Contest rules version 2, 2006-09-20

Good Portsmanship logo

Contest theme: Good Portsmanship. In the spirit of free and open source software and culture, every entry must be a translation, or "port", of an existing game to the piecepack. While this may seem like a mechanical exercise at first glance. there is plenty of room for the game designer's talents. Read on...

Judge: Ron Hale-Evans, the Port Authority (

Mediator: Meredith Hale, The Eradicator! (

Contest Start: Sunday, 3 September 2006.

Deadline: Sunday, 3 December 2006, 11:59:59 PM Pacific Time.

What you need to know

This section contains the minimum information you need to enter the contest.


Porting non-free programs to free operating systems or just free versions is a venerable tradition in the free software world. Consider, which is a port of the proprietary Microsoft Office application suite, the free and popular Firefox web browser, or GNU/Linux, which is a rewrite of the proprietary Unix operating system. Entrants to this contest will be doing a similar thing with table games and the piecepack.

  1. All submissions in this contest must be a port of another game to the piecepack. The game selected may be a game from another game system such as Icehouse or a standard deck of cards, or it may be a "dedicated" game with its own custom board, cards, or other bits, such as Carcassonne.

  2. Your game must be playable with the standard piecepack, the Playing Cards expansion, and/or the 4 Seasons Expansion, although you may use any number of these three sets. A limited number (the fewer, the better) of everyday items such as pennies and nickels, pen and paper, wristwatch or stopwatch, paper bag, even a candle (as in Ice Floe) are within the bounds of the contest, but requiring equipment from other games or game systems, such as Icehouse pieces, Chess pieces, percentile dice, and so on, will disqualify your game.

  3. Using the piecepack must add value to your port in some way. See Example for an example of how porting a game to the piecepack changed it in an interesting way.

  4. The port must not be trivial: there must be some intrinsic challenge to porting the game. For example, given the existence of the Playing Cards Expansion, some (but not all) card games would be very easy to port to the piecepack; these would not "score" very highly with respect to this criterion.

  5. If two people submit ports of the same game, each will be considered on its merits.

  6. You must not submit a previously-released piecepack game as a competing entry.

  7. Please see the Legal notes section. All entries should follow these guidelines.


  1. Entries should be sent to The Eradicator (Meredith Hale) at

  2. Submit your game with the Subject line of your email in the form "Subject: Contest: {Entry Title}", for example, "Contest: ChessPieceFace". This makes it much easier to go back to authors with questions later.

  3. Include the names and email addresses of any co-authors. The author who submits the game will be considered the main contact.

  4. All submissions must include the following header information as the first few lines of the rules:

    A Good Portsmanship game for the piecepack by {Author's Name}
    Based on {Original Game} by {Original Game's Author} OR
    Based on {Original Game} (Traditional)
    Version {Number}, {Date}
    Copyright 2006, {Author's Name}
    {Number of} players, {Number of} minutes
    Equipment: {Equipment Needed}

  5. Each submission must be freely redistributable or it cannot be included on and therefore will be disqualified. However, authors may retain copyright. Specific licensing information should be indicated at the end of the document. See examples of licensing on the games posted at

  6. Please proofread your ruleset before you submit it. Use standard piecepack terminology and include any definitions of terminology specific to the individual game. Please use the glossary at or the glossary at the Piecepack Wiki.

  7. While authors are encouraged to submit their games as early as feasible, it's OK to send updates based on playtesting until the deadline. However, please try to submit games in a relatively finished form.

  8. The Eradicator will not judge content, only remove identifiable text, fix text markup (see below), and check that all authors have complied with the contest rules.


As I've become familiar with the work of the designers in the piecepack community, I've learned to tell some people's games a light-year away because of their graphic design, clip art, writing style, and so on. Because of this phenomenon, true anonymity has been hard to achieve. I'd like to try some new procedures in this contest that I hope will help alleviate these problems.

  1. All entries must be submitted in plain text (ASCII) format. Preferably, people will use the Markdown human-readable markup language in which this very document is written. If you can't figure out Markdown, don't worry; just do your best and send a plain text document without Markdown.

  2. If the submission meets the contest requirements, The Eradicator will strip it of all authors' names, email addresses, and other identifying information, and then validate the Markdown, fixing it or marking up the document from scratch if necessary.

  3. Next, The Eradicator will convert the entry to HTML and send it to the Port Authority. The Port Authority will confirm receipt and The Eradicator will pass confirmation along to the main contact. If the submission does not meet requirements, then the main contact will be notified. The Eradicator will also send the HTML version to the author of the game, so that he can import it into a page layout or word processing program such as Microsoft Word, in preparation for post-contest release. (For your information, here is an HTML version of this document. It was generated automatically from the original text version with Markdown.)

  4. Ports Illustrated: Illustrations are optional, but if you use them, they must either be photos of standard piecepack equipment, such as the Mesomorph editions, the printable versions of the same available from, or the JCD Piecepack, which is also available from Please email The Eradicator ( if you have questions about whether a given piece of equipment is considered "standard".

  5. In the contest version of your game, you must not use line art or one of the several sets of piecepack clip art available. You may replace the photos with clip art in the final version. The only exception to the "no clip art" rule is that (by popular demand), you may use the piecepack module for VASSAL to create screenshots. VASSAL is written in Java, and runs on Windows computers, Macintoshes, and GNU/Linux computers with little trouble.

  6. You may mark up your graphics with lines, circles, arrows, and so on, as with the photos in the Alien City PDF rules.

  7. Make sure your graphics look good in black and white, since they will probably be printed that way.

  8. File types permitted for graphics include PNG, JPG, and GIF (PNG is preferred). Illustrations should be named figure01.png, figure02.jpg, and so on. Markdown allows embedded images; if you can't figure out how to link to images, just say something like "Figure 5 goes here" and The Eradicator will fix it before sending it to the Port Authority.


  1. Judging will be subjective and based largely on how fun the game seems to the Port Authority. Factors such as the following will be considered, but ultimately it will be the completely subjective opinion of the Port Authority that decides the winning entry.

Contest end

  1. The winning entry will be announced as soon as it has been selected.

  2. After the announcement, the Port Authority will send feedback on all entries to The Eradicator, who will send a copy of the feedback to each of the authors.

  3. Following the close of the competition, after the authors either give permission to post their rulesets as submitted or send updated versions, submitted games will be sent to the maintainers to be added to the games page (a.k.a. The Big Board).

Additional information

You don't need to know the following information to enter the contest, but you probably want to.

Sponsors and prizes

  1. Mesomorph Games: Winner's choice of one Mesomorph Games product.

  2. Enginuity Games: A copy of their Spicy Dice game system. Incidentally, Enginuity is currently running the second Spicy Dice game design contest with a deadline of 30 June 2008 and a prize of $1000 plus publication in the next Spicy Dice rulebook.

  3. Live Oak Games: A copy of their SiegeStones game system. Live Oak recently ran their own game design contest for SiegeStones.

  4. Winged Elephant Designs: Winner's choice of one Winged Elephant Designs gamer's T-shirt or other item, customised with a message about the Good Portsmanship contest. WED may have some new piecepack designs soon to choose from as well.

  5. Ron Hale-Evans: A Good Portsmanship certificate suitable for framing or pinning to the wall

  6. Custody of the Piecepack Trophy Cloth, a card table tablecloth with a color piecepack suit emblem embroidered on each side. The Trophy Cloth passes from the winner of one contest to the winner of the next, with each signing and dating the cloth before passing it on at the close of the next competition.

    The winner also receives the opportunity to define and judge the next piecepack game design competition and arrange for the prizes. However, agreement to this is not a requirement for entry, and the winner may decline or suggest another judge.

Legal notes

The following rules are for the legal protection of the authors, the piecepack community, and me. Basically, if it's legal, it's OK to enter in the contest.

  1. You may port a copyrighted game, but not a patented one. Copyright covers only the expression of a game, such as the graphical artwork, the text of the rules, and so on. Patents cover the idea behind a game, so porting a patented game is illegal, because the idea would stay the same.

  2. If you port a copyrighted game, you must completely rewrite the rules in your own words. The original text of the rules is covered by the copyright, so it is illegal to copy it and simply change a few words to apply to the piecepack (besides, that wouldn't be a very good port).

  3. If porting proprietary games makes you uncomfortable, feel free to port a traditional game from the public domain. No preference will be given to ports of proprietary games over ports of public domain ones, or vice versa. Example: All else being equal, a port of Carcassonne will not be preferred to a port of Chess.


Here is an example of what I would consider a good port, and how you can do creative game design while porting an existing game.

Spam-O-Rama by Clark Rodeffer was an entry in the recent Mesomorph Games design contest, but could have been an entry in this one as well. Clark writes, "Clans is one of my favorite short filler games from one of my favorite contemporary game designers, Leo Colovini. Spam-O-Rama began as a piecepack adaptation of Clans but gradually diverged from that path."

What's interesting to me about Spam-O-Rama is how it had to become a different game from Clans because of both the constraints and features of the piecepack. I imagine some of his design decisions ran something like this:

  1. Piecepack tiles were used for the Spam-O-Rama board, rather than the custom-printed board that Clans uses. Clark did create a custom scoreboard, but pen and paper would have served almost as well.

  2. Since the scoring mechanism of Clans is highly dependent on its special game board, a somewhat different scoring mechanism had to be found. Adding together the coin and tile values was a natural decision, given the structure of the piecepack.

  3. Because players need to see the suit of the coins in play, the coins have to be played face-down, which hides their values.

  4. Because coins are flat, it's natural to stack them when they're grouped together on tiles, hiding all coins in the stack except for the top one.

  5. Because of the last two facts, a strong memory element emerges in Spam-O-Rama that is not present in Clans: players must remember both the values of coins they placed on the board and which suits each stack of coins contains. Failure to do so could mean defeat.

Thus, Spam-O-Rama (or at least my hypothetical reconstruction of Clark's design process) is a good example of how making very simple and natural design decisions when porting a game to the piecepack can lead to interesting emergent properties that were not in the original design.


Good Portsmanship is not a contest about synergy between games or game systems, as Ludic Synergy, the second piecepack contest was. It is a contest about porting games to the piecepack, and there is supposed to be some challenge to it. If I commissioned you to translate a German book (Eurogame) into English (piecepack) for me, and you translated it into a mixture of English (piecepack) and Mandarin Chinese (some other game or game system), I would be very disappointed. Bearing this in mind, if you need 1700 special printed chits so you can port Advanced Squad Leader to the piecepack, maybe that's not an appropriate game to port -- for this contest, at least.

I selected the least restrictive, most generic format I could think of: plain text. Entrants can optionally mark up their documents with emphasis and so on -- or not, and The Eradicator will add formatting for them -- and in return they will receive a nice HTML document that can be slurped up into Microsoft Word (most designers' preferred word processor and layout program, as far as I can tell) via the HTML import feature, and then fine-tuned with the appropriate fonts and graphics and exported to PDF. If the entrants used Vassal, or shot decent photos, they won't even have to come up with new illustrations.

Remember, you can still make your games look nice. The plain text version is for anonymity's sake during the contest only. After the contest, anything goes. It's important to understand the distinction between the contest version (plain text with Markdown, photos, converted to HTML) and the final version for submission to (let's say PDF with JCD Piecepack font characters and custom illustrations). I couldn't stop designers from making the final version pretty even if I wanted to. The version that most people will see, forever, is the version that goes up on the games page at your final version.

There are no explicit anonymity rules about writing style; I just want to make people conscious of it. I don't want to squash the marvellous creativity and individuality of people in the piecepack community, and such a rule would be completely unenforceable anyway. It might be fun, though, for piecepack designers to try to imitate one another's styles in this contest, or to break out and write in a completely new style.

You will be doing the piecepack community and gamers in general a service if you port an out-of-print game. However, these are not necessarily preferred.

Noncompeting entries are also welcome and may ignore the Anonymity rules. If you have an idea for a quick, simple port of a game to the piecepack, write it up and make it a noncompeting entry. You'll help increase the diversity of piecepack games.

Suggested reading

Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language by Douglas R. Hofstadter (Basic Books, 1998). Despite the French title, this book about translation by the author of Goedel, Escher, Bach is in English. If you read nothing else while preparing for this contest, I urge you to read Chapter 7 of this book, especially Hofstadter's detailed discussion of chesh: a port of Chess from a square board to a hexagonal one.

Mind Performance Hacks: Tips & Tools for Overclocking Your Brain by Ron Hale-Evans (O'Reilly Media, 2006). Yep, this is my book. You don't have to buy it or even read it to enter or win the contest. However, I do recommend you check out Hack #25, "Think Analogically", which talks about analogical game design in more detail than I can go into in these already lengthy contest rules. People who think the equipment allowed in this contest is too limiting might also want to read Hack #24, "Constrain Yourself", from the Creativity chapter. Note that you can get a free 14-day trial from Safari, read the book online, and print out these hacks or whatever else you find useful.

You might also like to look at the list of games already ported to the piecepack created by Jorge Arroyo Gonzalez. It was an inspiration while dreaming up the contest rules.

About the administrators

Ron Hale-Evans (the Port Authority) won the first public piecepack game design competition, Time Marches On, with his wife Marty Hale-Evans. They co-authored the winning game KidSprout Jumboree. He also recently won the first Mesomorph Games piecepack game design competition with his game Piecepack Letterbox. Because it had been two years since the close of the sixth public competition, Group Projects, Ron wrote the winners of that competition for permission to run the seventh, as they had planned to do. With their blessing and the blessing of the sixth competition's judge, Ron assumed the awesome mantle of Port Authority.

Meredith Hale (The Eradicator) is the Education Manager at the Museum of Glass by day, gamer and graduate student in Library & Information Science by night. She's been playing board games for as long as she can remember, ever since the buzzer from Operation scared her and made her cry. Being the sister of Marty and Ron Hale-Evans further encourages the gaming, along with participation in the excellent Seattle Cosmic game group, where she met her fiance, Kisa. She has playtested many piecepack games and has designed and made a "Four Elements" piecepack set for Kisa. She can't wait to see what everyone comes up with.


Questions and comments are always welcome. Please send your questions to The Eradicator, who will forward them to the Port Authority. Likewise, if necessary, the Port Authority may send questions to the ruleset authors via The Eradicator.

All entrants are encouraged to join the piecepack mailing list immediately if they have not already done so.

Good luck, good luck! Porting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good luck till it be morrow.

--William Shakespiece (wait, that sounds naughty...)

Version of Thu Sep 21 08:09:19 PDT 2006