Tuesday 24 March 2020

Rune Cube

Kagen Sound’s first foray into this field came with his Waterfall Boxes – a stunning set of boxes where the first four boxes combine to provide the map for the fifth and final box. Somewhere in the middle of that run of boxes, the Rune Box appeared: a cube with mysterious runes on each face that showed puzzlers a series of interacting mazes keeping the box from opening. That in turn developed into his entirely collapsible Maze Burr - which earned him Puzzle of the year in 2006, scooping both the Jury Grand Prize and the People’s Choice Award. He subsequently made a run of absolutely gorgeous Cocobolo Maze Burrs.

The Rune Cube takes all of that puzzling goodness and distils it down to the bare necessities. [Cue Disney earwig – you’re welcome!] A simple poplar box in the core supports sliding plates so that each maple faceplate can slide through its three-by-three maze about a stainless-steel hex screw. The mazes dictate where a panel can move, and the positions of its neighbours dictate which positions in the maze are reachable. One of the panels has a hole at the end of the maze large enough to allow the plate to be lifted clear of the box and the internal box to be opened… which is handy, because that’s where the hex key and a couple of spare screws are stored. Oh, and the inside of the lid is appropriately branded, dated and numbered. 

For each starting position, the special plate with the exit hole can always be moved, a little, which frees up one of its neighbours and so on…

Kagen’s designed the faceplates to be reversible, which adds nicely to the number of challenges available to the puzzlist. John Rausch has provided a handy accompanying PDF file which covers the history of the concept and a whole bunch of different challenges from the relatively straight-forward 6-move set-up through to the somewhat more challenging 115-move suggestion. 

The Rune Cube is about 7cm cubed – big enough to handle easily and small enough to feel like you could play all day. The simpler challenges don’t require much forward planning and you can virtually just follow the available moves through to the solution. 

Some of the longer solutions will however require quite a lot of forward planning and thinking. Nothing is ever particularly complicated, as you’d expect with the 3*3 mazes, but there’s enough planning required to tickle the little grey cells into action for a while. 

I’ve had my copy for a few weeks and I’ve enjoyed running through quite a few of the challenges provided, both on the little sheet accompanying the cube and on John’s downloadable PDF sheet. 

A huge amount of replayable puzzling fun packed into a wonderfully crafted compact little cube. 

<...and they’re currently still available for sale over here…>

<...and I've improved the spelling of my friend's name so that he's no longer merely smoke and now happily drunk again!>

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