Games and Puzzles
Matthew Baldwin ~ email ~ defective yeti

For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated with games and puzzles. Here are some of the many ways that I have participated in this fine hobby.

Newish Stuff


Aces Up

For two years (until the advent of defective yeti) I wrote a bimonthly games ezine entitled "Aces Up"  There I wrote reviews, articles, session reports, and posted original games that I had invented.  Most of the content that was on "Aces Up" can be found below.  (As I no longer maintain this site, I apologize in advance for the many broken images you will find throughout the pages.)


The bi-weekly Beer And Games Enthusiasts League has been meeting in Seattle since 1997.  Originally consisting of a dozen employees and partners, the group now has over 30 members, with a typical turn-out of 15 on any given night.   B.A.G.E.L. focuses on light "family" games, suitable for play amongst friends and between brews.  The current favorites of the group include Call My Bluff, Royal Turf, Bohnanza, Adel Verpflitchtet, Princes of Florence and Settlers of Catan.  The bulk of the B.A.G.E.L. game library can be found here.  And you can  read some older session reports over yonder.

Birthday Treasure Hunts and "The Bolivian Games"

Since 1993 I have held an annual birthday treasure hunt for my closest friends.    Players assemble into teams and solve a series of clues (usually 5-8), each a puzzle or riddle which, when solved, reveals the location of the next.  An example of a clue is my Infamous Xylophone Puzzle, which was found in my 1999 Hunt.  Teams entered a classroom containing three toy xylophones and a tape player.  Each bar on the xylophones was marked with a letter of the alphabet, and a repeating audio tape contained a 14-note "song" that had been played on a xylophone identical to those in the room.  When a Hunter successfully played the 14-note song on one of the xylophones, they would simultaneously spell out a 14-letter message that lead to the location of the next clue.  The problem was that, with up to three teams in the room at the same time, Hunters had difficulty discerning which notes were coming from the tape and which were being struck by their opponents.   Possibly the most diabolical puzzle I have ever employed in one of my Hunts.

You can read recaps of the last three Treasure Hunts here:

And read the FAQ at: "The Bolivian Games" was an event I organized for the 1993 All Volunteer Conference while serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer in South America.  The Games were a series of ten farcical "athletic events" that showcased the skills that the participants had acquired as Bolivian PCVs.  The highlight was the "100 Meter Latrine Dash," in which participants "sprinted" to an outhouse, clad in shorts but also with a pair of pants lowered around their ankles.  Yes, you heard me right:  I managed to talk over 30 sober adults to run a foot race with their trousers down.   Indisputably my greatest achievement as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Original Games

I have created a number of original games.  Here's a few:


I have, in my day, reviewed quite a number of games and game-related material.  Here's a selection:
Game Report

Titan:  The Arena (my very first game review)
Groo:  The Card Game
Monsters Ravage America
Filthy Rich
Illuminati:  Y2K

Aces Up
(Although some of these were previously covered in The Game Report, the reviews themselves are different.)

25 Words or Less
6 Nimmt!
Apples to Apples
Buried Treasure
Button Men
Caesar and Cleopatra
Call My Bluff
Can't Stop
Clash of the Light Sabers Corruption
En Garde
Filthy Rich
For Sale
Great Dalmuti, The
Hare and Tortoise
Hera and Zeus
Illuminati (Y2K)
Kohle, Kie$ & Knete

Lord of the Rings
Lost Cities
Mississippi Queen
Monsters Ravage America
Reef, The
San Marco
Star Marines
Star Traders
Take it Easy
Titan the Arena
Web of Power

The Games Journal

Cosmic Coasters
Dia De Los Muertos
Witch Trial
Wyatt Earp

defective yeti

Adel Verpflichtet and Barbarossa
Get the Goods
Puerto Rico


After Dinner Games
The Billion Dollar Monopoly Swindle
The Book of Classic Board Games
Dice Games Properly Explained
A Gamut of Games
The New Games Treasury
New Rules for Classic Games
Win at Hearts


Some articles (and satire) about the hobby:

Requiem For Boddy at The Morning News.
Shoestring Gaming
Updates to Classic Games
No Second Place 2002 Good Gift Games Guide.
Good Gift Games 2001
Good Gift Games 2000
The Presidential Election: A Game Review
The Emergency Gaming Kit


I used to be an active member of  Then I switched to posting exclusively to the Spielfrieks Yahoo!  Group.  I even wrote a  text-only filter for Spielfrieks to facilitate reading.


Over the years I have taught myself how to construct a wide variety of puzzles, from acrostics to cryptograms.  While in Bolivia  I hand-made crossword puzzles for the Peace Corps newsletter.  I also had a monthly puzzle column in The Bolivian Times entitled "Mateo's Mindcandy".  Furthermore, while an employee at I ran a "Puzzle of the Week" contest, in which hundreds of people participated.  About half of the weekly P.O.W. puzzles were original creations.

Here a few examples of puzzles that appeared in the Mateo's Mindcandy.

Santos and Diablos

It's a common misconception that Santos and Diablos don't get along.  In fact, they get along quite well -- as long as they don't talk politics.

Two Santos and two Diablos are seated around a square table, with one person at each of the cardinal directions (North, South, East and West).  Everyone has made a statement which is recorded below.  Bearing in mind that Diablos always lie and always drink whiskey, while Santos always tell the truth and always drink wine (in moderation, of course), can you determine which are the Santos, which are the Diablos, and where each person is seated?

A: "I'm sitting directly across from B.  The person to my immediate left is drinking whiskey."

B: "I'm sitting directly across from D.  The person to my immediate right is drinking whiskey."

C: "I'm sitting directly across from A.  The person to my immediate right is drinking wine."

D: "I am not sitting in the northernmost position.  The person to my immediate left is drinking wine."

A Dicey Proposition

[Prefatory NoteCacho is a Bolivian dice game almost identical to Yatzee.  On a turn, a player rolls five dice; he may then either stop rolling and score, or set aside any of the five dice and roll again.  After the second roll the player again has the option to stop and score, or set aside any of the five dice and roll again.  After the third and final roll the player must stop and score.  Having five dice of the same value (i.e., a Yatzee) is called a "Grande".  Furthermore, there are three kinds of "Especials":  A "Box" (four dice showing the same value, e.g. 1-3-3-3-3), an "Full House" (two dice showing one value and three dice showing another, e.g. 1-1-3-3-3) and an "Ladder" (all five dice showing consecutive numbers, i.e. 1-2-3-4-5 or 2-3-4-5-6).]

My friend Don Clemente has an extremely strange memory:  he tends to remember specific, unimportant details while forgetting all the relevant facts. After a soccer game and he could tell you how many times the ball had been passed but not the final score.

Here's another example.  Clemente and I went to a bar to play cacho.  I told him to go ahead and take his first turn while I went to get some beer.  When I returned a moment later, I set down the brew and scooped up the dice without looking at them.  "So, what did you get?"  I asked.

"Toast me!"  Clemente beamed.  "I got a Grande!"

I reluctantly hoisted my glass, then asked "What number did you get your Grande in -- five ones, five twos ... ?"

"Well," he said slowly, "I don't quite recall.  But I'll tell you what I do remember.  I got my Grande on two rolls -- I didn't even need the third.  After my first roll I saw that all of the values on the dice were even.  Or maybe all the values were odd -- I'm not sure which -- but I am certain that it was one way or the other:  all even or all odd.  Anyway, since I hadn't rolled a Grande or an Especial, I set aside two dice and rerolled the other three.  On my second throw I rolled a three-of-a-kind;  and this, combined with the two dice I'd previously set aside, game me a Grande."

I thought for a moment, and then said "Jeeze, Clemente -- that doesn't tell me anything.  Don't you remember anything else?"

"Oh, yes," he suddenly exclaimed.  "I noticed that the total of all five dice after my first throw was exactly equal to the total of the three rerolled dice after my second throw."

Well, it took me a while, but with this information I was finally able to tell what number he had got his Grande in.  Can you?

Home Work

There exists a thing with a five-letter name.  And if you switch the second and fourth letter in this name, you spell the material that this thing is often made of in Bolivia.  What is the thing?