Mini DarkTower Clone Restores Your Childhood

Remember DarkTower? No? Well, it’s a really cool combination board game, RPG, and computer game from 1981. Orson Welles pimped it on TV and explained it thusly: “collect three keys, lay siege to the tower, and defeat the enemy within”. The Tower itself was a battery-powered computer on lazy Susan that showed numbers on a couple of 7-segment displays, pictures via three carousels, and had a 12-button keypad. Thanks to a lawsuit, few copies remain, and even fewer of them are in working condition.

Working copies of DarkTower go for hundreds online, but who can afford such an extravagance when these 40+ year old towers are prone to battery leakage and loose connections? Certainly not [Mighty Studios], who was hoping to give the gift of DarkTower to a friend and decided to build a mini reproduction instead. Fortunately for us, the project is completely open source. You can check out the build video below, which has plenty of links, including one that goes to the code.

In this day and age, it doesn’t take much to reproduce the internals of the Tower. [Mighty Studios] pulled it off with a Feather S2, a 320 x 420 TFT LCD screen, a speaker, and a couple of momentary buttons. The screen can show all the pictures, (which were only displayed one at a time in the original game anyway), any necessary numbers, and all the requisite menu options.

[Mighty Studios] got mighty lucky when it came to the case, as [Stinkevil] had already created a dice tower version and put it on Thingiverse. After a bit of tweaking and some hole-punching, [Mighty Studios] had a mini tower scaled to the Feather S2 with just enough room to stuff in all the components and wires. Between a PDF of the original rule book and someone’s Java version of the game, [Mighty Studios] had plenty to use as a guide for programming in the rule set before mailing it off to their friend. We have to admit, we’re pretty jealous.

Don’t want to amass an army and conquer evil forces? There are all types of board games you could emulate with a microcontroller.

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Python Settles Bet About Best Strategy In Children’s Board Game

Simulating a tabletop game can be done for several reasons: to play the game digitally, to create computer opponent(s), or to prove someone wrong. In [Everett]’s case, he used Python to prove which adult was right about basic strategy in a children’s game.

[Everett]’s 5-year-old loves a simple game called Hoot Owl Hoot! in which players cooperatively work to move owls along a track to the safety of a nest. Player pieces move on spaces according to the matching colors drawn from a deck of cards. If a space is already occupied, a piece may jump ahead to the next available spot. The game has a bit more to it than that, but those are the important parts. After a few games, the adults in the room found themselves disagreeing about which strategy was optimal in this simple game.

It seemed to [Everett] that it was best to move pieces in the rear, keeping player pieces grouped together and maximizing the chance of free moves gained by jumping over occupied spaces. [Everett]’s wife countered that a “longest move” strategy was best, and one should always select whichever piece would benefit the most (i.e. move the furthest distance) from any given move. Which approach wins games in the fewest moves? This small Python script simulates the game enough to iteratively determine that the two strategies are quite close in results, but the “longest move” strategy does ultimately come out on top.

As far as simulations go, it’s no Tamagotchi Singularity and [Everett] admits that the simulation isn’t a completely accurate one. But since its only purpose is to compare whether “no stragglers” or “longest move” wins in fewer moves, shortcuts like using random color generation in place of drawing the colors from a deck shouldn’t make a big difference. Or would it? Regardless, we can agree that board games can be fitting metaphors for the human condition.

Mouse Trap Game Used As An Actual Mouse Trap

Just when you thought you had explored all the weird stuff on YouTube, along comes [Shawn Woods] with his channel dedicated to testing different types of mouse traps. His weekly videos demonstrate the construction and ultimate effectiveness of everything from primitive traps that can be made in the field from sticks and rocks to 3D printed creations sent in from viewers. But his latest video might just be the weirdest one yet, as he found a way to use the classic “Mousetrap” board game to capture an actual rodent.

Well, sort of. For one, [Shawn] admits the “trap” is completely impractical and is just for fun. Which should be pretty obvious considering the thing is enclosed in a box the size of a small refrigerator. Second, the lucky rodent that gets to test drive this Milton Bradley-powered gadget is actually the family’s pet chinchilla which is obviously rather calm and we dare say accustomed to these sort of shenanigans.

The key to the whole contraption comes via two traditional mousetraps, one on either end of the game’s more fanciful rendition of the same device. The first trap is used to pull the crank which gets the board game going when the mouse steps on the pad (a piece of wood with padding prevents the bar from actually hitting the animal). The game goes through its nostalgic routine featuring metal balls rolling down tracks and figurines on jumping boards, eventually triggering the second real mouse trap. In this case, the trap pulls a rope which closes a door at the opening of the box.

Assuming your target rodent is very patient and not startled by the cacophony of plastic machinery, the whole thing works perfectly. To use the parlance of his channel, this is what’s known as a “Live Catch” trap as it doesn’t hurt the mouse and lets you easily remove them after the fact. Which is the least you could do after humiliating it like this.

While likely the most unique, it surely isn’t the only mouse trap we’ve ever covered here at Hackaday. This clever soda bottle trap can be built cheaply and easily, but if you want something expensive and complex you can always use a Raspberry Pi.

[Thanks to Pete for the tip.]

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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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