Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chugga chugga...

Well, it's not very streamlined yet, but I have successfully produced 2 full crumble sets with my die press. The board is also produced with a die, and it looks like I guessed right with the measurements for it. I gave 1/8 inch of leeway for the pieces to slide around, which would have been too little with my less-accurate hand-cut sets, but for the die-cut pieces, it's perfect. The pieces are loose enough to fit easily on the board, but not so loose that they get noticeably out of alignment.

The pieces themselves are all nearly identical, which gives me a very satisfied feeling. The die cutting process tends to make the smaller pieces pucker slightly, but I just flatten them out afterwards and they're fine.

Two problems remain before I'll be able to start actually getting them to people. The first is currently that the die press doesn't always cut fully through the material, so the cutting bed probably just needs to be raised by some small fraction of an inch. If that doesn't work, I may need to redesign the dies to have less blade on each die.

The second problem is the noise from the air compressor. Hoo boy! I thought when I decided to go for a low CFM (cubic feet per minute) I'd be getting a quieter compressor. No such luck. So now I'm contemplating building a plywood box and lining it with acoustic foam, and just running the compressor from in there. It won't be perfect, but hopefully I won't have to shout if there's company in the room.

Overall, I'm doing cartwheels. There's currently a pretty big list of people I want to give sets to, and up till now that has meant 4 hours of painstaking measuring and razor blades close to my fingers. Each of these first two die-pressed sets were made in a little over an hour, and I have the prospect of significantly reducing that time after I adjust the die press and streamline the process. If I can get it down to 20 minutes per set, I'll be doing cartwheels, somersaults, and tap dances.

I still haven't used the new sets to play games with anyone other than myself so far. Tomorrow I'm meeting some coworkers for our regular Thursday lunch-n-crumble session, so the sets'll get their first real workout. Hopefully everyone will like them as much as I do.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Crumble Rules Re-Expressed

While crumble was still being developed, my main goal was to keep a document that had all the rules expressed clearly, but not necessarily pithily or with any regard to continuity. That document eventually became what everyone had to refer to when they wanted to learn the game. And that document was a big reason why some newcomers would complain, "but it's so complicated!"

In fact, the rules of crumble are simpler than those of chess, and much, much simpler than many games available today. Recently I spent some time boiling the rules down into what I hope is a very clean, easy-to-understand page. The result can be found at

This is a much more visual document than the previous version, relying primarily on images, with a little text to help guide the way. It also attempts to present its information linearly, with as few forward dependencies as possible.

Whether this latest approach is successful or not is going to depend on the people who read it. I'm trying to get feedback from as many people as possible. So far most assessments are that it's a vast improvement over the previous version. But I plan to keep tweaking it until newcomers barely notice they're learning anything new. That's the ideal, anyway.