The Solitary Confinement Contest

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


Date: 7 September 2003

SPONSORS: "Your source for everything piecepack"

Mesomorph Games


Phillip Lerche


Once upon a time, in a galaxy far, far away...

"Get in there, you thieving scumbag."

"But Justice Knizia I haven't done anything wrong!" Benedict protested.

"That's the last time you copy a game mechanic, isn't that right, Justice Seyfarth?" spat Knizia. Justice Seyfarth grinned in response.

"Please, your honors, at least leave me my piecepack," begged Benedict. As Knizia kicked Benedict through the door, Seyfarth threw the wooden pieces into the cell .

"Here you go, it won't do you much good in the dark. Maybe the cockroaches can use the tiles as surfboards when it rains. Welcome to the isolation hole!" said Seyfarth. The justices slammed the door and locked it. As they walked away Benedict's blubbering grew fainter and fainter...

Through his desperate tears, all Benedict could think was "Where's One Man Thrag when you really need him?"

The design theme for the 5th piecepack game design competition is `SOLITARY CONFINEMENT'. All game submissions are to be solitaire games for the piecepack. Yup, it's just going to be me and those bits of wood come judgement day!


There are several parts to the prize.

Mesomorph Games will contribute a 2nd Edition Piecepack Game System with CD-ROM containing instructions for a variety of games playable with the piecepack, including those released for this competition. Keep an eye on the Yahoo! Group for additions to this portion of the prize.

ChrisBrooks has very generously offered to provide a $50 gift voucher for Funagain Games.

The winner also receives custody of the TrophyCloth, a card-table-sized tablecloth with a color piecepack suit emblem embroidered on each side of the table. This passes from the winner of one contest to the winner of the next, with each one signing and dating the cloth before passing it on following the closing of the next competition.

Phillip Lerche will be supplying a small cloth bag and some game tokens.


  1. Submitted games must be for one player only.
2. The game must utilize a piecepack and preferably should make use of some of the unique aspects of the piecepack.
3. Judging will be subjective and based largely on how enjoyable and interesting the game is. Factors such as the balance of skill (strategy, tactics) and luck (randomness); clarity and completeness of rules; time to play; and replay value are also important considerations. Overall, it will be the completely subjective opinion of the judge that ultimately decides the winner.
4. Games may make use of additional bits (such as money or tokens for example), or of other non-obscure game systems in addition to the piecepack. However, additional components should not overshadow the use of the piecepack in the game. It is desirable that solo games can be played with 1 piecepack, however, if gameplay requires it, entries may be submitted that require the use of more than one piecepack.
5. Games (rule sets) should be sent to submissions @ piecepack . org (without the spaces) with the word "Contest" within the subject before Monday 8 Dec 2003, 12:00 noon PST (3:00pm EST. 8:00pm GMT). Karol will send confirmation of receipt back to the author, then cover the author's identity and send the game on. Between 1 Dec and 8 Dec confirmation will be within 24 hours. For earlier submissions confirmation may occasionally take longer. Judging will be blind; the judge will not find out the authors' identities until after the winner has been selected. Please note that to help free up Karol's time, the submissions WILL NOT be proofread so, what you send (minus your name) is what I'll see. (i.e. please get someone you know who has a good command of English, especially spelling and grammar, to proofread your entry before submission).
6. Ideally, submission should be in a text that is readable by most computers. (Arial is a fantastic choice) All submissions must include the following header information as the first few lines of the rules.
A game for the piecepack by <Your Name>
Version <#>, <Date>
Copyright (c) 2003, <Your Name>
<# of players>, <# of minutes>
<Equipment Needed>
7. Please note that Karol will not be judging content, only removing identifiable text and checking that authors have complied with contest rule #11 regarding permission for free distribution. Once the contest closes and the winner is announced, authors will have a chance to review any suggestions they have received (by friends, etc.) and should feel free to ask for comments/suggestions from the judge and make any changes they should submit the newest version of the game to be included on the Games Page of and for inclusion in the Mesomorph Games Rules CD-ROM and components thereof. Authors are strongly encouraged to get the final version returned to Karol ASAP after the winner is announced. If the author wishes not to make any changes then she/he should send a note to the same email stating such and give permission to post "as is". Authors will be notified if there are any spelling/grammar/punctuation issues with the games at this point.
8. The winner of the competition will be announced on 22 January 2004. Depending on the quantity of games received, this date may move. If the judge wishes, one or more runners up may be announced. Some game entries may receive special mentions for various reasons (such as novel use of piecepack components).
9. Designers are encouraged to submit their games early. There will be no penalty or stigma for sending in changes or updates to your game rules up to the deadline, and entrants are encouraged to submit updates based on their own continued play testing. Please be sure to send in a complete version of the game if changes are made, highlighting changes will make it easier for the judge to see the difference.
10. Game entries may be in PDF form, in HTML format, in MS Word files, or in plain text with accompanying JPGs, or GIFs if required for figures. If you submit in PDF form, all identifying items MUST be removed from the rules by you, or the entry will not be judged - please be sure to note in the accompanying email the author's name.
11. The submission must be freely redistributable. Authors are free to retain copyright. Specific licensing information should be indicated at the end of the document. Entries without such notice will NOT be included with the games on
12. The author of the winning game also wins the opportunity to define and judge the next piecepack game design competition and arrange for the prize if he or she wishes. Agreement to this is not a requirement for entry however, and if the winner does not wish to judge the next competition he or she can suggest another judge, or we can improvise.

Submitted games will be added to the site following the close of the competition on a 'preview page' then moved to the Games Page when authors give permission or send in an updated version - see above.

Questions and comments are always welcome. If you're worried that your question will give your game away, please send it to Karol who will send it to me otherwise feel free to post them to the Yahoo! piecepack discussion group (I encourage entrants to join the group if they have not yet. Go to ).

Good luck and much encouragement to all participants.

Phillip Lerche


There were 18 entries by 13 different authors:

BrainBurn by Mark A. Biggar

CardinalsGuards by Michael Schoessow and Stephen Schoessow

CoinCollectors by DonKirkby

CrocodileHop by Tim Schutz

EpicFunhouse by RonHaleEvans & Marty Hale-Evans

Fuji-san by James Kyle

GalaxyExpress by Matt Worden

LabRats by Mark A. Biggar

Landlocked by EricWitt

Mathrix by ClarkRodeffer

Matrix by Jeff Barrett

PieceGaps by ChrisBrooks

PiecePackingPirates by ClarkRodeffer

PiecepackKlondike by EricWitt

PlansOfAction by Edward Pulley

Skyscrapers by Michael Schoessow

SoloSalvo by EricWitt

The Magic Bag by Rob LeGood



Benedict’s limp form stirred as the key grated in the rusty lock of his confinement cell. The door opened, allowing the blinding sunlight to illuminate the prisoner’s dirt-streaked face for the first time in weeks. “Well?” asked Justice Seyfarth, “Have you had enough?” “Yes, your honor, more than enough,” Benedict mumbled weakly. “Out with it then!” commanded Justice Knizia. Benedict slowly stood up, swayed a little, then offered a piece of scrap paper to the Justices. Seafarth snatched the note away as Knizia kicked Benedict in the stomach for good measure. “You aren’t getting out of here until you get this cell cleaned up. Look at the state of it, bits of wood everywhere.” Benedict sighed and looked around him. There was no way One Man, Thrag, was likely to show up just to help him do housework. If only he was being held captive in a magic dungeon surrounded by monsters and dragons…


The Lord Justices read Benedict’s note aloud:

The results of the 5th piecepack design contest, SolitaryConfinement.

There were 18 entries by 13 different authors:

Benedict’s Overall Winner:

PiecePackingPirates by ClarkRodeffer

As the name suggests this is a game of sea exploration, fighting and booty collecting with a degree of economic management thrown in for good measure. My first read of the (well-written) rules made me want to try the game immediately, and I wasn’t disappointed. The game has it all: excellent integration of theme, good replayability, good balance of strategy versus luck and clever use of all of the piecepack components. I certainly imagined myself as a hearty pirate plundering unsuspecting ships, and feeling desperate when trying to out-run a larger vessel. This was by far the game I had the most fun playing.

The game uses a couple of clever mechanics worth mentioning.

1. The sea (which is formed by placing the tiles suit-side down in any pattern as long as all the tiles are connected) is explored by moving your pirate ship onto the tile and turning it over. The suit marker indicates the direction of the prevailing wind and the tile number determines the chance of sighting an enemy ship. I thought this was a neat multiple use of the tiles.

2. A mechanic unique to the contest (and possibly unique in all the piecepack games?) is the rule for movement of enemy ships. The pirate ship moves first, then the enemy ships move. What makes the movement phase interesting is that smaller ships flee from the pirates whereas larger ships close in to attack. In one game I played I found myself in trouble by attacking a larger ship before my pirates were quite ready, resulting in a lost battle, only to have the ship attack me straight back!

The game does require the use of a 1-page play mat, which is generally well designed. My only suggestion is that a black and white version would be helpful for those who do not have access to a color printer. The Booty track (green on yellow background) looks the worst in B & W. A rules summary is also included, which was helpful.

All in all a worthy winner of the contest, congratulations, Clark!

Justice Seyfarth’s Runners Up:

Two games stood out in addition to the winner. In alphabetical order they are: CardinalsGuards by Michael Schoessow & Stephen Schoessow and GalaxyExpress by Matt Worden.

CardinalsGuards is a well-presented very good themed abstract with interesting mechanics. The 24 tiles are placed as a suit-side down 5x5 square (representing chambers of the castle) with the center square open (a common formation for the tiles in the contest). The pawns are musketeers who must visit the chambers in a certain order. The interesting mechanic here is that the musketeers move as ‘runaway rooks’, only stopping if they encounter guards (coins) or the center square (tunnel entrance leading to any of the 4 corner chambers). The majority of guards start the game outside the 5x5 square of the castle – a mechanic I haven’t seen before – and as the game progresses they can be placed inside the castle, which is essential in order to provide ‘blocks’ to allow your musketeers to end their runaway moves on the right squares. Points are scored for searching chambers as well as defeating guards. This results in a game where searching all the rooms is possible, but defeating all the guards as well is tough. Well done, Mike and Steve.

GalaxyExpress is a clever themed game of delivering shipments to 6 different planets (arms coins) placed on an wraparound 8x6 grid formed by 12 grid-side up tiles in order of the delivery queue (determined by the crown coins). The rules are great and include a sample game at the end that has what are probably the nicest diagrams of all 18 entries. The heart of the game is deciding how to approach each of the planets with the limited thrust (sun coins) and brake (moon coins) resources. This clever system made me feel like I really was flying a ship of the ‘cheapskate operation’ mentioned in the introductory blurb. Great game, Matt.

Justice Knizia’s Honorable Mentions:

Cleverest overall concept: EpicFunhouse by RonHaleEvans & Marty Hale-Evans. This is a series of 6 mostly abstract games that are played in the 6 rooms of an amusement park in a not too-distant dystopian future. Also contains the only dexterity game of the contest.

Most aesthetically appealing: Fuji-san by James Kyle. This is a themed abstract that manages to evoke the feeling of a classic oriental game in both the play of the game as well as the physical shape of the playing area.

Best theme: Matrix by Jeff Barrett. Jeff and I share an enjoyment of William Gibson’s cyberpunk, and Matrix is based on the novel Neuromancer complete with Cyberspace, Ice, Data Forts and Icebreakers. Excellent idea to adapt the genre to the piecepack, Jeff. This is also the game that I think has the most potential to be truly outstanding with some work on the rules and gameplay. The customizable Icebreakers also made this game stand out.

Thanks to everyone for submitting games and making this a great contest.