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Subject: Your Number is up rss

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Eamon Bloomfield
23569 Lübeck
Schleswig Holstein
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Calcula is a cross-word type of game played with numbers. There have been several games of this type, which has often been referred to as a 'cross-number' game. The equipment comprises a 20 by 20 squared board, and three sets of tiles. One set displays = (equals) signs, one set bears the operators + - X % and bracket symbols. The third set of tiles is marked with the numbers 0, 1, 2 to 9 and a 'joker' symbol. In the basic game the joker can stand for any of the digits.

The 'equals' signs and the operators are placed for general use as needed and the number tiles are placed face down. Each player takes five number tiles which he uses, when his turn comes, to place on the board in an arithmetically meaningful sequence. His score is augmented by the value of the expression he has constructed with his numbers, the numbers on the board already, and the operator and equals signs which are freely available. For example, suppose a player holds the digits 5, 6, 8, 9 and a joker. Suppose further that on the board are the digits 64 followed by eight or more blank squares. By adding tiles onto the 64 the player could make: 648+9=657. The 7 is represented by his joker tile, and his score would be augmented by 657. Having played his number tiles he replenishes his hand from the face-down pile.
The game continues in this way until all the number tiles have been played and the player with the highest score is the winner.

The rules of Calcula suggest 13 'variations and possibilities' such as removing the jokers and limiting the number of operators in use. One game takes from one to two hours, or even longer if the participants examine every possible way of playing pieces. Indeed it seems that the only sensible way to play the game is to specify a time limit for each move. (An American game of the same type provides a small sand-timer for this purpose). The clarity of the rules leaves something to be desired. In particular it does not seem compulsory to use one of the operators. The play 56=56 might seem to be a legal arithmetic operation (the identity operation) to some players. If you really do enjoy mental arithmetic then no doubt you will enjoy Calcula.
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