The Games We Play

Paradigms and Pastimes: Games We Play is a fine online collection of art featuring antique games and manuscripts. It appears to be a zombie site left over from an exhibit at Cornell in 2004. No matter: it’s a terrific glimpse into the impressive game collection at Cornell’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections.

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Friday Puzzle: The Stopped Clock

Mr. Leen is the most punctual man in town. Every day, he takes the same walk, and has such a regular pace that he passes the same landmarks at exactly the same time.

One day, he returns home to find that his servant has forgotten to wind the clock. Since his watch is broken, he is unable to set the correct time.

However, he has a solution. His friend Mr. Been has recently moved to town. He decides to walk to Mr. Been’s, pay his first call at his friend’s new lodging, and see what time it is.

After spending a hearty afternoon of fellowship, he returns to set his clock. Although he had never made the trip to visit Mr. Been before, and thus has no idea how long the walk takes, he is able to set his own clock correctly.

How does he do it?

Thursday Puzzle SOLUTION: Judkins’s Cattle

Dudeney’s solution:

“As there were five droves with an equal number of animals in each drove, the number must be divisible by 5; and as every one of the eight dealers bought the same number of animals, the number must be divisible by 8. Therefore the number must be a multiple of 40. The highest possible multiple of 40 that will work will be found to be 120, and this number could be made up in one of two ways—1 ox, 23 pigs, and 96 sheep, or 3 oxen, 8 pigs, and 109 sheep. But the first is excluded by the statement that the animals consisted of ‘oxen, pigs, and sheep,’ because a single ox is not oxen. Therefore the second grouping is the correct answer.”

App O’ The Mornin’: Knights of Charlemagne

Reiner Knizia has a few core design ideas that he’s revisited (repeatedly) over the years. Some people complain that he’s just doing retreads of his own material, but close examination reveals this isn’t quite so. He often tweaks and re-themes an old design, but something fresh usually emerges. Standard card games like Rummy, 500, and Gin are all the same basic game, yet each plays differently. The same nuances emerge with many of Knizia’s design.

Also, a lot of those games go out of print. Knights of Charlemagne was only released 4 years ago, and it’s no longer available. It was really just a tweaked re-theming of a Knizia design from 1995, called Tabula Rasa. It, too, is long out of print.

But Knizia has two games that never go out of print: Lost Cities and Battleline. In keeping with our theme, Battleline itself was a new version of Schotten-Totten. Are you still following me?

All of these games have Rummy as their bedrock: you’re drawing cards in order to collect certain suits. The fun is in their special rules, themes, and nuances. Knights of Charlemagne is a close cousin of Battleline, and if you’re looking for a Battleline-type experience on your iPhone, this is the game to get.

Play is very simple. Players are dealt cards numbered 1 to 5, in 5 different colors. A row of ten tiles divides the two players: 5 numbered tiles, and 5 colored tiles. Players place cards on either the matching color or number to “claim” that tile. When the game ends, the person who has the most cards on a tile earns points for it. Although the cards are bit too small, this is still a clean, fast-playing implantation of classic style of game.

Knizia is heavily represented on the App store, with more games arriving at a steady clip. The latest are High Society and Medici. I’ll be taking a look at all of them in the upcoming weeks.