In Sixteen Tons, four players face off in a strategy game that uses heavy sections of steel pipe as the game pieces. At the beginning of the game, players take out three dollar bills from their wallets. This money is used to bribe other players, so that they move your pieces for you. The resulting play combines strategic with social thinking. The strategy element is simple to solve – but the social play of Sixteen Tons is impossible to predict.
By the end of the game, one of the players has won – but invariably, the winner has spent all of his or her money to achieve victory. Does everyone keep the dollars they have? Is the money redistributed equally? Or does the winner take all? Intentional ambiguity in the rules forces players to deicide what to do with the cash at the end of the game.
Sixteen Tons was commissioned by the Art History of Games conference in Atlanta in February 2010. Since then it has been exhibited at Indiecade in Los Angeles (where it won the Developers Choice award) and at the NYU Game Center’s No Quarter exhibition. A tabletop version of the game was presented at the 2011 F.R.O.G. conference in Vienna.
Special thanks to Molo Design for sponsorship of the walls, the NYU Game Center for ongoing support of this project, Stephen Bodnar at SCAD for fabricating the game pieces, and Art History of Games curator John Sharp for initiating the project.