Pivit is an abstract board game a little like chess or go. It's easy to learn, supports deep strategy, and allows 2 to 4 players. Most importantly, it's fun.
The playing field is the timeless checkered board. The pieces are double-sided discs with directionality. Pieces can capture each other chess-style, and be promoted from minions to masters.
Each piece has a direction it can travel - up-down or left-right. The twist is that every time a piece moves, it rotates 90 degrees when it lands, changing its direction. Hence the name: Pivit.
Basic pieces, called minions, must move to a square of a different color. So if they start on a black square, they must land on a white square. Promoted pieces, called masters, may land anywhere along their line. Pieces cannot jump each other, and they capture by landing on an enemy-occupied square. These are all of Pivit's movement rules.
Games can be as fast as a half hour when 2 people play on a 6x6 board, and over an hour when 4 players use an 8x8 board. (Both boards are included.)
The fun of Pivit is that you can see how well you're doing, and you can feel the threat of capture as positions flow. It's a visceral game. It's easy to pick out paths to victory, but the obvious journeys are fraught with the peril of enemy firepower.
My name is Tyler, and I'll tell you the origin story of the Pivit team.
First, some background: I love beautiful ideas. While studying math in grad school, I did things like build a Tetris clone for my fellow grad students, and helped start an annual program called cSplash to teach fun ideas to high school students. Earlier this year, I made a site called The Cost of Knowledge to support open access publishing of research. I love the fun of Lego, and last year created a popular set of 50 Designs with 50 Pieces. These are not games, but for me are motived by the creativity and freedom of ideas.
The first idea for Pivit came from another game I was working on. I stumbled upon the minion movement rule that combines cool properties of bishops and rooks from chess. Even though bishops all move the same way, along diagonals, there are two types of them since a bishop on a black square can never attack a bishop on a white square. The movement rule in Pivit similarly splits pieces into two types, but it's more subtle because every Pivit piece can eventually get to every square. This piqued my curiosity. I decided to visit a few game universes with these rules of physics, and the journey for Pivit began.
Many hours of playtesting and tweaking confirmed there was a good game here. I wanted to share the game beyond my playtester friends, so I described the project to Ivan, an industrial designer. He tried out the game and jumped at the chance to design the physical pieces. He invited Tim, a graphic designer, to join us. Tim created the logo and worked with us on the overall visual style. Finally, we brought in Dave, a mechanical engineer, to ensure top quality work from the manufacturing process.
Throughout the design of the game, we held one principle above all: elegance. The rules are deceivingly simple, so the pieces and logo appear almost minimalistic. Yet implicit in each is a hidden complexity, waiting to be discovered. Each piece hides its own inverse - the master it yearns to become. Even the logo holds a secret. At first glance, it's just a word, yet when you turn it upside-down, the glyph stares back at you right-side-up -- a nod to the revolutions at the heart of the game.
Inspiration: Emergent Complexity
A mathematician named John Conway came up with a set of simple rules for a 2D world of cells that evolve with time. This is called Conway's Game of Life, and it's a mind-bendingly beautiful demonstration of how surprisingly complex patterns can emerge from simple rules.
This mathematical evolution of cells looks and feels like a colony of microscopic organisms frantically wobbling about a digital Petri dish. You could spend a lifetime studying the different types of creatures, their personalities, and the surprising ways they interact.
Some games capture emergent complexity like this. Tetris is a great example. You can understand the mechanics and the goal in seconds. What follows is an exciting phase of intuition-building where you gradually get better at it.
This is the inspiration for Pivit - transparent mechanics than enable intuitive thinking and play.
Euro-games like Dominion, Agricola, or Race for the Galaxy are popular among my friends and the gaming community at large. At first glance, Pivit seems at odds with the current trends in board games. But there is something it has in common: it's a casual game for small groups.
Classic abstract games are typically built for only two players. The best ones, like Go, are intense. Pivit aims for a sweet spot that's thoughtful and exciting, but not stressful. It works well with four players - it's social. And it can be played quickly if you like fast games.
In short, Pivit is great for game nights.
Teh Codez (the software version)
The software version of Pivit (Mac or Windows) lets you enjoy the full gameplay. It includes an AI opponent and supports multiperson play among the humans.
A prototype version of the software, including a working AI opponent, already exists. Some work still remains. The user interface is incomplete, and you can currently only play against the AI, not other humans (yet).
The software is being built for desktop/laptop machines, and not tablets like the iPad, because it is processor-intensive. In a 4-player game, thinking 3 rounds ahead (so 12 total moves) with 10 choices per move gives a think-ahead tree with 1 trillion branches. The AI needs as much CPU as it can get, and tablet speeds are far behind laptops and desktops.
Like many board games, there's something about Pivit that makes it more exciting to play in real life. If you get the software, I think you'll really enjoy it. If you get the physical game, I think you'll be even happier.
The Physical Game
Here is what you get with your copy of Pivit:
A game board that supports either 6x6 or 8x8 board sizes.
40 playing pieces in 4 colors.
The elite package will also contain a print that's signed by the Pivit team (Ivan, Tim, Dave, and Tyler). If we reach our stretch goal of $100k, then elite package contributors will also receive a collector's set of pieces in the fifth playing color. (This doesn't enable 5-player games.) All other contributors receive the base set of four playing colors.
The largest one-time (not per-game) cost for us will be tooling costs in the injection molding process used to manufacture the game pieces. We have not yet committed to a manufacturer, so that the exact value of this cost is unknown, but it is likely to be in the general range of $10,000 - $15,000. If we sell our base goal of 1,000 games, this leaves us about $35/unit to cover all per-game costs, including: custom boxes, printed instructions, cost of piece materials and assembly, international shipping and tariffs, and game boards.
We based our projected costs on early quotes we received from a few potential manufacturers. Selling many games enables lower per-game costs, but it also requires a higher funding goal. We chose our rewards and goals to minimize the game price while keeping what we hope is an achievable funding goal.
Risks and challenges
We expect the biggest challenges to be in the manufacturing process. There are many details to take into account, especially since we are committed to producing a high quality product. These details include quality of the mold used for the game pieces, quality of piece assembly, and board and box printing quality. If we manufacture outside the US, then we will also have to contend with tariffs, potential pallet-based shipping, and possible customs delays.
Luckily, our team has experience working through these details, so we're confident that we'll be able to ship something that meets both our high standards and yours.
Elite package: A copy of Pivit, the software, the strategy guide ebook, and an exclusive Pivit print, personally signed by the entire team. If our stretch goal is met, this also includes a set of playing pieces in the fifth color.