Un Chien Andalou

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Burm on physics

So it goes.
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Kris Burm is widely known for his Project GIPF series of games, the penultimate in games demanding a sharp mind and sharper focus. However, there is another side to Kris Burm who loves to create games dictated by physics. Prior to, and interspersed with his work on the Project GIPF games, Burm developed a series of games that can effectively be described as "physics as a mechanic." This post looks at a few of these games.


One of Burm's earliest published designs is a game called Balanx. The goal of Balanx is to get one's marbles from one corner of the game-board to the other. It's basically Chinese Checkers, but with a twist.

Board Game: Balanx

The twist is that the board sits on a see-saw mechanism and to move pieces one tilts the board causing the marbles to roll forward and sometimes sideways, sometimes unexpectedly both. In any case, the play of Balanx is such that players have only partial control over the moves in the game. This is a game for people who want to play Chinese Checkers, but want to maintain their credibility.


Flix is a game that's similar to Connect 4 Launchers but along only one dimension and with a goal of making triangles. That is, the players launch balls from one board segment to another in an attempt to make a triangle out of four of their marbles.

Board Game: Flix

The game board looks cool (if not plastic-y), but apparently it's a burden to build. This is a game for people who want to play Connect 4 Launchers, but want to maintain their credibility.

Tashkent Domino

Rolling dice is an action dictated by friction, shape, and material properties, therefore Tashkent Domino is yet another game that fits into this category. Of all of the games on this list, TD is the only one that I've played. The game consists of a small, portable plastic board with 9 sections holding unique domino-dice:

Board Game: Tashkent Domino

While dice rolling certainly plays a factor in the game, the players only roll them once to establish their set of starting pieces. This is a game for people who want to play Dominoes, but want to maintain their credibility.


No... not this Dice Masters.

In 1996 Burm collaborated with H. Jean Vanaise to create a collectible dice game (CDG) called Dicemaster: Cities of Doom. Now, I know very little about CDGs, but I have to think that Dicemaster was one of the earliest. I know even less about Dicemaster, but frankly the dice look amazing:

Board Game: Dicemaster: Cities of Doom

... if you're into that kind of thing.

From what I can gather, Dicemaster plays like many of the games in this genre in that rolling is simply prelude to establishing the basis for a match. It seems to me that there is a lot of game in Dicemaster, so perhaps it's something that might once again see the light of day. Well, one can be hopeful I suppose. This is a game for people who want to play Marvel Dice Masters, but want to maintain their credibility.


The game Batik seems really familiar. It's not certain if I've played it before, but I have a vague notion that I've played something like it before. That said, the game is simple: drop oddly shaped pieces into an enclosure and the person who first allows a piece to stick out of the top looses. Tom Vasel once did a review for this game:

I believe the video of the review is longer than it takes to play 1-2 games of Batik.


Finally, the last of Burm's games of physics is TAMSK; perhaps utilizing the most abstract physical property of all - time. Of all of Burm's games, TAMSK is the most fetishistic of the lot:

Board Game: TAMSK

... if you're into that kind of thing.

The goal of the game is to be the last player with the ability to make a move. Of course, losing the ability to move occurs when the sand timers run out. Simple right? Well, maybe. The movement rules are a little unclear to me, but I assume they are complex enough to cause delay. I have been [this] close to buying TAMSK a number of times, but I always balk at the price tag at the last moment. A good copy of TAMSK will run anywhere from $75 to $150USD. Ouch.


It's interesting that a designer such as Burm, who is closely associated with games demanding utmost in strategy, is also a prolific designer of physics-based games. I suspect you could take any prolific designer and find a similarly "out of character" set of previously designed games. That would make a nice series of posts in fact.

I would like to thank BGG member van00uber for inspiring this post by mentioning Flix in a comment on my previous post.
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