Here's your invitation to play the HipBone Games

Here's your invitation to play the HipBone Games

This page will give you everything you need to begin playing the HipBone Games – (i) a selection of HipBone game boards, (ii) the basic rules for competitive, cooperative and solo play, and (iii) a few sample games. But don't get too hung up on the sample games – because frankly those are other people's games, not yours…

The two main boards you might like to play on are the Circuit board and the WaterBird board. If you have a color printer, we recommend you print out the Circuit board – which is the board we used for the graphics at the top of each page. If your printer is black-and-white, we suggest you print out the WaterBird board instead: structurally, it's the same board, with exactly the same links between positions – but we think you'll find it easier to follow the links on the WaterBird in a back-and-white printout.

For your interest, we have also included some other boards here – including a couple of “ancient” boards that suggest that HipBone Games have been around a lot longer than HipBone has, and a couple more that will probably interest mathematicians more than the rest of us…

Psyche's board, derived from the Pythagorean “tetraktys” diagram, is the board we'd recommend for dream and symbol analysis. The Pentagram and Mercedes boards are two topologically identical boards with different symmetries, while the Hamiltonian board is an experimental board with directional links. The Comparisons board is the one we'd use to “compare and contrast” two subject areas, or thinkers. And Ancient Game Boards presents a couple of boards on which the HipBone Games were apparently played in earlier times.

The HipBone rules are simple, but there are various styles of play, so we'll describe the basic competitive game first, and comment on the variants afterwards.

HipBone Rules for Competitive Play:

Two players play a game by each naming an idea in turn to one of the ten positions on the board. Ideas can be placed in any unoccupied position on the board.

Ideas can take the form of text, sound, or image: a quote, an equation, a musical theme, a video clip, or a photo or graphic are all acceptable. Essentially, a move can be made out of anything in the three worlds… so long as it can be named.

Players score by claiming links between the idea in their own move and the ideas already in play in those positions on the board connected to it by the lines of the board in question. A link can be any form of association - similarity, opposition, cause-and-effect, metaphor. Fanciful links may be made and enjoyed - or hotly contested.

The idea placed in the first move cannot score, since there is no other idea on the board for it to link with. The idea placed in the second move cannot score either, to keep the playing field even. Thus each player gets to make five moves on a ten position board, of which only four are scoring moves.

Mock-Competitive Play:

In mock-competitive games, both players attempt to score, but emphasize the enjoyment of play more than winning. Disputed moves may add piquancy to the game, and it's no problem if players forget to keep score during the course of play.

Collaborative Play:

Collaborative games are usually played with either aesthetic or meditative intent. A score can still be kept, but it is far from necessary - the purpose of the game being to come up with the most interesting, curious, eccentric, far fetched, elaborate, imaginative, beautiful, or insightful and profound links. The HipBone games can also be played solo, again usually with aesthetic or meditative intent.


Those are the basic rules. But links can become boring if they are too obvious - e.g. linking any and all people by virtue of the fact that they are all humans - so they need to attain a level of interest appropriate to the players: what works for 10 year olds won't work for PhDs, and so forth. Our motto is “Suit yourself”.

The problem with providing sample games is that it's only too easy to read them and feel “that's too trivial” or “that's too obscure” or “too arcane” or some other form of words which means you, the reader, don't think like that.

Of course you don't: sample games are the games that other minds play, and they play them with all their wits about them, stretching for ideas, digging up scraps of knowledge from the far reaches of memory – even going onto the web or into the library, perhaps, to dredge up the telling quote which will make a particular move sing. Your own mind would be similarly challenged to reach in (or out) for its own links and moves, and others reading your game would likely feel “that's too trivial” or “that's so obscure” – or “however did you come up with stuff like that, this is utterly beyond my ken?”

We're warning you, therefore – maybe unnecessarily – that the other people's games you'll read here are intended to give you a hint of the diversity with which different people have approached the games, not to suggest that you play the games like them…

Heavenly Bodies is perhaps the best “introductory” game to read. It's short, and it's hopefully neither too obscure nor too trivial… It has to do with Venus as a goddess and as a planet, gravity and the seasons on Mars, and the Fall – when the biblical “fallen angels” fell from heaven, did they do so at 32 feet per second per second, so to speak? Physics vs poetry, fact vs myth…

Hear that Long Snake Moan is rocking and erotic – a bright college student game to go with beer and pretzels on the TenStones board.

Totentanz is an light-hearted and enjoyable Game I played with my wife, who is a history buff with a slightly morbid sense of humor. People are always getting beheaded (or otherwise impaled or exhumed) in this Game… It is played on the WaterBird board.

The Play's the Thing shows, we think, how the moves in a game can “build” on one another until an almost three-dimensional structure of ideas appears. This is a fairly scholarly game composed of ten “quotes” about time, written to explore the impact of the various ways we can think about time on narrative structure in the arts, and gameplay in computer games…

Even if the theory of game design is not an interest of yours, we still believe you'll find this an intriguing game, and possible even a beautiful one – because time concerns each one of us, and what's true for stories and for games is also true to life…

More sample games specifically tailored to educational and therapeutic uses of the HipBone Games can be found on our Dreaming and other reasons to play page.

HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright © Charles Cameron 1995, 96, 97.
See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.