There was some excitement over a Sudoku video last week, the “Miracle Sudoku”, where a handful of arcane rules and just two numbers allows a Sudoku expert to fill the board. And it blows him away after he initially thought it was a joke.

And I thought, well, that’s how Tametsi makes me feel.

Nutshell: Hard Minesweeper with interesting ruleset. Later levels take me an hour per board. Unfinished.

The modern Minesweeper is solvable – hey, let’s call them “Minesolvers – and I’ve previously waxed lyrical about one of my faves, the minimalist RYB (FLEB, 2016). I found Hexcells (Matthew Brown, 2013) pretty easy, more of a zen exercise, while the followup Hexcells Plus (Matthew Brown, 2014) turned out to be too laborious for my love. And then there is Tametsi (Grip Top Games, 2017), a game I still have not completed.

Minesolvers deal with three types of information. Cells offer local information; normally, when you click them open, they’ll tell you how many of their neighbours are mined. This is followed by aggregate information which tell you something about a batch of cells; for example, Hexcells may tell you how many mines exist in a slice of the grid. And then there is global information which tells you something about the whole board.

Tametsi has a similar ruleset to Hexcells and, initially, does not seem all that different. Tametsi presents multiple grid types – squares, octagons and all sorts of tessellations. But then it also assigns colours to the hidden mines and begins to offer information relating to those colours. So Tametsi‘s global information will not just tell you the total number of mines but the total number of mines in each colour.

Minesolvers are always about digging into the soil for a logical proof about the state of a cell, any bloody cell, which will then reveal more information. A Matryoshka of puzzles: within each solved puzzle is a new impossible conundrum. And on you go, fighting through the fog of war, one cell at a time. Yet there’s always a point at which the puzzle buckles and delivers victory in a flash flood of revelation that is both cathartic and euphoric. Tametsi, however, is particularly resistant to speedy resolution: deep analysis is mandatory and it often has you interrogating hypotheses, hoping one of them will take you to a divine reductio ad absurdum.

The main issue I had with Hexcells Plus is that it introduced a local/aggregate hybrid type of information – the mine count within two cells – that just seemed designed to keep you busy. And mentally grinding through those possibilities was neither zen nor invigorating. Tametsi is aware of the grind in a tough minesolver and introduces a welcome, compensating measure: you can draw on the grid to keep track of your thoughts.

There’s a misstep, though. Tametsi allows you to choose the colour and brush size you draw with but doesn’t restrict your choice, so you never end up using exactly the same colour or size twice. You might wonder why you’d want a bigger brush, but erasing scribblings is a terrible chore if you don’t enlarge the brush. There are simple UI remedies here.

Tametsi suffers from the same problem that all minesolvers share, that making a mistake reveals information. The only fix is to go down the Picross/Sudoku route, dishing out all the information you need at the start – but then it wouldn’t be a minesolver any more.

I find Tametsi levels take me around an hour and this is why I still haven’t finished it. I do another level, now and again, just to keep my hand in. Just to have my own Miracle Sudoku moment. Tametsi has over a hundred of them.

Tametsi is currently available for Windows on Steam.

Previous Puzzlework: Puddle Knights

Next Puzzlework: Akurra

Further Watching

You can also watch me explain how Tametsi plays in the video below.


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22 thoughts on “Puzzleworks, 2: Tametsi

  1. The different colored mines reminds me of Minemonsters: It has different weights to the mines, and global information on each different monster. You also defeat lower level monsters by clicking them, so you go in waves across the board to find 1s to kill, then level up and try to find 2s, etc.
    From my experience you do have to use hp as a resource at times which is finicky (and a misstep after an hour of perfect performance is frustrating as ever), but I like the freedom it gives you to clear all cells that you know are a lower number, rather than having to map out and avoid every level 1 monster even at the end of the game. Some techniques that result from the maths are also much more interesting than Minesweeper (where I think a timer is necessary to make most puzzles interesting).
    Gonna have to try Tametsi at some point.

  2. Minemonsters looks interesting, just had a quick go. Need more practice to see how this works at length.

    I don’t think Tametsi would be improved with a timer – if I spend an hour on a single board, I’m not sure I’m going to do it again to reduce the time.

  3. I like the idea of Minemonsters but I find the higher difficulty pretty much unplayable without a way to mark the map. Like, there are things that I’ve known are 4’s since the beginning of the game, but I have no way of recording them, so I have to redo the calculation every time.

  4. Yes, I went back for another crack later with a bigger grid and I have to concur with Matt. Also having to pick random spots to kick off the grid is also a little frustrating. However, they are more problems with implementation than the core idea. I think the idea is pretty neat.

  5. The timer was more for standard minesweeper – Tametsi seems to provide enough challenge already and doesn’t need to resort to that, plus it’s not randomly generated. Agreed the QoL aspects of Minemonsters are pretty weak, I didn’t have much desire to continue after beating a hard board.

  6. Tametsi is indeed an Hexcells killer: it’s harder, has more levels and lets you take notes so it never feels overwhelming. I played it most evenings during last Summer and it was definitely time well spent so thanks for bringing it to my attention!
    I had some problems wrapping my head around some of the strangest board shapes, but the UI is quite helpful in reminding what is connected to what. Yes, it would be nice to have some preset colors to use always the same shade; I usually picked white, black, red, yellow, lime and cyan to make sure my lines were very different (always smallest brush for writing). I also quickly adopted some symbols for “1/n”, “2/n”, “(n-1)/n” to make my notes hold more information.

    I should reinstall it, I bet I have forgotten all levels by now!

  7. Mamono Sweeper is another version of the Minemonsters thing which does allow for annotations. Unfortunately I can only run it in Flash and the HTML5 version, as well as other difficulty settings, aren’t running for me right now.

  8. Fede, I can’t tell you the number of times I ran out of colours! Also, I’d like to have multiple overlays, too, please, so I could swap between them. Yes, implement a full paint program with layers, that’d be fab. 🙂

    Matt, Just had a go at this. This is definitely easier to work (although the grid was tiny and I kept fighting with right-click in Firefox) although I was forced into killing a higher level monster to ascend a couple of times after exhausting the grid of lower enemies. Still hate having to click at random, though. TSK TSK

  9. I think I’ve never needed more than 5 colours at once, but now that you mention multiple overlays, I remember taking screenshots and using Paint to create a second overlay! They would be very useful indeed.

  10. I really didn’t get the hype around that sudoku video. I solved it quickly and it was nice. I’m not an expert like that solver.
    I think the appeal of the video is more in the personality of the solver and his incredulous responses, who starts by thinking he’s being pranked. I approached the puzzle thinking it was solvable, and it was.

    It was also much easier than most puzzles in Tametsi, which sometimes take me days to solve (I’m stuck in quite a few in parallel). The sudoku puzzle’s solve path isn’t very branchy, and it’s very obvious how you’re expected to progress (find/eliminate 1’s, 2’s, etc…). But in Tametsi I can spend a long time not having any idea where the next area I should focus is.

  11. Thanks for the tip-off on Minemonsters. That’s a level of puzzle intensity I can approach without intimidation (if not conspicuous amounts of success!)

  12. Up to hard mode and I now understand. Give me markers of give me death! (It gave me death)

  13. Salty: I remember thinking when he said “this must be a joke” that he might not have that much experience in other puzzle forms. I’m used to getting minimal information and being expecting to make sense of it. I guess for a sudoku puzzle it must have looked strange, but those extra rules looked constrictive when he was reading them out. But maybe you’re right and this is no different to videogame “screamers” whose main schtick is their personality rather than the games; people are tuning in for his reactions. It was nice to see how quick and precise he was with his calculations; I was in some awe of that.

    CA I found Mamono Sweeper better suited for harder play but the grid squares were tiny. I definitely needed to zoom up the web page a few times!

  14. I’m here to change your lives, gentlemen. If you hold down the left mouse button on a square on minemonsters, it brings up an annotation feature.

  15. Wow that is a literal gamechanger. Found the interface a bit awkward at first but I got used to it–in the end I think the mouse-only thing works better than the Mamoro Sweeper hover-and-keyboard scheme (which, if you’re going to hover-and-keyboard, why not give the option to directly type the numbers?)

  16. Yeah sorry, I thought you were talking about not being able to mark unknowns, like when you know one out of two squares is a 4. Didn’t cross my mind that the game never tells you how to mark known numbers. On another note, I picked Recursed back up and fear how much that’ll dominate my days going forward.

  17. I’ve had to give up on my attempt to conquer Minemonster’s BIG (Bomb Mode), the final of its challenges. It was to be my character redemption arc, the trophy that established my logic-puzzle credentials among this pre-eminent crowd. But it turned into my white whale. Join me while I hand over my notes to any brave successors who wish to attempt it, while trying not to compare it to a roguelike.

    Starting a game of BIG (Bomb mode) is like coming ashore in Day Z or landing on the military base in PubG. You can and will go dozen games before finding yourself in a viable starting position. In this it’s not unlike Minesweeper itself – while Growing Up mode gives you the health mechanic that lets you weather mistakes and even strategically make them to advance your level, here clicking on any monster is an instant game over.

    So you’ll die a lot looking for a decent chunk of empty squares to get started on. But you shouldn’t settle, either. Be willing to bail on a game in the opening minutes if it’s begrudging you any momentum. I’ve spent hours on stingy maps that barely gave up a quarter of their squares, and wanton strumpets that yielded as many almost straight away.

    They should teach this game in history classes about Napoleon and Hitler’s invasions of Russia. You can go on and on, cutting swathes into the field, feeling invincibly that your advance can never stall. But your momentum will always, always fail you, and at that moment you’ll look up and see the endless stretches of untouched tiles sprawling in all directions. BIG (Bomb mode) has 900 squares containing 221 monsters. This map. Is. Big.

    As this is ostensibly a logic game, there are certain ways to identify the contents of squares based on mathematical certainties:

    Corner cases. This is the obvious one: when a numbered square that only has one adjacent unidentified square, the level of the monster occupying the latter is unaccounted value of the former (the number minus the values of any other adjacent occupied squares.) You might vaguely be hoping that the entire map can be solved this way. It can’t. Which brings you to…

    Contained equalities. A bit trickier, but you’ll still be grateful whenever you find one of these. What you’re looking for is two numbered squares, where the neighbouring set of one are identical to that of the other + {a few more}. Then you can compare the sums and work out what the value of the squares that are {a few more} must be. This is most useful when this latter subset must have a value of 0, because then you can click them for more clues. Unfortunately you will eventually run out of contained equalities: all numbered squares will have a different set of neighbours, making logical certainty as to their contents difficult to deduce. At this point your last resort is…

    Overlapping inequalities. You have to use the ceilings and floors of the adjacent squares to tease out the last available mathematical certainties, by comparing the maximum values of some squares with the minimum values of others. If you can establish that a square is at most an 8 according to one of its neighbours, and at least an 8 according to another, then obviously its value is 8. This is where the annotation feature becomes insufficient; you have to break out an image editor and take screenshots, and now a handful of squares might take you a couple of hours. Also, there’s no save function, so I don’t recommend playing at a PC you can’t leave on standby for long periods of time.

    On the flat frontier: you’ll know it when you find it. It’s a state of mind, but also a place that is horribly real. All games trend inexorably toward the flat frontier, where all surfaces are perfectly even and there’s no corner cases or contained equalities to be found. If you aren’t there yet it’s because you haven’t chipped perfect flatness out of your map yet, but you will. Overlapping inequalities are the only thing that might help you, but sometimes the inequalities yield no certainty, only an array of possibilities, only one of which can be real. This is where you learn the truth about Minemonsters BIG (bomb mode).

    The truth of this mode is it will begin with guesses and it will probably end with guesses. It isn’t a true logic puzzle, a reality that was right under your nose when you started, but like the pig-headed idiot that you are you spent dozens of hours to learn. At some point – unless there’s a deductive heuristic that has escaped me – deduction and even bifurcation are likely to be of no use. You will have to take educated guesses, cross your fingers and click.

    Fortunately, the realisation that deduction can take you no further has takes the stress out of even an advanced attempt. The anxiety of making a fatal click goes away. The game is effectively in a dead state once you reach the flat frontier. You might as well take a guess; if you’re lucky, you might even escape it and break through to the other side.

    In this sense that game is still solvable, you just have to use logic to minimise the number of guesses you have to take and then get lucky each time. I anticipate on a good seed the number of absolutely necessary guesses could be low as three or four. The odds of each guess can be as harsh as 1 in 8, or as generous as 7 in 8. Several times I got to what I was certain was a winnable state (90% of the map uncovered) only to blunder in some catastrophic way. Even as I write this I’m feeling the urge to go back for one. More. Try. But for now, I’m crying peanuts.

  18. This was actually why I gave up on Minemonsters because it wasn’t guaranteed to be solvable – that guesswork and sacrificing health were necessary. Even discounting the start, I often hit situations where I needed to guess. I didn’t even try those bomb modes…

  19. Yes, that it wasn’t strictly fair was what galled me into so many attempts. Something good did come out of it though, which was that I listened to the Mr Driller Drill Land soundtrack so many times I may have gone slightly mad.

    It’s a cracker in every sense.

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