Good Fences

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Good Fences is a geometric puzzle game in which you must surround a Kernel with a Fence made up of copies of the kernel.  It should appeal to people who enjoy standard logic puzzles like Sudoku or Kakuro, but offers more hands-on geometric appeal, as in jigsaw puzzles or board games like Blokus. But be warned: the puzzles range in difficulty from simple to extremely hard.

There are only a few rules you need to keep in mind for what makes a Good Fence:

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1. You start with a simple shape called a Kernel. To construct a Fence, you will completely surround the kernel using copies of it.

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2. Every part of the kernel has to be surrounded, even the corners. The shapes on the left don’t make a Good Fence because the circled corner is still exposed. The shapes on the right work, but there’s an extra shape that isn’t part of the Fence; it doesn’t help or hurt to have it there.

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3. No courtyards: there can’t be any internal holes in the area surrounded by your Fence. If you create any, they’ll be highlighted in red and the Fence won’t count.

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4. Fenceposts must line up. Sometimes, a long side of a shape will be broken into smaller segments, marked with notches. When the shapes are placed next to each other, the notches have to align. Otherwise, the shape won’t count as part of the Fence.

How to Play

I’ve created a mobile app with a large number of fun Good Fences puzzles (unlike Sudoku, these puzzles work much better on your computer screen than on paper).

When you first launch Good Fences, you’ll be greeted by a grid of puzzles. Initially, only the first row is available—you unlock each row by earning the Complete badge in every puzzle of the row above it. When you select a puzzle you’ll be taken to the Play Area. Here’s a quick visual tutorial on how to work on a Good Fences puzzle.

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5. Use two fingers to pan and zoom in the play area.

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6. The Kernel can create unlimited copies of itself. Just press on the Kernel and drag out new copies as needed.

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7. The active shape will have a Gizmo attached to it with four circles. Drag a circle around the shape to rotate it.

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8. Sometimes you’ll need to create a mirror image of a shape (it’s not necessary for this Kernel, but it’ll come into play later!). Drag from a Gizmo circle through the centre of the shape to reflect it.

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9. When you bring a shape into close alignment with the Kernel and the current Fence pieces, it’ll snap into position and become part of the cluster.

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10. Don’t worry, you can always detach pieces and move them around again.

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11. If you press and hold on a fence piece, you’ll get a copy of it instead of detaching it. This can be useful for creating a second copy of a piece that’s turned in a direction you need.

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12. When dragging tiles, a recycling icon will appear in the bottom-right corner of the screen. Drag tiles onto that icon to discard them.

The Four Challenges

Every puzzle comes with at least three Challenges, and some puzzles have four. The first (and easiest) challenge is to build any Good Fence at all, for which you’ll earn the Complete badge. But that’s just the beginning.

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13. Things get more interesting when you attempt to solve the Min and Max challenges. A Min Fence is one that uses the smallest possible number of pieces (four in this case), and a Max Fence uses the largest possible number (ten). The target numbers for Min and Max change from puzzle to puzzle. For some puzzles, the Min and Max are the same. How many pieces will you need? Figuring that out is part of the challenge!

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14. The ultimate Challenge is Two. To earn the Two badge, you must surround your Good Fence with another Fence! For simple shapes that’s easy. The puzzles that offer the Two Challenge are usually far from simple.

About the App

I created the Good Fences app in short bursts of activity spread out between Fall 2013 and Summer 2015. The entire app is written using the Haxe language and the OpenFL toolkit. These are wonderful open-source projects. They make it easy to create native apps that run across a wide range of platforms, which is a big win for an itty bitty developer working in isolation. Avoiding Objective C didn’t hurt either. (Plus, they allow me to cling to my embarrassingly outdated coding practices; hurray for vim and the command line!) Thanks to the many developers who contributed to these projects or helper libraries, or who answered my questions online or fixed bugs I stumbled over. Thanks also to my friends who tested the app and provided incredibly useful feedback and bug reports. The app uses the free typeface Yanone Kaffeesatz by Yanone.

Good Fences is available for purchase on the iOS App Store and Google Play. Because of the longer turnaround time for app reviews, the iOS versions will be slightly delayed relative to the Android versions (by a week or two).

Naturally, the name of the game comes from the Robert Frost poem “Mending Wall“.


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