By 1985 our little catalog was filling out, and we encountered a couple of other independent game inventors/producers whose products appealed to us so much that we created guest showcases to offer their games through our catalog. Little did we realize that eventually these games would become part of the Kadon family when their owners discontinued production. Kaliko and Quantum, both originally Games 100 selections, later became full-fledged licensed products of Kadon. And the little Stockdale Square, an experimental idea by Tim Guiles of Stockdale Technologies, introduced us to lasercut acrylic and inspired us to expand the concept.
1985 was also the year for us to clone some offshoots of our flagship, Quintillions, and that propagation has continued through the years. Here are their stories in brief. Click the links for full descriptions.
Checkerboard puzzles have been around for a couple of centuries or more. Jerry Slocum has published a whole compendium of them, with updated editions by Jacques Haubrich that include Quintachex as well. Most of the listed puzzles have only one or very few solutions. As a proponent of puzzles with unlimited possibilities, Kate had designed Quintachex as unique among all such puzzles: it contains the 12 pentominoes plus square tetromino, all reversible, and some pieces have opposite colors on their backs. This coloring scheme allows the widest possible number of figures to be solved with checkerboarded solutions, flipping pieces as needed. The 8x8 alone has 1294 solutions, but only 2 have the tetromino in the center. Interestingly, the aggregate number of squares of the two colors is not the same; they divide 65-63.
The first version of Quintachex, in 1982, had been the dreadful die-cut cardboard model we'd had to scrap. In 1985 we upgraded to deluxe handcrafted wood, with dark and light wood squares glued to a core, in a beautiful wooden framed tray, in 16" and 20" sizes. A limited number were made and sold until 1988. They are in semi-retirement but not gone forever. In 2013, after 25 years, we did craft another special deluxe 20" wood edition. By special order we may produce more custom sets.
Simultaneously a better budget edition was produced in die-cut rigid vinyl with 1" unit squares, screen-printed on two sides in green on white. It was no mean feat to get the printing registration to line up properly, and then to have the die-cutting hit in the right places. We didn't love the results but eked it out until 1990, when we switched gratefully to lasercut acrylic, but that's a story for another year. In 2006 we brought the remaining die-cut vinyl sets out of banishment as Pocket Quintachex to become one of our "Pocket Puzzles" in pouches, while the supply lasts.
The Game of SolomonTM
Martin Gardner had heard of us by now and kindly offered us his invention, The Game of Solomon, to produce. It had recently been written up in Games Magazine, and to maintain its biblical flavor, Kate designed it on genuine handwoven cotton cloth with hand-pulled fringes and handpainted palaces and grid. To carry through the theme, the rules for several games and a variety of puzzles were embodied on a scroll that wrapped around a tube whose screw-on metal cap we spray-painted gold. The tube held the 18 tinted maple checkers (the centers cut from Proteus tiles), and the game cloth wrapped around the whole thing and tied with a gold ribbon. Very classy presentation until the tubes ran out in 1991 and we could find no more. We then switched to the brown leather-like box still in use, with the rules scrolled inside. As a "historical" game Solomon is a unique attraction at our Maryland Renaissance Festival pavilion.
Kate had been agonizing over the board design for this game theme for a couple of years, since a rule-making game could be played with almost anything, from napkins to salt shakers and any grid configuration. Finally the nested squares won out, and the scale to fit the same checkers that Game of Solomon used ("Proteus holes") demanded a board of nearly 24" square. White vinyl with an interesting texture was found at a good price, and we invested a bunch in the 4-color screen printing. The vinyl and the ink had a strange affinity for each other, creating a characteristic sweet odor that lingered for years. You could always tell when a fresh Lemma mat was in the room. The long drawstring pouch to hold the rolled-up mat was given a rakish outside pocket to hold the tall, slender book. We saw no need to change this design in a quarter century. At the 25-year mark we ran out of the mats, so for its silver anniversary, we're upgrading Lemma to a deluxe wood board, laser-engraved and handpainted.
Interesting footnote: The color schemes of both Solomon and Lemma derive from the original maroon-aqua-gold that Liane Sebastian, an accomplished artist and the wife of Proteus creator Michael Waitsman, had chosen for Proteus. When we ran out of Proteus holes (Proteus produces only 9 holes per set while Lemma needs 48, and the sales of the two games were not in sync), we just made some plywood disks in those same colors, eventually purchasing painted checkers and finally switching to lasercut Lucite disks. But that's still years away...
Having made the giant pentomino checkerboard, Kate went to the other extreme to make a miniature set to wear on a chain. Stockdale Technologies' laser did a fine job with the slats of hand-finished maple we sent them. Kate hunted down all the rectangular solutions for the pentominoes with no enclosed piece, so each piece has an open edge for its hanging eyelet. These rare solutions enable many different necklace patterns.
After a few puzzlers requested the smaller polycubes (sizes 1 through 4) as a size-compatible supplement for Quintillions, we started making them by special order only, and years passed before we formally included them as actual products on the website. The 12 little pieces (41 unit cubes in volume) include the 7 famous Soma blocks as a subgroup, helpful during the years when Parker Brothers' Soma went off the market and before ThinkFun, Inc., came out with their Block by Block edition. Someday we'll even publish a little handbook to explore Poly-4's unique characteristics.
Stockdale Square and
Stockdale Super Square
We first heard of Stockdale Technologies and their lasercutting equipment in 1983, when Blake Guiles, the owner, sent us a sample acrylic puzzle piece that his brother, Tim, had made by experimenting with zig-zag cuts and little heart shapes. Soon Blake took on cutting our puzzles, too, and in 1985 we added Tim's pretty puzzle, the Stockdale Square, to our catalog offerings. They had two versions: a 9-piece and a 25-piece, each in a tray. The little 3x3 wasn't much of a challenge, and we quickly dropped it. The 5x5 was more interesting, although all the interior pieces were identical. It's shown at right.
Not satisfied with the 5x5's limited combinations, Kate pondered their shapes and redesigned it to have all the possible permutations of their edges: 24 basic shapes plus 12 duplicates to form a 6x6 square. Blake loved the result, and we launched the Stockdale Super Square the same year, with an awesome repertoire of puzzle challenges and new game ideas. A few years later we phased out the 5x5 set altogether.
About a decade later Blake gave us our independence by persuading us to get our own laser, and in 1995 we renamed the set the Snowflake Super SquareTM. People had been calling the pieces snowflakes for years, anyway. And when folks kept asking for a smaller, easier version, in 1997 Kate designed a simpler subset of 16 tiles as the new Snowflake SquareTM. But that's another future story.
We embraced this magnificent set made by our friends, Chuck and Terry Titus at Future Classics (now closed), and gave it a big showcase in our print catalog. This was the clear acrylic version they produced by screen-printing it themselves and cutting the tiles out on an elaborate 14-bladed saw designed by their son, Steve. It was packaged in a handsome 6-sided box designed for store shelf appeal. We became just one of their retailers this year.
The Tituses threw in the towel in 1991, after they ran out of their current production supply and tried for three years to sell Kaliko to a "large" game company. Kadon then took over production, lasercutting the screenprinted clear acrylic, and in 2003 switched to lasercut wood. But that's a story for a future year...
Quantum captivated us with its fascinating rule book describing the games of mankind from the dawn of history to the present. Creator Peter Aleff's research was astonishing, and his game design totally ingenious. Quantum made the Games 100 list right from the start, and we happily gave it a showcase in our print catalog.
As fate would have it, in 1987 we became the exclusive purveyors of Quantum and rescuers of its entire remaining inventory. But that story comes later.
This year we grew from within and without, by nurturing ideas that sprouted from our existing products and by welcoming compatible products made by others, ready to sell, no production labor required. And this dynamic selection process became our fourth rule.
A Quarter-Century Retrospective (1980-2005)
1982-2007: The first wave of growth
1983-2008: The lesson of quality
1984-2009: Some things old, some things new
You are here:
1985-2010: Guests and clones
1986-2011: Thinking big... and bigger
1987-2012: Growing three ways
1988-2013: Compounding complexity
1989-2014: Grand visions
1990-2015: Herculean heights
1991-2016: Happy marriages
1992-2017: Diamonds forever
1993-2018: Opulence in acrylic and wood
1994-2019: Angles, gold and gala
1995-2020: Tilting towards tilings
1996-2021: Gorgeous geometrics
1997-2022: Big and little
1998-2023: Boards and beauties