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[GDS] SEPTEMBER 2013 "Oldest Game Ever Found"

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richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009

September 2013 Game Design Showdown - "Oldest Game Ever Found"

We have a winner!

The Court of Mesopotamia

Congratulations to Parthon. Now head over to the critiques for some discussion, or to the comments area to see the breakdown of the voting.

Thank you entrants!

The extended deadline drew out a few more entries, so we have 5 interesting games for you to vote on!

Make sure to send your votes to mindspike by the end of next Friday, September 20th.

In mid-August, there were a couple news articles about the "oldest gaming tokens" ever found.

They were unearthed in Turkey in a burial some 5,000 years old. Since they are just pieces there's wild speculation about how they might have been used in games. And who better to speculate than a bunch of game designers?

Your September GDS is to create a game that could have been played using these pieces, at that time in history. You should try to use all the pieces, or at least all the types of pieces.

Here's a link to the original article from Discovery News. If you'd rather use a shortened link, try this

There are invaluable pictures in that article, but if you don't care to click here is a quote:

Found in a burial at Başur Höyük, a 820- by 492-foot mound near Siirt in southeast Turkey, the elaborate pieces consist of 49 small stones sculpted in different shapes and painted in green, red, blue, black and white.

"Some depict pigs, dogs and pyramids, others feature round and bullet shapes. We also found dice as well as three circular tokens made of white shell and topped with a black round stone," Haluk Sağlamtimur of Ege University in İzmir, Turkey, told Discovery News. ... "According to distribution, shape and numbers of the stone pieces, it appears that the game is based on the number 4," he said.

Now the contest details:

Rules: Make a game using the components unearthed in Turkey, based on the number 4, that might have been played 5,000 years ago.

Word Limit: Standard 500 word

Voting: Award a Gold, Silver, and Bronze (worth 3,2, and 1 points respectively) Medals to your three favorite entries. Any entrant that does not award all three Medals will receive a Pyrite Meal (that's "Fool's Gold") worth -3 votes!

When submitting your entry: Please PM submissions to richdurham with the following subject line.

Subject: GDS - SEP - [your username]

  • Submissions: Sunday the 1st through to Sunday the 8th.

  • Voting: Through to the the 15th. PM your votes to mindspike.

  • Voting Format: Each person has 3 Medals (Gold, Silver, and Bronze - with values 3, 2, and 1 vote respectively) to distribute any way they choose among the GDS entries with the following restrictions:

    • Entrants may not assign any Medals to their own entry!
    • Entrants must assign all 3 Medals.
    • An entrant who does not assign all 3 Medals will receive a Pyrite Medal (-3 votes) as a penalty.
  • Comments or Questions: Comments and questions about this Challenge were handled on the Comments Thread.

  • CRITIQUES: After voting has closed the entries will be posted for comments and critiques. Post constructive critiques and commentary about the entries to this Challenge in the [Critiques Thread].

  • GDS Details: For more details on how these Game Design Showdown Challenges work, visit the GDS Wiki Page.

Enjoy, and good luck!

-Rich and Mindspike

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #1 Demerging

Unite 4

Every player has four pieces on different locations. Goal of the game is to unite them.


  • Fieldmarkers (bulletforms): 4 white, 8 black
  • Fieldfunctions (balls): 1 black blocker, 3 white mergers
  • 4 pieces per player:
    • 4 pyramids
    • 4 pigs - one is missing
    • 4 dogs
    • 4 balls with ring - one fell apart and ring is missing
  • 6-sided dice


  • Put fieldmarkers randomly in a circle
  • Put four balls randomly on the oudside of the ring, next to the white markers
  • Every player chooses one black marker and puts a piece for every player on the outside of the ring, next to it.
  • Four black fieldmarkers have the four different pieces next to them, the other four black fieldmarkers are emtpy.

A turn:

Player throws a dice and moves one of his pieces, or, one of the balls, where

  • Movement can go two ways, clockwise or counterclockwise
  • At the end of the move there may never be more than 4 pieces on a field (balls count towards 4, fieldmarkers do not count)
  • At the end of the move there may never be more than one ball on a field
  • A piece may not pass the black blocker, it may end on the field of the blocker and continue next turn
  • The black blocker may pass other pieces


  • When a player moves one of his pieces next to another of his pieces on a field with a white mergerball, the 2 pieces move together. Move them closer to specify that.
  • Double pieces count as two with regards to 'no-more-than-four-on-field'
  • When two pieces of a player move next to another two pieces of the same player on a field with a white mergerball, the player has won. He has united all 4. This is the only exception that more than four may be on a field (even 1 opponentpiece might be here).
  • There is no merging between a double and single piece.


  • When a player plays a merger-ball on a field with a pair, they are de-merged. This cannot happen on white fields, they are safe.


  • No single piece on a field, unless it is a ball.
  • May also move pieces of opponent when you have a piece in the field where it starts
richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #2 To Block and To Rob

To Block and To Rob

An abstract board game for 2 players.

An old King has tired of lazy servants and the ugly old lady. He wants to choose one of his two sons to become the new ruler. The King asks his boys to compete and bring him four red ruby or four black obsidian gemstones. The boys nod and hurry to send their four best generals (The Four Dogs, The Four Pigs) to the desert. They demand generals to mercilessly rob every treasury they reach and hinder the opponent any way they can. But generals are not allowed to clash directly against each other.

Game Pieces

4 dogs 4 pigs 6 red 6 black 9 green 10 blue 10 white

Other Stuff

A bag Game board 7x7 square grid 20 sticks, length one square side. One D6 dice


Place all red, black, green, blue and white tokens into the bag. Deal each player 6 sticks. Keep extra sticks handy. On your turn, add one dog to the grid. Dogs will be your game tokens. Other player adds one pig. Continue until all dogs and pigs are on the board. Then draw a random piece and add it to the grid, starting from a corner. Fill the grid systematically with randomly drawn pieces so that no empty squares are found.

Game Play

On your turn, roll the dice once and move one of your dogs (if you can). OR you may put a fence (stick) somewhere on the grid, between two squares. No one can overstep a fence or remove it.

If you decide to move your dog, the dog must move as much as the dice shows. A dog can jump over any game piece (except a fence). If your dog lands on a game piece, you take the piece. A dog can also land on a empty square. However, it can't land on a pig. Dogs and pigs move left, right, up or down. Other pieces don't move.

Try to collect enough same color pieces faster than your opponent. If you got the third of some same color piece, you have earned an extra stick.

The other player act as you did, except she moves a pig (or puts a fence) on her turn. A pig can't overstep a fence and it can't land where a dog is.

The Goal

  1. You are the winner, if the other player can't move her pigs because they are tied with fences and dogs.
  2. OR you win, if you manage to collect four red pieces.
  3. OR if you collect four black pieces.
  4. OR if you collect six green pieces.
  5. OR if you collect six blue pieces.
  6. OR if you collect six white pieces. Which occurs first.
richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #3 Falling Empire

Falling empire, a three player abstract game

With the emperor dead, and his heir fallen in battle, the Land is in turmoil. Food stocks are dwindling and the enemies are approaching from every sides., and farmers are refusing to pay their taxes. Can you stop the inevitable fall of the empire?

Falling empire is a three player game played on a square board. One player controls the declining empire, starting off strong with eight pieces, representing the remaining loyalists. But they are weak and suffering, every turn the empire player has to forfeit either a ration token, strengthening the farmers, a priceless treasure token empowering the mercenaries or one of his eight starting units. The empire playing wins, if he manages to destroy either all the mercenaries units (or all farmer units if the farmer played allied with the mercenaries) the before he runs out of Treasures rations or units. This player may move one unit for each treasure he may and move them up to one space for each ration

The farmers, are the main workforce of the land, invaluable to the survival of the nation they work on land that isn't theirs, and pay high taxes. Their loyalty lay with the old emperor, not with the new council that governs in his place. The farmer player can win by either supporting the mercenary player or the emperor player. During his furn turn the farmer player must decide to where his loyalty lies, once he has chosen which player to support. Once per turn he can spend one of his pig tokens to move a unit of an ally one additional space. Farmer movement depends on his ally, the empire grants a few units far movement, whilst the mercenaries offer a little to each.

The neighboring kingdom has followed the news of the death of the emperor, and realized that now is the time to strike. They have paid good coin to hire a small army of mercenaries to sack the land before any other scavengers have a chance to descend on the faltering nation. The mercenaries have been paid to destroy the opposing army but all they care about is robbing the treasure. They win if they manage to steal all the treasure, if all the empire's units are dead or if they eliminate all farmer units if the farmer player allied with the Empire player. Mercenary movement is increased by the proximity of gold

Randomly decide which player will represent each faction. Give each player all their tokens, then the empire player places all his units and token any way he wishes somewhere in the three leftmost columns on the board, then the mercenary player get's to put his units and tokens somewhere on the three rightmost columns. Lastly the farmer player may now place his units on the middle squares,

Whenever a piece moves to an occupied space, he takes whatever stands there

Play goes in order, Empire, mercenaries, farmers and continues until a victory condition is met

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #4 The Court of Mesopotamia

The Court of Mesopotamia

The court of Mesopotamia was always a rough place, full of deceit, trickery and thievery. Playing as a lord of Mesopotamia, you desire to collect a complete set of valuable figurines to gain favour with the King.


  • Many sets of 4 figurines, representing the valuable figurines to be presented to the King.
  • One coin per player with a black side and a white side.
  • A bunch of favour tokens.


The game is played over many rounds. To set-up a round, one set of figurines per player is added to a cloth bag. Then the bag is passed around the table and each player draws one figurine.

Game play

Turns go clockwise around the table. On each player's turn they can either negotiate with another player or they can attempt to steal from them.

If the player wants to negotiate, they offer to trade with another player. Trade offers can be with any number of pieces, including 0. Promises can also be made, but they don't need to be honoured. The other player and even players not involved in the trade can give advice and suggestions for the trade. Once the offer is presented the other player then accepts or rejects the offer. If the offer is accepted, the players trade. If it's rejected, it's the end of the player's turn. The player can't offer again, and the other player can't counter offer.

If the player wants to steal, they pick a player and one of their pieces, and then ante up a piece of their own. The stealer then takes their black and white token, places it on the table secretly with their hand covering it and tells announces what colour they chose, which they can lie about. The defending player then puts their token on the table in the same way, but doesn't need to say. They both reveal the tokens at the same time. If they match, the defending player catches the thief and the stealing player needs to give him the token as compensation. If the tokens are different, the stealing player is not caught and gets away with the token.

The round is over when one player manages to get all of a set together to present to the King and gain favour with the king. That player gets a favour token, and then another round begins. First player to 4 favour tokens wins the game.


I would see the game being very fun with all the bluffing and stealing going on. It's kind of a race/collection/bluffing/trading game, and a cut-down representation of the sort of events that would happen in a court of that time.

richdurham's picture
Joined: 12/26/2009
Entry #5 Merchant's Bazaar aka. Merchants Bizarre

Merchant’s Bazaar aka. Merchants Bizarre

Game pieces:

  • 48 shells, white on one side black on the other.
  • 48 colored tokens in red, blue, and green; 4 of each color of dogs, pigs, pyramids, and obelisks (bullet shapes).
  • 1 six-sided die, two faces each of red, blue, and green. (RGB)
  • 1 six-sided die, three faces each of white and black. (BW)

Game setup:

  1. Distribute shells evenly between players. This is their “stock”.
  2. Players decide how many shells to face up of each color.
  3. Place all tokens in the middle. This is the “store”.

Game play:

  1. Roll both dice.
  2. A player may make up to four trades between their stock and the store. Player to store trades are always one for one. Trades may be shell for shell, shell for token, or token for token.
  3. A player may make up to four trades between their own stock and another player’s stock. Player to player trades are always two for one. Trades may be two shells for one token, two tokens for one token, two tokens for one shell, or one shell and one token for one token. The other player may not refuse the trade (but gains two items for losing one).
  4. Traded shells must match the color of the BW die.
  5. Traded tokens must match the color of the RGB die.
  6. Turn passes to the next player.

To win:

To win, a player must collect one of each color and type of token. The first player to collect a set of 12 tokens (1 blue dog/pig/pyramid/obelisk, 1 red dog/pig/pyramid/obelisk, and 1 green dog/pig/pyramid/obelisk) wins the game.

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