The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Musings on four dimensional games

While surfing, I came across a mention of 3D chess, and for some reason, that triggered a memory from, oh, twenty-five years ago or so, where I was reading a gaming magazine (for physical, board-type games, not computer games) where they mentioned a board game involving Time Lords and the Fourth Dimension. I remember wanting that game, but a general lack of funds, and more importantly, a general lack of knowledge of where to get the game, left me imagining just how one could play a 2D board game dealing with time and/or the Fourth Dimension.

It was a curious memory indeed, and I decided to see if I could fish some more information out of this wonderful Intarwebs thang we have nowadays. With just that scant remembrance, I was able to locate the game in question. And not only read a review, but the actual rule sheets as well.

Sad to say, I'm glad I didn't get the game way back then. Cool concept, very poor execution. No time element at all, and a very poor concept of the Fourth Dimension as well (each piece can only move one space—optionally, you can move to a “time warp” and spend up to the next three moves to move two physical spaces on the baord—so much for a viable time warp).

But it did get me to thinking some. How could one design a game with time travel as a move? I remember playing a 4D chess variant, using a 4×4×4×4 board, which consisted of a large mat with 16 4×4 boards printed on it. Each column of boards represented a 4×4×4 volume, with four such “spaces” each representing a moment in time. As you moved your pieces (each side had four pieces, and trust me, that was hard enough) you left markers for each square visited. You could capture a piece by landing on any space with a marker, at which point, the trail of markers “past” that point were removed; of course, your piece could then be captured “earlier” in the game, at which point the captured piece captured by the captured piece was returned to the board at the point it was captured … um … does that make any sense?

Anyway, remembering that, I realized that we have these wonderful devices called “computers” that could keep track of all this stuff. Going back to a Time Lord game with actual “time travel,” the computer can keep track of every move, and allow one to move backwards through previous moves. I personally would restrict it such that you can't move a piece into the future (else what's keeping a player from hiding pieces way into future moves?) and you can't have more than one of any piece (so you can't keep moving your Time Lord piece back into the past and have an infinite army of Time Lords). I would also record the game so that afterwards, you can view in chronological time to see all the pieces wink into and out of existence.

It sounds like it would be horribly complicated, and the inner-geek in me would love to play such a game.

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