an attacker does not commit all of its applicable pieces, it may choose to use its remaining pieces for a follow-up attack. Use the same process as before, with only uncommitted pieces (which become committed when used, as with any action) and only one of their colors being active.

Note that this can result in an attacker possibly getting many attacks in a given turn, in particular if it is able to use Dexterous to double-up each attack. It is entirely possible for a character with three orange guts pieces to get six (or more) attacks in one turn! They might not be very effective attacks, though, if the total pieces committed in each attempt is low.

Special Abilities

Some abilities are marked as special, which means that they do not involve an attack but rather have some other effect.

Unless otherwise noted, the use of a special ability does not use up the character’s actions for a round. The use of a special ability does commit the active pieces, however, as with any action.

Statements

Making a statement can occur whenever the player or GM desires. For verisimilitude, it is recommended that such statements be limited to brief interjections, taunts, or commands; any drawn-out soliloquy or conversation should occur outside of a conflict or should be done as an extended conflict or should be broken up across several turns (the GM will determine which is appropriate for the situation).

Situations

A situation can be anything from trying to bribe one’s way past a guard to a series of combat maneuvers, attacks, defensive attempts, and injuries. The GM presents situations to the players; the players use their character stack abilities, ingenuity, and cooperation to attempt to overcome these challenges. Based on their success or failure, the GM then presents subsequent plot elements, which lead to further challenges; a story may or may not unfold, depending upon the whole playing group’s approach to stringing together these moments of conflict.

In some situations—usually mental, social, or minor in the “grand scheme of things”—the GM will simply narrate the situation and setting and allow the characters fairly free reign as to how they reply and react; timing, granularity of actions, and turn sequences are ignored in favor of conversational flow.

Once things get out of hand—when different GM or player characters are trying to do conflicting actions—then the situation is resolved with the turn-based resolution system.

Discrete Challenges

When the GM creates a challenge, it is represented as a challenge stack with an opaque base to show that it is immobile.

The topmost piece in a challenge stack indicates the color of the ability that a character must use to attack the challenge. If the challenge stack also has a neck, then a character may attack either the brains or the guts of the challenge stack, using the ability indicated by the topmost brains or guts color. Note that this makes the other piece colors in the challenge stack irrelevant, except as they contribute pip values when “defending” (or attacking).

If the attacker commits a sufficient number of pieces to exceed the total brains or total guts of the challenge stack, it does damage equal to the value of the excess committed pieces. Remove that many pips from the challenge stack’s attacked position—brains or guts—saving the topmost of either position for last. A challenge stack’s pieces are never committed during this “defense.”

Sometimes, the GM might choose to allow the challenge stack to make attacks as well, usually immediately after receiving an attack. The GM will often designate the topmost color as active, but he or she may also choose to surprise a defender by using one of the other (now not so irrelevant!) pieces in the stack. The GM will (typically) commit all of a challenge stack’s pieces to such an attack, and it is therefore (typically) only allowed one attack per round. Even if they have been committed to an attack, a challenge stack’s applicable pieces are always counted for “defense.”

When either all of the guts or all of the brains pieces are eliminated, the challenge is surmounted: remove all remaining pieces above its base from the challenge stack. The character that did the last point(s) of “damage” takes possession of any unidentified object reward that the GM might have placed under the opaque base piece.

Abstract Challenges

At times, the GM might want to represent a situation without actually building character and object stacks for everything present in the scene. In these cases, the GM might set up an abstract challenge, representing an entire scene with a single challenge stack.

The GM will inform the players as to how the challenge must be overcome, typically by separating it into stages or a series of discrete challenges. As a particular stage is overcome, the GM removes the top-most piece, revealing the nature of the next challenge in the series (i.e. what color ability must next be used to “attack” it).

Rewards

Success in conflict will usually reap rewards for the PCs.

The GM might provide additional CPs, allowing them to be spent immediately (e.g. “healing” after a combat) or requiring that they be spent at a particular, later time (e.g. “training” to advance an ability).

Similarly, the GM might provide tools, equipment, or other objects that are beneficial to the characters. Such objects, once acquired, are represented by piece stacks in front of the character’s player.

The GM might also provide information—clues, maps, or world facts—that helps the PCs continue in an ongoing quest or overcome some later challenge.

While currency—in-game resources, money, and assets—might also be a reward for success, this puts a burden on the GM to provide a means to spend such currency in a way that is meaningful to the characters. Otherwise, currency becomes a sort of “scoring system” for the players to use to compare against each other (or other groups that encounter the same series of situations).

Jan 202007
 
Martian Shuffleboard
David Artman
 
A game of dexterous strategy for 2 to 10 players.
Players: 2–5 normally, up to 10, with Rainbow and Xeno sets
Icehouse stashes: 1 Treehouse set per 5 players
Other equipment: A table or large game board off of which pieces can slide
Setup time: 1 minute
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Low
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: None
Mechanics: Dexterity, Turn-based, Miniatures
Theme: Martian
BGG Link: not ready yet
 
Created in January, 2007

Note: [?-…-?] indicates elements still under consideration or open for variation.


A game of dexterous strategy for 2 to 10 players in which players attempt to flick upright pieces so that they slide into scoring positions without tipping flat or sliding off of the playing surface.

 

Equipment

A playing surface, which could be a relatively small table with no edge rails (i.e. pieces can slide off the table) or a relatively large, thick game board. The slicker the playing surface, the better the game.

One Treehouse set per 5 players. For 6 to 10 players, the second Treehouse set must contain different colors from the first one (i.e. one must be Rainbow and the other Xeno).

An unused Small (e.g. the solid white or solid black one in the set). In a 5 or 10 player game, you will need either the Treehouse die or a spare Small from another set, to measure piece proximity.

Setup

Give each player a monochrome stack—one Small piece, one Medium piece, and one Large piece of the same color.

Determine randomly who will go first, and then follow traditional turn order.

The first player places a single upright piece of any size [?-alternates below-?] at the center of the playing surface.

Playing

In turn order, players attempt to flick a single upright piece with their finger(s), from the edge of the playing surface, so that it slides across the surface and stops in an upright position with the potential to score (see Scoring below).

A player may slide only one piece per turn.

If a slid piece hits another piece and moves it without knocking it over, then that piece remains where it stops (see Crashing below, for what happens if either piece is knocked flat or off of the playing surface).

Crashing

If any piece is ever knocked flat (no longer upright) then its owner gets that piece back, to re-slide on one of his or her subsequent turns.

If a piece falls off of the playing surface, then one of the following results:

  • If the piece belongs to the player whose turn it is (i.e. who just slid a piece to cause the crash) then it is removed from play until the end of the game.
  • If the piece belongs to any other player then its owner gets that piece back, to re-slide on one of his or her subsequent turn.

The game ends when no one has any more pieces to slide into play.

Scoring

Each piece that is within a Small height (laid flat) of any larger piece—regardless of that larger piece’s color—scores points for its player equal to the value of that larger piece. Thus, it is possible for a single piece to score from several pieces, including the player’s own pieces.

Example: The Small blue is within a Small height of the Large blue and the Medium red; the blue player scores 5 points. 

The Medium red is within a Small height of the Large blue; the red player scores 3 points.

You might have to use the Treehouse die as an alternative measuring device, if you are playing with 5 or 10 players. The longest measurement possible with a die—the length between any two completely opposite corners, through the center of the die—is almost exactly the height of a Small, though you will have to “eyeball” measurements of that length from above, as it is impossible to set that length flat on the playing surface.

Of course, you may also measure with the width or diagonal length of a face of the die, which makes for slightly lower scoring games because those lengths are shorter than a Small height.

Winning

The winner is the player with the most points after all scoring is concluded.

Some groups may elect to play a number of games equal to the number of players and take turns being first, to mitigate the disadvantage of being the first player, who must place a piece to begin play and thus hang it out there to be scored on (or, worse, use his or her Small at the very beginning of play, losing the best tool in the game).

License

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


 

Remaining Design Issues

  1. Is there an obvious strategy? By the current rules, it clearly is no good to start with a Large, as you’re just hanging it out there to be scored on and it isn’t likely to be crashed by a smaller piece trying to score on it. But see below.
  2. I have observed that you can save the Small for last and use it to bump around pieces while crashing the Small, getting it back each time (well, until you screw up and fling it off the playing surface, that is). I have tried forced piece order (i.e. always must use your smallest piece on your turn) and I have tried alternate scoring (pieces within a Small height of smaller pieces score the smaller’s point value). Basically, there’s this range of possible play variants:
    • Use what you want + Smallers score on largers. (above)
    • Use what you want + Largers score on smallers. (intuitive, but it’s easier for everyone to score, as largers don’t “bounce off” smallers that much.)
    • Forced to use smallest every turn + Smallers score on largers.
    • Forced to use smallest every turn + Largers score on smallers.
    • Forced to use largest every turn + Smallers score on largers.
    • Forced to use largest every turn + Largers score on smallers.
  3. Is there too much skill required? This is the first game I’ve seen in which manual dexterity plays such a large role in success.

Ikkozendo

 Games, Strategy Game  Comments Off on Ikkozendo
Dec 052006
 
Ikkoendo
Kory Heath (Original), David Artman (Variation)
 
Players achieve satori when they discover the secret rule that explains which koans have the elusive Buddha-nature
Players: 2–4, and 1 master
Icehouse stashes: 1
Other equipment: 2 colors of marking stones (1 of each)
Setup time: 2 minutes
Playing time: 5–30 minutes
Rules complexity: Medium
Strategy depth: Medium
Random chance: None
Mechanics: inductive logic, real time, turn-based
Theme: Abstract
BGG Link: pending
 
Created in December, 2006

“Ikko” – one, a fragment, single

“Zendo” – the way of Zen, a mind-expanding game

“Ikkozendo” – a whole game of Zendo in one pocket!

Ikkozendo is a variant of Zendo that is played with a limited number of people who all are present at the game start. All must be present at game start because Ikkozendo is a single stash game and, as such, there will not be enough pyramids for the Students to build koans to seek the secret rule or for the Master to build koans to disprove a rule guess. Because no more than two koans are made during a game, the players’ memory of previous configurations of the koans is critical to finishing the game. Thus, if players come and go, as is allowed in Zendo, then the game can get stuck in “cycles,” as the same configurations are reused over and over again to disprove already-attempted guesses.

Equipment

A single stash of Treehouse pyramids. In a pinch, you may also use a single monochrome stash, though you will not be able to use color as a potential element in the secret rule (obviously!).

One or two marking stones (of different colors, if two). In a pinch, you can use the Treehouse die to mark the koan that conforms to the secret rule–I use the DIG side upright; can you “dig” it?

Starting

Begin as in normal Zendo: the Master thinks up a secret rule and makes two koans, one marked as conforming to the secret rule and one marked as not conforming to the secret rule. The koan that conforms to the secret rule is said to “have the Buddha-nature.”

Determine who goes first any way that is legal in your area, and proceed clockwise around the table with each turn. Alternately, for a real time variant, the Master may permit Students to shout out rule guesses as they come up with them. In this real time variant, the Master must gently restrain any Student who is rapidly making rule guesses to the exclusion of other Students’ chances to guess.

Playing

Students do not build koans and do not ask “Mondo” or “Master” and do not acquire guessing stones.

Instead, on a Student’s turn, the Student attempts to guess the secret rule or must pass. In the real time variant, a Student just shouts out a rule guess when one occurs to him or her.

If a Student guesses and is incorrect, the Master must adjust one of the koans so that it disproves the guess. In doing so, the Master may remove pyramids from the koan or add pyramids to it. The Master also may use pyramids from the other koan or adjust the other koan in any way, as long as, after all adjustments, one of the koans disproves the guess while both retain their original relationships to the rule (i.e. the true koan remains true and the false koan remains false).

Note that, if the secret rule involves color, the Master will often have to add or remove pyramids from both koans, because there are only three pyramids of any given color (and only one of a given size and color!) in a Treehouse stash.

After the Master’s disproof, it is immediately the next Student’s turn. In the real time variant, the Master must be sure not to let a Student double-up guesses and dominate the game, which can happen as an excited Student begins to close in on the secret rule.

Winning

If the Student’s guess matches the Master’s secret rule, that Student has won: shake his or her hand as everyone laughs… or groans. That Student is the next Master (or, alternately, rotate the role of Master counterclockwise each round… or let the loudest whiner be next).

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.