Oak Games

Home     About     Games     Stuff     Treehouse     Contact


games     gizmos     language and culture     food and drink     other    


Games and Puzzles


An 11-year-old girl asked me to bring supplies and wanted to design games. Okay. Fine by me.

I'm an abstract strategy guy. She tried to make an abstract strategy game (she talks here and there about making a border guard game too). Things were back to front because I felt an urge to have her make a themed game like everyone else.

When making the border game earlier she jumped to making the parts ("manipulatives", as teachers would say), rather than sorting out the rules first. Creating a game begins with just quietly thinking, working things out in your head and eventually testing it with improvised items. But I can think of reasons to let her do what she does.

She did stream-of-consciousness tinkering and yapping with different ideas while working with glass pieces and a chessboard and a die. I grabbed some letter pieces (from Bananagrams). We came up with stuff that would not have happened if either of us were not there. One idea was to have pieces move on a grid based on die rolls. You roll the die, but choose piece and direction. Will your piece be corralled, or escape? I've been poking at making a word game, although I'm sure this area has been thoroughly explored by countless other people. So each of the players has a set of letters, visible. You are trying to spell your secret word, e.g., TURKEY. You use your own letters plus the letters of other players. However, you can only use someone else's letter if it is part of the word that player is trying to spell. Again, letters are visible, words are secret. Probably some trading, good for social interaction.

She gently nudged the ball to get the ball rolling for the earlier Gamaroo as well.

The new Gamaroo material will be moved to the Gamaroo page, specifically a "lessons learned from a real game" link.


Game design involves getting inspiration, then rotating through different options for rules, which reminds me of the old combination locks for bicybles.

Tablut is a traditional game where you move pawns orthogonally to surround a king on two sides. What makes this entertaining is the way a king can scoot fairly far across the board. There is no my side and your side.
Here is boardgamegeek's page on tablut. That sixth picture, with the stained wood pieces, is the old Oak Games version.

Let's look at that proposed game above where players compete to smother, surround an opponent's piece, which we will call a king. I made one ratty little test. The rules are admirably simple, all pieces moving orthogonally. Players are given the option of using four one/zero dice, or one classic six-sided dice for a move. Is it fun? Ehhh... The best setup is unknown; I just put pieces out randomly.

There is an alternate, untested approach.
Let's start with setup. Look at the setup for Dablot Prejjesne, also Atlantis chess. I like the position of the king and prince. This proposed idea would have a 9 x 9 board, two or three rows deep of pawns on your side.
The fun part is the prince. The prince can (jump over pieces and) capture opponents' pawns. This adds some tactical colour.
This prince business raises more questions. Can other pieces in the hierarchy capture a prince? Is the prince the only piece that jump over other pieces? Can a prince capture a friendly pawn?
There could be a secondary goal, an alternative to surrounding your opponent's king. You can win by moving your king to an opponent's corner.

Rugby, where you can pass the ball anywhere but forward, is .. something that could be explored another day.


What happened to that flicking game I mentioned? I'll just point out that I plan to give it for Christmas, in a macaroni and cheese box. Small, rugged in a bag, semi-disposable.


Drinkin' Dragons will not be produced, give or take, and probably shouldn't.

The layout/setup is bugging me. There is a number of considerations:

1. Practical. Is it a hassle to set up? Too big for the table? Can more than one dragon go to the same spot?

2. Thematic. There is what I call "the dragon flight problem". Do dragons fly in any direction they want, or must they follow a prescribed terrestrial path?

3. Are there decisions to be made with regard to the path you take?

4. Is there a numeric way to remember where a drink is? "Aloe is at 19". I don't want that.

5. Is it aesthetically nice? Does it sit well with you?




It's time for my annual failed attempt at making a prank/trap for Halloween. The original inspiration was to have a spider attack your hand, powered by elastic bands (including twisted elastic bands, which produce a steady pull). The big plastic figures made in China that move toward you and make a mechanical noise aren't going to cut it.

This is a complicated topic, with a maze of considerations. I think I will avoid it this year. But I will at least list the thematic options.

Spiders. The advantage of spiders is they are scary. Don't forget egg sacs. I won't address all the mechanical challenges, but I will point out that for a spider used for this to be scary it should look like a spider, move like a spider, and even feel like a spider.

Venus fly trap. The advantage of this is it's original. Two thumbs up for originality. Could look good too. Since an elastic band might run into someone's hand and could also be visible, we are looking at a metal mousetrap for power. "Handmade" might sound good, but this would be a bunch of work.

Hanging spectre. Those hanging upper body human-shaped figures you get from the Halloween store have the advantage of being practical, relatively doable. Grab a candy from behind its bony hands and under its (non) face, and SNAP! it kind of grabs you. Might there be a (perceived) (percieved) safety issue, with plastic fingers and eyes?

Actually this will almost certainly be done this year. There is a hanging spectre, an old hag with a mysterious, semi-veiled bowed head, and a couple of big bony (well, plasticy) hands.

When I was a teenager I took a line of lego pieces and wrapped an elastic band around it. It was volatile, and could and did explode. Don't attempt this without wearing glasses.

Wrap elastic bands between the wrists of the spectre. Put a line of wood or foam blocks between the wrists. Work a candy in there as bait. Camouflage things with some spiderweb. When a kid nervously grabs the candy - Snap! - the hands clap together. Several little details will be tinkered with, but it already works okay. I might buy a larger spider and spiderweb to get kids in a scared mood.

The jury's out on whether this will be done. It works, but someone pulling the bait can feel that they are pulling on something, and the blocks will bulge out before exploding. One alternative is to have string wrapped around something. There will be friction, so just a bit of force will start unwrapping things. A mousetrap could be used .. somehow. It is sensitive and uses leverage. The snap sound would be nice, scary. However, red flags are going up with little kids and mousetraps. However this is set up, it would be a Rube Goldberg device.

Language and Culture


I just realised that the s in house is pronounced differently depending on if it is a noun or a verb.


Food and Drink (mostly drink)


I'm actually not a big candy eater, for most of my life I avoided candies, but I'll save that speech for another day.

I purchased various candies (drinks too), to my taste. I did this for three reasons:

1) Candies (and drinks) are part of the package for Christmas. With shipping backed up, it's better to do it nower than later. Having trouble getting mixed Turkish delight.
2) Halloween. It kind of bugs me that kids keep getting the same old same old chocolate bars. What about trading candies with other kids? How about one of those wrapped purply Filipino ube cakes?
4) I've had a little goal for some time to put varied wrapped small candies in a glass bowl, for people to grab if they want.

So I got a bag of the Chinese coconut/milk candies mentioned below. Better than the average candies, more personality than just coconut. These are good and I ate one after the other. So why had I thrown out a bag? I think one gets fed up with them after having a number of these.

Let's have some fun. What would it be like to have Trips and Treats go to a specific country? I'm actually not a foodie, as you will see. Just a reminder that one would bring along a specialist/fan for certain things, e.g. wine or coffee or chocolate or whatever.

What would it be like if Trips and Treats went to China?


It think it's fair to say that China is a superpower in the culinary world. And .. I don't have much to say.



You should see the yelp reviews.


What is Chinese food? Where is Chinese food? Who is Chinese food?

China is a galaxy of different culinary experiences. Taiwan is more limited. On the other hand, Taiwan is properly regulated regarding health standards, while mainland China is more lawless, undependable.


Fortune cookies are an American thing.

Chinese plum candies


Chinese candies

Some traditional Chinese Snickers bars there. I keep seeing the White Rabbit, but I've never had it. Candied kumquats? Dragon beard gets the curiosity going. Ginseng candies (which I have not had) are not shown here. I've had hard coconut candies, not the brand shown here, with coconut milk. These were better than average candies. Then again, I threw out the last bag I bought.



Guns are dangerous.


I've become very tempted to make a YouTube channel. I'd give it about a 75% chance it will happen.

1. The vast majority of videos would show one person playing an abstract strategy game. This would only show (expressive) hands. This is the standard model, but other things would happen too.
2. This would be relaxing in various ways. It's a game, the year is whatever, and you could fall asleep listening to this.
3. Talking could go in different fun directions, like this page. Something for the commenters to talk about.

A deaf person would come to the conclusion that this is a very niche channel showing this type of game being played. By the way, I find the abstracts easier to follow than other types of board games.
A blind person would hear brief explanations of games, a lot of discussion of movement options, and other game-related material. In addition a blind person would hear fairly brief discussion of diverse things, like "movie blips", or "What would it be like if you took all the people who hate you and put them together in one room?".

What I find interesting is what the channel is not. All the various stressors and time drains of having a YouTube channel would be gone. Stage fright (for lack of a better word) is minimized, money is who cares. Dis/likes, views, subscribers and in theory comments would be ignored. Schedules, sponsors, guests, marketing, and the relentless YouTube algorithm robot do not concern me. The demand for content would be ignored in favour of good content if and when and how I feel like it, and fancy production and editing - the real time vampire of a YouTube channel - would be minmized.

We made around five test videos: an outdoor channel introduction, a nominal game explanation, a magic card trick and a tik tok-friendly funny bit. There was also the intended first video "This is a penny", an odd bit of performance art which begs to be made into a meme.


hmm ..


Do phasers faze?


Here are some Scottish highland cats at zooborns. There the Dice Tower talk about Iro, a new abstract strategy game on kickstarter. This is how asapscience says "out".


The decision on whether to make a YouTube channel might come down to what can be presented. Some things work on a blog but I would not want to put in a video. There was a comedy show on Canadian television called The King of Kensington, which was an all right show, during the late 1970s. This would be too random to bring up during a game of fanorona, although I would have no problem putting it on a blog (short for web log).

On the other hand, this would be a nice way to show games being played, like that Vietnamese game, and some original games that have never been shown on Oak Games. They might look ratty, pieces of paper. Some adjacent things could be shown, like a magic trick, various puzzles. Drinks could be shown, a ritual. Humour has a weird way of getting into board game content. Trivia and other questions could be asked, the best comedy movies could be discussed, and inventive ways of making a jigsaw puzzle could be revealed.

The YouTube channel will probably be done. It will have different content than the Treehouse here (and raises a naming issue with two things called Oak Games Treehouse). Actually the YouTube channel will go back to a focus on the traditional and other abstract games. It will be an odd, perhaps unique beast, where an abstract strategy game is played, and the conversation will go in unexpected directions. I feel confident, in control. Videos would not occur often, and it would detract from other things. It would not start soon.

For some reason when it comes to board game content on YouTube, you get a good number of people who think they are funny who do something subjectively funny pertaining to board games. This happens repeatedly. Now I can see the possibilities, appropriate for me. Having a new project with its own scene can open up the floodgates creatively. So would Oak Games have shaky sketches about, say, fanorona? You'll see. I think it could be, not kind of funny, but very funny. Say goodbye to the plan for having minimal editing.