Games by Karen Deal Robinson

A Solitaire Mancala Game

Queen's Quadrille is a solitaire game played with a chess set. It was described in Games Magazine, June 1998. It also appears on the Chess Variants Page. It was inspired by the classic sliding 15-puzzle, in which the goal is to arrange numbered tiles in order. The name comes from a dance in which the dancers are arranged in a square and move through intricate patterns. The quadrille was the ancestor of the modern square dance.

The playing board is a 4x4 chessboard. I usually use the central sixteen squares of an ordinary chessboard. Since the pawns are not used in play, I arrange them along the middle four squares of each edge of the board. This makes a pleasing pattern, and helps delineate the playing area. If the game is thought of as representing a dance, the pawns can be the spectators.

Set up all the chesspieces except the pawns, arranging them randomly on the 4x4 board. Remove one of the queens. A sample setup is given below:

``` 	      p p p p

p    Q B R N    p
p    K N N R    p
p    B R B K    p
p      B R N    p

p p p p

```

The goal of the game is to maneuver the queen through a pre-determined pattern. It can be a diagonal path from one corner to another, or a circuit around the outside of the square and back to her original place, or a zig-zag across one row and back across the next. The pattern is for the player to determine. I have had correspondence from computer programmers who enjoyed finding the shortest number of moves it would take for the queen to visit all sixteen squares. (Remember that the actual playing board is only 4 by 4 squares.)

The chess pieces move as in ordinary chess, except that no piece captures another, the king may be in check, and the moves need not alternate colors. Several pieces may have to move before the desired square opens beside the queen for her next move. It is possible to set up the opening arrangement in such a way that no piece can move. If that happens, re-arrange the pieces and try again.

Variation

For a more challenging game, set up the pieces so that each piece is on a square of the opposite color. The goal of this game is to maneuver the pieces so that each piece is on a square that matches its color. Each bishop makes its first move as a rook, and afterward moves as a bishop. (You can tell whether or not a bishop has moved yet because it will be on a square of the matching color if it has.) For aesthetic reasons, I usually include both queens, then have one step outside the central area, and have her move back in at the end. You could instead make a rule that any piece may step outside the central area, but only one piece at a time may do so, so that there is only one empty square at any time.

Queen's Quadrille is not particularly difficult. It's meant to be a light diversion, representing the pleasant movements of a dance.

New If you like Queen's Quadrille you may enjoy Andy Lewicki's Hippodrome. Andy described his game to me in 2003, and I thought it was probably an improvement on mine. He imagines the four knights as racing horses.

Chess Contradance is another solitaire chess game, designed to feel more like a real chess game than Queen's Quadrille does. It appears on the Chess Variants Page, and was named by Hans Bodlender, the webmaster of that site.

Chess Contradance was inspired by a puzzle that appears in the video game "The Seventh Guest". In that puzzle, four bishops of each color attempt to trade places across a 4x5 chessboard without ever moving into a position where one could take another.

A contradance is a dance in which couples face across a long row, with men on one side and women on the other. The opening setup for Chess Contradanse is exactly the same as the setup for an ordinary game of chess, except that the pawns are not included.

The goal of the game is to move all the pieces to the opposite side of the board without ever putting any piece in a position where it is in danger of capture. The original and final rows, row 1 and 8, are "safe" rows, where pieces are immune from capture. Moves need not alternate color, though I usually play with the rule that they do. The less challenging version requires only that the pieces end up on the opposite rows. A more challenging version requires that they end up on the opposite rows, in the opening position for a new game of chess.

Unlike Queen's Quadrille, which has so many possible setups and objectives that it can be played over and over, Chess Contradance is more like a puzzle to be solved. However, it is complex enough that it could be enjoyed more than once, and there is certainly more than one solution. It could also be varied by changing the arrangement of the opening setup.

Update-2015: I have never quite been comfortable with the name Chess Contradance. It's descriptive, but not as euphonious as "Queen's Quadrille". Lately I have been referring to this game as Grand March, which is a stately ballroom dance distantly related to the contradance. This captures the feeling of the rather grand progression of the pieces across the board. The name "Red Rover" also occurred to me, as the game somewhat resembles that playground game. Another rather grim possibility is "Over the Top", referring to the soldiers who left the trenches in WWI to dodge enemy fire as they ran across open ground. It is traditional in card solitaire games to give them what is called a "pictorial" name, and I'm still struggling with the pictorial for this one.

The question came up on the chess variants page whether it was permissible to put a piece in danger of capture by moving another piece, and I would say not, though as it is a solitaire game, a person could modify the rules at will.

After many years, I would add that even with the same opening setup, by using different opening moves, the game can be varied quite a bit. I have looked through the years for other solitaire chess games. I am a big fan of Bruce Alberston's Chess Mazes, and ThinkFun's Solitaire Chess, and of course there are the traditional chess puzzles, where the goal is to force mate in a set number of moves from a given position. But the advantage to Chess Contradance aka Grand March is that it doesn't require any books or equipment beyond an ordinary chess set. If you are playing using the extra rule that says that each move should be in an alternate color, you can use two pawns to keep track of which color is playing. I set the pawns up at the side of the board and arrange them so that the one of the color that is to play next is closer to me. This helps if I leave the board for a while and then come back to it.

Solitaire Gin Rummy

Solitaire Gin Rummy is a solitaire card game that can be played anywhere because you hold all the cards in your hands. It was described in Games Magazine, June 1998.Unlike other solitaire card games, which require the cards to be laid out on a flat surface, Solitaire Gin Rummy can be played in line at the grocery store, in a theater while waiting for the movie to begin, on a windy beach or on the bus. If you are interrupted, you can bundle the deck into your pocket without losing your place in the game, and take it up later.

The rules are designed to be as close to Gin Rummy as possible. Your opponent is the joker. Your goal is to "go gin" before the joker appears.

Place one joker in the deck, and remove the other joker. Shuffle the deck thoroughly. Deal yourself ten cards. Hold them in one hand, and either set the rest of the deck, face down, beside you, or hold it face down in your other hand. This is easier to do if you use miniature cards. If the joker appears in your hand, you can either say you lost that hand, or you can just reshuffle and start over.

Draw the top card from the deck and put it in your hand. Discard one card from your hand, so that you still have ten cards in your hand. Place the discarded card on the bottom of the deck. The goal is to form "melds" in your hand. A meld is a set of three or more cards that are either all the same kind (eg. all threes) or form a numerical sequence all in the same suit (a straight flush in poker.) If all the cards in your hand are in melds, you have "gin" and have won the hand. If the joker appears before you go gin, you lose.

Optional scoring and knocking

If you would like to make the game more like real gin rummy, you can keep score for several hands. The first player (you or the joker) to get 100 points wins the game.

If you have a gin hand, turn over the cards in the deck one at a time until the joker appears. The number of cards you turn over is your score.

If the joker appears before you have a gin hand, add up the values of cards you have in your hand that are not in melds, counting number cards at face value and court cards as ten. The total is the joker's score.

If your hand contains ten or fewer points in unmelded cards, you may "knock". Stop play and figure the two scores as described above. The one with the higher score recieves the difference in scores. For example, suppose you knock when you have a three and a five unmelded in your hand. Your hand counts eight points for the joker. You count the cards in the deck until the joker appears, and there are ten cards, which counts as ten points for you. Instead of giving ten points to you and eight to the joker, just give yourself two points, (ten minus eight.) If you scored and the joker scored ten, you would give the joker two points.

If you knock and the joker turns out to have the higher score (that is, there are more points in unmelded cards than there are cards above the joker in the deck), the joker receives 25 bonus points for "undercutting the knock." If you get gin while playing with this rule, you recieve 25 bonus points.

I usually don't keep score; it's more fun for me just to play a quick hand. But because there's so much chance involved in where the joker will be, keeping score over several games would give you a better idea of how well you're playing in general. You could have a goal of improving your average over time.

Wizard's Tower

Wizard's Tower is a solitaire game played with Tarot cards. It was described in Games Magazine, June 1998. It is almost an opposite of Solitiare Gin Rummy: instead of keeping the cards in your hands, you lay all 78 of them out. This game takes a lot of room. Unless you're using miniature cards, you may have to play on the floor.

Tarot cards were originally developed for a trick-taking game similar to Skat or Bridge. That game is still played in Europe. In modern times in America and Great Britain, they are mostly used for fortune-telling. Wizard's Tower is a completely different game, based on the old playing-card solitaire game called Spider.

Deal out six rows of thirteen cards, face up, and not overlapping. Think of it as thirteen columns of six cards each. A card at the bottom of a column (that is, nearest the player) is "exposed" and can be moved. An exposed suit card may be placed below any exposed suit card of the next higher value, whether or not it has the same suit. A king may be placed below an ace.

If the card you move is the same suit as the next higher card, place it so that it overlaps the higher card. A string of cards in descending sequence in the same suit can be moved as a unit.

An exposed trump card (or "greater arcana" card, as they are known by fortune tellers), may be placed below any exposed trump card of higher numerical value, not necessarily in sequence. If it is in sequence, place it so that it overlaps the higher card. A string of trump cards in descending numerical sequence can be moved as a unit.

Any time a column is empty, any exposed card may be placed at the top of that column.

When the Fool is exposed, lay it above the tableau as a foundation for the tower. Other exposed trump cards are built on the Fool in ascending sequence.

If the game is blocked, one exposed card may be taken into the hand. When it becomes possible to put it back in the tableau or on the tower, another card may be held out. In old solitaire games, this practice was known as "weaving".

If a string of cards consists of the entire suit in numerical order, remove it from the tableau. The goal of the game is to remove all but the Wizard's Tower of trump cards. Old solitaire games often had "pictorial" themes. The idea of Wizard's Tower is that the tower remains suspended magically in the air after the cliff below it (the tableau) is blasted away by magic.

Square the Hypercube

Square the Hypercube is a tic-tac-toe or morris type game played on a four-dimensional hypercube. I invented it in about 1980. Imagine my surprise when I found a game that was almost identical here. I can only guess that once a person starts with the idea of a tic-tac-toe game on a hypercube, the game itself is obvious.

The board game looks like this:

One player places four counters on alternate black spaces, the other places four counters on alternate red spaces. A move consists of moving one of your counters to an adjacent space along a line. The goal is to arrange your four counters in a "square". In four dimensions, the squares are real squares, but in this two-dimensional projection they may look squashed, and may be diamond-shaped. The more square-looking ones have two black corners and two red corners. The diamond-shaped ones have one black and three red corners, or one red and three black corners.

The first player to arrange his or her four counters in a square wins.

Grand Tour

Grand Tour is a card game that feels like a board game. It can be played either solitaire or with more than one player. The name comes from the interpretation that each card is a country, and the player is trying to visit every country. I will describe the solitaire version first.

Deal out the entire deck, including jokers, in a rectangle of six rows and nine columns. The cards should not overlap. Think of the rectangle as a board with 54 spaces. Place a pawn or other marker on the card of your choice.

Turn over the card on which the pawn stands. If the card is a court card or a joker, remove it from the board. Move the pawn one space orthogonally (like a rook in chess) from where it was.

If the card is a number card, leave it face up on the board and move the pawn orthogonally a number of spaces equal to the number on the card. If you come to the end of a row or column, (that is, the edde of the board or a blank space), turn 90 degrees in either direction and continue in a straight line until you finish the count. If you come to the end of that row or column, turn again and so on.

You may find yourself at the end of a row or column for which there are no cards on either side, as though you were in a blind alley. In that case, and only in that case, you may back up to finish the count.

At the end of your move, turn over the card on which the pawn stands to determine your next move.

The object of the game is to land on every card, so that all court cards and jokers are removed, and all other cards are face up.

The Multi-player Game

The opening setup is the same. Each player in turn chooses a card and places a pawn on it. Two pawns may not share a card.

Movement is also the same as in the solitaire version. Each time a player turns over a card, he or she wins a point. Court cards count two points. Jokers lose the player a point. If a player is in a position from which he or she cannot move, that player forfeits a turn.

The game ends when all the cards are face-up, or some cards are isolated in such a way that they can't be landed on, or all players are unable to move. The player with the most points is the winner.

You could also play the game cooperatively. In that case you need not keep track of points. All players would win together if all the cards were turned face up.

Playing Card Magic

Playing Card Magic is based on the proprietary game Magic the Gathering, but is played with ordinary playing cards. It is assumed that the reader is familiar with Magic the Gathering.

Each player uses a complete deck of playing cards.

There are only two colors, red and black. The aces and court cards are land cards. The jokers are colorless land. The tens are walls, having strength 0 and toughness 5.

The cards numbered two through nine are creature cards. The casting cost of a creature card (including walls) is half the number on the card, rounded down, of mana matching the color of the card or colorless mana. For example, the casting cost of the seven of hearts is 3 red mana.

For cards with even numbers, the power and toughness are each half of the number. For example, an "eight" has power and toughness each of four.

For cards with odd numbers, it depends whether the card is red or black. For a red card, the power will be one less than the toughness. For example, a red seven will have power of three and toughness of four.

On the other hand, for a black card, the power will be one more than the toughness. For example a black seven will have power of four and toughness of three.

The clubs numbered two through nine are flying creatures.

With the above rules, a basic game could be played. In addition, combinations of cards could be assigned certain spells. There are C(52,2)=1326 different two-card combinations, which would make room for plenty of spells, but a book would have to be made to keep track of all of them. For a simpler version, only combinations of two numbers, regardless of suit, would be assigned particular spells. This would give C(13,2) = 78 spells, which could be listed on a single sheet of paper and would be more managable. If the joker is included, there would be C(14,2=91) spells.

As an example, a 3 and a 4 played as a single card could represent a +3/+4 spell on a target creature, and a pair of red tens played as a single card could be a circle of protection against red, and so on.

If there are spells assigned to combinations, all fives could have landwalk, but the suit would match, not just the color. (Without combination spells, landwalk might be too much of an advantage.) I haven't compiled a list of spells assigned to combinations, and I don't know if I will ever get around to it. If anyone does, I'd love to hear from you.

Oz Quest

Oz Quest is a game based on the Oz books by L. Frank Baum. It takes its inspiration mostly from "The Patchwork Girl of Oz" and "The Marvelous Land of Oz", but also contains incidents from the other books. It can be played solitaire or with up to six players. You can read the rules here

A Solitaire Mancala Game

Mancala is a family of games found throughout the world, consisting of a series of holes filled counters called seeds or stones. It is generally played by picking up the stones from one hole and sowing them one per hole to either the right or the left, depending on the game. It is usually a game for two players. But there are a few solitaire games. I wanted one that felt like a two-player game but could be played solitaire. I based my version on the traditional game Tchuka Ruma.

Tchuka Ruma has four smaller holes in a row, and one larger hole at the right end of the row, called a "ruma" hole. Each of the smaller holes has two stones in it. Stones are sowed to the right.

1 2 3 4 Ruma(5)

If you reach the "ruma" hole and still have stones in your hand, you wrap around and continue from the left-most small hole. If the last stone falls in the "ruma" hole, that turn ends, and you select another small hole. If the last stone falls in a small hole containing stones, you pick those up and continue sowing. If the last stone falls in an empty small hole, the game is over and you lose. The goal is to get all ten stones into the "ruma" hole. It's not too difficult to solve. You can change the game by using more holes or more stones.

My variation is played on half of the kind of mancala board usually found in America, with two rows of six holes and two larger holes, one on each end. I begin with three stones in each of the six holes on one side of the board, but you could use more or fewer.

1 2 3 4 5 6 Ruma(7)

You could also take the total number of stones and distribute them unequally in the holes to vary the game. As you sow the stones to the right, you sow into the right-most "ruma" hole, but if you wrap around, you do not sow into the left-most "ruma" hole. You consider the left-most "ruma" hole as belonging to your imaginary opponent.

Rules for my variation; how to keep score

The rules are the same as for Tchuka Ruma, with the following exception. If you land on an empty small hole, your turn ends, and you pay a penalty of two stones from your "ruma" hole into the "ruma" hole on the left end of the board, which you can consider to be the hole belonging to your imaginary opponent. (You do not sow into this hole during play.) You then continue by selecting another hole to play from. If you land in your "ruma" hole, as in Tchuka Ruma, your turn ends with no penalty and you select another hole to play from. At any time, you can decide to end the game, and award all the stones still left on the board to your "opponent".

When the game is ended, the number of stones in your "ruma" hole is your score, and the number of stones in your opponent's "ruma" hole is your opponent's score. You win if your score is higher. If at any time you owe your opponent two stones and you do not have them in your "ruma" hole, the game ends and you lose.

This gives the game the feel of a two-player game, since there are "turns" and two scores; the only difference is you take all of the turns.

You can make a board from a piece of paper. Fold the edges of the paper up to form a small lip, to keep the stones from sliding off the paper. It fits best on a standard piece of typing paper if you arrange your six "holes" in two rows of three. In that case, the holes are numbered as follows:

3 2 1 Ruma(7)
4 5 6

As an example of "wrapping around", if you picked hole 2 and there were eight stones in it, you would sow them in this order: 3,4,5,6,Ruma, 1,2,3. For comparison, if the holes are all in one row, it would look like this:

1 2 3 4 5 6 Ruma(7)

In the above example, you would sow the stones in exactly the same order: 3,4,5,6,Ruma, 1,2,3.

You can also play with the complete board, using all twelve small holes, and again sowing into your own "ruma" hole on the right but not into your opponent's "ruma" hole on the left. I have found that using four stones per hole, which is the amount usually supplied with the game, works well. In that case, the holes would go in this order:

6 5 4 3 2 1 Ruma(13)
7 8 9 10 11 12

In the following example, I take the stones from hole four and land in the Ruma hole:

In the following example, I take the stones from hole 1 and land in hole 5, which was empty, so I pay a penalty of two stones into my opponent's "ruma" hole:

Conclusion

I am not a skilled player, so I find that I win and lose this game about equally often, especially if I vary the number of stones per hole at the start. This makes for a satisfying pastime. If you are more competative, your goal could be to win by as large a margin as possible, or even to end up with no stones at all in your opponent's "ruma" hole. This may or may not be possible, depending on how many holes you use and how many stones per hole. For more information on that, see https://www.beloit.edu/computerscience/faculty/chavey/tchuka/