This page is presented to further the design & development of games as a means of exploration.
I am receptive to ideas from game designers, publishers, educators and explorers.

These games have been built and tested, but not been published commercially.

It is even possible to purchase the games listed here …
but they'll cost hundreds of dollars since each has to be made by hand.

 
   

"To be playful is not to be trivial or frivolous, or to act as though nothing of consequence will happen. On the contrary, when we are playful with each other we relate as free persons, and the relationship is open to surprise; everything that happens is of consequence."

— James Carse, in Finite and Infinite Games: a vision of life as play and possibility


Index of Games
Chinese Bridges
The Trouble With Physics
Marathon
Color Chess
Ugluk
Life of Dreams
The Mating Game
Global Warning
Coral Polyps and the Budding Reef Band
Star
Soar Plane Racing
Your Life Set to Music
Robin Hood & The Sheriff of Nottingham
Orgy of Moderation

Copyright Notice

All the games shown below are copyright © 2007-2008 by Lincoln Stoller, except where otherwise noted.


Chinese Bridges
 
Description:
Summary: A game of weighted probability, tri-inked strategies, and spatial perception.

Players construct and then vie for ownership of overlapping triangles in an effort to own a set of triangles that form a bridge from one side of the board to the other.

Each player chooses one of each triangles' three vertices by placing a peg in the board. Players use their "money" to "purchase" faces of the die and thereby weight their chances of winning ownership of the triangle. The die is thrown and whom ever owns the die's top face wins the triangle.

The winner encircles the triangle's three pegs with a rubber band of their color. When a set of overlapping triangles of one color spans the board, the player associated with that color wins.

Pieces: 1 wooden peg board, 1 wooden "barter" board, 6 money tokens, 1 die, 40 metal pegs, 3 sets of colored rubber bands.
Players: 2 or 3 people, all ages
Playing time: 20 to 40 minutes
Concept: The game appears unpredicable and can be played by young children as a surprising tug-of-war. In fact it's highly strategic. Its difficulty lies in preceiving opportunity and in figuring out who's winning.

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COLORCHESS
 
Description:
Summary: The classic strategy game cast on a field where color saturation equals power, and the substance of one's strategy is recognized by the patterns that the pieces "paint" on the board.

In COLORCHESS the opposing sides are blue and red, and the tactical value of each piece is keyed to its saturation of color. Thus the pawns are the lightest tint and the kings and queens the most vivid.

Being of uniform size, with subtle differences in shape to aid recognition, color becomes the major distinguishing characteristic.

Set agaist the board's neutral grid, the colored pieces create changing patterns as the game progresses.

The open spaces and clusters of color become descriptive diagrams of the action.

Pieces: 1 wooden board, 32 wooden chess pieces.
Players: 2 people, 7+ years
Playing time: 20 to 40 minutes
Concept: Chess for the color-enhanced mind.

Copyright © 2006, Evan Stoller 

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The Mating Game
 
Description:
Summary: A strategy game of collaborating with weaker players and balancing resources to one's advantage.

Players choose one of 6 populations that each consist of a number of frogs, fish and a heron. Starting at different locations players move their populations in an effort to mate with other players' frogs and produce as many tadpoles as possible.

Frogs mate whenever they occupy the same space. Frogs of one color can only mate with frogs of another color, and when they do both populations gain one offspring.

Frogs can travel on land or in the water. They may be eaten by the fish when in deep water but they always get away when attacked in the shallows. Both frogs and fish may be eaten by herons when they're on land or in the shallows.

Because both players involved in the act of mating gain from it, the obvious strategy is for all players to mate with the player with the fewest tadpoles, and to keep away from the player with the most. The winner is the player who either mates the most prolifically in a limited number of turns, or whose frog population outlasts all others.

Pieces: 1 large pond board, 6 sets of frogs, 6 sets of fish and 6 heron, with each set a different color. 1 "chance of survival" die.
Players: 3 to 6 people, all ages
Playing time: 30-50 minutes
Concept: pond ecology

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Star
 
Description:
Summary: A complex capture strategy game in which the players' pieces move in groups, and the power of one's group is determined by the powers of individual pieces which vary by location.

Red and the green players arrange their pieces symmetrically in 4 of the star's 5 legs. Each space carries between 1 and 5 symbols. Pieces move in different manners according to their shape.

A piece's power is determined by whether the symbol that it carries matches any of the symbols printed on the space it occupies. A player's total power on a space is the sum of the powers of their pieces.

Players move their pieces in and between groups in an attempt to overpower and remove the opposing player's pieces. The surviving player wins.

Pieces: 1 star-shaped board composed of 40 triangular spaces and a pentagon. 2 sets of wooden pieces, one set red and the other set green. Each piece is one of 4 different shapes, triangle, diamond, circle or star, and each piece carries one of 9 different celestial symbols.
Players: 2 people, ages 10+
Playing time: 40 to 60 minutes
Concept: the board is a 2-dimensional projection of a 5-dimensional potential surface, forcing players to think in 5-dimesnions.

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Robin Hood & The Sheriff of Nottingham
Description:
Summary: A simple, fast-playing shooting game in which one player's move overlaps the move of the next player, and in which no one can seem to get away from anyone else.

Players choose to join Robin Hood, the Sheriff of Nottingham, the Noblemen, or the Fairies. They position their actors symmetrically on the board and place the arrows on certain unoccupied spaces.

Players take turns moving two of their pieces one space each in a race to pick up fallen arrows, carry them to judicious locations, and fire them at their adversaries.

The arrows continue flying around the board while other players take their turns, trying to pick up fallen arrows while avoiding those in flight. When an actor is hit by an arrow they're sent to nirvana. The arrow that dispatched them falls to the ground to be picked up by whomever gets to it first.

The last player to remain on the board wins.

Pieces: 1 board with 10 differently colored closed paths. 4 different colored "actors". 12 "arrows" that either lie on the ground, are carried by the actors, or fly through the air.
Players: 2 to 4 people, ages 5+
Playing time: 10 to 20 minutes
Concept: the board is an unfolded dodecahedron so that, appearances aside, all locations are symmetric. The game play was inspired by "Maze Wars" which, in 1974, was the first computer networked, 3D, multi-user, first-person shooter game.

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Description:
Summary: Each player picks one of 4 Final Theories of the Universe and tries to publish the research needed to support their theory and win the Nobel prize. A straight-forward optimization game, or is it?

Players chose a senior researcher, a university, a Final Theory of the Universe, and start with 2 Post Docs each. Each player sets their groups' focus value, which they can change with each turn. This focus value, the size of their group, the human forces that affect you on each turn, and how well you reward your Post Docs determines your research success each turn.

For each "publication" you get to draw a piece from "The Unknown" in an attempt to be the first to assemble your final theory. But you must also pay your Post Docs, and the amount of funds available depends on your success in winning NSF grants. This, in turn, depends on the manner in which present your theory to the public.

The search for truth may be pure, but the forces that affect you are not. Just how does one play the game of science, anyway?

Pieces: 4 Final Theories, 4 universities, 1 NSF Grant Award Probability sheet, 7 senior researchers, 26 post docs, 90 Humanity cards, 4 Group Focus rings, 4 Research Success counters, 1 "Coffee & Pizza" die, 1 "Riesling & Sushi" die, 1 NSF Grant Award die. 30 1-mu notes, 6 1-Weinbuck notes, 4 Final Theory puzzles of 8 pieces each, and one bag labeled "The Known".
Players: 2 to 4 people, ages 12+
Playing time: 60 to 80 minutes
Concept: based a book of the same name written by Lee Smolin, and my years of experience as a choirboy in the Church of Our Science, the Divine.
Dedicated to Paul K. Feyerabend.

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Ugluk
Description:
Summary: A simple, fast-playing shooting game in which players moves overlap, and in which no one can seem to get away from anyone else. Similar to "Robin Hood" above, but built on a different topology.

Players position their actors symmetrically around the corners of planet Ugluk, placing the arrows on pegs at certain unoccupied vertices of the colored paths.

Players take turns moving two of their pieces in a race to pick up fallen arrows, carry them to judicious locations, and fire them at their adversaries.

The arrows continue flying around the globe while other players take their turns, trying to pick up fallen arrows while avoiding those in flight.

When an actor is hit by an arrow they're sent to nirvana and the arrow falls to the ground to be picked up by whomever gets to it first.

On this surface the geodesics change direction in odd ways as they cross surface boundaries, so the problem is to figure out how the arrows will fly, and how to sneak up on other players without being noticed.

The last player to remain on the board wins.

Pieces: A 3-dimensional, perforated globe that's crisscrossed by a lattice of paths of 3 colors. 2 or 3 different colored "actors" affix themselves to holes in the board using pegs. 12 "arrows" that are either pegged to unoccupied holes, are carried by the actors, or are sent flying along the paths.
Players: 2 to 3 people, ages 5+
Playing time: 20 minutes

Concept: the board is a 6 sided, non-Platonic solid whose surface is covered by 3 mutually and multiply intersecting paths. This shape is mounted on a wooden pole and can be spun around its axis.

The game developed when my brother looked at "Robin Hood," shown above, and asked, "Why is it flat?"

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Global Warning
Description:

Summary: A complex civilization-type game where each player guides 6 nomadic tribes through a landscape of scarce resources adopting a diffuse or centralized strategy. The game frames the question : "is it better to act as an individual or to form a collective?"

Each player gets an equal number of squares with which to build their part of the world before the game begins. Players locate their tribes and resources are then scattered to equal advantage.

Tribe movements depend on tribe size, their strength, the terrain they choose to cross, and the exogenous situations prevailing at their location.

To survive and prosper tribes need energy, which they can get through mining resources, building industry, collaborating with or stealing from other tribes.

Larger tribes are more efficient in production and they can develop military forces, but smaller tribes travel more quickly to exploit opportunity.

Whichever player has more energy at the end of 15 rounds wins the game.

Pieces: 150 loose squares that players assemble into a board. Squares are of the type: water, plains, mountain, woodland, and swamp. 15 resource sites, scattered at random, that provide varying amounts of energy once they are "mined". Each of a player's 6 tribes are represented by four dice that track food, population, power, and time. 30 "environment" cards giving conditions that affect each tribe and change with each round.
Players: 2 to 3 people, ages 12+
Playing time: 90 to 120 minutes

Concept: Civilizations develop differently according to the resources on which they depend. This game explores issues of growth and stability that arise from different forms of resource dependence.

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Soar Plane Racing
Description:
Summary: Engineless sailplanes race over rough terrain using updrafts to gain altitude while avoiding the downdrafts that will push them toward the ground.

The terrain board is a rearrangeable set of 7 hexagons whose colored spaces show mountains, forests, valleys, rivers and lakes. The air board is assembled in pieces as the game proceeds and represents calm air, cloud streets, sunny days and dangerous thunderstorms. This air board, carrying the up and down drafts, drifts in varying directions carrying all airplanes with it.

Pilots race a 3-point course through the peaks and valleys, while navigating the vertical air currents and the prevailing winds to avoid getting too low or hitting the ground.

The best lift will require you to stray off-course, and the faster you fly the faster you sink. Spend too much time trying to stay high and you'll be left behind. Push too hard for speed and you won't make it over the next hill!

Pieces: "The ground" is a rearrangeable set of 7 hexagons whose colored spaces represent elevation. "The air" is a transparent board that floats over the ground and whose spaces carry markings indicating the strength of the up and down drafts. 6 soar plane pieces and 6 sliders track each pilot's position and altitude. 20 "lift cards", a wind-direction-change die, a random gust die, and a 6-position wind direction marker.
Players: 2 to 6 people, ages 6+
Playing time: 40 to 120 minutes

Concept: This fully accurate presentation of soar plane racing makes it clear that the contest involves only two variables: one's height above the ground, and one's speed through the air. The player who best optimizes these in the context of what he or she knows about their environment will win the race.

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Orgy of Moderation
Description:
Summary: 4 naked people, two male and two female, strive to make each others acquaintance in the biblical sense. Body parts disassociate in the endeavor to match one's units with those of another. The object is to avoid being in the extreme when the score is settled.

Anotomically correct players move their disconnected parts around a 1-dimensional world trying to conjugate.

Cogenital pairings gain both players 4 points; other pairs score less. A third player can win points by adding their eye to a couple's intimacies. One can lower one's score by "slaping" another's part in nonamorous contact. And one can even score alone by paring one's own hand and genitals, but this results in the loss of an eye.

The game ends when the sum of all players' points reaches 40. The player with the highest points is a loser because, as we all learn sooner or later, there is more to life. The lowest scoring player looses for Darwinian reasons. The two middle-scoring players win by virtue of their moderation.

 

 

 

Pieces: 4 players, each of a different race, are represented by 9 magnetized pieces : 2 eyes, 2 breasts, 2 hands, lips, genitals and a pair of buttocks. The pieces are loosely attached to a metal hoop marked off like a ladder into 36 spaces. The game starts with each player's pieces naturally ordered.

Play takes place on all sides of the hoop. Players must spin the suggestively undulating hoop to see who's monkeying around on the other side. Score is kept by moving pegs whose color matches the players skin. Over-intellectualizing is prevented through the use of a 30-second timer.

Players: 4 people, ages 7+
Playing time: 30 to 50 minutes

Concept: A pure strategy game that highlights the essential question of gaming: "Where does a game's meaning come from?"

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Marathon
Description:
Summary: This fast and strenuous game requires 4 people to run around a table, without bumping into one another, while moving sets of swinging arms using nothing but their breath.

Each player associates him or her self with one of the 4 colors and stands in front of the symetrically arranged "home strips" of that color, moving their beam and leveling it above their strip. The round, hook-covered, colored disks are placed symettrically in the quadrants of their color. Each player holds a drinking straw in their mouth.

Players simultaneously race around the table moving their balance arms only using the air blown through their straws. Each player tries to be the first to pick up a chip of each of the 4 colors and bring it back to their home strip.

Chips are picked up by blowing the beam's velcro foot down to touch and attach to the velcroed chips. The beams are then blown back to deposit the chips on the player's home strip.

Players must not touch the beams, except to disengage chips from them, and players must not jostle or elbow each other.

The first player to gather all four color chips on their home strip is the winner.

Pieces: A central tower with 4 independently gimbaled sections supporting 4 indpendently balanced and differently colored, freely tipping 3-foot beams. From either end of each beam dangles a foot covered with velcro pile. A circular board with an annular region divided into quadrants whose colors match the beams. 4 velcro pile covered strips in each of the 4 colors. 4 sets of 6 round, velcro hook covered wooden disks, one set in each of the 4 colors. 4 differently color drinking straws with elbows. 2 foam blocks to act as obstacles to the rotating beams.
Players: 4 people, ages 5 and up, excluding those who are motor or respiratory impared.
Playing time : 5 to 10 minutes

Concept: a game that is sculptural, kinetic, and physicsally engaging.

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Life of Dreams
Description:
Summary: In this combination word game, Role Playing Game, and puzzle one writes one's own life story, striving to assemble it in the most positive manner.

Players choose their avatar and place it on one of the 4 "birth" spaces at the center of the board. In the "conscious" part of each round players move their avatars in steps from the inner rings outward, choosing one of the 3 paths available to them at any space. Once they've chosen a new space, players write down the sentence written on the space and mark the positive and negative attributes embedded in it.

In the "dream" part of each round players chose to enter either the intellectual or the emotional dream maze. They locate one of their negative character traits in the maze of their choice and then start the timer.

Each player has 30 seconds to move away from this negative trait, past sentence fragments and images, to reach some other trait. Whatever trait they reach is exchanged for the negative trait from which they started. Each player must then write a sentence describing this transformation using the sentence fragments they've encountered in their passage through the maze.

Players' lives end after 5 rounds. They're scored according to how successfully they've transformed negative into positive attributes. The winning player is the one who has most improved him or her self.

Pieces: A large round board composed of 6 concentric rings of spaces. Each space carries a one-sentence story characterized by one positive and one negative adjective that conveys a personal attribute. Each space is connected to 3 spaces in the next larger ring. 4 character trait score cards are each divided into 5 positive attributes and 5 negative attributes. 4 sets of 5 counters with which players track their character traits by placing them on their character trait score cards. 4 player tokens in the shapes of bhudda, skull, cat, and raven. A reference sheet that defines the 324 character attributes and locates each of these traits on the playing mazes. One playing maze for intellectual dreams, and one playing maze for emotional dreams. 8 slip-in word cards, each fitting into either of the two playing mazes. One 30-second timer.
Players: 2 to 4 people, ages 10+
Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes.

Concept: Text authors inflexably engage readers because readers' power to reinterpret the text is limited to nonexistent. How can we enable the reader to write their own story without abandoning or coercing them? Since readers generally do not know how to create a story how do we faciliate the creation of their journey? This game suggests an answer.

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Coral Polyps, and the Budding Reef Band
Description:
Summary: Players complete to grow the fattest coral animals in a community of fat animals.

Each player builds coral animals of their own color by placing pieces representing different hard and soft tissues such as anchor, spine, nerve, heart, and stomach.

Within each turn player's animals grow and spawn. Animal can attack each other resulting in minor damage that requires repair, or major damage that severes the animal from its anchor at the edge of the reef causing it to float away and be lost in the current.

Structurally complete animals with fully developed organs can eat and thereby create fat cells. The more efficient the animal's structure, and the better its location, the fatter it gets.

The player whose coral is fattest when any one player runs out of pieces wins the round and gets a score equal to the fat that all players' corals have grown in that round. The player with the highest total score after four rounds wins the game.

Since one wins by both fattening oneself and one's opponents, this game is a combination of conflict, race, and cooperation.

Pieces:
Each of up to 4 players has 165 square, magnetized pieces whose 10 different types correspond to 10 different kinds of cells of a coral organism. The icon on each type of piece shows how the piece is connected.

The metal board, with 945 squares, represents the reef habitat: the edges are the reef, the interior the water.

One D6, D8, and D10 die, used at the start of the game, locate where each player's eggs attach to the reef.

Players: 2 to 4 people, ages 12+
Playing time: 30 to 60 minutes.

Concept: The game began as pieces arranged to form computer algorithms - complete with loops and conditionals - which ran, at least in theory, to generate game points. But since the resulting automata look like corals whose competition models reef ecology, the entire computer programming structure is absorbed within the living system metaphor.

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Your Life Set to Music
Description:
Summary: Unprepared speakers and untrained musicians interact through word and sound.

The group is divide into speakers and musicians. The speakers examine and then select a topic from the deck of topic cards. Each speaker is to recall or invent a 2 minute story related to this topic. Speakers should avoid their familiar stories and find new and uncertain stories that may be affected by the music and the audience.

One person, designated as the host, has the job of cueing the next pair of performers, and alerting each speaker when their two minutes are up. Speakers present their topics one after the other, without break or interrupton.

Musicians accompany speakers by inventing a rhythm on the Zoundz to match the story being told. Each of the Zoundz's sculptures triggers one of three prerecorded rhythms of a type specific to that sculpture. For example there is a strings sculpture, a percussion sculpture, a bass, and so on.

Lift a sculpture from a site and its rhythm fades away. Brush a sculpture over a site and a single beat is played. Continuously add, remove, or replace sculptures in any fashion to create a sound scape for your speaker's story.

When speakers and musicians listen to each other something new and unexpected can be created.

Pieces:
Speakers select a topic from a deck of 56 topic cards, whose topics include:

Being naked; A love story; Happy childhood event; Something you stole; Your worst outfit; A story about birth or creation.

Each speaker is to speak for 120 seconds on the selected topic saying, or acting, in any way they want.

Each musician, in turn, will play a toy rhythm machine called a Zoundz, which plays 1 to 3 simultaneous rhythms depending on which of 7 sculptures you place on each of 3 electrically sensitive sites. Musicians are shown the Zoundz and taught how it works immediately before the game.

Players: 4 to 40 people, ages 14+
Playing time: 20 to 60 minutes.

Concept: How is the speaker influenced by the musician, or the musician by the speaker? How are you influenced as a listener? What will you remember?

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