The History of Clump


Clump was invented in January, 1998, in the Macdonald's at the corner of St. Jacques and Avon, in Montreal, Canada. I was sitting around, waiting for my kids to finish playing on the jungle gym, when it suddenly became clear that the time was ripe for the invention of a new game.

I've always been intrigued by the story of C. W. Adam, who reportedly spent 15 years of his spare time looking for the "magic hexagon". The magic hexagon is the arrangement of the numbers 1, 2, 3, ..., 19 into the hexes of the Clump board in such a way that each of the 15 rows adds up to 38. It's rather surprising that one even exists. Well, after 15 years of searching, this fellow finally came upon the solution, only to lose the piece of paper down upon which he had written it!

I believe you'll find the full story in Martin Gardner's Sixth Book of Mathematical Recreations. The Treasure Trove of Mathematics provides a number of additional references.

Here's the solution, in case you don't have 15 years of spare time:

Anyway, this pattern of hexagons seemed to deserve to host a game. It took about 20 tries to come up with a set of rules that make an interesting game. The first 19 or so futile attempts were variations on the theme of tic-tac-toe, where the winner is the first player to form some configuration, such as three in a row, or a triangle, or a rectangle. The problem is that hexes in a tesselation are just too damn connected - the first player invariably wins right off the bat.

The avoidance theme proved to be more fruitful. You can easily play a couple of hundred games without having much of an idea of what a good strategy might be.

By the way, Clump has been awarded the "Best New Game on the Net" award. The panel of judges consisted of Adrian Boyle (age 4¾) who claims that it's "even better than Croc!" He managed to triumph decisively in a series of 60 or so games against the Bozo level.


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