Mortals: new game in development

We’ve been posting about our new table game platform for more than a month, but we’ve only shown off one game. That’s a crime and it’s time for justice.

For those who don’t yet know about it (nearly everyone), Blinks are small hexagonal bots that emit beautiful LED light in full RGB, they communicate with players and each other through light, and they can think and remember. They can be used to implement all kinds of games that wouldn’t otherwise be possible on a tabletop, and if I may say, they might be mistaken for a new form of life.


Today we show off an in-development game that wouldn’t likely exist without AutomaTiles. I’ll describe the current (and still changing) rules first, and then where it came from.

The key idea behind the game is that the pieces age and die, and the last player with a living piece wins.

Current Rules

  • the game is for two players (for now).

  • one player owns 3 purple tiles; the other owns 3 green tiles.

  • at the start each players’ 3 tiles are arranged in a triangular clump, and the clumps are put together to start the game.

  • the players take turns

  • on your turn, you must move any tile (of either color), or any group of tiles (of any combination of colors). This means you detach them from the group and put them back together with the group in any arrangement. The tiles you move must be detachable without lifting them from the table (for example you can’t move a tile surrounded by 5-6 other tiles).

  • the tiles’ lights pulse gently, and the rate of the pulse indicates how close they are to death (they panic as death approaches). When a piece dies it becomes a ghost (pulses white).

  • the rate at which each piece ages depends on who its neighbors are. A piece with more enemies than friends around it will age quickly. A piece with equal numbers of enemies and friends will age at a medium rate, and a piece with more friends than enemies around it will age slowly.

  • when you move a single piece, it gains life (20% of its starting life - exercise is good!) Note: when you move more than one piece as a group, none gain life.

  • the last player with a living tile on the table wins.

Each game is intense and lasts just a minute or two (though we can make it as long as we want by making the tiles age more slowly).

Here’s an example from a session at Babycastles in New York City:


Mortals is inspired by one of the weirdest games in the history of board games: Tamsk


In Tamsk:

  • each piece is a sand-timer, and each player owns several.

  • When a sand-timer runs out, the player who owns it can no longer use it.

  • When you move a sand-timer, you flip it, thus delaying its death.

There are more rules that make it somewhat complicated (having to do with depositing rings around the board to restrict your opponent’s movement), but the goal is the same: kill your opponent’s pieces by making them run out of time, before yours do.

Tamsk didn’t work for a number of reasons: it was expensive, the sand-timers could be glitchy, and it was maybe too complicated for the time-pressure it put players under.

That’s no knock against the designer (Kris Burm, one of the greatest board game designers ever for my money). It’s just hard to create a traditional board game with time as an intrinsic strategic variable.

But for Blinks it’s easier, so we thought we should try to design a game like that.

Because the tiles can communicate with one another, they can be made to do cool things with time that you could never do with a traditional board game, for example have tiles suck the life out of each other like little retributive vampires (which indeed they do in this game).

Mortals is still in development and will surely change before we’re done; feel free to share your opinions about how you’d like to see it develop, or other ideas for games this might inspire.

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