Daily Illuminator

February 4, 2024: Pondering The Nature Of Flextangles

Flextangle in open state

Flextangle in four states, spelling out CHECK BY COLOR PRINTER

I have a lot of ideas. Many of them are half-baked, so I keep them around, hoping the extra cooking time will prove beneficial. Sometimes that works; other times, I just end up with a boatload of still-half-baked ideas (often manifesting as perpetually open tabs).

One idea I've had open in a tab for the better part of 2023 (and, obviously, now going into 2024) is using a flextangle at the gaming table. "What's a flextangle," you might ask, "and how do I use it in gaming?"

The first question is fairly easy to answer. A flextangle is a papercraft item where you have a donut-like angular "tube" that rotates on itself, presenting four images. Hmm . . . having typed that, I realize "easy to answer" may have been a stretch. Anyway, a video is worth a thousand words, so check out YouTube for a bunch of examples.

"Okay! So, how do I use them at the gaming table?" Yeahhhh . . . that's why this has been half-baked and unwritten for so many months. The fact remains that while they're cool, I haven't come up with a killer use for them.

I did have fun with one over the Christmas holiday, when one present had a flextangle tucked in there that led to the second part of the present; manipulating the flextangle provided the four-word message: "CHECK NEAR COLOR PRINTER." The gift recipient dutifully checked near the color printer for another present that was concealed in the area.

The challenge in figuring out what to do with it is that it's not really a puzzle, per se; once you have the flextangle to manipulate, it reveals its secrets quickly and easily.

So how can it be used as a game aid? I considered having it as (say) a "Player Turn" token (perhaps with four player names or numbers), or a step counter for a game with four phases. But no specific games are coming to mind.

Which brings me to . . . now. Without any brilliant suggestion, the best I can offer is to use it as a cool prop. Maybe it presents a four-word sentence in a dramatic way for an RPG session, like my Christmas offering. Maybe it has four mystic runes that denote a hero's current power. It might be useful in a GM-less storytelling game to remember whose turn it is to make the final decision for the round. Like I said, I don't have a great idea here – but maybe you do.

I can offer this website from JanMalch that lets you upload images and generate the printable flextangle template. And one of the aforementioned YouTube videos should show you how to fold what you print.

If you do manage to come up with a brilliant gaming use for your very own flextangle, please share it with me and/or the world (say, on the forums). Regardless, I am now freed from the flextangle's torment and can close these tabs on my browser!

-- Steven Marsh

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