The Ludic Synergy Contest

You can read the relevant information for the second of the Piecepack Game Design Competitions below. This information is mostly taken verbatim from three emails to the piecepack mailing list.

Announcing the Summer 2002 piecepack Game Design Competition!

Date: 21 April 2002

Theme: Ludic Synergy
Closes: 21 June 2002 (Summer Solstice, two months from today)
Winner TBA: 13 July 2002 (approx. three weeks later)
Prize: Complete set of games from, piecepack pyramids, Mesomorph 2nd ed. piecepack with rules CD-ROM, and Trophy Cloth
Sponsors: Center for Ludic Synergy, Mesomorph Games, and
Judges: Marty and Ron Hale-Evans


The theme for the Summer 2002 competition is Ludic Synergy. The prize will be awarded to the game that best melds the piecepack with another commonly available game system in a fun and interesting way. (A game system is a set of components that function together in multiple games, much like the piecepack.)

One good example of a game that melds two game systems is Jim Doherty's game Baseball, which unites the piecepack and a standard deck of cards. Other examples of game systems that can be melded with a piecepack set include chess pieces and chessboards, polyhedral dice, alphabet decks (such as Alpha Playing Cards), and dominoes. For more information about the concept of ludic synergy, see the homepage of the Center for Ludic Synergy.


The prizes for this contest are:

  1. A complete set of games from, including the following:
2. Two sets of piecepack pyramids, handmade by Tim Schutz.
3. A second edition piecepack from Mesomorph Games, including an up-to-date CD-ROM of piecepack rules.
4. The TrophyCloth: a card-table-sized tablecloth with a colour piecepack suit emblem machine-embroidered on each side of the table. The winner will sign and date the cloth in fabric paint, then pass the cloth on when the winner of the next quarterly contest is announced.


  1. Your game entry must incorporate another readily available game system as well as the piecepack, as outlined above. "Readily available" means that the game system must be either in the public domain, like a chess set, or easily obtained, such as an Icehouse set. An obscure, out-of-print game system such as Orion, however interesting, doesn't qualify.
2. For the purposes of this contest, Tim Schutz's piecepack pyramids will be considered a separate game system from the piecepack, so entries that use only the piecepack and piecepack pyramids are valid.
3. Submit your entry to Ron Hale-Evans at The submission must reach Ron by the end of 21 June 2002 Pacific Time (-0800 GMT). (If you do not receive an acknowledgment of your entry in email within 24 hours, please check with Ron to make sure he received it.)
4. The entry must be either in platform-independent PDF format (for example, it must print under GNU/Linux and the Mac OS as well as Microsoft Windows), or plain text (with accompanying PNGs, JPGs, or GIFs if needed for diagrams/photos).
5. The submission must be freely redistributable (feel free to retain copyright).
6. The submission must have a header containing fields for Title, Version Number, Version Date, Number of Players, Approximate Length of Game, Equipment Needed, Author, Copyright, and Licensing Information.
7. Ideally, the winner of this contest will judge the next quarterly piecepack game design contest (Fall 2002) and will donate an interesting prize. However, this is not a requirement for entry, and if you win, but don't want to judge the next contest, we'll improvise.
8. The winner will also receive the piecepack contest Trophy Cloth, then pass it on to the winner of the next contest in due time.


We will judge the entries according to what we find most interesting and fun, in a wholly subjective way. However, if you want to play to the judges, we usually like games that:

  1. Play in two hours or less.
2. Use the unique strengths of the piecepack as well as the strengths of the other game system(s) melded with it (for example, a standard deck of cards plus poker chips should not be easily substituted for the piecepack part of the game).
3. Combine the game systems in a non-trivial way.
4. Have rules that are quick to read and easy to remember.
5. Have a well-integrated theme or background story.
6. Incorporate novel mechanics, especially novel piecepack mechanics. For example, see James Kyle's comments on the novel mechanics of Brad Johnson's game Conspiracy, which was entered in the Spring 2002 TimeMarchesOn competition. We hope the competitions will spur piecepack game designers to develop a "pattern language" or "bag of tricks" for the piecepack.
7. Incorporate strategic and/or tactical thinking, and are not merely games of chance. It is best when the game's strategy and tactics emerge elegantly from relatively simple rules.
8. Are not only freely-redistributable (a definite requirement), but also freely-modifiable. In our opinion, the best way to make your game free is to place it under the GNU Free Documentation License, but there are numerous other free licenses.


If you are planning to judge the next contest, have an idea ready about the theme of the contest you will be judging well ahead of time. We dithered for days about what our theme was going to be. Also, feel free to crib from this document for your own contest announcement, as we have cribbed from James's original.


Ludic Synergy piecepack contest entries

Date: 22 June 2002

The deadline for entering the Summer 2002 Ludic Synergy piecepack game design contest has now passed. There were five entrants, who made seven entries, six of which were original to the contest. The theme of the contest was combining a piecepack set with another game system. Three of the entries used double-six dominoes, two used an Icehouse set, one used piecepack pyramids, and one used a Go set.

AlienCity, by Michael Schoessow
Uses an Icehouse set

CityPlanning, by Brad Johnson
Uses a Go set

Dominoids, by Brad Johnson
Uses double-six dominoes

LeyLines, by James Kyle
Uses double-six dominoes

MagicMids, by Ken Leyhe
Uses an Icehouse set

PawnsCrossing, by Michael Schoessow and Stephen Schoessow
Uses double-six dominoes

Telic, by Michael Schoessow
Uses piecepack pyramids

You can find PDFs for all seven of the games at the following URL:

It is intriguing to me that not only have entrants often chosen to incorporate the same game system (for example, three people chose double-six dominoes), but also there is a similarity of theme between some entries. For example, two games have a theme of city planning (Alien City and City Planning), and two games have a theme of a duel among magic-users (druids in the case of Ley Lines, mages in the case of Magic Mids).

Marty and I have not played any of the games yet, and I will not state my opinion of any of the entries yet, except to say that all of them seem well worthy of trying out, and potentially quite fun. I hope people will try playing them even before the winner of the contest is announced on 13 July. (I also hope none of the entrants mind my making their PDF files available at the above URL; the rules did state that the games must be freely-redistributable.)

I know of at least two games that were planned, playtested, and intended to be entered into the contest, but due to schedule conflicts had to be postponed. I hope that these games will eventually be announced as well. (You know who you are, folks.)

Finally, since some of the games use Icehouse pieces, I am CC'ing this message to the Icehouse list.


Summer 2002 piecepack game design contest RESULTS

Date: 20 July 2002

Congratulations to the winner of the Summer 2002 "Ludic Synergy" piecepack game design contest:

AlienCity, by Michael Schoessow!

This was the stand-out winner of the contest. It has super replay value, as in "Let's play this again NOW!". Everyone who has played it so far has not just liked it, but really liked it; Marty is on the way to becoming an Alien City junkie.

This game may not be just the best of the contest, but one of the best piecepack games we've seen. The "German-style" scoring mechanism is highly novel, yet easy to learn, like the rest of the game.

The rules mesh well, and there are no superfluous, "fiddly" rules, in our opinion. In addition, the strategy seems quite deep, and you can learn more of it on replaying the game. Multiple strategies are possible, including both offensive and defensive ones. Even the aesthetics of the game are interesting and fit the theme: the organic, wooden piecepack components representing the undeveloped plots of land contrast well with the crystalline buildings of the alien city (Icehouse pyramids).

Hooray for Alien City and its designer, Michael Schoessow! Michael, please email me your snailmail address, so we can make sure you get your prizes. (We also need to talk about whether you want to run the next contest, and so forth.)

In addition, although this was not initially part of the contest, we'd like to announce two runners-up, which, although we think they need tweaking, are not only playable as they stand, but replayable, with several interesting and creative features. Coincidentally, they both use double-six dominoes as their second game system. In alphabetical order, they are:

LeyLines, by James Kyle

PawnsCrossing, by Michael Schoessow and Stephen Schoessow

Surprising no one, James Kyle's Ley Lines is a worthy entry. The rules are succinct, and not only does everyone who see it exclaim "What a cute board!" (it's a map of the British Isles), but it was the only entry to cause a paranormal event in our house during playtesting. (Okay, a big smiley here. We had lit some candles, and one of the candle holders exploded while we were debating the "lines of cosmic energy". A shard of glass shot out about eight inches and frightened our dog. I want to stress that this did not affect our judgment of the game!)

Pawns Crossing, by Michael Schoessow and his brother Stephen, is also a fun game. The "Amazing Labyrinth"-style mechanic in which you slide rows and columns of the board around makes the game more strategic than it appears at first glance. Other strategic and tactical elements become apparent as the game wears on -- for example, some dominoes are good "Pushers", and others are not. Well worth a spin.

Both of these games can be played with three or four players, and Pawns Crossing can be played with two. Our advice if you want to try some of the games from the contest is: if you have two players, definitely try Alien City. If you have three or four, give Ley Lines or Pawns Crossing a try.

In fact, the other four games in the contest all have something to recommend them, and depending on taste, you may like some of them quite a lot. We will also be happy to give feedback to the designer of any game in the contest, in private email or on the piecepack list, as the designer prefers.

An amusing side-note: every game in the contest could have been disqualified on some technicality. We chose to disqualify none.

You can find PDFs for all seven games in the contest at the following URL:

Alternatively, you can visit the official site for the contest at, where you will find a list of the games and a link to the contest rules, then visit the Piecepack Games Page, where all the contest games are linked:

Finally, we'd like to say that if we were running this contest again, we would do a few things differently, such as having blind judging, and permitting entries in HTML format (e.g. web pages). It would probably be a good idea for us to discuss contest mechanics with whomever runs the next contest.

Thanks! It's been fun, and a real privilege to act as midwives to some very cool games.

RonHaleEvans and Marty Hale-Evans

p.s. As Alien City is an Icehouse game as well as a piecepack game, I am cc'ing this to the Icehouse list.