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Games and Puzzles


It's time to bring out my World Games concept. The Olympic Games has athletes from different countries competing in one country. How much fun is it to watch the events? I'll let you answer that. In my opinion it would be more fun to watch if it just involved team sports. There is another advantage to doing just team sports. Let's see if you can guess what it is.

Around nine sports. Climate might be an issue. It does not have to be in just one country, and which countries could be involved is another topic of conversation. A standard bunch of sports, with some allowance for tinkering. Basketball, baseball, soccer, cricket, hockey, I guess field hockey and lacrosse, volleyball, rugby (I like rugyby sevens). It's my list, so I'm including curling. American football, with its interesting structure, is probably out. Doubles tennis is likeable, but no, and relay races don't quite make it, although it would be nice to wrap up the World Games with a bow by having a run.

I watched The Departed, a Martin Scorsese film that more or less borrows its plot from a 2002 Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. This involved a group of criminals who have a spy in the police, while the police have an undercover agent in the criminal gang.

So how can you make a game out of this? Grab some Tylenol.

Has somebody made a game like this? It would need some ten people, so that's discouraging. Let's look at some of the factors to consider.

Team A has five people, plus a spy in Team B. Do people in Team A know who their spy is? How many people in Team A know who the spy is?

A spy is useful .... how? I guess the spy would know who the target is.

Forgetting about spies, what does Team A do? Some task? Do teams vote to target one individual on the other team? Can they target someone on their own team?

Are players gone when they are targeted? It's better to lose points, keep players in the game. Then again, what would be the point of targeting Team B's spy on your team?

A player could secretly put up a shield. However, this works only if one player puts up their shield. Or one shield card is secretly passed around.

So it's all about communication and secrets. We need a situation where Team B can communicate with each other and Team A more or less can't listen in, and yet Team A can oberve Team B and can somehow get communication from their spy in Team B. I would prefer it if this was a game of people watching body language and trying to catch someone signaling to someone, rather than a bunch of components on a table. Then again, components like cards could solve the communication dilemma.

Maybe teams are trying to gather letters to spell a secret word, and can even work with and negotiate with players on the other team. Does this letter work for you? I'm just throwing things at the wall and seeing what sticks.

Every player is trying to spell a personal word, so the player's letters and maybe the word are public. What is secret is which of the words is required to win the game for the team. So Team A has a Team B player who is a spy, Team A has one player (agent controller?) who knows who the spy is, and Team A has one player who knows which of the words matters. You trade letters with your own team, and with the other team, who is right there next to you. Or maybe you have to trade with the other team, so the spy matters.

You could have people sitting around a table or whatever, alternating players between the teams, so no whispering in ears or footsie under the table.

Going back to the entertaining thriller film The Departed, the game could be about the two opposing spies and their teams tensely swirling around each other, trying to get evidence for who the opposing spy is, and concealing evidence.

The language of targeting and shields could be replaced with investigating and hiding/concealing. Hiding will have to come with some kind of cost or risk. If a player hides, then a player can't do something, communicate, vote.

A basic question is whether you are focusing on the opposing team, which feels like it should work, or your own team, where the opponent's spy is. What you could do is have the goal of getting the opponent's leader .. somehow. The opponent's leader and agent controller could be one and the same.

Back to The Departed movie, the leaders of the two sides were the agent controllers. The police were certainly targeting the criminal leader. As for criminals targeting a police chief, that just doesn't happen. The police chief was killed in The Departed, but that is a Hollywood movie. Nobody said we have to use the movie as a guide.

Maybe instead of targeting people it's about chasing down information. Like the letters for a word. Players have the letters for PICKLE, but there is a shell game of passing cards around, and the added complications of some people knowing information and the confusing business of spies on both sides.

For such a simple premise this is surprisingly tricky to turn into a game.

"Shell game" works for me.

If we abandoned the board game angle and made the game for remote devices, that would solve problems. You could throw together thirteen people, including that fellow in Argentina, and potentially play it over days. Communication would be all over the place.

Unscramble this word:




I tested Atlantis Chess. Surprisingly, the rules work out just fine (the setup had two seahorses out front, and a traditional chess layout with two more seahorses replacing the king and queen). My dad and I both liked it. The game is a complex and confusing mess. What should you focus on? While the goal of traditional chess is to chase down a king, this game involves the four corners. You can have perilously dangerous situations around more than one corner at the same time. Did you notice the bishop way over there? Luck is a factor. You roll the dice to see if moving that seahorse will keep you from losing the game. You can send a cube across the board in a coup de main to clean out a corner and win the game, but without data you have a 50/50 chance of winning a fight with a defending cube. Cubes were thought of as involving memory and perhaps deduction, but the cubes are typically a matter of calculated risk (e.g. can the opponent send another piece in a counterattack?), and don't forget seahorses can clobber cubes.

Before testing it I said we will look for catch up mechanisms, and this could indicate if the game is good. At least half the time this game is played, it ends with a knife edge situation, where either player could take the risk and take a corner. That's great!

All pieces are valuable. Rooks and knights are the least valuable (stuck in the back?). Bishops are like snipers, often taking a corner from a distance, and certainly seahorses don't like them. Seahorses are like clumsy cave trolls, quite capable of whacking an opponent's cube without exposing data. They can also be obstructing pillars. But in the end it's really the cubes that will win the game for you.




Here is an example of a game. Not perfect, incomplete.

neutral perspective           blue's perspective           yellow's perspective

Blue is SAME. Yellow is DIFFERENT.


I have a high opinion of this game. I think it's a mic drop moment.




What is a standing wave?



If you hit Google for a standing wave definition you will get "a vibration of a system in which some particular points remain fixed while others between them vibrate with the maximum amplitude."



A wave goes out, it bounces back and interferes with itself, hence that third wave image that is the one actual resulting wave. At some points, called antinodes, the wave isn't doing anything, standing still.

So you put a big pan of lasagna in your microwave oven and let it cook for a couple of minutes. It's too big to spin around, so it's stationary. When you take it out and eat it you find it is cool, hot, cool, hot. Why is that?

Amateur Steve says:
The microwave comes from one part of the oven, hits the wall on the other side and bounces back, interfering with itself. It is a standing wave. Again, at some points, called antinodes, the wave isn't doing anything, standing still.


The electron going around an atom is a standing wave.

(I misinterpreted the definition above. Fixed refers to the antinodes, not bouncing off, e.g. where a rope is tied to something).

Here is another definition of a standing wave from wikipedia: "In physics, a standing wave, also known as a stationary wave, is a wave which oscillates in time but whose peak amplitude profile does not move in space."

Waves are good to know about. They are rather interesting, they're easy enough to observe in the water, they lay a useful foundation for understanding physics, and they are the key for understanding various science tricks like the double slit experiment, the Doppler Effect, thin film interference (the colourful soap bubbles and oil on the street) and the electromagnetic spectrum is all about frequency. It is useful to know about standing waves and especially interference. I will eventually look into how waves work in musical instruments.

Because I Can


So consider a bunch of games that you see on Oak Games, plus The Royal Game of Ur and Tablut. Not all, some. Maybe we'll toss the Beetle Bug wire puzzle on this pile. Say you've played some of these games. Certainly not all, even from this limited list, just a minority of them, with some games thought of as more important than others. There is a points system. It is best that they are played face to face rather than online/alone, but online/alone works, just fewer points. Pretty much play konane and fanorona and something else, and you're done.

Once you have earned a certain number of points, you can consider yourself Oak Games Certified.



But what if other activities are added? Things get a little more odd. We could break it into groups where you have to get a certain number of points from each group. One groups for the games, plus three groups for miscellaneous. There is one activity that exemplifies what we're going for, and that is the ability to use an abacus.

I've got a list of possible activities. Some are prosocial, which is prosocial but not really fun and off brand. There is consumption - drinks, media - but while that is (subjectively) fun it is not an achievemnent. Crafts are perfect .. but which crafts? I have a soft spot for what I call dark arts, neato specialist skills that are mysterious to an outsider. Some things are there for flavour, fun, something to talk about. There are educational things, like quantum physics. Something natury would be on brand, but the devil is in the details. Activities could involve action. It turns out that being able to measure a task - can you do this or not? - is an issue. Again, you would only need to do a minority of these things to gain enough points. Do you know how to dance the Charleston? Can you communicate to some degree using American Sign Language?



Some little scraps that crossed my mind recently:

"Did you do that?"


"Is that even a word?"

"You know it is now!"

Here is a themed character: Matchmaker. Or maybe that's an idea for a game.

The Dilemma Llama. You could go to the Dilemma Llama for spiritual advice, but, well

The Dilemma Llama is mentioned but never fleshed out, explained. It is absurd, and left to the imagination. Isn't llama an animal?

A name for a band: Dizzy D and the Diseases.


Sleigh Trek is a placeholder name. The name should be the name of the spaceship, so we need a name for that.

The Captain is told that there is an unidentified spy, known as Glow Worm. As a character points out, "Why would there be a spy on a scientific vessel?". The spy is not tracked down as far as anyone knows, but the very small group of people who know about this observe people's behaviour suspiciously, adding to the list of things to worry about. Maybe the spy is at some fixed place rather than a ship, or maybe Glow Worm is a passenger. Glow Worm could be on board at the same time the ambassador is on board. I like that.

Picture a fairly dramatic meeting with as few as two people, an outside security person and the captain, where the captain is informed that there is a spy among you.

I mentioned the spy is not tracked down as far as anyone knows. This ends with a, well, nothing. Other people would not be happy with this, but it's fine by me. The world of intelligence is smoky. The alleged spy would not be tracked down, but it doesn't mean there isn't one, a specific character. In fact, observant fans could put together some subtle little clues to deduce who it is. (It does kind of spoil the soup for that crew to have a spy among them).

But my main point is I get a big kick out of the name Glow Worm for an unidentified spy, so I'm inclined to keep that.

I watched The Departed, a Martin Scorsese film that more or less borrows its plot from a 2002 Hong Kong film called Infernal Affairs. This involved a group of criminals who have a spy in the police, while the police have an undercover agent in the criminal gang.

It would be neat to use this plot structure. You know, if the spy is in the visiting security people, that would clean up a thing or two, like why this spy business comes and goes mysteriously.

Space donuts. No. Fire donuts. How would people react to this chef's specialty? Mid conversation, or that random guy in the background. Would you like a fire donut?

You can see the direction this is going.


Let's rename Sleigh Trek as Red Dart, because that's less annoying.


I wanted to make a record of eight points about Red Dart before I forget.


1: It has the skeletal structure of Star Trek. A ship with a structured crew wearing uniforms, centred on a bridge. The ship is on a peaceful scientific voyage of discovery, scooting through the galaxy, on behalf of some federation. However, this is not part of the Star Trek brand. As you will see, it is actually quite different from Star Trek.

2: It has structure and discipline. "Yes sir". I've been watching videos about submarines, plus aircraft carriers. It's a serious business where dangerous accidents can happen, and everyone has to do their job to accomplish the mission.

3: It's a workplace. Why do people do their jobs, do what the boss tells them? The answer to that is all over the place. This has the behaviour and relationships of a workplace.

4: It's like high school. A substantial group of guys and gals and their relationships with each other.

5: Hard science. This is especially true for biology. No more humanoids with stuff on their face speaking English next to people. As for space and time, hard science might go out the window.

6: Nonviolent. Guns will be rare or nonexistent, probably the latter. You know how at your workplace somebody punched a guy in the face? No, because it didn't happen. Well, maybe that one incident happened, but don't tell me the top boss solved a problem by punching someone in the face, maybe a roundhouse kick to solve an accounting issue. kick.

7: Dance. How many science fiction stories feature dance? Picture the trailer. Red Dart goes in some unexpected directions. Like shady financial schemes. That comes as a surprise to me. Or food, like fire donuts.

8: I forgot.

What would it be like if there was a virus that targeted stupid people? On the one hand it is absurd and nonsensical, while on the other hand it is real and true.

A stupid seeker. "Why are you looking at me?" "Oh, nothing."




Do aliens wear pants?


Walk without rhythm, you won't attract the worm.