Title:
THREE DIMENSIONAL CUBIC STRATEGY GAME
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Embodiments relate to a three-dimensional (3D) strategy game in which various-shaped pieces are stacked upon a playing surface according to certain rules. The game pieces are 3D shapes formed by a combination of cubic units. Each cubic unit is a standard six-faced cube. Embodiments of the strategy game require at least two players, but these players need not all be human players. As players take turns placing pieces on the grid according to certain rules, the square cells become occupied by pieces and the players begin to place pieces on top of previously placed pieces, thus building a vertical “tower” out of the game pieces over the course of the game. After a certain condition is met, such as a player not being able to make another move according to the rules, the game is over and a winner and/or a loser are declared.



Inventors:
Powell, Aaron C. (ORLANDO, FL, US)
Spitler, Robert (ORLANDO, FL, US)
Application Number:
13/834781
Publication Date:
10/17/2013
Filing Date:
03/15/2013
Assignee:
RUFF RUFF GAMES, LLC (ORLANDO, FL, US)
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/12
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
WONG, STEVEN B
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
SALIWANCHIK, LLOYD & EISENSCHENK (A PROFESSIONAL ASSOCIATION PO Box 142950 GAINESVILLE FL 32614)
Claims:
1. A method of playing a game, comprising: a) providing a first player with a first plurality of game pieces; b) providing a second player with a second plurality of game pieces, wherein each game piece of the first plurality of game pieces and each game piece of the second plurality of game pieces is either a single cubic unit piece or a composite piece, wherein each composite piece is comprised of two or more cubic units, wherein a cubic unit is defined as a cube where each edge of the cube has a length of a cubic unit length, wherein each composite piece has a length, width, and height each less than or equal to N cubic unit lengths; c) placing an initial game piece from the first plurality of game pieces onto a playing surface by the first player according to a set of rules; d) placing a subsequent game piece from the second plurality of game pieces onto the playing surface by the second player according to the set of rules; e) placing a subsequent game piece from the first plurality of game pieces onto the playing surface by the first player according to the set of rules; and f) repeating d) and e) until an end-of-game condition is met according to the set of rules.

2. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: selecting the first player, wherein the first player places the initial game piece.

3. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: declaring a winning player.

4. The method according to claim 1, wherein the set of rules comprises: the initial game piece is placed by the first player such that the first player chooses the placement of the initial game piece and such that no portion of the initial game piece hangs over the playing surface to create a void, and wherein the initial game piece is a composite piece comprised of three or more cubic units; and the subsequent game pieces are placed such that at least one face of one of the cubic units of the subsequent game piece is aligned to a face of a cubic unit of at least one previously placed game piece that the subsequent game piece is placed immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of, and no portion of the subsequent game piece hangs over the playing surface or a previously placed game piece to create a void.

5. The method according to claim 2, wherein the set of rules further comprises: the subsequent game piece is placed such that the subsequent game piece is immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of at least one previously placed game piece that was placed by the opposing player.

6. The method according to claim 1, wherein the set of rules further comprises: the end-of-game condition is that the first player or second player cannot place a subsequent game piece according to the rules.

7. The method according to claim 1, wherein the set of rules further comprises: wherein when the end-of-game condition is triggered assigning a winning player points based on pieces remaining unplayed by a losing player, playing additional games until either the first player or the second player is assigned points totaling above a predetermined number.

8. The method according to claim 1, further comprising: providing a playing surface.

9. The method according to claim 8, wherein the playing surface comprises: a grid, wherein the grid is comprised of a plurality of square cells wherein each side of each cubic unit length, of square cells of the plurality of square cells has a length of one cubic unit length, wherein an outer boundary of the grid is rectangular, wherein the outer boundary of the grid has dimensions of L and M cubic unit lengths, where L≧2N and M≧2N.

10. The method according to claim 1, wherein N=2.

11. The method according to claim 1, wherein N=3.

12. The method according to claim 9, where L=5 and M=5.

13. The method according to claim 9, wherein N=2, L=4, and M=4.

14. The method according to claim 4, wherein the set of rules further comprises: after a predetermined number of subsequent pieces have been placed, each subsequent game piece placed thereafter is immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of at least two previously placed game pieces.

15. The method according to claim 14, wherein the predetermined number of subsequent pieces is three, wherein the at least two previously placed game pieces are two of the subsequent pieces placed by the other player.

16. The method according to claim 14, wherein the at least two previously placed game pieces were not all placed by the first player and were not all placed by the second player.

17. The method according to claim 1, wherein all pieces of the first plurality of game pieces have a first identifying feature, wherein all pieces of the second plurality of game pieces have a second identifying feature, wherein the first identifying feature and the second identifying feature are selected from the group consisting of color, composite material, at least one letter, at least one number, at least one word, opacity, luminosity, at least one symbol, at least one logo, and at least one artwork.

18. The method according to claim 4, wherein the set of rules further comprises: the initial game piece is a predetermined piece of a first plurality of pieces and/or is placed on a predetermined location on the playing surface.

19. The method according to claim 4, wherein the set of rules further comprises: subsequent game pieces are placed such that the subsequent game piece does not extend above a height of a predetermined number of cubic units lengths.

20. The method according to claim 10, each player is assigned a plurality of game pieces that form the player's set. In a specific embodiment, each player's set is composed of a number “o” of the single cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 1-2, a number “p” of the double cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 3-4, a number “q” of the triple cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 5-6, a number “r” of the quadruple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 7-9, a number “s” of the quadruple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 10-11, a number “t” of the quadruple cubic unit piece C, as shown in FIGS. 12-16, a number “u” of the quadruple cubic unit piece D, as shown in FIGS. 17-21, a number “v” of the quintuple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 22-25, a number “w” of the quintuple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 26-30, a number “x” of the sextuple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 31-33, a number “y” of the sextuple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 34-38, and a number “z” of the sextuple cubic unit piece C, as shown in FIGS. 39-44, where o=1, p=3, q=3, r=2, s=1, t=1, u=1, v=1, w=1, x=1, y=1, and z=1.

21. A non-transitory media storage device having machine-readable instructions stored thereon for performing a method of playing a game between two or more players, the method comprising: a) providing a first player with a first plurality of game pieces; b) providing a second player with a second plurality of game pieces, wherein each game piece of the first plurality of game pieces and each game piece of the second plurality of game pieces is either a single cubic unit piece or a composite piece, wherein each composite piece is comprised of two or more cubic units, wherein a cubic unit is defined as a cube where each edge of the cube has a length of a cubic unit length, wherein each composite piece has a length, width, and height each less than or equal to N cubic unit lengths; c) placing an initial game piece from the first plurality of game pieces onto a playing surface by the first player according to a set of rules; d) placing a subsequent game piece from the second plurality of game pieces onto the playing surface by the second player according to the set of rules; e) placing a subsequent game piece from the first plurality of game pieces onto the playing surface by the first player according to the set of rules; and f) repeating d) and e) until an end-of-game condition is met according to the set of rules.

22. The media storage device according to claim 16, wherein the set of rules comprises: the initial game piece is placed by the first player such that the first player chooses the placement of the initial game piece and such that no portion of the initial game piece hangs over the playing surface to create a void, and wherein the initial game piece is a composite piece comprised of three or more cubic units; and the subsequent game pieces are placed such that at least one face of one of the cubic units of the subsequent game piece is aligned to a face of a cubic unit of at least one previously placed game piece that the subsequent game piece is placed immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of, and no portion of the subsequent game piece hangs over the playing surface or a previously placed game piece to create a void.

23. The media storage device according to claim 21, wherein the first player is a computer controlled and the second player is human or the second player is computer controlled and the first player is human

24. A gaming apparatus, comprising: a first plurality of game pieces; a second plurality of game pieces, wherein each game piece of the first plurality of game pieces and each game piece of the second plurality of game pieces is either a single cubic unit piece or a composite piece, wherein each composite piece is comprised of two or more cubic units, wherein cubic unit is defined as a cube where each edge of the cube has a length of cubic unit length, wherein each composite piece has a length, width, and height each less than or equal to N cubic unit lengths.

25. The gaming apparatus according to claim 24, further comprises a set of rules, wherein the set of rules comprises: the initial game piece is placed by the first player such that the first player chooses the placement of the initial game piece and such that no portion of the initial game piece hangs over the playing surface to create a void, and wherein the initial game piece is a composite piece comprised of three or more cubic units; and the subsequent game pieces are placed such that at least one face of one of the cubic units of the subsequent game piece is aligned to a face of a cubic unit of at least one previously placed game piece that the subsequent game piece is placed immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of, and no portion of the subsequent game piece hangs over the playing surface or a previously placed game piece to create a void.

26. The gaming apparatus according to claim 24, further comprising: a playing surface, wherein game pieces from the first plurality of game pieces and game pieces from the second plurality of game pieces are configured to be placed on the playing surface in order to play a game.

27. The gaming apparatus according to claim 25, further comprising: a playing surface, wherein game pieces from the first plurality of game pieces and game pieces from the second plurality of game pieces are configured to be placed on the playing surface in order to play a game.

28. The gaming apparatus according to claim 25, wherein the set of rules comprises: after a predetermined number of subsequent pieces have been placed, each subsequent game piece placed thereafter is immediately adjacent to and/or directly on top of at least two previously placed game pieces.

29. The gaming apparatus according to claim 28, wherein the predetermined number of subsequent pieces is three, wherein the at least two previously placed game pieces are two of the subsequent pieces placed by the other player.

Description:

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Embodiments of the invention relate to a three-dimensional (3D) strategy game in which various-shaped pieces are stacked upon a playing surface according to certain rules. While there are many tower-building games in the art, the vast majority of these games involve player coordination and physics rather than strategy, and none of them have the unique game play of embodiments of the subject invention. Embodiments of the invention have educational value, in addition to entertaining players, as the game involves players to engage in spatial and visual logic, as well as long-term strategic planning.

BRIEF SUMMARY

Embodiments of the invention involve the placement of various game pieces on a playing surface. The playing surface can be any surface that can support the playing pieces in a sufficient manner to allow the playing pieces to remain on the playing surface where they are placed and/or on the previously placed pieces on which they are placed. In an embodiment, a playing surface can be provided. Such a playing surface can have some indication of the boundaries for play. In an embodiment, the playing has indicators that assist the player to know where the boundaries for the game are. Such indicator can be lines, dots, a pattern of colors, indentations, raised features, or other visually identifiable features. In a specific embodiment, the playing surface has no visual indicators to indicate the boundaries of play. In a specific embodiment, the playing surface can have a grid that has square cells. The game pieces can be 3D shapes formed by a combination of cubic units. These game pieces can be solid, hollow, porous, or have other properties as desired. Each cubic unit is a standard six-faced cube. In an embodiment, each face of the cubic unit is a square that is dimensioned to be the same size as the square cells on the grid provided on the playing surface. The game pieces are composed of individual cubic units aligned orthogonally, and thus, in an embodiment having a grid pattern having square cells, a game piece can be placed on the playing surface's grid such that it occupies one or more square cells.

Embodiments of the subject strategy game require at least two players, but these players need not all be human players. As players take turns placing pieces on the grid according to certain rules, the square cells become occupied by pieces and the players begin to place pieces on top of previously placed pieces, thus building a vertical “tower” out of the game pieces over the course of the game. After a certain condition is met, such as a player not being able to make another move according to the rules, the game is over and a winner and/or a loser are declared.

In some embodiments, the strategy game is played as a traditional board game, with the playing surface and game pieces made out of a material such as mold-injected plastic or wood. In contrast, other embodiments are implemented via electronic devices providing graphical representations of the pieces and playing surface, and are played via electronic devices, where a player either shares an electronic device with one or more other players, or uses an electronic device by himself. Embodiments can be implemented with a system that communicates each player's moves to the other one or more players' devices, or to the system if one or more of the players is computer generated. In further embodiments, the electronic device on which the strategy game is played is capable of directing one or more non-human, computer-controlled players to play with the human players and respond to other players' moves in a strategic fashion.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIGS. 1-2 show a single cubic unit piece that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 3-4 show a double cubic unit piece that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 5-6 show a triple cubic unit piece that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 7-9 show a quadruple cubic unit piece A that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 10-11 show a quadruple cubic unit piece B that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 12-16 show a quadruple cubic unit piece C that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 17-21 show a quadruple cubit unit piece D that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 22-25 show a quintuple cubic unit piece A that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 26-30 show a quintuple cubic unit piece B that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 31-33 show a sextuple cubic unit piece A that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 34-38 show a sextuple cubic unit piece B that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIGS. 39-44 show a sextuple cubic unit piece C that can be utilized with an embodiment of the subject invention.

FIG. 45 shows an illegal void in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 46 shows a legal touch in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 47 shows an established 4×4 cubic unit boundary in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

FIG. 48 shows a standard two-person game in play in accordance with an embodiment of the invention.

DETAILED DISCLOSURE

Embodiments of the invention relate to a three-dimensional strategy game played with a plurality of cube-based game pieces. Embodiments of the game can be played on a playing surface. Referring to FIGS. 1-44, cube-based game pieces that can be utilized with various embodiments of the invention are shown. Each piece is either one cubic unit, such as the single cubic unit piece as shown in FIG. 1 and FIG. 2, or is made of multiple cubic units, such as the game pieces shown in FIGS. 3-44. Referring to the game pieces shown in FIGS. 1-44, none of the game pieces have more than two cubic units along a given side. In a preferred embodiment, the dimensions of the game pieces do not exceed two cubic units along any side, and, therefore, do not exceed 2 by 2 by 2 cubic units. Additional embodiments can utilize game pieces having no more than N cubic units along a side, where n is an integer. In a further specific embodiment, N=3, such that there are game pieces with 3 cubic units along 1, 2, or 3 sides, but no game piece exceeds dimensions of 3 by 3 by 3 cubic units.

The game pieces may be constructed from various materials, such as plastic, wood, metal, ceramic, or the like. In one embodiment, the game pieces are made from injection molded plastic. It is preferred that each player's set of game pieces be a different color or have some features that distinguish one player's pieces from the other. Specific embodiments can allow players to share a common game piece set, where the pieces can, optionally, be the same color and/or have other features in common.

In an embodiment, each player is assigned a plurality of game pieces that form the player's set. In a specific embodiment, each player's set is composed of a number “o” of the single cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 1-2, a number “p” of the double cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 3-4, a number “q” of the triple cubic unit piece, as shown in FIGS. 5-6, a number “r” of the quadruple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 7-9, a number “s” of the quadruple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 10-11, a number “t” of the quadruple cubic unit piece C, as shown in FIGS. 12-16, a number “u” of the quadruple cubic unit piece D, as shown in FIGS. 17-21, a number “v” of the quintuple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 22-25, a number “w” of the quintuple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 26-30, a number “x” of the sextuple cubic unit piece A, as shown in FIGS. 31-33, a number “y” of the sextuple cubic unit piece B, as shown in FIGS. 34-38, and a number “z” of the sextuple cubic unit piece C, as shown in FIGS. 39-44, where o≦4, p≦6, q≦6, r≦4, s≦2, t≦2, u≦2, v≦2, w≦2, x≦2, y≦2, and z≦2.

In a further embodiment, each player is assigned a set of game pieces where o=1, p=3, q=3, r=2, s=1, t=1, u=1, v=1, w=1, x=1, y=1, and z=1. In another embodiment, each player is assigned a set of game pieces where o=2, p=4, q=4, r=2, s=1, t=1, u=1, v=1, w=1, x=1, y=1, and z=1. In yet another embodiment, each player is assigned a set of game pieces where o=4, p=6, q=6, r=4, s=2, t=2, u=2, v=2, w=2, x=2, y=2, and z=2.

In a further embodiment, where two teams of two players on a team play against each other, each team is provided a set of game pieces where o=2, p=6, q=5, r=4, s=2, t=2, u=2, v=2, w=2, x=2, y=2, and z=2. In a further specific embodiment, such a game is played with a playing boundary of 5 cubic unit lengths by 5 cubic unit lengths (L=5, M=5). In a further specific embodiment, the players can move such that the teams take turns and the players on each team take turns when it is their team's turn, such that all four players move in a repetitive pattern.

Any description containing a reference to a “top” or “bottom” is to be construed in the following manner: the direction toward the playing surface is defined as the bottom, and the direction toward the highest level to which game pieces are stacked is defined as the top.

Similarly, references to the “height” of the structure formed by the game pieces is to be construed as how many cubic units the game pieces are stacked as counting from the playing surface to the uppermost game piece.

Referring to FIGS. 45-48, specific embodiments of the game are preferably played on a playing surface. In an embodiment shown in FIGS. 45-48, the playing surface is a 10 cubic unit diameter circular surface. If desired, the playing surface may be rotatable about an axis passing through the center thereof Such a rotating playing surface can allow a player to rotate the stacked pieces to view the stacked pieces from various angles without having to move his or her eyes around the stacked pieces. Embodiments implemented via electronic devices can allow rotation of the stacked pieces as well to allow a player to view the stacked pieces from various angles. The playing surface may be constructed from plastic, wood, metal, ceramic, or the like. In a preferred embodiment, the playing surface is made from injection molded plastic. In a specific embodiment, the game can be on any available surface, and a playing surface need not be provided. If a playing surface is provided, the playing surface need not have any indications of the playing boundaries. In specific embodiments, the playing surface has a pattern showing the boundaries of play, e.g., outer boundary. In further specific embodiments, square cells corresponding in size to the dimensions of the cubic units that the game pieces are based on can be included, as shown in FIG. 47. In still further embodiments, a portion of grid pattern shown in FIG. 47 can be provided, such as the grid pattern without the outer boundary, the points of intersection of the inner grid lines, the four corners of the outer boundary. The grid pattern can facilitate the placement of game pieces at proper positions and orientations. In one embodiment, the grid pattern is a square grid that is 4 by 4 cubic units, as shown in FIG. 47. Other embodiments are contemplated that are greater or less than 4 by 4 cubic units, as well as embodiments having a grid pattern that is a rectangular shape or a non-regular shape. In a specific embodiment, the playing boundary is 2N×2N, where N is the maximum number of cubic units along a side of the game pieces. In another embodiment, the playing boundary has dimensions of L×M, where L and M are not necessarily equal to each other and are both greater than or equal to 2n.

The game pieces, game piece set storage bags, playing surface, and instructions for playing the game may be supplied together in the form of a kit. Other kits may include, for example, game pieces and instructions; game pieces and playing surface; game pieces, playing surface, and instructions; game pieces and game piece storage bag, or bags; game pieces, game piece storage bag, or bags, and instructions; and game pieces, game piece storage bag, or bags, instructions, and playing surface. In any of these kits having a playing surface and instructions, the instructions can be separate from the playing surface or attached to the playing surface, such as printed on the back of the playing surface.

In a standard two-player game, each player is given a set of cubic game pieces. Players take turns selecting pieces from their set and placing them in such a way as to prevent their opponent from making a legal play. When a player is unable to play a piece, the opponent wins the game in a two player game or if only one other player remains in the game, or the player is eliminated if two or more other players are remaining in the game. In other embodiments, game play is not limited to two players and may occur between three or more individual players or teams of players.

According to a preferred embodiment, each player is given a set of cubic game pieces, the dimensions of which are comprised of and include at least one single cube shaped unit. By combining unit cubes in various arrangements, the assortment of game pieces is formed. In an embodiment, the game is played on a rotating platform for the ease of player observation and/or turn-taking, although any flat surface is sufficient. Play begins by one player placing a piece onto the gaming surface. Following plays are made in sequential order, alternating between two or more players, with one piece being placed per turn. In a particular embodiment, no player can place a single unit piece or a double unit piece (i.e., a composite piece composed of exactly two cubic units) until that player has already played a predetermined number of turns. A legal play involves placing a game piece so that at least one single cubic unit surface of the piece touches another. Furthermore, a legal play cannot result in one or more cubic units of a piece extending over a grid square to create a void in the layer immediately below it; rather, each cubic unit of a piece must be supported by a previously placed game piece that is immediately beneath it. A played piece cannot exceed the specified boundaries, the dimensions of which are defined in terms of multiples of cube unit and the location of which is determined by the placement of initial game pieces. As an example, in an embodiment where the dimensions of the playing boundaries are defined, but playing boundaries are not before play begins, limitations as to the location of the playing boundaries can result from the placement of the initial pieces, such that future play must be played such that a playing boundary with the predetermined dimensions could be drawn around the previous played pieces and the newly played piece. Other embodiments can define the dimensions and the location of the playing boundaries before play begins, such as defining the playing boundaries by the grid on the playing surface. Play continues until a player cannot make a legal play, at which time he or she is eliminated.

In one embodiment, the winning player is determined by assigning a point value to each game piece. When a player can no longer make a legal play, that player's score is calculated by adding the point values of each piece that the player played. The winning player can then be defined as the player with the highest score, or in the alternative, the lowest score. In another specific embodiment, each player starts with a certain number of points to be subtracted from, it is predetermined how many points are needed to win a match, or it is predetermined how many games will be played, and at the end of each game, the winner of the game gets the points added up from the losing player's unplayed pieces either subtracted from a starting total or added up. In this way, after a certain number of games, a winner of the match is determined, or after a total number of points for one player exceeds the predetermined number, a winner of the match is determined.

In another embodiment, a legal move requires that a player set down a game piece so that it comes into contact with not just one game piece, but two or more pieces. In a further embodiment, these two or more game pieces belong to separate players. Alternatively, these two or more game pieces belong to the same player, who may or may not be the player whose turn it is. Because it is impossible for a game piece to touch two pieces until the game board is populated by game pieces from previous players' turns, this rule does not go into effect until at least two turns have elapsed. In a specific embodiment, once four turns have elapsed (i.e., each player has placed two pieces), each player must place subsequent pieces such that two of the opponent's pieces are touched by the placed piece.

In other embodiments, the rules at the start of the game require the player who makes the opening move to place a particular game piece from their set that is predetermined. In another embodiment, the opening game piece may or may not be predetermined, but the player who makes the opening move must place a game piece in a particular position with respect to the playing boundaries that is predetermined. In a further specific embodiment, a unique piece that is different from the pieces in the set provided to the players, and/or independent piece not from one of the set of pieces provided to the players is used as a starter piece for the game, either before the first player places a piece or as the piece placed by the first player.

In one embodiment, the structure that is formed upon the playing surface is limited in height to a certain predetermined number of cubic units. In another embodiment, vertical construction of the structure is limited in that a lower layer must be completely occupied with game pieces before players can build vertically. The thickness of this lower layer is dictated by the maximum number of cubic units that a game piece extends in any one direction. For example, in embodiments with game pieces limited to dimensions of 2 by 2 by 2 cubic units, this lower layer would be 2 cubic units in height.

In other embodiments, game play occurs via software on an electronic device, such as a computer, tablet, PDA, arcade, video gaming system, smart phone, or handheld device. These embodiments can offer additional features compared with embodiments using physical game pieces, such as the ability for players to share in a single game across a network. Networked game play means that players need not be in the same room, or even the same continent for that matter. Players can also play networked games where one or more players uses a game set with physical pieces and just places the piece the other player(s) make on the playing surface being used by that player, where optioning video of the game pieces, e.g., via Skype or other video link, can be provided to other player(s) to allow them to view the played game pieces and/or the remaining available game pieces. Alternatively, some software embodiments are executed on the same particular electronic device, and players taking turns on that device can be in close proximity to each other or can interact with the electronic device at different times and/or places. In any embodiment in which game play occurs via software on an electronic device, one or more of the “players” may be a non-human player, such as a computer-controlled based player that is capable of reacting to other players' moves. Such moves can be based on strategy or just based on predetermined moves in, for example, a database or look-up table, and can, optionally, take into account skill level. Such computer-controlled players can be based on artificial intelligence (AI) if desired. In specific embodiments that support an AI player, the one or more human players are able to select the difficulty of the AI player such that a lower or “easy” difficulty results in an AI that makes relatively unintelligent moves with little strategic value, but as the AI's difficulty setting is increased, the AI player's moves have increasingly more strategic value.

Aspects of the invention, such as receiving input recording a player's moves, displaying played game pieces, displaying remaining game pieces, making computer-controlled moves as a player, determining moves for a computer-controlled player, and monitoring whether game rules are adhered to, may be described in the general context of computer-executable instructions, such as program modules, being executed by a computer. Generally, program modules include routines, programs, objects, components, data structures, etc., that perform particular tasks or implement particular abstract data types. Moreover, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the invention may be practiced with a variety of computer-system configurations, including multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based or programmable-consumer electronics, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and the like. Any number of computer-systems and computer networks are acceptable for use with the present invention.

Specific hardware devices, programming languages, components, processes, protocols, and numerous details including operating environments and the like are set forth to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. In other instances, structures, devices, and processes are shown in block-diagram form, rather than in detail, to avoid obscuring the present invention. But an ordinary-skilled artisan would understand that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. Computer systems, servers, work stations, and other machines may be connected to one another across a communication medium including, for example, a network or networks.

As one skilled in the art will appreciate, embodiments of the present invention may be embodied as, among other things: a method, system, or computer-program product. Accordingly, the embodiments may take the form of a hardware embodiment, a software embodiment, or an embodiment combining software and hardware. In an embodiment, the present invention takes the form of a computer-program product that includes computer-useable instructions embodied on one or more computer-readable media.

Computer-readable media include both volatile and nonvolatile media, transient and non-transient media, removable and nonremovable media, and contemplate media readable by a database, a switch, and various other network devices. By way of example, and not limitation, computer-readable media comprise media implemented in any method or technology for storing information. Examples of stored information include computer-useable instructions, data structures, program modules, and other data representations. Media examples include, but are not limited to, information-delivery media, RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory or other memory technology, CD-ROM, digital versatile disks (DVD), holographic media or other optical disk storage, magnetic cassettes, magnetic tape, magnetic disk storage, and other magnetic storage devices. These technologies can store data momentarily, temporarily, or permanently.

The invention may be practiced in distributed-computing environments where tasks are performed by remote-processing devices that are linked through a communications network. In a distributed-computing environment, program modules may be located in both local and remote computer-storage media including memory storage devices. The computer-useable instructions form an interface to allow a computer to react according to a source of input. The instructions cooperate with other code segments to initiate a variety of tasks in response to data received in conjunction with the source of the received data.

The present invention may be practiced in a network environment such as a communications network. Such networks are widely used to connect various types of network elements, such as routers, servers, gateways, and so forth. Further, the invention may be practiced in a multi-network environment having various, connected public and/or private networks.

Communication between network elements may be wireless or wireline (wired). As will be appreciated by those skilled in the art, communication networks may take several different forms and may use several different communication protocols. And the present invention is not limited by the forms and communication protocols described herein.

All patents, patent applications, provisional applications, and publications referred to or cited herein are incorporated by reference in their entirety, including all figures and tables, to the extent they are not inconsistent with the explicit teachings of this specification.

It should be understood that the examples and embodiments described herein are for illustrative purposes only and that various modifications or changes in light thereof will be suggested to persons skilled in the art and are to be included within the spirit and purview of this application.