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The top five fictional geek games you can actually buy (or build)

Thanks to the thriving geek merchandise industry, a number of games that once only existed as sight gags or plot points in your favorite works of sci-fi and fantasy are now available for purchase.

Fictional games -- they aren't just for copyright defense anymore. Thanks to the thriving geek merchandise industry, a number of games that formerly only existed as sight gags or plot points in your favorite works of sci-fi and fantasy are now available for purchase. If you're looking for some truly unusual gamer-geek gifts (and are also of a crafty disposition) this holiday season, start here.

Star Trek Tri-D Chess (courtesy Wikimedia)

Star Trek's Tri-D Chess The Holy Grail of fictional games made real, this is the bizarre mutation of chess that first appeared in the revised pilot for Star Trek (and saved Kirk's bacon in "Court Martial"). It not only has moving pieces, it has moving boards. Fans put together rules and designs for this game years ago, but in 1997 the Franklin Mint actually produced a professional version of the game set. These quickly became ultra-collectible, to the point it will run you between $200 to $400 to get your hands on one, but your Trekkie will love you forever for it. If you're time-rich and cash-poor, however, there are plans for building your own Tri-D chess set available online. Fascinating. Firefly's Tall Card For the Browncoat who has everything: Tall Card is a quirky descendant of poker that first appeared in the Firefly episode "Shindig." The game has 72 cards in six suits, and some fun nomenclature that leads to players saying odd things like "plums are tall." While no one has made an authorized, professional version of the game, there are some very nice downloadable PDF Tall Card sets that let you print your own. Or you could go all out and craft a superior version of Tall Card. Discworld's Thud A Dwarvish analog to chess that first appeared in Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel Going Postal and then took a starring role in the eponymous sequel, Thud!. The game features an octagonal board and 42 pieces that take moves such as hurl, shove, and trample. A professional version of the game is available, including rules for both traditional Thud and Koom Valley Thud, which is what all real Dwarven warriors play.

Battlestar Galactica Triad/Pyramid Cards (courtesy ThinkGeek)

Battlestar Galactica's Pyramid/Triad In the original Battlestar Galactica, it was called Pyramid. In the Ron Moore reboot, it was called Triad. By either name, it's yet another card-based gambling game, this time involving 52 hexagonal cards in four suits (plus two Cylon jokers, though that seems a bit oxymoronic when you say it out loud). Pro sets are now available, including rules. They'll even play 13th Colony Triad, better known as Earth poker. It's the gift that keeps on giving. So say we all! Star Wars Sabacc Remember when Han Solo admonished Lando Calrissian that the latter had lost the Millennium Falcon to the former "fair and square"...? Lando lost his ship playing Sabacc, the high-stakes and high-risk gambler's card game that is explained only in the Star Wars expanded universe. Sabacc is so complex that, short of using linked tablet PCs, there's no practical way of playing it around a normal game table, as this "card" game involves hands that can be randomly changed by a central computer during play. You could draw the equivalent of a full house, then suddenly see it shift to two-pair, sevens high. Try bluffing that one. And you can try, because there's an online JavaScript version of Sabacc you can play with friends and enemies, if you're scoundrel enough. Word of advice, though - let the Wookiee win. Still waiting for:

Is there a fictional game you wish someone would build (or at least lay out craft designs for)? Sound off in the comments section.

About

Jay Garmon has a vast and terrifying knowledge of all things obscure, obtuse, and irrelevant. One day, he hopes to write science fiction, but for now he'll settle for something stranger -- amusing and abusing IT pros. Read his full profile. You can a...

12 comments
G_Writer
G_Writer

In Mary Gentle's book [i]Golden Witchbreed[/i], there was a game played with tiles called "Ochmir" that was [b]something[/b] like Go, but with the addition of ranks (and the rank on one side of the tile might or might not be the same as the rank on the underside. There was a standard playing board, and 2 sets of tiles... one for 2-handed play, and one for 3-handed. reference: http://www.dunx.org/project/ochmir/index.html

Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

It's a puzzle, not a game, but I would LOVE to have a clear plastic Key To Time, as seen in the Dr. Who season of the same name. I have a PDF with cut-n-fold cutouts to make a small, paper copy. I put it together, and found it was pleasingly difficult to put together!

CharlieSpencer
CharlieSpencer

also from PTerry's Discworld. All we know is that it's a card game.

maaxiim
maaxiim

The game Azad from Player of Games by Iain [M] Banks seems to me to be the ultimate evolution of strategy games. Pity the rules are largely unknown :-)

DFO_REXX
DFO_REXX

The first is Fizzbin, the card game Kirk made up in "A Piece of the Action." While nothing was explained about the game itself, it seems a bit like poker with some extra cards and LOTS of extra rules. In the same vein, Dragon Poker from the late Robert Lynn Asprin's Myth series sounds makeable. Asprin gave enough of a description to take a shot at creating it. Like Sabacc, the rules are very complex and changeable (e.g., where you sit on a given day can change the value of the cards in your hand); unlike Sabacc, it's not random. As for the "old one", the Star Wars holographic chess had its real-life counterpart in Battle Chess back in the hoary IBM PC-AT, DOS 3.3 days. That one was a lot of fun, although it was standard chess.

roesch
roesch

Remember Kirk describing Fizzbin in A Piece of the Action - this would be the ultimate fictional geek game being as Kirk made it up on the fly.

seanferd
seanferd

It involves quite a bit of action for a card game.

Dr. Solar
Dr. Solar

Anthony Fredrickson had an article in the "Star Trek Giant Poster Book", star date 7611.01 giving rules for Fizzbin.