Black Holes - Space Game
Black Holes in Space
I invented the Black Holes game some years ago out of fascination with that strangest of cosmic phenomena. Black Holes is a strategy game, not hard to learn, but extremely hard to play well. It should appeal to anyone who enjoys spatial games and puzzles like the Rubik's Cube or strategic games like Chess.
But first, let's talk a little about Black Holes in Space - what they are, what causes them, and why you don't want to get too close! The idea isn't difficult. All objects in the Universe are attracted together by Gravity. When you jump, you quickly come down again, because of the Earth's gravitational field. But if you could take off at 7 miles per second, you'd never come down - you'd escape the Earth forever! There's nothing special about 7 miles per second. If you started on Jupiter, you'd have to go a lot faster to escape, because Jupiter is much heavier than the Earth and the pull of Gravity is much stronger.
Now imagine an object so massive that the escape velocity equals the speed of light. Nothing, not even light itself, could escape. That is the simplest way to describe a Black Hole. We know they exist in Space because, even though they are invisible, we can see their gravitational effect on the movement of neighbouring stars.
Surrounding every Black Hole is an 'event horizon'. Anything (including light) that crosses the event horizon is swallowed up forever by the Black Hole. OK, that's enough Physics. Let's play the Black Holes game,
Black Holes - Space Game
To play the game, you'll need the board, which represents SPACE, 29 white counters for STARS, 12 black counters for BLACK HOLES, and 1 red counter, called the NOVA, just for fun!
Alternatively (and this is the quickest way to get started) you can download my demo version and play against your own computer. But please first read the description below, because the demo version doesn't come with instructions. To make sure you do, the download link is at the bottom of this page...
The Board - SPACE
At the start of the game, the NOVA is placed in the middle of SPACE and three STARS placed as shown. The 26 remaining STARS form the POOL. Players then take turns to place one STAR from the POOL anywhere in SPACE. The idea is never to let your opponent(s) create a BLACK HOLE, but to force them to let you create them. So, how do you create a BLACK HOLE?
Black Hole Creation - Rule 1
If you add a fifth STAR to any ZONE in SPACE that already contains 4 STARS, the whole ZONE collapses into a BLACK HOLE and you capture all 5 STARS. The BLACK HOLE is placed at the centre of the ZONE, and for the rest of the game the whole ZONE is out of bounds. (Remember the Event Horizon?)
Black Hole Creation - Rule 2
Because real Space goes on forever, but our SPACE board is finite, we have to have rules for the edges and corners, but it's really the same rule as above.
If you add a fourth STAR to any EDGE ZONE that already contains three stars, a BLACK HOLE is formed as shown, and you capture all four STARS.
Black Hole Creation - Rule 3
And in any CORNER ZONE, if you add a third STAR where there are already two, a BLACK HOLE is formed as shown, and you capture all three STARS.
Rules of Play
When the POOL is empty, players re-use the stars they have captured.
The Game is OVER -
- when no legal play is available (i.e. SPACE is full)
- or when the NOVA is captured - this immediately stops the game
A Player is OUT -
- If the POOL is empty and s/he has no captured STARS left when it is his/her turn to play
(Note - when playing with two players, the game is over if one player is out, but with three or more players, the 'in' players continue the game as normal).
The NOVA behaves just like any other STAR when forming BLACK HOLES, but counts as FIVE STARS when it has been captured and the game ends.
The CHOICE RULE - If placing a STAR creates two possible BLACK HOLES, the player chooses which ONE to create.
The FAULT RULE - If a player creates a BLACK HOLE but doesn't see it, the next player may claim the STARS and place the BLACK HOLE. After doing so, the same player takes his/her turn as normal. (of course, this should never happen!)
The WINNER is the player holding most STARS when the game is over. STARS still in SPACE do not count. The NOVA (if captured) counts five.
How many can play?
The game is ideally scaled for 2 or 3 players, though more can play if you like. With 2, the tactics are clear (though difficult) - never give your opponent a BLACK HOLE chance. With 3 or more, the tactics are almost impossible to work out, as thinking more than one move ahead in this game is mind-bending!
If you want to play with 4 or more, I suggest wrapping an outer ring of 30 more hexagons round the board, and increasing the pool from 29 to 41. Don't ask me to explain the maths of that!
I wrote the demo in Quick Basic and compiled it as a DOS executable. It will run on any PC. I've never tried it on a Mac. It doesn't run in a window, but goes full screen. It is guaranteed free of virus and malware. I don't know how to program for a mouse, so you have to use the left-right-up-down keys to navigate the board. When you reach the right place, SPACEBAR completes your move.
The demo plays exactly as per the Rules, except for the 'Choice Rule'. It always gives you the first BLACK HOLE it finds, working clockwise from the centre out. It does not offer you the choice. But hey, it's free, OK? Click and Save to Disk, or Right-Click and Save Link As. Usual stuff.
The demo is a zipped folder. Open it to access the file, called BLAKHOLE.EXE, and click to run. It's completely safe, and I hope you enjoy it. The zip file also contains a pdf file of instructions. If anyone is interested in improving the program for me, I might consider posting the source code.
The video below shows a complete game, captured as screen grabs of the position before each of the player's moves.
Note: The demo version appears not to work with Windows 7. It worked with all previous versions of Windows. On Windows 7, it will run inside a DOS emulator, such as DosBox, available as a free download.
Video: Black Holes Demo Version
Now fully developed!
On the strength of this hub and the computer demo version, I was contacted by a board game developer, Gravity Games, offering to develop and market the game commercially. They have done an excellent job on the graphics and have also added a few features to the game-play to increase its commercial appeal. Using their product, you can choose to play my 'pure' strategic game as described above or the more developed version with extra features. Maybe for Christmas?
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