The Glass Plate Game Rules

A Cooperative Thinking Game for one to eight Players

Copyright by Dunbar Aitkens, 1980

The object of playing the game is to spark creative and interesting conversation between the players. Nobody wins. The placement of pieces on the cards marks the expression and manipulation of ideas or concepts. As with conversation, the game is generally played without a goal at the start. Players create and label idea-cards as whim directs them, extending lines of thought that catch the groups imagination. The rules of the game are intended to be an agreement rather than a set of statutes; as written they enforce clarity, cooperation and ease of exploration.

The layout

The printed cards are sample ideas to spark lines of thought. To start the game players lay down the cards that seem interesting or appropriate for that playing, adding ideas as they think of them. The picture-graphic is for quick recognition after the players are somewhat familiar with the cards. With the ideas thus laid out the players remove those that anyone cannot understand. Players should help each other understand.

Writing ideas on cards is openended but no opinions are allowed; no cards may have a question of truth or falseness. Personal statements are to be made only by relating ideas. Still, a theory is not an opinion. Thus the idea "cars as a vile public nuisance" is acceptable whereas "cars are a vile public nuisance" is not.

For those who care to, attaching a diagram, picture or photograph can add impact and beauty to an idea. Also unassigned pictures, particularly photographs, can spark ideas again and again. One could use a deck of unassigned photographs, each with a blank card under it, to speed creation of a new set of ideas for each playing.

All the pieces are held in common and should be within reach of everybody. Play begins when someone labels a card with the first sequential cube and a colored square.

The rules

*l. In making a statement, a player must use a card with an appropriate idea on it, relating it to another idea-card, and label the new card with the next sequential cube (number side up) and a colored square of the same color as the one related to.

*2. In asking a question or making a request a player must speak right after the relation in question (in "Challenge") and record the challenge by turning the cube labeling the relation so that the C side is up. A Challenge must be done in the move following the relevant relation.

3. An idea-card cannot be related to unless it has been "opened". A card is open if it is labeled and unrelated, or has a sequential cube with the P or O face up.

*4. To open an unlabeled card a player labels it with the next sequential cube and a square of an unused color.

*5. To open a card that is labeled and related a player turns the sequential cube to the P side (Permit).

*6. To open a card that is Challenged a player turns the sequential cube to the O (Okay).

*7. If a relation is Challenged for triteness and talk of it goes nowhere a 2player may turn the relevant cube to the blank side, unlabeling the idea-card.

8. If more than three people are playing then no player may make two consecutive moves; no player may Permit a relation if they labeled either of the idea-cards involved, and no player may Okay a card that they labeled. Starred rules describe moves.

And more

The game is constantly being refined and added to. The green regul4ar cubes in the box are for labeling Challenge requests or questions from the following list:

      1.   How have you used this information or understanding?
      2.   What interesting example can you offer that describes 
           your relation?
      3.   Withdraw your relation.
      4.   What do you mean?  I don't understand.
      5.   Make a stab at relating one of the current players to  
           your relation.
      6.   How do you reassure yourself that this is true?  How do 
           you derive the statement?>

Branching is possible. A player makes a statement labeling a card and using a square of an unused color on the new card and on all other cards to be associated.

Cards may be labeled any number of times. Cards may be written up anytime and unlabeled cards may be removed anytime.

Players may also request a relation be made, by the group or another player, specifying at least one of the idea-cards to be related (this is not a Challenge).

The game ends with the "return" symbol getting labeled without a colored squareand opened with P or both C and 0 by another player.


The notion of relating has thrown a lot of people. Whatever the other players will accept is acceptable. One could say "Progressing unnoticed" goes with "Multi- plication of mechanical advantage" in that clock motion is slow as to be unnoticed and has incredible mechanical advantage. "Metaphor" goes with "Struggle" in that I can never figure out exactly what is a metaphor. "The beautiful illusion" goes with "Hidden talent" in that I tend to fall in love with people who have social talents that they're unaware of.

One can construct a relation from a statement; this often leads to useful insight. For instance: "I'm having trouble with my English teacher" relates "Struggle" and "Education". This shows the statement to be rather trite encouraging the player to be more specific: say "I have a dominance problem with my English teacher", relating the "Marforce in people" to "Education"; one could also say this relates "Dominance" (new idea-card) and "Education".

A relation is two or more ideas that fit together in some image or conception.


The Glass Plate Game came out of the effort of several people to develop rules for the Glass Bead Game as alluded to in Hermann Hesse's book Magister Ludi. The Glass Plate Game was first constructed as a table top display, glued to a piece of cardboard and placed in a shallow wood box, covered by a glass plate, hence the name. A chess set was used for pieces. Also some of the symbols were photographs without ideas attached.

The point of marking every move and numbering the letterd dice is to insure that trains of thought can be dropped and picked up again easily; no one forgets. Ideas in written form improve the clarity of statements players make. The game is intended to be non-competititve but if the player wants to score points, one point could be awarded for each misspelling discovered among the cards. If the game seems to bring only trite relations that provoke no feeling then possibly the third Challenge request is underused (or the players are trite and provoke no feeling). If the game seems too confining then possibly the players are taking the rules too seriously.

For new graphics people who would like to share through it, there is a dictionary being published by installments. There is also an optional wooden board that goes with the game and a set of rules to allow using the cards without pieces. Building directions for the board cost $.50. The dictionary is $1.00 an issue. Send correspondence to:


1460 S.W. "A" Street

Corvallis, Oregon 97330

or contact Dunbar Aitkens via email at this address :