Android Nim

Android Nim
The first advertisement for Android Nim
from the November/December 1978
issue of 80-Northwest Journal

Title: Android Nim
Author: Leo Christopherson
Publisher: 80-NW Publishing Co.
Released: 1978
Compatibility: Model I and III, disk and tape
Sound: Yes

Android Nim was Leo Christopherson’s first game for the TRS‑80. It was featured on the cover of 80-Northwest Journal (later 80-U.S. Journal) in November 1978 and was released by 80-NW Publishing (later 80-U.S. Software). The cost was $8.00 for cassette and $13.00 for disk, with a $2.00 discount for 80-Northwest Journal subscribers. The game helped to popularize the magazine, and 80-U.S. Journal used an android for its mascot until 1981.

Soon after the original release, Leo Christopherson enhanced Android Nim with sound and more animation, developing the techniques known as “string-packing” and “line-packing” in the process. The enhanced version of Android Nim cost $14.95. Like all of Leo Christopherson’s TRS–80 games, Android Nim was written in combination of BASIC and machine language.

Nim is an old two-player game which uses three piles of objects, such as matches or checkers. Each player takes turns removing as many objects as they want from each pile. Depending on the type of Nim game, the goal is either to take the last piece or to force the other player to take the last piece.

Android Nim title screen
Instructions screen

Android Nim
Start of game

As far as the rules are concerned, Android Nim is a straightforward computerization of Nim. What makes it unusual is that androids are used for game pieces. There are three rows of androids: seven in the top row, five in the middle row, and three in the bottom row. Instead of just taking pieces, a special android destroys the other androids with a ray gun. In Android Nim, the player who destroys the last android wins.

What makes the game so special are the graphics and animation. The androids blink, look around, and seemingly talk to one another. They all turn to look at the android with the ray gun before he fires.

Android Nim
One android destroyed

Android Nim
The computer has won!

The computer player plays a perfect game, and the only way to beat it is to make no mistakes. Nim is a difficult game to beat until you figure out the theory behind the game. In fact, Leo Christopherson wrote the game in order to teach his students about the binary system.

When it becomes clear that it has lost, the computer player “tries” to make illegal moves in protest. When it finally does lose, it displays a screen of random insults to the player.

Android Nim
Now that the computer has no more
moves, it tries to cheat

Android Nim
The computer is a poor sport when it loses

Somewhat unusually, the complete program listing of the original version of Android Nim was published in Creative Computing as part of a profile of Leo Christopherson.

Android Nim had a second commercial life in 1986, when Powersoft released a package called “Leo’s Greatest Hits.” It cost $19.95 and contained Android Nim along with five other Leo Christopherson games.

In 2005, Leo Christopherson rewrote Android Nim to target Windows, this time as Android Nim 2D.

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