Alchemy (From the Pillowbook X)

Here is a variation of the pillow theme. This time, the tiles are not based on squares as the regular pillows or on triangles as in an older post, but on 60 degree rhombi. I only use pieces with convex or concave edges, so there are seven different rhombic pillows up to symmetry, this time also not distinguishing between mirror symmetric pieces. The main diagonals of the original rhombi are marked white. For the purpose of the Alchemy game below, I call them elements.


These elements can be used to tile curvy shapes like the curvy hexagon below. Again, for the purpose of the game, I call such a tiled hexagon a Philosopher’s Stone.


I leave going through the brain yoga to discuss tileability questions to the dear reader. Instead, here is the game I designed these pieces for.


A Game for 2-6 Players


To complete the Magnum Opus by crafting a Philosopher’s Stone.


  • The seven elements above in seven colors, colored on both sides, at least 4 of each kind for each player;
  • One transmutation card for each player;
  • One Philosopher’s Stone outline for each player;
  • Pencils and glue sticks.

Below is a template for the transmutation card. It shows a heptagon with the elements at its vertices, and all possible connections (transmutations, that is).



All elements are separated into resource piles according to color/shape. Each players takes a transfiguration card and an outline of the Philosopher’s Stone.


Above is an outline of the Philosophers stone, with little notches to indicate where the corners of the elements have to go. The elements are shown next to it to scale so that you get the elements in the right size.

Completing the Magnum OpusGoals

The goal of the game is to accomplish the Opus Magnum by filling the outline of the Philosopher’s Stone with elements using as few transmutations as possible. Elements must be placed so that

  • at least one corner matches a notch or a corner of another element that has already been placed;
  • elements don’t overlap and don’t leave gaps;
  • no two equal elements may share a curved edge (but they may share a vertex).


When a player has completed a Philosopher’s Stone, he or she determins the used transmutations:
A transmutation occurs in the Philosopher’s Stone when two elements share a curved edge.

The players record a transmutation on their transmutation card by drawing a straight red edge between two elements that share a curved edge in their completed Philosopher’s Stone.

The unused edges are then drawn black. The player with the largest number of black edges becomes the master alchemist.

Below is the completed transmutation card for the Philosopher’s Stone at the top. This was a pretty poor job, the player used all but three of all possible transmutations.


One can turn this game also into a puzzle. Can you tile the Philosopher’s Stone with the seven elements that its transmutation card is the one below?

Transmutations puzzle

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