08 April 2009

Gravity Pods 2, Part II

On Monday I wrote about a browser game that replicates (and more) a game I made up as a teenager.
SpaceAnimations.org gravity wellWhen I was 14 or so, a friend and I played a game with magnets and steel ball bearing. The idea was to launch you ball bearing at the right speed and direction to navigate a series of magnetic barriers, and finally hit the final target, which represented the other players "base". I don't think we ever had a name for it, but the idea in our heads was that this represented a battle in space, launching a missiles of into a complex gravity well to attack the enemy. Very low tech, but we had a great time with it. [Image SpaceAnimations.org]
While I really like the browser game, I think there is something to be said to the old fashioned approach, because that was a good game too. If you want to try the low tech approach, here is how you can do it:

You need the following materials-
  • At least 4 large (~1 inch) ring magnets (gravity wells and player bases)
  • 4 to 8 small (~1/4 inch) button magnets (defensive satellites).
  • A few steel ball bearings (missiles).
  • 2 plastic straws (these make ideal "missile launchers").
  • Any convenient smooth and level surface as a play area.
Actually, any shape magnets will probably do just as well, but different sizes add interest. Cheap ceramic magnet will work just fine.

The rules are simple, and you may modify them to your hearts desire:
  1. Each player starts with an equal number of each kind of magnet.
  2. The players place their base (a large ring magnet) on opposite sides of the play area.
  3. Players take turns placing large ring magnets between their bases, creating the "gravity well".
  4. Players place small button magnets around their base as "defensive satellites".
Note: It's important to place all the magnets with the same pole up so they repel each other rather than attract. The reason for this will soon become obvious.

  1. Players take turns launching their ball bearings (BB's) at each other. BB's must be launched from nearby the players base or satellites, but may be launched far enough away so that their own magnets do not interfere. Suggestion: Roll the BB's down through a plastic straw. This makes aiming and controlling launch speed much easier.
  2. If a BB contacts a player's base, that is a "hit".
  3. If a BB strikes a defensive satellite (of either player), that defensive satellite is considered destroyed and is removed. Sometimes a "chain reaction" may occur causing defensive satellite to contact each other. These should also be considered as destroyed, and removed from play. If through a chain reaction a defensive satellite contacts a player base, do not count that as a hit (though it is an interesting variation).
  4. The first player to 3 hits wins.
That's it. I recall carrying the magnets around with me so we could play or the lunch table at school. Let me know if you try it, and have fun!
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