Rants about Board Games

I should be studying for my midterms and probably write more puzzles for this blog, but I’m writing this anyway. Two quick rants about certain aspects of board games.

Carcassonne is good as is. You don’t need to add the variant of holding tiles in hand to make it “more strategic and less luck”. Or rather, the standard game and this variant appeal to different people. The standard game is about risk management; you want to leave your options open so whatever tile you’ll draw, you have a good spot for it. The holding tiles one clearly removes this part, so it’s more about setting up good places based on what tiles you have in hand. This also applies to Kingdom Builder and other such stuff.

There’s no such thing as multiplayer solitaire, no such thing as no player interaction. Any competitive (at least two-player) game has player interaction, unless your objective is to get a personal high score instead of beating the other players (in which, go play yourself and not with others). Take Yahtzee as an example. This has the absolute smallest amount of player interaction; namely, you can’t interact with each other players directly, changing their rolls or whatever. But there’s still player interaction. If you’re leading, you adjust your play to take small/moderate moves but guaranteed points; if you’re trailing, you adjust your play to make big, risky moves that can potentially propel you up. The only reason your play style can change is because there are other players, so that’s most certainly player interaction. This also applies to Reiner Knizia’s Decathlon. And don’t talk to me about Dominion; it has much more player interaction than that, even if you don’t have attack cards or anything; you have market play, you watch the Province pile depleting fast, you change what you’re doing. No game has absolutely no player interaction. No direct interaction, yes, but there’s always some indirect interaction.

Okay, that’s all I can think of for now.

Long time no see

It has been so long since my last post, huh. Yes, I’m distracted by many things that I didn’t get to write puzzles or do anything worthy to post here. I’m still active on my Twitter (@chaotic_iak) and elsewhere. A random collection of tidbits on what I did since New Year:

Operating System is a difficult course. I don’t understand why it’s a required course.

Holographic algorithms are interesting. And I gave my first seminar talk; yes, it’s about holographic algorithms.

I proved NP-completeness of NOT-1-IN-3-SAT (given a 3-CNF formula, find an assignment so that each clause has 0, 2, or 3 true literals (hence “not 1”)). In fact, I proved NP-completeness of PLANAR-NOT-1-IN-3-SAT (above, but the formula is also planar).

I did Google Code Jam this year; I ranked 68th in Round 3. That’s my best performance.

We did IPSC this year. We ranked 15th; that’s also the best performance for me, one rank up from in 2014. (I’m not sure about others. Also, we ranked 61st in 2015; that was not a good year.)

I bought a majority of my board games in this period. I forgot which were bought before this, so have a list: 6 nimmt!, 7 Wonders, Alchemists, Bohnanza, Carcassonne, Castles of Burgundy, Citadels, Coup, Dominion (Base, Intrigue, Seaside, Prosperity, Empires), Empire Engine, Forbidden Island, Last Will, Manhattan Project, Race for the Galaxy, Red7, Steampunk Rally, Sushi Go!, The Grizzled. And I’m not ashamed to say that I might buy some more this year. I need to think how to bring them back home.

I also spent more money on video games this year than all previous years combined. ($96.97 vs $30.31 from the records I can remember… and this year is still going.)

I reached new levels of furry trashiness. I’m much more active on Twitter after a friend I met on FurryMUCK brought me to his Twitter circle. I’m also more active on F-List. I wrote a few short stories (all fetishy; go search my Twitter if you want).

Surprisingly, I did Puzzle GP, so I wasn’t completely detached from puzzling world. But I think I only wrote 2-3 puzzles during this entire period.

I apparently invented a Zendo variant called Graph Zendo. As you can expect, it’s Zendo, but the koans are graphs. The combinatorial graphs, with vertices and edges. I played/mastered a few games of it on Super Duper Games.

So there you have it. We’ll see if I return back to posting here any time soon or whether I need to make another of these posts later.

Year-End Post???

Boy, I neglected this blog for so long. What did I do this year? In no particular order…

1 August: I made Rock, Paper, Scissors, which is probably my best game to date aesthetically. I still need to learn spriting. This one took quite a good amount of tinkering and spanned over the first half of my summer break (the entire July). Level design is hard.

31 December (yes, literally yesterday): I finished making JAM3 Game, a match-3 game that is as far away as Candy Crush Saga as I can make it. About four hours of development spanning over three or so days.

12 October: I bought Dominion. Three days later (after midterms were done), I played it with friends for the first time; people were instantly hooked. Three days later I ordered Dominion: Intrigue. Fast forward two months; on 9 December, my orders on Dominion: Seaside and Dominion: Prosperity arrived. We managed to sneak in several plays after final exams, before my friends gone back for winter break. I still hope they will get the deserved amount of plays during the next semester.

14 August: My interest on board games began, after for the first time coming to a board game store/meetup with a friend. I started browsing for board games, contemplating to buy them for a ridiculous amount of time, and bugging my friends to consider them as well. So far I’ve only thrown my money on those four, but I am indeed considering to buy some more again over this winter break.

7 November: My best relative performance on a puzzle test: Snake Variations Contest 2015, ranking 5th. If I have the time and money, I’d certainly like to actually do puzzle tests like World Puzzle Championship or 24-Hour Puzzle Championship, to actually compare myself with the world.

30 December: My provisional grades for this semester were out. I’m certainly very proud of two particular courses: Computation Theory (99.8%) and Introduction to Graph Theory (98.6%). Newfound love of graph theory. I did know I liked computation theory before taking the course, though; after all, I did have my Games are Hard page.

16 January: MIT Mystery Hunt happened. The only puzzle I made was Polyglot, but I contributed to several other puzzles; I forgot which ones. My memory is apparently terrible.

As betaveros pointed out: 9 December: I told the entire world about my kinks (might be considered NSFW).

I can’t remember other particular things I did in 2015. Oh well.

Well, good bye 2015, welcome 2016.


I bought Dominion. That’s the first Eurogame I’ve bought. Okay, I played a bunch of other Eurogames before at a board game shop (while they are opening and hence playing is free; they didn’t have Dominion, though), but none of them was bought. On retrospect, I should have bought some; they are probably cheaper than this $40 for Dominion, but oh well.

Here as college (university, whatever) students, we need break time. While I do play computer games and what else often, sometimes it’s good to play board games with friends. This has never been a regularity until when I brought Saboteur and Bang! from home, though; added with Catan that my friend bought and the usual French deck of cards for some general fun, we started playing regularly.

At some point, we discussed about buying another game, because why not. A few came to my mind. Carcassonne was rejected by a friend because he has played it and it wasn’t fun. I didn’t even propose Paperback because nobody would play an English-heavy game. I played Quantum on Board Game Arena quite often, and I enjoyed it, but it’s probably difficult to teach. Also, it’s awfully expensive on the online market here, and international shipping is equally expensive. Other Eurogames didn’t quite come to my mind, so we settled with Dominion. It was initially mostly a joke, but the more I thought of it, the more I wanted to get my hands on a physical copy of it. Also, it would be the first time ever I bought a Eurogame.

And thus the deed was done. I actually ordered it a few days ago, and it arrived yesterday. It will be left there until the midterm week (next week) is done, though, because my friends are busy studying. (I’m also studying, but not as much; after all, I’m still typing this post.) Let’s just hope I don’t have the impulse to buy much more and drained my money that’s supposed to be for my life here…

Also, just because, I observed that the most common confusion for novice Dominion players is the text “+1 Action” (and “+2 Actions”). Most players think that you need to pause your resolution on that card to play another action immediately. (It actually means you get one extra Action you can use later in the turn, but you need to finish the card first before using it.) Which just means I should play my first game with some tokens to represent Actions and Buys.

Rock, Paper, Scissors

If you kept track of my (easily stalk-able) activity on the net, you would probably have noticed that I’ve released another PuzzleScript game, Rock, Paper, Scissors.


A game about another game. The popular rock, paper, scissors game in which it’s harder to beat a more stupid (read: randomized) opponent than a smarter (read: adaptive) opponent. A game about how rocks are heavy, paper is sticky, and scissors are sharp. A game that makes some people complain how on earth a paper can beat a rock. A game with over 50* puzzling levels.

* Only 18 levels, but 17 of them have technically 3 objectives each.

Feedback is always welcome!

On that note, I might be planning for RPS2, a sequel of this with a few more objects and thus more interactions. Feel free to suggest objects to appear in it! (Please also give some explanation on how it fits in the game, for example by giving how it interacts with the three main elements rock, paper, and scissors.) Who knows, maybe I like your suggestion enough to get it in!

Puzzle 95: Logicsmith v2.0

Fillomino Read here for instructions.

Expected difficulty HardAnswerComment/E-mail if you want a solution to be published

Puzzle 95: Fillomino

Puzzle 95: Logicsmith v2.0

Four years ago (okay, 45 months ago), there’s Logicsmith Exhibition, back when Grant was still active on his blog (before he migrated to Grandmaster Puzzles). Back then, I was still starting at constructing logic puzzles; you can see my submission there. Here is a “revamped” version: exactly the same layout as before, and each of 1-9 appears exactly four times as in the competition.

…okay, I just got this theme idea and toyed with it, to liven up my blog again.

Six-Player Card Games

Recently, I’ve been playing cards with my siblings and cousins. The total number of players is six. There’s not a lot of games that can be played with six people but only uses one standard deck of cards (maybe with paper and pencil, but preferably not), so I’ve been inventing random stuff. Here’s a (probably incomplete, if I missed stuff) list of those random inventions. Note that these are certainly prototypes, although some are of better shape (read: playable) than others. I might add a few more ideas here later.


(In fact, works pretty well with 2-7 players. With more players, reduce each player’s starting life count; keep the total less than 40.)

Initially, each player has five “lives”. Usually people will just be honest with their life count, but if necessary, keep track with paper and pencil. Your objective is to be the last person with lives.

In each round, deal each player as many cards as they have lives. They can see the cards, but shouldn’t show them to anyone else.

Each player, starting from some agreed person (usually the one after the last person to make a bid in the previous round, or just choose somebody for the first round), declares a bid containing a number and a suit; this is a bid that “among all cards dealt, there are at least these many cards of this suit”. Bids may not go smaller. A bid with higher number beats a bid with lower number; for bids of equal number, a bid of “stronger” suit beats a bid of “weaker” suit. (Suits are ranked in some predetermined fashion; I use Big Two’s diamond < club < heart < spade, but there’s actually no difference.)

At any time, a player may challenge a bid. In this case, everyone opens their cards. If the bid is met (there’s enough cards of the given suit), the challenger loses a life; otherwise, the bidder loses a life. Only the latest bid can be challenged.

Optional: To each bid, you may also declare “exact”. If this is challenged and there are exactly as many cards of the suit that you stated, you also gain one life. If there are more cards, you lose one life. A normal bid and an exact bid are of equal strength; you cannot reply “eight hearts” with “exactly eight hearts”.


(Better for 4.)

Just a trick-taking game. The objective is to meet a bid contract.

Discard one rank (for a 48-card deck) and agree on some scoring system. Examples:

  • Aces worth 4, Kings worth 3, Queens worth 2, Jacks worth 1. Discard Twos.
  • Aces worth 1, Twos worth 2, Threes worth 3, Fours worth 4. Discard Tens.
  • Each trick is worth 1 point (read: each card is worth 1/6 points). Discard Twos.

Deal 8 cards for each player. (For 4 playing, don’t discard a rank and deal 13 to each. It’s possible to have 5 playing, although I’ve yet to figure out a good way for the cards; maybe remove two Twos and deal 10 each? Add 3 jokers and deal 11 each?)

The first phase is the auction. Each player may make a bid that beats the previous bid, or passes; if a player passes, they cannot bid again. A bid is an amount of points, together with a declaration of a trump suit (or that the deal is played at no trumps). Like above, larger number beats smaller number; for equal numbers, no trump beats trump, and suits are ranked in some fashion (again, I use Big Two). The bid is a declaration of getting at least that many points, with the given trump.

After everyone but one player passes, the last bidder is the declarer. Their target is to meet the given contract. They have partners, however; they declare two cards that they don’t hold themselves. (If 4 playing, declare 1 card.) The holders of these cards will be the declarer’s teammates (although the cards are not revealed); at the end, points counted by them will be counted for the declarer. Each player plays a card just like in trick-based games (follow suit if possible, but anything if not; highest trump wins, otherwise highest in the suit led wins).

After all tricks are played, count the points in the cards won, and add up the points in the partnership. If the contract is met, then the team is successful, otherwise the opposing team is successful.

If both called cards are on the same person, they score double (they only need half of the points to reach the contract). (Optional: bad luck; they need to work around having a two-man team for a contract designed for three.)