Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Mike Resnick's Bilsang: A contest of sorts....

Mike Resnick and I are running a contest of sorts.

Mike has just delivered the manuscript for his upcoming novel, Starship: Pirate, book two of his five book military space opera that began with Starship: Mutiny. The series chronicles the adventures of the starship Theodore Roosevelt, a military vessel operating in the years 1966-1970 G.E. (Galactic Era).

SF Reviews describe the first book as "the kind of easygoing and unabashedly old-school space opera romp for which we've come to know and love him ... whip-smart, fast-paced pure entertainment ... simply pure escapism, impossible to resist by anyone who still remembers that good old fashioned sense of wonder."

Now, if you'll excuse a tiny spoiler, in Starship: Pirate, one of the characters introduces the crew of the Teddy R. to a wildly popular, presumably alien game called "bilsang," said to be as "a game that makes chess and toprench look like kid's games." Mike describes some of the aspects of the game, but leaves the actual rules up to the reader's imagination.

Now, because I thought it was a pretty nifty idea last time, we are running some fairly extensive appendices in the back of each of the Starship books. And when I came to the passage about bilsang, I thought, what a good appendix a set of bilsang rules would make.

So, that brings us to the contest.

We're looking for some brilliant, talented gamers with time on their hands to have a go at creating the rules of bilsang. Entries can be posted here, if you prefer to keep your ideas to yourself, emailed to me through the form on the contact page of my website: Mike and I will review all entries, and, provided we find one we like, we'll run it as one of the appendices of Starship: Pirate. Winners will get a credit in the book as being a co-created of bilsang alongside Mike Resnick, as well as a couple of signed copies of the first edition. (Mike also offers 50% of anything that comes should someone actually make a bilsang game one day, but as you'll see below, there's not really that much required to be made.) Entries should come in before April 15th, but be advised that if we find something that we're sure is just plain perfect before then, we'll take it and declare the contest closed. (Starship: Pirate itself will be published by Pyr in December, 2006, so you won't have to wait too long to see yourself immortalized in print.)

Now, here's what we do know about bilsang:

1. Bilsang is " harder than it looks."
2. It's "simplicity" is what makes it so hard.
3. Bilsang does not require a board, cards, or a computer.
4. Anyone can play it, but not anyone can win.
5. Games last "Anywhere from five minutes to three months." Given that Mike and I want to be able to play test this, we suggest the "three months" description be ignored.
6. Learning the game takes "five minutes for the rules, a lifetime for the subtleties."
7. All that is required is "a flat surface, and twenty pieces. Coins will do. Or medals. Or anything that you can fit twenty of on a tabletop."

Now, since bilsang can be played with any kind of token—coins, medals, pebbles—we can infer that the tokens are not color specific, do not have markings on one side, etc... and since remembering the position of your own pieces among twenty identical tokens is probably too much for the average gamer, this seems to suggest that bilsang is not a game like chess or checkers where each side plays only their own army. My guess is that bilsang must function similarly to go or pente, games that also take five minutes to learn, but a lifetime for the subtleties to unfold. However, how bilsang is really played is up to you.

So, the game is afoot! Who knows, maybe years from now, they'll still be playing your game alongside Jetan and Fizzbin.


Jason said...

Go and Pente are both games where "each side plays only their own army".

Perhaps you were looking for something like Zertz, where no piece on the board belongs to a particular player.

Lou Anders said...

What is Zertz? I've never heard of it. It's not boardless by any chance?

Jason said...

Sorry to disappoint, but while Zertz doesn't have a traditional board, I doubt it will work for your contest.

Here is a page with more info on Zertz:

Lou Anders said...

Oh, we couldn't appropriate the rules of Zertz anyway, though reading rules might inspire other ideas. Still, I get a sense bilsang isn't a jumping game. I could, of course, be wrong.

A.R.Yngve said...

I sent in a suggestion for the Bilsang game, hope you'll like it...

I focused on the tricky bit: "How can you make the game last for months?"

Yehuda said...

Sigh. I really hate to throw water onto something like this, and I really like Mike Resnick's work, but I must ask ...

If the game I designed is any good, why would I want to give up 50% of the rights to it in exchange for credits in a book and a few copies of the book?

The specified requirements for the game are no more than you would find in a design contest and don't really deserve that the designer relinquish any rights to the game, other than to let the author quote the rules in his book.

I might be willing to submit something if I retained all rights to the game.


Lou Anders said...

given that the game doesn't utilize a board and that you can play it with rocks, I don't really see anyone marketing it.

Then again, they did produce "hackey sack," didn't they? When a sock full of sand would be just as good!

Alex Wilson said...

One of the more quietly successful areas of the video game industry right now is fun-sized games, stuff like Snood and Tetris, which have mass appeal to cell phone users and people who want to surrender time in five minute intervals rather than hours, as a complex console game often requires. Snood alone made its developer a millionaire.

Game proposal sent. Expectations not at Snood levels.