International TableTop Day Is Coming Soon! (Or Is It?)

As a board game enthusiast, I look forward to those days during the year when we can gather around the table and indulge in some group game fun.

One of the highlights of the gaming calendar is undoubtedly International TableTop Day, a worldwide celebration of the simple idea that taking a little time to gather friends and family around the table for a few puzzles or board games makes the world a better place.

But this year, TableTop Day has become the subject of some unexpected controversy.

You see, originally, International TableTop Day was started and organized by the creators behind Geek & Sundry, a YouTube channel dedicated to all things nerdy.

They designated the last Saturday in April as TableTop Day, and helped to organize events, livestreams, and special promotions to spread the good word of tabletop gaming.

Naturally, as events like these often do, it grew far beyond its original dimensions. More game shops, hobby shops, RPG groups, libraries, game companies, and all sorts of other groups got into the spirit with every passing year. And whether you celebrated on the last Saturday of the month, as had become TableTop Day tradition for many, or combined it with Board Game Day (celebrated in the first week of April), you knew that when March was gone, TableTop Day fun was looming large.

But this year, as the days and weeks of 2019 continued to pass, many tabletop fans (myself included) waited for the official announcement of exactly when TableTop Day festivities would kick off.

Finally, word arrived and many of those excited, enthusiastic groups were nonplussed to discover that this year’s TableTop Day was scheduled for…

June 1st.

Confusion reigned. People were trying to organize what had become beloved annual events, and couldn’t confirm whether TableTop Day would be April 6, April 27, or June 1.

And you know what? TableTop Day has become an annual event around here at PuzzleNation, and we’re sticking with the end of April.

And we’re not alone. Many event organizers are similarly sticking to what has become the traditional date for the day, leaving behind the original organizers and forging their own paths. And I salute them.

Later this month, I’ll be posting listings for various International TableTop Day events, so be sure to let me know what YOUR plans are for TableTop Day so I can include them! Is your local library or game shop hosting an event? Are you playing for charity, or making new friends?

As for us, we’re celebrating as only we can: with a two-week game tournament leading up to our annual TableTop Day in-office puzzlegamepalooza! (And, of course, we’ll have some game or puzzle for you to enjoy through the blog as well.)

TableTop Day is bigger than any single group — even the group that started it — and I’m happy to once again welcome a day dedicated to the fun, warmth, community, and collaborative joys that come with playing games.


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A Puzzle Game That Lets You Change the Rules of Puzzles!

[Image courtesy of Linux Game Consortium.]

Solving puzzles through different mediums can lead to unexpected and challenging solving experiences.

One advantage that video game puzzles have over their pencil-and-paper counterparts is that, while the paper puzzles are a one-stop shop for a puzzle experience, there’s no adaptation, no evolution, no development for the solver or chance to build upon what they’ve learned through multiple solves or repetition.

In video game puzzles, on the other hand, repetition is the name of the game. New skills and techniques are immediately tested by clever twists on established puzzles, so you’re never resting on your puzzly laurels.

For example, while discussing the classic puzzle platforming game Portal, my friend once described it as a game that reprograms your brain with each puzzle you solve, transforming alongside the player. (This is also a hallmark of many of the puzzle games offered by our friends at ThinkFun.)

[Image courtesy of Game Informer.]

That sort of reprogramming is at the heart of the puzzle experience in a new game called Baba Is You.

In Baba Is You, the gameplay consists of objects to move and manipulate, as well as word blocks that form rules for the game itself. You start off by being able to move Baba, a small rabbit-like creature, around obstacles, with the goal of reaching a golden flag. So, the word blocks read “Baba is you” and “flag is win,” which both tell you the starting rules and the goal.

[Image courtesy of Kotaku.]

By changing these word blocks, you change the rules, effectively reprogramming what you can do in each level.

Kotaku explains this concept well:

One clump might say “Baba is you,” which means Baba is the character you control. Another might say “Rock is push,” which means you can push rocks, or “Wall is stop,” which means you can’t walk through walls…

You rearrange individual words to solve the puzzles. There are usually multiple options, depending on where the words are placed. In the above example, you could remove “stop” from “wall” and pass through the barrier. You could attach “wall” to “is push” instead of “is stop” and push it out of the way. You could make yourself the wall by pushing the word “wall” before “is you.” Or you could make the wall the win condition and touch that instead of the flag.

[Image courtesy of Kotaku.]

So, essentially, you solve each puzzle by obeying the rules, changing the rules, and then obeying the new rules. And since puzzles are all about figuring out how to accomplish tasks by adhering to certain rules, this creates a fascinating new style of puzzle. It’s almost like improvisational comedy or Calvinball, except it’s not played for humor.

I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a puzzle game that lets you alter HOW you play as drastically and as simply as this. You literally make and break the rules here, depending on how clever you are.

Baba Is You is available for PC and Switch, and I look forward to seeing more diabolical puzzling like this in the future.


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Unexpected Developments from the ACPT!

Usually, my coverage of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament is one-and-done. I recap the event, share photos and links, and that’s it until it’s time to start hyping the event next year. (Of course, I do review the tournament puzzles later, but that’s more my own impressions and divorced from the event itself.)

But that’s not to say that there aren’t stories from the tournament that continue beyond the confines of that weekend. For instance, last year one solver was mistakenly given Puzzle 5 to solve instead of Puzzle 4. He managed to solve it in the shorter time allotted for Puzzle 4, but then ran into trouble afterward. You see, Puzzle 4’s trick was confusing, and the judges actually explained the puzzle before the competitors began Puzzle 5. So this solver couldn’t fairly solve Puzzle 4 in Puzzle 5’s place, because it had been explained to him.

It wasn’t until days after the tournament that I found out he ended up getting an averaged-out score for Puzzle 4, which was considered the fairest way to proceed. (Much fairer than the zero points he’d originally been given for a mistake that wasn’t his.)

So when it comes to intriguing stories emerging from the tournament, this year is no exception.

It all starts with self-reported errors. The ACPT has a long tradition of competitors honestly reporting their own errors which have been missed by either the tournament officials scoring their puzzles OR the computers that scan the grids afterward.

I know several solvers honest enough to have reported missed errors in the past, even though doing so hurts their scores and their standings in the field. They’d rather compete honestly, which is a marvelous quality indeed.

In fact, this year, the tournament even instituted the George Washington Award for self-reporting errors that judges missed.

And one error reported this year changed the entire outcome of the B block of the tournament.

As you might recall from my write-up of the event, the B division final came down to Matthew Gritzmacher, Brian Fodera, and Arnold Reich, with Brian Fodera scoring the victory.

So you can see why some competitors were confused when they logged into the ACPT website to see the following text:

Because of a scoring error in the preliminary rounds, which was not discovered until too late, the results of the “B” division playoff were nullified. The top three finishers after seven rounds: 1) Matthew Gritzmacher 2) Arnold Reich 3) Adam Doctoroff

What happened?

During his train ride home, Brian noticed that his Puzzle 7 score was impossible, given the number of minutes remaining. Brian reported the error to tournament officials, who determined that when his puzzle was scanned into the computer, a filled-in grid square was misread as a black square by the computer. This boosted the word count of the puzzle and awarded additional points to Brian’s score.

As it turns out, the winner of the B division was never intended to make the finals, and Adam Doctoroff was meant to be in that spot.

Brian has relinquished any claim to the title, the prize money, or any honors granted by his win, suggesting that the final be vacated and the prize money split among the three men who should’ve been on the dais.

It’s an amazing gesture, one befitting the goodness, honesty, and respect of the many puzzlers who congregate at the tournament every single year.

I don’t yet know if the tournament officials followed his recommendation regarding distribution of trophies, prize money, etc., but I suspect they will.

Kudos to Brian for truly earning that George Washington Award this year. And who knows? Maybe next year, we’ll see him in the finals again. After all, he’s now proven he can win it all.


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You Could Claim the Iron Throne in this Game of Thrones Scavenger Hunt!

The final season of HBO’s hit fantasy series Game of Thrones is fast approaching — the first episode of the 8th season airs April 14th — and HBO has gone all out to promote the end of the epic saga of the Starks, the Lannisters, Daenerys Targaryen, and the numerous other families and factions vying for the Iron Throne.

But as it turns out, they’re not the only ones hunting for the throne. Fans around the world have been puzzling out the locations of replica thrones hidden across the globe over the last week.

As news of this incredible scavenger hunt started to go viral earlier this week, four of the six thrones had already been located. Scattered across Europe were the first four thrones: Björkliden, Sweden; Puzzlewood, England; Atienza, Spain; and Beberibe, Brazil.

The Throne of Ice was yet to be discovered, and there were no hints yet as to the possible location of the sixth and final throne.

But as of yesterday, the Throne of Ice was found.

Tucked away in a small mountain town in the Canadian side of the Rocky Mountains, the Throne of Ice was discovered by Birgit Sharman and her husband Kevin in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia — the first throne found outside Europe.

From an article on BGR:

HBO is taking the promotion pretty seriously, it seems. Two men wearing fur coats, presumably of the Stark clan, were waiting on the throne to be found and put a crown on Birgit’s head that she was allowed to keep and which she showed off via her Facebook page.

One throne remains to be found. But where? And what surprises await those who find it?

The Game of Thrones Instagram page offers this picture and hint:

Its location is unknown for now, but one thing is for certain: fans won’t soon forget this amazing moment when the show brought a little bit of Westeros to life.


Update: The sixth throne was found!

Located in Fort Totten Park, NY, the Throne of the Crypt will be left in place until April 1st, so if you’re looking for a killer photo opportunity, you’ve got it.

The Game of Thrones Twitter page posted this photo about half an hour ago to indicate the sixth and final throne had been found.


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A Password Brain Teaser With an Unexpected Snag

 

[Image courtesy of The Next Web.]

One of the curious aspects of being a modern Internet user is figuring out how to manage your passwords. Most sites, whether commercial or recreational, have log-in screens or other account info, and it’s up to you to remember passwords for these numerous accounts.

You could use the same password over and over for everything, but that’s not a terribly safe choice. You could keep a list where you write down your different passwords to each site in order to keep them all straight, which is also not safe. You could opt to use a password-management service to handle them for you, which is a bit unwieldy for most users.

And if you need to come up with a new password for each account, you might find yourself employing a puzzly technique like Mira Modi’s in order to conjure up a password.

[Image courtesy of In the Black.]

Recently, Gizmodo writer Rhett Jones posed a password-centric brain teaser to his readers, asking why the seemingly safe-looking string “ji32k7au4a83” might not be a good choice for a password.

Can you puzzle out why?

I’ll give you a few moments to ponder it.

All set? Okay, here we go.

As it turns out, “ji32k7au4a83” is the Chinese equivalent of one of the worst choices for a password. Using the Zhuyin Fuhao system for transliterating Mandarin to English, “ji32k7au4a83” becomes “my password,” a top contender for terrible password ideas like those compiled below:

[Image courtesy of Ars Technica.]

Yup, as it turns out, that random string of letters and numbers isn’t particularly random after all.

You’d be better off using a technique suggested by one of my fellow puzzlers. To generate her random passwords, she composes a sentence related to the website, then uses only the first letter of each word in that sentence as the base for the password.

Toss in a number or two, and voila, you’ve got something that appears to be gibberish, but is easily recalled and reassembled for your own use.

Pretty diabolical! Give it a shot and let us know how it works for you!


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