Steampunk Piecepack

A kind of manifesto

I've had a lot of people tell me they outright prefer the IceHouse game system to piecepack because it looks cooler or prettier or something, and while I think this is an unspeakably shallow viewpoint (for Cthulhu Mythos values of "unspeakable"), it's hard to deny that maybe two out of three non-gamers I show the average wooden piecepack to think it's a bit clunky. (On the other hand, some people think it's "classy" or "timeless" or "archetypal".)

And then there are themes. As BoardGameGeek user Carthoris says in his geeklist, Piecepack Explorations,

I've long been a fan of the "game system" concept facilitating flexible reuse of material game components in a shared design environment. Playing cards, dominoes, and chess set (see Arimaa for an ideal example of chess-set-as-game-system) are classics in this regard. The two pre-eminent systems of recent invention are Looney Pyramids (a.k.a. Icehouse pieces) and Piecepack Games... I have to admit, Looney Pyramids have a little edge on Piecepack, in that they have some community design themes. These are: the planet Mars (games with 'mids are often styled as "Martian") and associated sfnal ideas, ice (just from the "Icehouse" of the first Pyramidal game), and a fantasy Egypt (from the monumental Pyramids). The first theme, further leveraged through the game Homeworlds and its derivatives, was the basis for coining the title "Starship Captain" to refer to someone who had played ten or more different Pyramid games. This honorific encourages players to explore and experiment with the system.

Piecepack is of course in the public domain, and we've seen a flourishing of innovation and playing with the pieces lately (2018) in part because of this. I started thinking about all the new suits in the DualPiecepacks (as well as the new chess-ranked piecepacks) as well as the other suits that people have been drawing, not to mention the MixedSuitsExpansion. I thought I might like to try my hand at some new suits myself, and to find a theme for the suit icons that would make the putative clunkiness of the piecepack not a bug, but a feature. It would be nice if the theme were something my 'pack peeps and I could share, the way, for example, Icehouse fans share the Martian theme with games like Martian Chess. And for the love of all that is lazy, I shouldn't have to have to draw the art myself.

I thought perhaps a steampunk theme would enhance the 19th-century-lookin' qualities of the piecepack, and that it could be a theme we could run with and have fun with. But I didn't go much further, because I didn't have any art for the prototypes.

Today, a few days later, I rediscovered a site with (at present) about 3,000 CC-licensed gaming icons in a clean, consistent style: And even better, they have icons for steampunk games.

So as of this moment, I'm setting forth the steampunk piecepack standard. It is a minor variant of James Kyle's piecepack anatomy. The main difference is the four suits:

I'm going to make one! Future versions of the steampunk piecepack can of course use original art.

So come on, my friends! Let us embrace our quaint, quasi-Victorian game system, which doesn't need injection molding to be manufactured and will therefore live forever, even come the steampunk apocalypse! And let us make steampunk games! And let us embrace the steampunk aesthetic - in moderation, and not to the exclusion of the other interesting things people do, etc...

Hip, hip, hurrah! Ahem.


Professor Piecepack (the secret steampunk identity of RonHaleEvans)