Simulating Snakes and Ladders for Fun, Not Profit

A great many of you will remember the game of Snakes and Ladders from your youth. It’s a simple game, which one grows to realise involves absolutely no skill – it’s purely the luck of the dice. [Alex Laratro] noticed that without player decisions to effect the outcome, the game was thus a prime candidate for simulation. 

[Alex] wanted to dive into the question of “Who is winning a game of Snakes and Ladders?” at any given point in the gameplay. A common approach would be to state “whoever is in front”, but the ladders might have something to say about that. [Alex] uses Markov analysis to investigate, coming to some interesting conclusions about how the game works, and how this compares to the design of more complex games like Mario Kart and Power Grid.

Overall, it’s a breakdown of a popular game that’s simple enough to really sink your teeth into, but has some incredibly interesting conclusions that are well worth considering for anyone designing their own board games. We love seeing math applied to novel and fun problems – and it can solve important problems, too.

Improved Game Tokens with Laser Cutting and Clever Design

[Martin Raynsford] is a prolific project maker, especially when it comes to using a laser cutter. These laser-cut token counters for the board game Tigris & Euphrates demonstrate some clever design, and show that some simple touches can make a big difference.

In the digital version of the game, the tokens conveniently display a number representing their total power value. [Martin] liked this feature, and set out to design a replacement token for the tabletop version that could display a number while still keeping the aesthetic of the originals. The tokens were designed as a dial with a small cutout window to show a number, but the surface of the token showing color and icon is still mostly unchanged.

Magnets hold the top and bottom together, and because of the small size of the assembly, no detents are needed. Friction is enough to keep things from moving unintentionally. The second noteworthy design feature is the material for the top layer of the token. This layer is made from 0.8 mm birch plywood; a nice and thin top layer means a wider viewing angle because the number is nearer to the surface. If the top layer were thicker, the number would be recessed and harder to see.

[Martin] made the design file available should anyone wish to try it out. No stranger to games, he even once game-ified the laser itself, turning it into a physical version of Space Invaders. Be sure to check it out!


Ultra-Polished, Handmade Settlers of Catan Redux

[Fuzzy Wobble] and [Amy Wang]’s Deep Space Settlers project is a one-of-a-kind re-invention of the popular board game Settlers of Catan, and showcases the polished results that are possible with the fabrication tools and methods available in many workshops and hackerspaces today. We reached out to the makers for some of the fabrication details, which they were happy to share.

(For those of you who are familiar with the game, technically this is a remake and slight evolution of the Seafarers expansion to the base Settlers of Catan game. A few rule changes were made, but it is mostly a total remodel and redesign.)

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Brazillian Class Creates Digital Board Game

A class in Brazil was given the assignment to make a board game. [Marcelo], presumably, heard his son lamenting how lame it was going to be if the board was just cardboard with some drawings on, and came to the rescue.

 fusion between Operation and one of those disease transmitters at the doctors office
A match meant to be.

Working with the class, they came up with the rules of the game. We’re not certain what those are, but it involves a regular game board, a flashing light circle with numbers, and a fusion between Operation and one of those disease transmitters commonly found at the doctor’s office. You can try to puzzle them out from the video after the break.

The brains of the board is an Arduino with an external EEPROM for all the sound effects and other data needed for this construction. Everything is laid out on a beautifully done home etched PCB. It’s too bad the other side of the board isn’t visible.

We’re sure the kids learned a lot working with [Marcelo]. It would have been nice if a traveling wizard came to some of our earlier classes in school and showed us just how much cool stuff you can do if you know electronics.

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Electronic Dice Replaces Human Influence

[Will] likes his board games but can’t seem to keep from loosing the dice. He’s been using a dice-rolling smartphone app for a while now and decided that it was time to make a dedicated microcontroller dice roller.

The brain behind the dice roller is a chipKIT uC32 microcontroller. Seven output pins are connected to 7 appropriately-arragned LEDs in the top of the dice. There is only one more electrical component, a momentary switch, that is used to re-roll. When the button is pushed, a random number between 1 and 6 is generated and then displayed via the LEDs in true dice fashion. [Will] wrote his own code for this project and makes it available for anyone to download. The case is 3D printed and was designed in Tinkercad, the files of which are also available. The chipKIT is attached to the 3D printed base by a pair of zUNO clips. Find a short video of this thing in action after the break….

Digging the randomness of the roll but miss the realness of the dice? Check out this real dice roller. Need two electronic dice? Check these.

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Lichtspiel crosses board games with video games


Video games are amazing these days. Cinemagraphic game play, incredible accelerated graphics, you name it. The average tabletop board game though, has not received the benefit of all this technology. [Marcel] hopes to provide some options for changing that with Lichtspiel, an Interactive Digital Boardgame. Lichtspiel uses a Philips Pico-Beamer projector to project the game board onto a white surface. A camera (either a Raspberry Pi camera module or a Logitech USB webcam) then picks up the players interactions with the game board. Actual interaction is done with small black chips. When a player moves their chip, the vision system sends the x,y coordinates main processor. The game then changes based upon the chip position. [Marcel’s] video shows two demonstrations, a matrix style board game simulation for two and a co-operative asteroids style game. In the asteroids style game one player moves the ship while the other aims the weapons.

We can’t help but see the similarities between this system and the board game demos for castAR , though we feel they fill different niches. Lichtspiel does away with 3D, and by doing so doesn’t require projection glasses to play. Lichtspiel definitely has possibilities. We’d love to see [Marcel] open up his software design so that it can be further developed.

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Connect 4 binary clock

As part of a class at University, [Emacheen22] and his teammates turned an old Connect 4 game into a binary clock. This image shows the device nearing completion, but the final build includes the game tokens which diffuse the LED light. We enjoy the concept, but think there are a few ways to improve on it for the next iteration. If you’re interested in making your own we’d bet you can find Connect 4 at the thrift store.

Instead of using the free-standing game frame the team decided to use the box to host the LEDs and hide away the electronics. Since they’re using a breadboard and an Arduino this is a pretty good option. But it means that the game frame needs to be on its side as the tokens won’t stay in place without the plastic base attached. They used a panel mount bracket for each LED and chose super glue to hold all of the parts together.

We think this would be a lot of fun if the frame was upright. The LEDs could be free-floating by hot glueing the leads to either side of the opening. Using a small box under the base, all of the electronics can be hidden from view. After all, if you solder directly and use just a bare AVR chip there won’t be all that much to hide. Or you could get fancy and go with logic chips instead of a uC.