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Filament

Filament (released back in April of 2020) is a sci-fi Puzzle game with a story thread running throughout.

In Filament, you explore the ship and its crew while solving delightfully colorful puzzles.

The game is known for its notorious difficulty, but even as those that review it flounder, they insist that the story and aesthetics make the game worth it.

Filament looks gentle on the eyes, the brightly colored (and titular) filament and the poles are high-contrast, and don’t get lost in the background.

from the Steam page

Two Strikes

Two strikes is a samurai-based fighting game, and technically a sequel game to the pixel-style One Strike!

This sequel uses masterfully done Black-and-White sprites in full-res on colorful, elegant backgrounds as parts of its showcase. There are currently 6 options for fighters, and it’s set to be released on the 31st of May on Steam.

Time to get Hackin’!

From the Dev’s facebook

by Abby Zarakovich

Chess variations II: Alternate rules and situations

Hostage Chess:

Any piece taken by you becomes your piece. You can then drop onto your side of the board in any free location, at any point in time.

Difficulty: Just above average chess; 5.5/10. The difficulty is now in placement and knowing gthe consequences of losing a piece.

Fun: 10/10!!! Rub salt in your enemies wounds by using what they lost. Adds an additional boost to eating and really reinforces the consequences of losing pieces.

Edits to be made: Have an extra set of pieces set aside for use.

Dark/Fog of War Chess:

Your opponent’s moves and pieces are not visible. Pawns, who’s movement may be blocked by a piece will be informed that a move forward is an illegal move- on this point some variety is seen on informing players, as some versions have an umpire who can decide on whether they announce what piece has moved or where it may be moved to.

Difficulty: Extreme: this style of game play requires knowledge of common moves and tactics. It works best for people who know how to play, and play well. 10/10.

Fun: If you like puzzle games and riddles, and deductive reasoning, this is the variation for you. If you love battleship, this is perfect.

Edits to be made: For an in-person game, this version would require 3 boards (you, opponent, 3rd party) and an umpire (to decide legality of moves).

Omega Chess:

Two pieces are added: The Wizard moves 1,3 or 3,1. It’s placed in the corners of the board, starting just off it. The Champion can either jump 2 diagonally, or move up to 2 horizontally or vertically, reminiscent of Chaturanga.

Difficulty: With a larger board and two new pieces, I feel the difficulty will be found in learning and adapting to the new pieces over anything else. 6/10.

Fun: Yeehaw WIZARDS!!!!!!! The names of the new pieces and the added gameplay gives this version a 7.5/10.

Edits to be made: 10×10 board, 4 additional pieces per side (2 wizards, 2 champions)

Cannibal Chess:

Difficulty: Definitely on the higher end: Remembering all the pieces that were eaten, and by whom, and doing so for your opponent as well is hard. A good way to train one’s memory!

Fun: Perfect opportunity for obnoxious munching noises during gameplay. 10/10.

Edits to be made: None to the board or pieces themselves. I would recommend marking the figures with some sort of symbol and then writing out which ate what on a sheet of paper.

by Abby Zarakovich

Vivid Knight

This Upcoming game on Steam has all the cuteness of a mobile game paired with the dungeon crawl adventures found in early MMOs.

Vivid Knight fits its name and reunites the modern gatcha with it’s fantasy-based ancestor (the MUD).

It’s character designs (varied and colorful as the name implies) works well with the graphics that accompany the randomly-generated dungeons that are the base of the game.

Mixing and matching the crystals that represent characters let you fight mobs and move through the dungeon, moving your party and the story along.

Vivid Knight’s building on the respected genre of dungeon crawler may revive the fun that nerds in ages past have enjoyed for themselves, and bring the 8-bit style of game into a new era.

Overall Aesthetic: The gems and art style are cute, with good color choices!

Gameplay: As someone who like randomized dungeons, this is one that drew my eye: I like how some rooms are optional, and if you don’t want to do something, a whole bunch of room types have option to not engage.

from the game’s Steam page

Kriegsspiel

Kriegsspiel is a highly accurate game of war, created by a Prussian general.

This game not only has its place in gaming history as the forerunner to modern games like Battlefield or Warhammer, but has also lead historians to the exact methods used during Prussian Warfare in the Napoleonic period.

Photo by Brett Bayley

The game is directed by a combination of strategy and dice, directing pieces representing all the parts of the army during the time period. In 1862 (years after it was released in 1824) there was an update to accommodate for improved weaponry and transportation, including both railroads and telegraphs.

The base of many modern games, the hit point (HP), can be seen here, in the “points” that each piece is worth. The number of points relates to the number of hits each unit can take before it gets destroyed.

The game requires real-life topographical maps (a scale of 1:8000), and the tactics used reflect real-life. The use of the map itself was a show of printing and map-making technology created in the era, and with it’s rules, was used by the Prussian army as a method to teach tactics.

The goal of the game is actually determined by an umpire. the umpire also interprets the written orders (moves) of the two armies (teams of players) and is the one to move the pieces. The size of the teams is recommended to be 4-6 players each.

This does give me memories of watching a few friends of mine play Warhammer. Cheerful, pre-Covid times at game club, with the swell of voices chatting over all kinds of games.

by Abby Zarakovich

Jury Box

For a relatively simple game, Jury box (published in 1936 by Parker Brothers) has earned itself a spot in game history.

It’s a game for any number of players, and is relatively simple. You (and your fellow players) act as jury to the cases provided in the box. There is photo evidence, an illustrated case file, and what the “correct” answer.

In play, after the case is read by a selected player, the players write their verdict and idea of what happened: points are awarded to those with the correct verdict, and to those whose solution behind what happened comes closest. The person with the most points after all the cases are complete wins.

Jury Box is the precursor to modern variations of LARP and murder mystery games.

The action of pretending to be a person, and the whodunnit nature of the game is what lead to the evolution of games like Clue and such.

Chess: Variations on a theme

Sometimes, research turns into something else entirely.

Yesterday, as I was researching more historical board games for a few other artcles, I came upon a website that sold a few dozen physical variations on chess. It not only caugfht my eye, but also sent me on a fun wikipedia dive.

Today, I’ll be rating different chess variations by aesthetic, readability, and how much they made me want to play that particular variation.

3-person chess (Hexagonal)

Aesthetic: 10/10 a blast to boggle at. The squares merging in the center is incredibly pleasing.

Readability: 10/10: clearly readable!!! Lovely.

Want to Play: 10/10 YES. Wish I knew more people IRL who liked chess to play this version of the game!

3-person chess (circular)

Aesthetic: 10/10 a joy to look at, makes a fun centerpiece, will fit on a circular table and not look ridiculous.

Readability: 4/10 Makes my eyes hurt: The board tries to be more readable by adding diagonal lines through the squares, but I feel that makes the board even more confusing to try to decipher in a game. It looks cool, sure, but doesn’t do well for play. the colors for the pieces are standard, I suppose, but better choices could have been made.

Want to Play: 5/10 Due to the board, it’s not high up on my play list, regardless of how cool it will look on a coffee or caf√© table.

Stacked Chess

Aesthetic: Not so much for me: a 6/10. The boards and pieces are very standard, and while the connecting spire adds a bit of flair, it doesn’t do much for the look. The pieces look cheap.

Readability: The individual boards are perfectly readable, 10/10, this is what standardization is good for.

Want to Play: ehhhhh *wiggle hand in a so-so manner* 4/10. If I wanted to do something like this, there’s quite a few digital versions which do a better job with the concept of multiple boards, one of which is “5D chess with multiverse time travel“.

Peace Chess (Paco Sako)

Aesthetic: Cute!!! I honestly love the way the piece designs were modified for the new gameplay. 10/10

Readability: 10/10: standard board, and the pieces retain enough of their silhouette to remain distinctive.

Want to Play: 6.5/10. The concept of “peace chess”, in which the kings try to reach each other by jumping through other pieces is enough to warrant a try, but I’m not entirely sure about the replayability. Since you can’t take pieces off the board, I feel that there’s not many moves to h=be had after a few plays.

Jester Chess

Aesthetic: Overall, really standard: other than the titular piece and extra spaces, nothing else is added, visually. 5/10: it works, I guess.

Readability: Looks Just like your average chess board but with more squares: it’s a 10×10 black and white board. The pieces are the same as your average ones, with the exception of the added, titular piece: the Jester. 10/10. Unique piece design, recognizable board.

Want to Play: Definitely intriguing! The added piece (whose rule for movement is literally “whatever piece your opponent just moved”) would add interest to your usual game, with extreme annoying sibling energy attached. Prefect for people who want to aggravate their family, 8.5/10.

Ancient Board Games: Chaturanga

History:

This game from 6th century India is believed to be the ancestor of chess and other games (worldwide!) like it.

There are a few things that set Chaturanga aside from modern chess. For one thing, unlike modern chess, this game can be played with up to 4 players. In 750 CE, this version of chess reached China, and by the 11th century it had come to Japan and Korea. It went through Persia and into Europe around the same time.

The theory of the game’s spread revolves around the Silk road, an ancient trade route spanning from Italy in Europe to Xian in China. This trade route moves through land and sea, and facilitated trade of all kinds.

It’s due to the silk road that it can be hard to determine the origins of chess, as pieces simular to what we know have been found all over 3 different continents.

Like other ancient games, some of the rules are up to speculation.

What we know about the rules and play:

Of the pieces that we know of today, the rook, knight, pawn and king move the same. However, The kings do not face each other (aren’t in the same column), and the pawns don’t have the option to move 2 spaces on their first move.

The Queen was the Counselor, and could only move 1 square diagonally. The Bishop was the Elephant, and could only move 2 spaces diagonally.

One of the theorized rules is that the pawn, instead of automatically becoming the Queen/Counselor, would actually become the piece that occupied that square in the beginning.

Chaturanga was won by what we know as checkmate, or by eliminating all pieces except the king.

Castling and En-passant weren’t introduced until the 15th century, and the checkerboard pattern we associate with Chess was only introduced as decoration around the year 1000.

What I found to be interesting, was that in the 4 player version of Chaturanga, what piece you played was determined by dice throw, which completely change the flow of the game. The dice is a D4, and the sides are as follows: The Raja (king) and pawn, the knight, the elephant (bishop), and the boat (rook). The four player, as you can see, does not include the Counselor.

Where to play?

You can buy physical boards around the internet, or just use a regular chess set, and modify the rules.

You can play online here, but you have to sign up, and there are a few apps that allow multiplayer versions of the game.

Castle Flipper

Castle Flipper is a Building and Decorating Simulator for medieval castles!

This game isn’t just castles, either: it also includes the surrounding land, and ¬†sheds, barns, huts, houses, mansions, palaces and even pirate ships!

This game takes place in the 16th and 17th centuries, so in addition to the usual Medieval buildings, you will also find some Baroque and Renaissance elements that add variety to the gameplay and give you more options for interior decoration.

To be released May 27, 2021 on Steam, Castle flipper looks to be a fun simulator, including both rampant destruction and detailed creation.

It has lovingly rendered wooden details, and goes from the basics of building (frames and pillars) to the furniture and placement of decorative elements like suits of armor and fur rugs.

Images from their STEAM site

Ancient Board Games: Royal Game of Ur

A game like this, from 2600 BC, is full of intrigue. This delicately carved block of stone, with flowers and markings etched into the rock, sings to played again.

A 4×3 board is connected to a 2×6 board with 2 squares. There are 4 d4’s, with dots on 3 of the points. And there are 7 Tokens per player, with one blank side, and one side with 5 dots

We have the board, the dice the pieces, and the question remains: how do we play it?

Rules have been found for advanced versions of the Royal Game of Ur: the sweet irony of which is that the base rules are speculation. All we know for sure about the base game is some of the markings’ meanings, and that the goal is to get all your pieces across the board. Even the exact route is unknown.

Because of that, there are a few different sets of rules floating around the internet.

One of several points of argument is whether rolling a Zero on the dice counts as a zero, a four-space movement, or as a “roll again”.

Another point of argument is when/how pieces may be moved onto the board. On Some of the boards, the pieces are numbered, and one guess is that you must roll that exact number to play them. Other rules have suggested that you have to roll a certain number (either 4 or 0) to bring out any piece, and some discard that notion entirely; you can bring a piece onto the board at anytime.

I suppose that if you wish to play it, it’s like any game of UNO: the rules are decided by players agreeing (or acquiescing) to them.