Monday, April 30, 2007

What Is It?

Several years ago I purchased this item from a garage sale here in Australia. I have no idea what it is. It is a slim wooden box with a slide-off back. It appears to be hand-made. It measures 28cm x 23cm x 2cm. The image below is of the front of the box.

The back of the box has a lid which slides off. The box contains 15 numbered wooden tiles measuring 6cm x 5cm.

The numbers are placed in a certain order within the box. I know this because whoever owned the box prior to me has pencilled in the place for each number on the inside of the bottom of the box. Each tile has two tiny nails on either side of the number. The numbers appears to have been painted on via a stencil. There is a space for one further number but as there is no pencilled mark in this space denoting a number 16 my assumption is that the space is there for a reason.

One other clue is that certain numbers appear to be more smudged in their middle than others. You'll notice that the numbers in the bottom right of the image appear to have been more handled than the numbers in the top left of the image. I'm assuming the smudging has been caused by fingers moving the tiles over the years.

My first thought was that this was one of those games where you slide tiles without lifting them to make a pattern or image. But if so, why aren't the tiles square? My other thought was that the tiles could be some scoring system for a game.

Has anyone got any ideas what this may be?


Yehuda said...

This is one of those puzzles where the object is to restore the pieces back to their original state.

Take all the pieces out and then put them back in in a random order. Without lifting the pieces, slide the pieces until the numbers are once again in numerical order. At any time, you can only slide an a piece adjacent to the empty space into the empty space.

I believe that only half the possible configurations can actually be solved.


gregor said...

Yes, it looks like the 15 game, which was a craze in the US in 1880. See

I'd think the tiles have rounded edges so as to be easier to slide around each other.

gregor said...

Here's a nice collection of them

Coldfoot said...

Definitely a 15 game. They were all the rage years ago.

Someone with more time on his hands than he needed calculated that when all the numbers were in order, except 14 and 15 being reversed, that it was impossible to put the puzzle into correct order.

Rewards were offered for a solution which helped fuel the craze, but no one could beat the math that said it was impossible.

Ozvortex said...

Thanks Yehuda, Gregor and Coldfoot for your replies and the link. So it looks like it's definitely one of those sliding puzzle games. I'd only ever seen the cheap, plastic, self-contained versions with images.

Sagrilarus over on BGG said his grandmother's copy of the game included directions that told you to shuffle the pieces by sliding them around (without lifting) from the solved position in the box. This would guarantee a solvable state and would also explain why the numbers in the bottom right of the image (ie., near the free space) show signs of being handled more (they're the tiles that are moved first and therefore more dirty from the tips of many fingers over the years).

Thanks everyone.