Of medieval games and 3D printing

Our family likes board games.  Since we like to limit the children’s screen time and we don’t have a game console, board games come out once or twice a week.  Often it’s an old standard like Risk or Monopoly, but I try to keep up with new games, even to the point of being a regular viewer of TableTop.

In the course of looking around for new games, I stumbled across a very old one, Rithmomachia. I was intrigued, since I am a fan of medieval music,architecture, and culture. Rithmomachia is sort of “chess with math”.  I found a kickstarter project to make a Rithmomachia set.  Unfortunately, the project had been funded already, so I looked for other possible sources for a set. As I did this I found boolean rIthmomachia, a reimagining of rithmomachia that replaced capture rules based on arithmetic with ones based on boolean operations.

It was immediately clear that one wasn’t going to be able to buy boolean rithmomachia pieces “off the shelf”.  Since I am neither a sculptor nor a woodworker, I thought about 3D printing.  I figured I’d get around to learning Blender in two or three years.  Then, thanks to wired, i found TinkerCAD.

TinkerCAD seeks to democratize 3D design and fabrication by allowing it’s users, via a WebGL browser plugin, to design objects by sticking together and modifying basic solids (cubes, spheres, pyramids, etc.) Users can then either download the file to send to their own 3D printer, or pay to send the design out for fabrication elsewhere. I logged in and tried a couple of tutorial lessons.  The interface is very similar to the build interface in Second Life, which I have some experience with, and it was easier than I thought to actually start designing my pieces.  Since the capture rules require applying boolean tests to each bit in the numbers on each piece, the numbers need to be represented in binary.  I decided to use raised square studs for 1’s and indentations for 0’s.

In one respect, my design is totally wrong. Most of the pieces, like in Othello /Reversi, switch colors when captured.  There is really no way to print in two colors of plastic on most 3D printers,and my design with studs means the pieces won’t sit flat. Maybe the easiest thing is to have two sets of pieces and swap out a piece for a matching one of the other color when a capture occurs.

It also occurs to me that a set of plain old rithmomachia pieces would have been much easier to do. Now to get working on those stacked gameboards

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