Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Electronic board game - time to start shouting about it?

We've been busy working on our electronic board game and maybe it's time we started talking to a few people to see if there's any interest in taking it beyond our current one-off-prototype stage. So far, all the hardware works perfectly, but we've still got some Flash coding to do, to finish off the accompanying app.
The dozen or so board sections we've already made up do look quite impressive when laid out as part of a tabetop game:

Even with just seven of our twelve board sections connected together, we're seeing the start of an interesting board game layout. And because of the way it all works, new board sections can be added at any time, even in the middle of a game. Space Hulk anyone?

Now it's one  thing to suggest an idea to someone, and another to actually show them. So over the next few evenings, we're going to work on a video to demonstrate the electronic board game in use. It may take a bit of smoke-n-mirrors to show it's full potential (since we haven't finished coding the app yet!) but already things are looking really exciting.

In fact, we're considering taking a trip to the Salute 2014 exhibition in London this weekend, to talk to game and miniature manufacturers and suppliers, to see if there's any interest in making a commercial product. It might be a bit of a punt, but there may be someone out there, just dying to take their own boardgame idea "to the next level" (as presenters on X Factor might say, along with "you really nailed it" and "you made it your own" etc.)

To be able to demonstrate that we've not just built a spaceship-based shooty game, and that the technology can be used for other genres (after all, this whole project started a couple of years ago, when we were asked to create a digital version of Blood Bowl) we're hoping to knock together a few generic board sections.

Because we're using hall sensors and a non-contact method of detecting the playing pieces, the same board sections could be used for a variety of different games: simply place the appropriate graphic over the top, load the corresponding app, and you can easily change your football pitch into a wild west village, for example.

With this in mind, we've already got a working prototype of a generic piece:

It's simply a 6x8 grid, split into two sections of 24 squares (since our room-with-four-exits uses a total of 24 squares, we could re-use the firware and a similar pcb layout for each half of the grid.

In the photo above there are a  couple of extra zero-ohm resistors and a few jump wires. These are not present in the final design: when testing this board, it refused to power up at first so we isolated different regions of it by cutting through the connecting copper tracks! With the problem found and solved, it was just easier to bridge these gaps than etch a new board piece.

And - for completeness - here's the testing showing each of the sensors being successfully activated (and released) as a magnetic piece is passed over them

All that remains - preferably before the weekend if possible - is to make up another two or three of these generic-style board sections, and to get the video camera out so we can show the world what we've been up to!