|Players:||3 - 5|
|Trios per color:||2|
|Number of colors:||3 to 4|
|Monochr. stashes:||3 to 4|
|- - - - - - Other equipment - - - - - -|
|Chessboard, several gaming stones or tokens of at least five different colors or styles, Scrabble tiles, and one six-sided die. Optional: a dictionary, a timer, and some printed material.|
|Setup time:||2 minutes|
|Playing time:|| 45 minutes|
0.75 Hr- 130 minutes
|Game mechanics:||Movement, Creative Writing|
|Status: complete? (v1.0), Year released: 2012|
PyLiPo (Pyramides pour Littérature Potentielle), aka IceLiPo.
This is an Looney Pyramid game in the spirit of the /French /OuLiPo school of literature (a literary movement that combined phonetic, linguistic, and mathematic constraints to generate ludic literary works). OuLiPo writers have always been interested in games and puzzles. My goal is to translate OuLiPian exercises into a competitive, collaborative, and fun format for would-be OuLiPian.
Use a combination of six significant OuLiPo-inspired generative techniques, with numerous permutations, to compete in writing exercises that are judged blindly and scored. Compete on the board to win advantages and stump opponents. As in George Perec’s famous technique, pieces move as a chess knight does. Everyone starts with one trio and plays until one player wins their other two trios.
- Remove the following tiles from play: four “A”s, six “E”s, four “I”s, one “N”, four “O”s, one “R”, one “T”, one “U” , one “X”, one “Z”. Put the remaining tiles into a bag, and extract them one at a time until they fill up the squares on the board. The leftover tiles remain in the bag.
- Each player begins with one trio of their color, placed in a tree at the points indicated on the diagram. The other pyramids are put to the side for now.
- Four unique stones or tokens are placed at the four corners of the board. The fifth token may be placed at the center of the board or left to the side.
Additional tokens, identical to the five markers may be used for scoring the OuLiPian adept points (or you may keep track of this on paper).
- Provide printed materials (a few books, magazines, or manuals), at least one text per player.
- If you are using a timer, make sure that it is visible to all players.
The colored dots indicate the places that the markers are to placed. The numbered areas indicate the starting spaces for the players' trees. The cyan-dotted squares indicate the spaces that player 1 can move pieces to on his or her first turn, starting from the area indicated and moving into either of the two marked squares. The fifth player can move their pieces from either of the four indicated directions.
To start each round, beginning with the player to the left of the person who started the last round, players move their pieces in order from smallest to largest. The person starting the round moves all of his or her pawns, and then the next player follows. Once each player has moved their pawns, the person who moved first moves their drones and it goes around until all of the queens are moved. The person who played first judges the current round.
1. All pieces move in an L shape, exactly as a knight does in chess.
2. Pieces may be capped by any equal or smaller piece. A capped piece cannot be moved until the pieces above it are first moved.
3. Whenever three pieces are stacked together, the bottom two pieces are returned to their players’ starting spaces, and only the top one remains. The pieces can reenter the board in the next round.
4. Any piece capping another piece may elect to move off of its stack by moving one space orthogonally, instead of moving in its usual manner.
5. Once all pieces are moved, if a judge caps with more pyramids than they have not currently capping pieces, they may pass, forcing the next player in line to judge the current round.
6. Any player whose active pieces are all capping players is given an immunity from challenge for the current round.
Also, if a player happens to be closest to a plurality of the markers, that person picks a secret tile from the bag.
1. After the movement round, count to see who has the closest piece to each of the four markers. Each constraint is associated with a different corner marker, except for the 'echologos, which is associated with the mid point of the board. a. The judge can choose from any constraint that they are closest to. b. If they are not the nearest player to any of the corner markers, count to see if they are closest to the center squares. If not, they lose a piece and the judging responsibility passes to the next player.
2. The judge announces the chosen constraint and gives its details, including the chosen theme for the round and the variable rules (see section five).
a. Secret tiles may be announced played, and the judge sets the timer to the agreed duration.
The Five General Generative Exercises
- A. Acroball
An acroball is an acrostic experiment. The acrostic word is vertical, as normal, but the horizontal words are spaced out to help form a triangular shape. The first line of the acrostic must have a word or words that is three letters long. Each subsequent line down should contain a word or words that consist of one more letter than the previous line. Although the exercise should conform to the theme the judge has chosen, the acrostic word is up to the players. However, if none of the judge's pyramids are capped, he or she may provide the word for the players to use. The length of the acrostic word is determined by the total pip count of all of the judge's pyramids currently on the board.
Gather together one prior source exercise from each of the players. Everyone should start with an exercise that they did not write. Starting with the first line on the page, working horizontally, left to right, each player picks two or three consecutive words from the source material, from each of the first three lines. Write these down on a blank page that you do not pass, with some space between each group of words for any words that you might add.
Excluding verbs and nouns, any one to three-letter word can be added of the writer’s own, to help develop the language.
Players then pass the source exercise to the left and work from the next exercise they are given. For this one, use words from the next three lines of the next player’s exercise per above.
Continue choosing, writing, and adding punctuation until each player has at least eight lines or eight sentences. Players should also use their own source exercise as well. If you use all of the source exercises, continue passing them around in order, skipping any players who have already completed this part of the exercise.
The final step is to write a concluding sentence of your own that contains at least one word from each of your prior sentences or lines.
In this exercise, players avoid certain letters in their writing. Obviously, some letters are easier to avoid than others, with vowels providing for the most challenging constraints.
The judge may restrict players from using up to three of the letters covered by his or her uncapped pyramids. If the judge has no qualifying pieces, judging obligations are taken by the player to the left.
The joy of composing through restrictions is multipled through the inclusion of Icehouse pieces, constructed by the Looney firm. [--Example of a lipogram that eliminates the letters "A" and "W."]
- D. Metagram
A metagram is a writing exercise that involves changing a source text to make it something new. Take a previously completed exercise of another player. Change one letter in each word of this exercise (excluding words of a single letter) and change it so that it turns into a new word. You may satisfy the restraint by either substituting one letter for another, deleting a letter, adding a new letter, or splitting a word. Any punctuation, including apostrophes, may be added. If a word cannot be altered per any of the rules, it remains as it is, and a player may circle the word to indicate that believe this to be the case. If this is the first round of the game, you may instead use any print material that you have access to.
The length of this exercise is up to the individual players, but it need not be longer than one medium sized paragraph.
When judging this for theme, do so loosely. You are encouraged to award players who have attempted to satisfy the theme, with the understanding that they probably won't be able to do so as a whole.
I remember things the way they should have been.
A REM ember stings. They sway. Then should hive bee.
- E. Wabish
This exercise is named for Walter Abish, and inspired by his Alphabetical Africa. The judge picks two or three letters from any of the tiles that they cap. If these are different letters, each player writes with words that start only with those letters. The judge may require any pattern she or he desires for alternating the letters. The number of words that are required for the exercise are determined by the pip count of the judge's uncapped pyramids. Roll the die and multiply the pip count by that amount.
Mary readied the melon, ripe tomatoes, meat, rye toast. Marvin recounted the morning rampaging Turkish moose took Mary’s rhubarb, their marvelous revelry trampled. [-- A wabish with the letters M, R, T, required in that order.]
Themes and Variable Constraints
The themes and variable constraints establish the means of judging the exercises and hopefully inspire the creative work of the players. The judge should select a general theme for the round of his or her choosing. These shouldn't be overly broad nor too specific. Strive for something like "write on a famous tragedy" instead of "write on the Hindenburg accident" or "write on something bad." Think about the types of things that would make for interesting subject matter, and don't pick things that require a level of specialized knowledge that the players might not have.
1. Some constraints have specific variables that are left up to the judge or which depend on the positioning of the pyramids on the board.
A. Vowelisms: (Acroball, Lipogram, and Wabash only) Controlling (being the topmost pyramid) all of the vowels on the board is a special, unusual situation where the judge can add a vowel-related restriction to the current constraint.
If the number of pip points that a judge has on the vowel tiles is less than ten, than they may restrict the players from using one vowel in their current exercise. If it is ten or greater, then they can restrict two vowels from the current exercise. All other rules for the current exercise still apply.
B. Kampala: (Acroball, Lipogram, and Wabash only) This restriction may be added to an exercise if all of the judge's uncapped pieces are on alphabetically consecutive tiles. Vowels must be employed consecutively, as in a, e, i, o,u. Note: If the exercise is an Acroball, the acrostic word can have any vowels, as long as they appear in the word consecutively. Also, if this is a Wabish exercise, the judge is encouraged to pick at least three letters, if they are able.
Any Kampala exercise is very difficult. The writers should be given an additional five minutes to take the exercise as far as they are able to.
Example: For a Wabish with the lettters G, M, and P, an exercise could start out,
"Games might prod Guss' mate's prior grunts....."
Secret tiles remain face down in front of the players that own them. Once they are played, they are put forward, discarded, and are only returned to the bag once it is empty.
1. Before the writing phase begins, the judge can initiate a secret rule. The judge may write along with any exercise, as usual, and may collect on an Acrobal bet if they do so.
2. At any point at within the first five minutes of a round, any player can add a secret rule to Acroball, Wabish, Lipogram exercises. They play their secret rule by revealing it. Doing so causes the other players to adjust their writing to fit the new rule.
The secret tile is played, face down. At the end of the writing phase, all players (including the judge) who wish to bet on the tile indicate that they are in. Any betting player whose acrostic word has the secret letter in it may take a token from the player who played the tile. That player in turn takes a token from any betting player who does not have the letter in their acrostic word. If any player player runs out of tokens to make payment, the person demanding payment may remove one the losing player pieces from the play field, returning it to the player's stash.
The judge can reveal a secret tile to change the constraint. The number of consecutive words that are taken from a given exercise is now equal to the number on the letter tile.
The judge tells the players to turn around and temporarily pockets a pyramid out of his or her current stash pile. The judge may rearrange the pyramids in front of her or him before the players are allowed to turn around. The pip count of the hidden pyramid determines the actual rule constraint (the number of letters that should be altered in a given word), be it a 1, 2, or 3 pip. If nobody guesses the correct pip count of the missing pyramid, the original judging rule for a metagram are used to determine the winner. If at least one player guesses correctly, they are the only ones that are in the running for the current round.
A secret tile can be played revealed to add an additional letter to the constraint.
A secret tile can be played revealed; the player may choose to allow words starting with this letter to be now playable in the current exercise, or the letter can be used to replace a letter already part of the constraint.
The Writing Round
The duration of the writing rounds should be decided on before the game begins. I recommend that you limit your writing rounds to between eight and ten minutes, with five minutes being a little too short as a limit for most experiments.
If the judge is also writing using a secret rule, then they will do this during the same time that the players are writing. Otherwise, their participation is optional.
It is advisable to leave reference material at the players' disposal, including a dictionary.
If the current constraint is an acroball or echologo the judge collects the written exercises and scores them; these cannot be challenged. Otherwise, the exercises are shuffled and then read out loud by the players. The judge can then decide if there is one exercise that she or he wishes to challenge.
The Challenge: The judge commits to the challenge prior to seeing the player’s handwriting. If the judge locates a deviation from the generative rules, he or she may punish the player by removing one of that player’s active, uncapped pyramids from the board. That player is also out of the running for the current round. However, if the player being challenged has not deviated from the rules and currently caps one or more of the judge’s pieces, that player instead receives a free tile from the bag and may send any one of the judge's pieces back to its starting position.
The players are judged on quality, accuracy, and adherence to the theme. The judge may reference the written exercises in the process.
Quality is a subjective score given to the writing that the judge deems to be of the best. This judgement should be based on their assessment of style, aesthetics, and personal interest.
Accuracy refers to the writing that best adheres to the rules of the exercise.
Theme points are rewarded to the player who has managed to best capture the theme of the given exercise.
Notes on judging: While the challenges are made blindly, the judge must have the written exercises in order to grade them properly. It is a good formality to have the writing shuffled, but, a few rounds into the exercise, judges may begin to recognize a player’s handwriting. It is frowned upon to let this knowledge alter your grading; indeed, that goes against the spirit of the game. Ideally, everyone could write their exercises on computers, and print them out at the end of the round. This is obviously not always feasible.
Points are allotted as follows:
Quality up to 8 points
Accuracy up to 5 points
Theme up to 5 points
The winner of a given round receives a new pyramid. The pyramids are given out in order from smallest to largest. Thus, they would be given small, medium, large and then small again, regardless if a pyramid has been removed from the board and returned to the player's stash.
The new pyramid is placed at their start point and can be played in the following round.
Master Oulipian Rewards:
After winning a round, the winning player receives a corresponding token for the current constraint. If one has three unique adept tokens, they can turn them in for their next pyramid piece.
If six of her or his pieces are currently in play, a player wins the game by winning one additional round or by turning in three unique tokens at the beginning or end of their turn.
If a player loses all of their pieces, they are eliminated from the game.
Tips for Writing and Play
One doesn't have to be a professional writer to play PyLiPo. In fact, while the game benefits from a good imagination, the generative techniques often help one to develop content quite naturally, so that writer's block is rarely an issue.
Having used some of these very constraints in college writing and composition classes, I have some tips that may help you to write successfully and satisfactorily.
Don't worry about keeping your exercise exclusively within a given theme. The generative exercises will work to move your writing in its own direction, taking it partially outside of your own hands. Don't worry if it gets off track too much, as abiding by the theme of the project is just one of the means by which the writing is evaluated. Sometimes it's best to get some writing down and use any extra time you have to get it to better conform to thematic concerns.
I recommend keeping track of the exercises, labeling them with detailed information on the constraint used. The purpose of the game is partially to facilitate writing as a group activity and to provide for a means to judge such writing. Thus the end product is the reward. The game's stochastic, competitive, and strategic elements provide for a means to generate such activity in a rewarding manner.
For judging, don't penalize too much for the occasional minor deviations form the rules. Breaking the occasional rule, especially if it is done in a creative way, or as a nod to the restraint itself, shouldn't be penalized too much.