Math Games with Bad Drawings

It is no secret that I am working on a third book. It will be thing of ink and splendor, with drawings so bad that stick figures everywhere will say, “Oh c’mon, nobody thinks we look like that, do they?”

It is a book, I am pleased to say, about games. Mathematical games. Strategy games. Easy-to-learn, fun-to-play, hard-to-master games.

Some will be timeless classics.

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Others will be fresh-faced originals.

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And others will be glowing gems mined from the sooty depths of the gaming world.

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But here’s the thing: Games need play-testers. And here’s the second thing: play-testers are hard to come by during a global pandemic. And here’s the third thing, which unlike the first two, is a question.

How would you like to help me play-test these games?

I’ll be sending out an illustrated rule set every Sunday, along with a Google Form for offering feedback. I ask only for: (a) Your email address; (b) Your unblinking honesty; and (c) Your not sharing the documents (other than as needed for play-testing).

Sign up for the email list here. I’d love to have you join me; you’ll both get a sneak preview of the book, and help it come to fruition.

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While I’m at it, here are some frequently asked questions:

I’m a teacher. Can I play these games with my students?


I’m a parent. Can I play these games with my kids?


I’m a soldier stationed in a nuclear silo, guarding a warhead, alongside only one other human being (with whom I am falling helplessly in love). Can I play these games with them?

No. Go back to warhead-guarding.


Aww, who am I kidding? Play away. And good luck with the romance!

What if I don’t have anyone at home to play with?

The games should mostly work over Zoom/Skype/Hangouts/shouting to your neighbor across the street.

If you need a partner, reply to the first email to let me know you’d like to be matched, or leave a comment below.

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What makes these “math” games?

I have defined “math game” as follows: A game whose players are wont to remark, “Hmm, this game feels mathy.”

For the record, this won’t be a book on combinatorial game theory. That book already exists: it was written by three eminent mathematicians over the course of a decade, and is called Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays. I give it five stars!

Hey, I have a game you should consider!

I’m delighted to hear it! Email it to me; I’m just the name of the blog at gmail.

Note that I’m looking for games which are easy to play with stuff at home. That means paper and pencil. Maybe dice. Perhaps a checker set, if you’re feeling fancy.

What are you hoping to get from your play-testers?

In no particular order:

  • A sense of where the rules need clarifying and/or tweaking.
  • A sense of camaraderie.
  • A sense of which games are the most worthy of inclusion in the book.
  • A sense of joie de vivre.
  • A sense of how each game might look to a math-averse person.
  • A sense of how each game might look to a mathematical expert.
  • A sense of what “joie de vivre” actually means.
  • A sense of this book being born not from a monologue (as my last two books were) but as part of a big, loopy, intellectually playful dialogue.

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What mathematical background should I have?

I’m aiming for “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master” sorts of games. So, if I’m doing my job right, the games will be learnable by a 10-year-old, and still serve as a decent intellectual chew-toy for a 10th-year PhD student.

Also, let’s be honest: if you’re a 10th-year PhD student, then you must be both (a) easily distracted and (b) weirdly persistent. So this play-testing gig is perfect for you.

Long story short, I prize all feedback!

I’m still on the fence.

Sign up, my dude! Here’s the link again, for those too lazy to scroll up.

(No shame. I feel you, my lazy friends. I feel you.)

16 thoughts on “Math Games with Bad Drawings

    1. Yes, there will be! Apologies, I’ve fallen behind on illustrating new rule sets because I’m busy with writing. But I’ve got at least 5 or 6 more that I definitely want to share with play-testers.

  1. Hey, I recognize that “timeless classic”! …And blue and red are swapped, at least from the convention I’ve seen in other books covering it!

    Where? On Numbers and Games, by John H. Conway (1937ā€“2020), of course!

    1. …oh, I see you already mentioned Winning Ways (by Conway et al.). Oh well!

      …and also it feels kind of awkward and wrong to mention Conway without also mentioning his recent death from COVID-19 (xkcd:2293).

      1. Yeah, it’s a sad coincidence of tragedies that we recently lost all three of the authors of Winning Ways in the span of 13 months. Berlekamp in April 2019; Guy in March 2020; Conway in April 2020.

    1. Ooh, you’re good! I actually never sent Game #24. It was a slightly modified version of Paper Boxing that I never emailed out; basically the same as #14.

  2. I’ve just read about this book in a review and it seems very good. Then I thought: maybe some of these games can be played with children in a long travel? In the past I tried to create some competitive games by using numbers from other cars plates, but they sucked and my daughters hated them. Do you believe I can adapt some game for what I want?

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