Everybody loves the laser pointer. Who among us has held one without being told to "quit playing with that thing!" Three engineers from Tulane University in Louisiana have managed to combine work with play and created Khet, the first board game that I know of that utilizes the special properties of the laser.
Khet is a chess-like game played on a board with a black wall around it. Players capture pieces by hitting them with the beam of a fixed laser, built into the wall on the far right side of their side of the board. Most of the pieces have at least one side that is a mirror, angled so if the laser hits, it turns 90 degrees. In this way, the laser will continue a path until it hits the un-mirrored side of a piece or the wall. A turn consists of moving a piece and firing your laser. If it hits a piece, regardless of owner, that piece is removed. Each player has a Pharaoh piece, and you win by capturing your opponent's Pharaoh.
There are four types of pieces. The Pharaoh and the Obelisk pieces have no mirrors and are therefore the most vulnerable to being hit. The most common pieces are the Pyramids, which have a mirrored side but can be captured if hit on the other sides. Finally, there are pieces called Djeds, which are mirrored on both sides, so can never be captured. A turn consists of moving a piece one square in any direction (including diagonally) into an empty square or of rotating a piece 90 degrees without changing squares. The Djed piece can swap places with an adjacent Pyramid or Obelisk, but not with a Pharaoh or another Djed piece. There is also an expansion with Eye of Horus pieces, which split the beam in two.
Since the moves are relatively simple (compared to chess, certainly) the trickiest aspect of the game is getting a sense of the laser path. It turns either right or left 90 degrees, so it won't take long to be able to anticipate where the laser will end up with greater accuracy. The game rewards the player who can best master both the tactical aspect of piece movement along with the ability to visualize how moves affect the laser path.
But even if you are like me and don't play the game with any great skill, it is still fun to move the pieces and see if the laser ends up anywhere close to where you thought it would. In this way, Khet is a game that draws people to it and makes it almost as fun to play around with as it is to play.
It will be interesting to see how this technology will be adapted to other games in the future. I can certainly see appeal to an adventure-themed game with lasers, maybe this time built into the pieces? Only time will tell. In the meantime, Khet succeeds as a game and as a fun piece of kinetic art.