Essential elements of a piecepack

In 2001 James "Kyle" Droscha invented the piecepack and laid out a "prescriptive" Anatomy of a Piecepack standard with design decisions further described in a FAQ. As others have noted, there are several piecepack designs that do not strictly follow the prescriptive "Anatomy of a piecepack" standard but it is still possible to play most piecepack games with them anyways. This begs the question: "What are the essential elements of a piecepack?".

Essential information sets of a piecepack

Here is my opinion of the essential elements of a piecepack [1]:

  • 4 "suits" and 6 "ranks" [2]
  • 24 square "tiles" (one for each pairing of suit and rank) [3]
    • The "face" of the tile reveals its suit, rank, and direction [4]
    • The "back" of the tile hides its suit, rank, and direction [5]
  • 24 circular "coins" (one for each pairing of suit and rank) [6]
    • The "face" of the coin reveals its rank and direction while hiding its suit [7]
    • The "back" of the coin reveals its suit and direction while hiding its rank
    • Must fit within a quarter of a tile
  • 4 "pawns" (one for each suit)
    • Each pawn reveals its suit
    • Each pawn may (but need not) reveal a direction
    • Must fit within a quarter of a tile
  • 4 dice (one for each suit)
    • The 6 "ranks" are mapped onto the six "faces" of each die and each "face" reveals the suit and rank [8]
    • One may (but need not) make the direction of the die obvious [9]
    • Must fit within a quarter of a tile [10]

Footnotes

[1]Note although adhering to the below information sets will make it possible to play any piecepack game, having your piecepack more closely adhere to the Anatomy of a Piecepack standard may lead to better ergonomics with existing piecepack games (e.g. themes will match, there may be less hassle mapping game rulesets to your piecepack, etc.).
[2]Additional suits and/or ranks are fine and descriptively not uncommon.
[3]Hexagonal "tiles" (and triangular "coins") leads to a Hexpack, a related game system.
[4]Descriptively not all piecepack designs reveal an unambiguous direction on every tile face. However, the arguably the most popular piecepack game, Alien City, depends on the tile faces having an unambiguous direction. In particular since the Anatomy of a piecepack standard indicates direction by placing a suit symbol in the upper left corner of each tile face Alien City is best played on piecepack tiles with a specially marked corner on each tile face. Additionally, descriptively some piecepack designs have tile faces that reveal multiple directions.
[5]Descriptively, although all piecepack tile backs hide suit and rank, many piecepack design tile backs do not fully hide direction (i.e. they have "checkered" backs which "leak" information about the direction of the front). However any piecepack that follows the Anatomy of a piecepack standard will have tile backs which hide the direction of the front while visually dividing the piece into four quadrants via a +.
[6]There exist dexterity games that assume a circular game piece (for multidirectional flicking). Circular game pieces may also be used to play hexagonal games.
[7]Descriptively some piecepacks have coin faces that do not hide the suit but this generally seems to be regarded as a mistake. However extra game pieces that reveal both suit and rank are a "common accessory" (e.g. piecepack pyramids or the tiles from a matching "mini" piecepack)
[8]Technically in the Anatomy of a Piecepack standard the "null" face is completely blank and one needs to infer its suit by looking at the sides of the die.
[9]Unlike some piecepack pawns which may not have a "direction", one may always assign a "direction" to a piecepack die i.e. the direction of the highest ranked die side.
[10]This requirement is not in the standard but instead is suggested in James "Kyle" Droscha's piecepack design FAQ. However, descriptively all piecepack designs seem to comply with this, some piecepack games depend on this, and practically speaking a die would need to be unusually large to not comply.

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