I've been going back through my
piles of stuff from the back of a cupboard personal archives, and found a sheet I had put together way back in the late nineties.
It was how to play a game of four-in-a-row (usually known as Connect 4), entirely in one dimension. Two dimensional Connect Four is quite common, and many coffee tables have a set of three-dimensional four-in-a-row, and I have even seen a version of the game played in four dimensions, but the one-dimensional version seems to be totally absent from stores and the internet.
According to my scribbled notes to accompany the sheet, the original article was by Angus Lavery in Games and Puzzles magazine, in 1994. It was created as about a quick game to play with loose counters, but I decided to make a coffee-table version that also automatically re-groups the counters for you.
(Unfortunately, I did not keep the original magazine page, so the above is all the information I have. I have tried searching the internet for Mr Lavery, to no avail. If you know Mr Lavery, or you are Mr Lavery, please get in touch so I can make sure he's OK with this Instructable.)
Step 1: Materials and Tools
The main material is 6mm plywood, along with woodglue, varnish, and two contrasting paint colours.
Tools were; Jigsaw, scroll saw, files, sander and rotary tool with sanding bits.
This is also the first time I have used a Spanish Windlass in an instructable...
Step 2: Design.
The main features of the "board" are:
- It needs three layers - the outside two layers create a raised lip to retain the counters on edge.
- It needs to be curved in the fashion of a cartoon smile, so that the counters roll to the centre.
- It needs to be a little longer than the ten counters
Step 3: Cutting
However you've created your design, you need to transfer it to the wood.
The easiest way is to draw around it in pencil (pencil can be easily sanded off the wood later).
Unless you are skilled with the scroll saw, leave wiggle-space between the pieces, and, when you cut them out, do not try to follow the lines - cut a little bit outside the lines, because you can sand off excess, but you can't easily glue sawdust back in place.
Go steady, don't force the cut, and take curves gradually - you don't want to snap the blade. If the wood starts to snag on the blade or vibrate madly, back off slightly, and try again more slowly. If this keeps happening, you may need to replace your blade.
Specific risks and hazards will vary from machine to machine, but there are some general guidelines:
- Fingers. Hold the wood behind the blade as much as you can (although some modern blades have teeth on all sides!), and if you can't avoid getting close to the blade, use a piece of scrap timber as a pusher.
- Eyes. I would say "use the guard", but I found the view through the guard to be far too distorted. Instead, I wore safety goggles.
- Dust. It turns out that scroll saw dust is finer than hand saw dust, and spends a lot of time air-borne. I should have worn a mask.
Step 4: The Spanish Windlass
Step 5: Shaping and Finishing.
Step 6: Counters.
The counters started out as rough discs cut from the same ply as the board.
This proved to be ridiculously fiddly, and I switched instead to Kitewife's suggestion of using slices from an old wooden broom-handle. To keep the slices even, I rolled the broom-handle through the scroll saw.
Half the counters need to be clearly different to the other counters, so I stained five of the counters with walnut stain. Why walnut? Because I happened to have a tin on the shelf. I applied the stain with a scrap of sponge, rather than a brush. I could simply dispose of the sponge without having to clean it off. The stain is very messy to use, so do it on a surface you don't mind getting messy, but do not use paper, as it can stick permanently to the stain as it dries.
I also varnished the counters, but they did not match the board because they were made of a different, and much older wood.
Step 7: The Finished Set!
That's it, all done.
The whole thing is a little over ten inches long, but less than an inch thick - this means that it can stand nicely on a mantelpiece, or on that narrow bit of spare shelf in front of your paperbacks.
If you make a set, and leave it visible to visitors, I guarantee it will be a conversation-starter (although, if your friends are like mine, the conversation will start "What have you been up to now...?")
Although this version is hand-made from plywood and reclaimed timber, it could be made of almost any flat material. I'd like to see folk produce cardpunk or steampunk versions, and I'd love to make a set from different-coloured sheets of laser-cut acetate (or laser-cut plywood, come to that - there would be a lot less sanding to do!). I also have an idea that this could be retro-fitted to the arm of a garden chair or sun-lounger ...
Step 8: Playing the Game.
- Arrange all ten counters in a row of alternating colours.
- Players take turns to move three counters at a time.
- The counters must be next to each other.
- At least one moved counter must be the player's own colour.
- The three pieces must be moved to the end of the row (although it doesn't matter which end)
- The three pieces must stay in the same order.
- The end pieces may not be part of a group of three moved counters.
- The gap must be closed by sliding the counters together.
- The winner is the first player to get a row of four (or more) of their own colour.
Give it a go, and if you make a set, please, post a photo of it in the comments.