by James Kyle (

18 September 2003


Q: Who created the piecepack and when?

A: James Kyle designed the original piecepack guidelines and released them into the public domain in October of 2000.

Q: What were the design goals while creating the piecepack?

A: 1) Flexibility (including genericy, adaptability, and variety)

2) Availability (including affordability and portability)
3) Completeness (including autonomy)

Q: Did you have any games in mind when designing the piecepack?

A: No. I purposefully avoided consideration of specific mechanics, and instead focused on general utility. At first, the quest for flexibility seemed to lead down the path of complication, but after building a few prototype sets covered with distracting markings, I decided that a feature should only be included if it felt likely to be useful in a third or more rulesets. (In retrospect, the only final feature that has been utilized less than expected is the directional pips on coins.) I have become convinced that less is more.

Q: Since you admit the inspiration for the piecepack is playing cards, why are the piecepack suits different from those of playing cards?

A: I felt it important to avoid the possible perception that the piecepack is an accessory for playing cards (like, for example, poker chips). Also, when considering the playing card suits for use in the piecepack, the urge for analogous value ranges (1 to 13, or at least 1 to 10) was too strong for me to resist, which would have broken the goal of portability.

Q: Why do the pawns not indicate facing or direction?

A: Not requiring directional pawns allows manufacturers to use inexpensive, standard, off-the-shelf pawns. Adding directionality to the pawns, however, would not break compatibility with the original design and would be handier than coins (which do exhibit orientation) for some rulesets. Whether or not to require directional pawns was the only point on which I was not completely certain when I released the original piecepack guidelines.

Q: Why are there only four suits when many modern boardgames accommodate five or more players?

A: Although it seems fairly natural for boardgames, I did not intend suits to necessarily be associated one for one with players, as they rarely are in card games. The combination of 6 values and 4 suits is attractive, since 24 divides evenly by 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, and 12. Further, an even number of suits more readily fits into compact packaging. I did strongly consider 6 suits, but adding half-again to the volume of the piecepack stretched the bounds of portability. I also figured manufacturers could add extra suits at their discretion.

Q: Why are the backs of the tiles not checkered?

A: In testing, I found that unless you took the time to rotate all tiles to the same orientation, checkered backs were extremely obnoxious and distracting.

Q: Why is the color black used for both the suit of Moons and the value markings on coins?

A: The fewer colors used, the cheaper manufacturing becomes, and the easier to find a set of colors amicable to the color blind.

Q: Did you consider other ranges for the values?

A: Yes, powers of two were strongly considered: 0, 1, 2, 4, 8, 16. But it produced linearly distributed subset sums, rather than the more natural- feeling curve, and subset products became cumbersome even to the arithmetically inclined. The range 1 to 6 was nearly chosen, since it would have allowed manufacturers to use standard, off-the-shelf dice, but the utility of having two special values (null and ace) outweighed manufacturing convenience in this case.

Q: Did you consider other shapes for the tiles?

A: Yes, hexagons were a strong contender. But square tiles are much less expensive and easier to fit into compact packaging.

Q: Did you consider adding one extra (special) tile to allow for a 5 tile by 5 tile square grid?

A: Yes, along with a special die (with null, wild, suns, moons, crowns, and arms sides) and an extra coin. These were rejected for three reasons. First, they made the piecepack less likely to fit into compact packaging. Second, I thought the "hole" in a 5 tile by 5 tile board might be inspiring. Third, the extra pieces did not fit my "likely to be used in 1/3 or more of the rulesets" guideline.

Q: Why is the piecepack public domain?

A: I placed the piecepack into public domain because playing cards are public domain (although particular graphics on any given deck are copyrighted) and playing cards were the inspiration for the piecepack. I feel this contributes greatly (though not exclusively) to the availability, and consequently the ubiquity, of playing cards. I did not make the piecepack public domain for ideological reasons.

Q: Why wasn't the piecepack design placed under some flavor of open license?

A: There was no need to do so, as public domain was simpler while adequately serving the goal of availability.

Q: How does the designer of the piecepack make money from it?

A: I don't.