Thursday, February 13, 2014

Hundreds Of Board Games, All In One Little Box

The other day, I had a boardgame marathon. I first played a space-race game where a friend and I plotted our starships through a wormhole-spotted galaxy. Then we played a land management game where we were rival tribal chieftains attempting to colonize a primitive island paradise. After he left, I broke out a solo dungeon crawl featuring a randomly generated board. Before turning in, a played a quick game of table croquet, flicking a wooden disc through some strategically placed targets in the fewest moves possible.

And all of these different boardgames came out of this little box. Meet my new "piecepack."

Simply defined, a piecepack is a collection of specifically designed pieces that can be rearranged and reassembled into hundreds of different boardgames. Created by James Kyle in 2000 and released into the public domain, a piecepack is to board games what a deck of cards is to card games. With a standard deck of cards, you can play hundreds of different games: poker, solitaire, rummy, pinochle, cribbage, blackjack, war, etc. The cards stay the same -- 13 sets in 4 different suits. It's the ruleset that changes for each game. The piecepack is set up in a similar manner. Same set of pieces, but the layout and ruleset changes depending on the game you want to play.

Pictured above is a piecepack. It also has four suits like a deck of cards: red suns, black moons, green (or yellow) crowns, and blue arms. And each suit has the following pieces associated with it:
  • 6 tiles numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, Ace (a spiral symbol), and Null (blank) on one side. The other side are two lines dividing the tile into four equal sections.
  • 6 coins (small discs) with the suit on one side and numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, Ace, and Null on the reverse side.
  • A pawn with the appropriate suit on it.
  • A 6-sided die with the same suit on each face and numbered 2, 3, 4, 5, Ace, and Null.

Although some games incorporate dominoes, poker chips, actual 6-siders, play money, etc., I prefer to play piecepack games that only use the pieces found in one standard set. For example:

Here's the set-up for a game of Chaos Cruisers, a space-age racing game around a figure-8 track. The dice are used as the playing pieces with the top-most face representing the speed of your vehicle. The player at the intersection narrowly missed the obstacle while he heads toward the scoring gate at the turn.

Here's a four-player game of Everest, a mountain climbing game where four yetis try to knock each other from the summit. The coins are secretively chosen then revealed by each player at the same time as "movement tokens" in a pre-programmed brawl for supremacy!

A piecepack can even play the classics. Four-person Chinese Checkers anyone?

 It can even be used for tabletop "flick" games like hockey, golf, and -- shown here -- a game of 9-ball.

Since the piecepack is open source and in the public domain, anyone can make their own or even commercially create and sell them. (I purchased mine from a vendor.) People are constantly creating new games for it all of the time, sharing them online under the GNU Free Documentation License. (I have a book of 107 different piecepack games I'm working my way through.) Some creative folks have even adapted popular games like Settlers of Catan and Forbidden Island for the piecepack. One game I particularly enjoy plays like a combination of Chill: Black Morn Manor and Betrayal at House on the Hill. (I'll share a playthrough in a day or so to show you how the piecepack system works in play.)

I'm just now scratching the surface of this boardgame phenomenon and wanted to share my discovery with the rest of the folks out there who like boardgames and love a good do-it-yourself modular system.


  1. Best part of this post is that I ALREADY HAVE THE SAME BOX so I just need the contents.

  2. Thanks, I've never heard of piecepack before, but it looks simply awesome. I need to get one.