Flash! Friday # 33

Done my first ever #flashfriday competition entry 🙂

Flash! Friday

SATURDAY UPDATE: Unavoidable events mean results this round will not be posted until Sunday. Apologies, and many thanks for your patience.

CLOSED!!! but don’t cry–so many wondrous stories to read & chat about! Results will post Saturday afternoon ET. Thanks for coming out. See you next week!

Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost, 1920

Don’t let the introductory poem throw you off: today’s challenge isn’t about the end of the world (unless you want it to be, of course!), but rather about the tension of opposites. Fire and ice are both beautiful, destructive, and at opposite ends of the thermometer. And ohhhh…

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HexStatic – A #1GAM #onegameamonth tile laying strategy game for 1-3 players

HexStatic is a tile-laying puzzle strategy game of Red Green and Blue. Players attempt to make loops and lines by selectively laying tiles to form their own structures while blocking those of the other players. But first you need to fight for the right to own a colour in the first place! Will you rush in early, or play a waiting game of blocking?

What you will need?
Scissors (optional), a Printer, paper and/or thin card, or blank Hex tiles.

Print out the PDF file (link below) and paste on to thin card, or use red, green and blue pens (or colours of your own choice) to create your own pieces using purchased blank hex tiles.

How to play with 2 or 3 players
All the tiles except the nexus tiles (tiles where all three colours are end points) are turned over and shuffled.
[Insert picture of Nexus tiles]

Players select 6 tiles randomly, which they can look at but must keep secret from the other . Then the starting player chooses one of the nexus tiles to play first, and the rest are shuffled among the remaining face down tiles. Who gets to be starting player? The last winner of the game, or you can choose randomly. This ends the starting player’s first turn.

Then play commences in a clockwise direction. Each turn, players choose one of their six tiles to lay, where lines of the same colour always line up on all connected sides. Once played, a replacement tile is randomly chosen from the remaining face down tiles. If a tile could not be played, or the player chooses not to lay a tile, one tile is discarded for a random replacement then the remaining face down tiles are shuffled.

When the first structure is completed, either by having a line finished with two end tiles or by creating a self-contained loop, the successful player is assigned that colour for the rest of the game. Similarly for the second player to complete a structure. In a 3 player game, the remaining colour is allocated to the final player. In a two player game the last colour counts as neutral.

Play continues until no more players are able to lay legal tiles. If all players agree, play can be suspended and remaining tiles turned over to confirm no legal moves remain. If there are tiles that can be laid, play continues in the same order, but with all tiles being available to each player in turn order until legal moves are exhausted.

Scoring can be done continuously during play or at the end of the game, as follows:

  1. Loops – count the number of tiles in a loop when completed and multiply by 4. So, a loop of 3 (the smallest possible) scores 12 points.
  2. Lines – count the number of tiles including the two end tiles when a line is completed, and multiply by 2. So, a completed line can be as short as 2 (only two end tiles), which would score 4, but could be significantly longer!
  3. Fragments – lines that have one end tile only are scored by counting the number of connected tiles, excluding the end tile. This should only happen at the end of the game.
  4. Connected tiles – Fragments that don’t have at least one end tile are NOT counted unless there is a tie with scoring for Loops, Lines and Fragments. This should only happen if there is a draw at the end of the game.

How to play a Single Player Game
Set up is the same as for multiplayer, in that 6 tiles are chosen randomly from shuffled face down tiles, excluding the nexus tiles (those consisting solely of line ends), a nexus tile is chosen and played, with the rest being shuffled into the remaining tiles.

Then play proceeds with laying a tile then taking another (or swapping a new tile for an old one and shuffling) until there are no more legal moves possible; confirmation of this may require all remaining tiles being turned over, at which point but the player has effectively given up placing any more tiles and scoring begins.

Scoring for single player games is the same as for multiplayer games, but all colours are counted and only loops and lines score. The aim of single player is to get a new high score, or beat other player’s best scores.

For a commercial version of this, I would imagine pieces similar to those for Hive; chunky hexagonal tiles with raised grooves. Ideally, I would have coloured lines of different types – dashed, thin and thick lines – to allow colourblind or visually impaired players to have an accessible version. If you’d like to publish this game, please contact me, provided you agree that this Print and Play version is allowed to remain in the Public Domain indefinitely.

Print and Play Files
To come later today. Apologies, I can’t get a decent upload connection right now.

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Pixeliction – A #1GAM #onegameamonth quick game for Artists and Retro Fans

This is a quick “gamers’ game” especially for retro fans and artists. Pixeliction is Pixel art version of Pictionary. If you don’t have that game, or got tired and gave it away, don’t worry: it’s usually available very cheaply at charity/thrift shops or you can use this online Pictionary Word Generator to get the words.
What do I need?
A copy of Pictionary, the word generator linked above, or paper and pens and (possibly) a dictionary.
An Othello/Reversi board
How to play
Simple, instead of drawing to give clues to the word, you use black and white counters or a blank space to build an 8×8 pixel image on the board. Pixel art is dying, and this game is a way to reinvigorate the form, as well as to give players an appreciation of how hard it is to create sprites.
You could use coloured counters to allow more colours, or go for 16×16 grids, but this will mean it will take longer to create an image; patience needed.

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Moving 11 inches to the North

Once, long ago, I had a thought that the reason why I always seemed to be out of step with the “rest of the World” was because, overnight, the Goddess moved the entire universe (except for me) 11 inches to the North. No one but me could feel a difference. They’d all been moved too. Everything was where it should be, except for me.

Thus was born 11″2^N (eleven inches to the North). Today, technology willing, and with a big side order of thanks to Paco – chief cook and bottle washer of the G*M*S Magazine podcast – I am moving this site 11″^N

In other words, all the posts here are now reproduced at the new site:

Please go there from now on, if you want news of silly things I am doing.

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Javin – Java Battle of Yavin Tactical Computer

Repost from the Fantasy Flight forum

Shh, don’t tell anyone, but one of my Games and A.I. students and I are working on a Star Wars Targeting Computer bot to play/suggest moves for X-Wing. We feel that this is both canon – “Luke, you switched off your targeting computer! What’s wrong?” – and we’d like to honour this amazing game by creating an A.I. bot competition in the style of Robocode http://robocode.sourceforge.net/ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robocode by providing a testbed to allow bots to play in the X-Wing Universe. We hope that making a computer version of the board game, as the first step towards opening this up for artificial intelligence would be both acceptable and of interest to Fantasy Flight and the X-Wing community.

If we get far enough along, we hope to “enter” our own attempt at a bot in the UK X-Wing Championships to be hosted at the UK Games Expo, assuming that this would be allowed. Here is a timeline of what we hope to develop, all of which (possibly apart from the A.I. module itself) will be open source:

1) Visualisation of pieces and board state, movements, etc, in the style of theStar wars tactical displays:

Star Wars Display

with inspiration from the following:

Star Wars Display 2


and the more recent Battlestar Galactica tabletop tactical displays:

battlestar Disp01

battlestar Display 2

The aim here to provide the ability for tournaments to have an abstract projected top down display of the game at hand with some automation in moving ships on screen to match the current board state. We would need some “nudging” to be able to make sure the display matched the board; e.g. If the ref says the X-Wing can attach the TIE, but the computer’s (never inaccurate) digital movement says no, then the physical game would have to take priority. Think Vassal module, but customised to enable the later stages. Clearly, at this stage the intent is to provide a way for a computer program to have access to a relatively accurate board position for ships, and have encoded their ability to move, etc. Fantasy Flight, I am hopeful that if you allow the Vassal mod then this is acceptable.

2) Automation of the movement and action phases of each ship type, subject to the previous “nudging”, including a representation of ship and pilot capabilities and game related stats to enable them to be represented on the display; e.g. TIE 3 has Focus, TIE chose Evade, Y-Wing has sustained 2 shield damage. Clearly, the Vassal mod has attempted to not breach copyright, and we would want to avoid similar infringements, but we would need to be able to simulate the complete state of the game, including pilot stats, in order to allow a bot half a chance to be able to “play” in the proper environment.

3) Library functions to fully automate a game of X-Wing in emulation, so that A.I. (that is Tactical Computer) bots – or should I call them ‘droids? – can play simulated games. Many artificial intelligence techniques require sped up automated games in order to evolve suitable strategies of play.

4) An A.I. of our own to test the testbed, which we would then play against humans to see how well it would perform. This bit, I think, we’d need to keep closed source. In the event that we actually get to (4), an ambitious and ridiculous dream, then Fantasy Flight would have to rule on whether bots would be allowed in tournaments. I’m hoping, at least as a special occasion, this might be allowed, if not in a regular competition.

5) Requesting from Fantasy Flight a bespoke ‘droid pilot card to be allowed official recognition. For example, a tactical computer, no matter how well programmed should (in the spirit of the franchise) not have Focus as an option, but should be very cheap (if not free) to buy; working on the assumption that the human player fielding it MUST abide by the program’s choices in battle for the ships controlled by it. The skill then comes in how well you have actually programmed your Tactical Computers. It would be assumed that TCs would be ship specific – hence the need for unique pilot cards for each ship type – but that the basic stats would be those of the ship’s reference card. The rating of the pilot would need FF to decide, but (for example) a bot would be very fast to react, but slow to target, which would suggest a low rating. Other balance issues, should the idea of a TC be one that FF like as an extension to the rules (even without a “real” A.I. playing, but rather a human pretending), might be extra evades, better target locks, etc, at the expense of the loss of focus.

Of course, (5) is pure speculation, but fun to consider. I thoroughly expect any bot to be much, much worse than an average human. However, the idea is one that (despite probably meaning a lot of work) really interests me. Please do comment, to tell me what you think. Would you be willing/scared to play against a ‘droid (” We don’t serve their kind here! … Your droids. They’ll have to wait outside.”) or should they never be allowed to play in tournaments?

One alternative to a low rating could be an average (middle range) or user selectable pilot rating, which would allow the programmer to decide between move first shoot last and move last shoot first strategies.

Some more reference images (DRADIS from Battlestar Galactica):





Clearly, we would be looking to get one of the art students to do a suitably Star Wars styled representation of the X-Wing ships, but you can see how a Viper (above) is similar to an A-Wing. This is to provide a “mood board” for conceptualising what the display would look like.

Got another canon precedent:

“TIE Automated Starfighter (TIE Droid Starfighter) produced by World Devastators in the comic mini-series Dark Empire I.”


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Why Cardiff is an excellent place to be a Gamer

Cardiff is an outstanding place to be a gamer. Although it isn’t home to any major gaming events in the die hard calendar (yet!), it hosts two exceptional games shops, both of which provide the kind of service that should shame you, if you live or work nearby and persist in purchasing your games from Amazon.
Rules of Play
Rules of Play (RoP) is an unassuming little shop in the Castle Arcade in Cardiff. One of those places it might be easy to miss, among the fashionable cafes and weird boutiques.

Rules of Play, Castle Arcade, Cardiff

Rules of Play, Castle Arcade, Cardiff

However, it is not cluttered, and actually quite inviting. There are none of the intimidating tables with sweaty young men hunched over bizarre dioramas, a la Games Workshop. What there is are staff who are keen to please, able to recommend games to meet the needs of Grand Ma wanting a game for her relatives, and the hardened MTG and CCG nut alike. Quite an achievement, and RoP is probably one of the best games shops I have ever frequented.

While normally there is a cellar for game play, with regular events for diverse games, currently the playing space is relocated due to seasonal flooding. However, RoP also run two game events a month:

  • The second Sunday of every month at Chapter, a family-friendly event usually starting at 5pm with a selection of games to loan out to interested players (although die hards with their own games are often there earlier). On that, the RoP staff are all excellent tutors in games, and will have you up and running quite quickly.
  • The last Monday of every month at The Gate in Roath from 7pm, which is more for seasoned gamers.

I’ll cover their events in more detail in coming months, but it is safe to say that the staff are both knowledgeable and accessible to both novice and expert alike.

Firestorm Games
Firestorm Games (aka StormFire) are less easy to come across, being the “wrong” side of the tracks, if only a convenient walk from Cardiff Central Train Station.

Firestorm Games, 8a Trade Street, Cardiff

Firestorm Games, 8a Trade Street, Cardiff

The shop itself, is about the same size as RoP, but in two smaller sections; one being predominantly Games Workshop (GW) products, the other being a range of board games and accessories for War Games, etc. It’s quite compact, but nice to see things on display for a company that does most of its selling through the Internet. However, the real jewel in Firestorm’s Tardis-like interior is the fully licensed (!) massive play space, affectionately known as “The Battlefields”. Click the panoramic image below to fully grasp this!
Panoramic View of the Firestorm Battlegrounds Play Area

Panoramic View of the Firestorm Battlegrounds Play Area

Firestorm has a licensed bar

Firestorm has a licensed bar

This huge, well-resourced area, with a cafe, bar, figure painting area, and even an arcade cabinet, must be seen to be believed. While it is clear that War Games are the dominant game type here – there is a huge array of dioramas and peripherals, so you only really need to bring your army to play massive campaigns, and Firestorm even offer lockable storage for regulars – there are regular events for CCG, and board game play.
Firestorm's Figure Painting Station

Firestorm’s Figure Painting Station

The staff charge a fixed fee for access to the Battlefields (currently a one off £3.60, but periodic membership is also available), but when I attended recently, there were a range of games on hand, as well as those brought by the regulars, and there was an atmosphere of “Let’s make sure everyone gets a game!” from the staff, who could be seen arranging groups of players to guarantee that people wouldn’t have to wait to be entertained. Even I got roped into a quick game of
Rob and Steve contemplate their defeat in Evil Baby Orphanage

Rob and Steve contemplate their defeat in Evil Baby Orphanage

“Evil Baby Orphanage” despite not intending to stay for long. It just reinforced the great atmosphere that Firestorm provides for the young adult gamer. While I don’t think that this store is as accommodating for families – the licensed bar on the premises necessitates some control over who can play on site – it is good to know that the two shops complement each other perfectly. Both Rules of Play and Firestorm are worth a visit, if you are ever in the Welsh capitol. Next time, I will cover RoP in more detail, especially the regular Sunday and Monday events, but in the mean time, here are some other shots from Firestorm’s Battlefields:

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Kipling, the Seemingly Saying Something Game – #1GAM Entry for @Boardroomers

The @Boardroomers February Game Design Competition deadline is TODAY! Here is my entryKipling the Seemingly Saying Something Game, which will also be my first February entry for #1GAM; I originally developed three @Boardroomers games, but (understandably) they decided to only allow one submission per designer. The other two games:

  1. Aversion – a 3 player card game of Find the Killer/Counsellor/Suicide in a fast Rock Paper Scissors game of Secrets, Intervention and Group Therapy) and
  2. Elementary – A 2 player puzzle card game where you find out which of cards 1-10 the other player has by getting answers for 2-4 of 9 left (e.g. >?, same colour, odd, etc.)

will be posted later this month.

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