Take-Back-Toe Wins the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge

The winner of the Thousand-Year Game Design Challenge is Take-Back-Toe by James Ernest. It was a close, close decision. All the finalists had unique attributes that made them stand out from the rest. Whether it be sustainability, accessibility, strong community, and just straight elegance, each entry had strong showings in one category or another.

Still, we found the strongest overlapping approval for Take-Back-Toe, a well-rounded abstract with a touch of randomness. We found it intriguing that the game can be played with any forty objects and no board. That mix of specificity and generality is a clever avenue for the game to survive generations as either a commoners' game (with seeds in pits) or an elite past-time (with specially crafted components). It makes the game very portable, too. While waiting in line at an author signing, a friend wanted to learn how to play. A minute later, we ripped up a sheet of paper and played on the floor. I've played with stones (as seen above), cards, and poker chips. It's a hit every time. We replayed this game more often than any entry in the lineup.

Congratulations to James Ernest!

And a thousand thanks to everyone who entered the Challenge – for your entry and for your patience during the long judging period. We're still just a couple of gamers and this is only our best guess at what will survive into distant future. All of the finalists have a great shot at becoming a thousand-year game. I do hope you all continue designing new games into the new year and beyond.

As for the future of the Challenge itself? Well, I'm taking a personal break. I hope the Challenge returns in the future with a larger judging committee. With luck, the Challenge can live on well beyond my stewardship.

And who knows? A Challenge entrant may actually last to the next millennium!


  1. Hard to argue with the choice. I'm trying to get my SO to play it with me today. Congrats to the indomitable James Ernest [goes back to playing The Big Idea]! And big thanks to you Daniel for creating the design contest of my dreams and administering it so well.

  2. Congrats to James Ernest for winning the Challenge!

  3. Congratulations James!

  4. Pity that this contest was won by a professional (in the sense of already having had games published) designer. Perhaps next time the contest will be made open to "first timers"?

  5. Check out the finalists for some exciting new-ish designers. http://danielsolisblog.blogspot.com/2011/12/finalists-of-thousand-year-game-design.html


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