Playing Bits and Bytes
Goal / Objective
To get your Program home to the planet Ram while avoiding Walls, Bugs and the evil overlord CPU.
How does Bits and Bytes help your child?Bits and Bytes helps teach children computational thinking. It teaches a combination of problem solving, logic, algorithms and much more.
Children learn how to break problems down into the smallest steps required to achieve a solution (algorithms).
Bits & Bytes has been designed to help familiarise children with the world of coding so when they are ready to start coding it’s a far less daunting proposition (i.e. character names used are based on actual computer terms, actual computer terminology in used in the rules, the backstory explains how a computer works, the font used is common to computer programming interfaces and much more).
By playing Bits and Bytes children are having fun but they are also making the connection that the game has something to do with computers, which is important for learning computational thinking.
Far from Earth on a planet called Ram, live the Programs – small monsters with stumpy legs and big toes. Life on Ram was idyllic until the dreaded CPU arrived. No one knows where he came from but his appearance is not of their world. CPU is the overlord of Ram and ruthlessly controls it, telling the Programs exactly what they can and cannot do. Nobody dared to disobey him, until four best friends – Data, Perl, Bit and Byte – defied him. They were playing where they weren’t allowed when CPU caught them. Enraged by their disobedience CPU banished each of them to separate corners of the galaxy – far from Ram and their families… But nobody tells Data, Perl, Bit and Byte they can’t go home.
Can you help Data, Perl, Bit and Byte to return to their home, Ram, without being caught by CPU or his feared henchman, Bug?
How does this help your child?The backstory to Bits & Bytes familiarises children with how computers physically work. In a computer when you run a Program it lives in the RAM (Random Access Memory) component and the brain of the computer that controls everything is the CPU (Central Processing Unit).
By reading this backstory children learn by association and understand how computers actually work.
How to play Bits and Bytes
Please note: By default there are 60 Grid cards included in the game but only 56 are required to play. Place the 4 spare Grid cards to one side (they are not needed).
Please note: The player does not hand over the Instruction card but shows the other players (the player should always have 4 different Instruction cards to choose from each turn).
How does this help your child?It is important to note that TURNING and MOVING the Program are two separate steps. This is important as the players are learning to break problems down into their smallest steps/components.
If a computer programmer wanted to write a program to turn an object 90 degrees and then move it forward. They would have to write a line of code telling the object to turn ninety degrees and then a second line of code to move the object. And of course the Instructions (lines of code) have to be in the correct order, otherwise the object will end up in the wrong location.
In the example shown on the right the player decides to show a TURN RIGHT instruction card, which turns their Program to the right – but this does NOT move their Program forward.
Turning and Moving are two separate steps (this is important as the players are learning to break problems down into their smallest steps/components as would be required if they were programming a computer).
- BLANK card – The player can move their Program forward on top of the blank card
- WALL card – The player cannot move their Program forward and will have to find another way to reach planet Ram
- FUNCTION GEM (Ruby) card – The player can remove the Function card and hold onto it until the end of the game (the Function Gem’s powers are used in the Advanced rules). After removing the card the player can move their Program forward onto the empty space
- BUG card – The player’s Program must return to its starting position in the corner of the Grid
- CPU card – Every player’s Program (unless they have reached planet Ram) must return to their starting position and all the Grid cards are RESET (i.e. the Grid is returned to the “Starting Grid Layout” as if no cards have been revealed as shown in STEP 2 above)
Please note, a Program cannot move outside the playing area (Grid)
The FUNCTION gem is part of the Advanced Rules for Bits and Bytes and should only be introduced for older and/or experienced players. Please do not introduce this too early as it may cause frustration.
On planet Ram there are special gems, called FUNCTIONS, which can grant the finder of the gem the ability to issue one advanced command to their Program.
IF something happens THEN do something
For example, a player could issue the command – “IF i reveal a wall THEN remove the wall”
DO something UNTIL something happens
For example, a player could issue the command – “DO keep moving me forward UNTIL i reveal a wall”
It is up to the child’s imagination to fill in the blanks, as long as they structure the command correctly using the above terminology and structure.
How does this help your child?The above two commands are actual computer functions and by introducing the Function Gem into the game then children are actually learning how to create real-life functions. The IF… THEN… Function is an example of a conditional statement. The DO… UNTIL… Function is an example of a looping statement. Finally, creativity is an important part of computer coding and should be encouraged at all times. The Function card allows the children to apply their creativity to real world computer functions.
For example: A Player issues the command: DO keep moving me forward UNTIL i hit a wall.
The player would then reveal (turn over) each card in front of their Program before moving forward. If the revealed card was blank they could move forward, however if they reveal a BUG then as per the normal rules for the BUG the player would have to return to their starting position (in the corner of the Grid).
As Bits and Bytes is a card game it is very flexible (does not have the restrictions of a board game) and is very easy to make the game harder or easier (for very young players).
- On the player’s turn they are given all of the INSTRUCTION cards (including the spare cards)
- The player then lays out every INSTRUCTION card in the correct sequence required to guide their Programme back to Ram safely
- Once they have laid out the INSTRUCTION cards the player then moves their Programme through each instruction. If they reveal a WALL, BUG or CPU then their Programme has failed. It is the next players turn and they must start again
- If a player reveals a FUNCTION gem during their turn they may remove it and keep it for later use (and play it as per the normal rules for the FUNCTION gem) – this will leave an empty space on the GRID
- Before the next player has their turn please ensure all of the GRID cards (small orange back cards) are face down (so the orange back is facing up) and the next player should have all of the INSTRUCTION cards (as per step 1 above)
- The game continues until the first player successfully reaches Ram
How does this help your child?By laying out every step their Program must take in advance and then running their Program through each step, the player has created a computer programme using cards only – where each instruction represents a line of code and if there is an error they need to debug their code, just like a real computer programme!
If a player has had their turn but their Program failed, then that player must remember what INSTRUCTIONS they issued previously (and in what sequence) and then work out how to fix (debug) their Program. If the players are playing on a 10 x 10 Grid or even larger then the number of steps they must remember is considerable and highly challenging.
- The game by default comes with 60 Grid cards (the small orange back cards) but only 56 cards are required to complete the 8 x 8 Grid. To fine-tune the level of difficulty then the players could remove 4 Wall cards thus leaving more blank cards, or vice versa they could make it harder by removing 4 blank cards, etc.
- To make the game easier then instead of starting with the 8 x 8 Grid players could start with a 6 x 6 Grid
- Alternatively to make the game harder, combine two decks of Grid cards together thus allowing the players to create a 10 x 10 Grid or even larger
One example of “tweaking” the rules is the BUG card. Instead of having the player who revealed the Bug return to their starting position, the player can nominate somebody else to return to the start.
The only condition to changing the rules is for all players to agree to the new rules prior to the game starting (this avoids arguments and allows children to collaborate on creating their rules).
A player could play two Function gems and issue the following commands:
DO keep moving me forward UNTIL IF i hit a wall THEN turn right
In the above example the player’s Program would keep moving forward until it hit a wall and if they did then they would turn right.
When a player plays the Function gem card they could issue the following command:
DO move forward, turn right, move forward, turn left UNTIL i reach Ram
The above command would allow the Program to zig zag across the board (normal rules of the Function gem and revealed cards would apply).
We are constantly tweaking our rules based on your feedback (to make the game as simple as possible for children to play). If you would like to download the latest version of the rules then please click on the link below.
Click here to download the official Quick Start Instruction guide (to be printed on both sides of an A4 sheet)…
Do you have any Questions on playing?
If you have any questions about playing the game please do not hesitate to contact us by completing the below form and we will reply as soon as possible.