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2048 Numberwang (louhuang.com)
539 points by maxjus on March 20, 2014 | hide | past | favorite | 110 comments

    C:\> TWENTY48

    You are in a darkened room. On the floor in front of
    you are sixteen tiles, arranged in a grid.  The tiles
    are labelled A1, A2, A3, A4, B1 and so on up to D4.

    There is a two here, on tile A1.
    There is a two here, on tile D3.

    > GET ALL
    The numbers appear too strongly glued to the tiles.

    You have a copy of On Lisp by Paul Graham, a thing your 
    Aunt gave you that you don't know what it is, and a 
    small leaflet.

    Time passes. You have a profound enlightenment experience.  
    Sadly, this does not help you win the game.

    TWENTYFORTYEIGHT is a game of numbers, addition and high 
    bits. In it you will explore some of the most tedious 
    territory ever seen by Hacker News readers. No computer 
    will be without one!"

    > GO LEFT
    Some numbers move, and a new number appears!

    There is a two here, on tile A1.
    There is a two here, on tile C1.
    There is a two here, on tile D1. [Footnote 6]

    > FOOTNOTE 6
    There are no footnotes.

    > GO UP
    Some numbers move, some change, and some new numbers 

    There is a four here, on tile A1.
    There is a two here, on tile B1.
    There is a two here, on tile D4.

    >GO DOWN
    Some numbers move, and a new number appears!
    There is a four here, on tile C1.
    There is a two here, on tile C4.
    There is a two here, on tile D4.
    There is a two here, on tile D1.

    Not surprised.

    Amazed you survived this long.

    Your score is 4, out of a possible umpty squillion and six.
    Good bye!


I give it until tomorrow before we see a text-adventure-based version of 2048

I gave it a week, and there was nothing. I was astonished! It seemed such a logical extension of the idea. I'm ashamed at myself for doing this "demo" instead of just sitting down and writing it myself, but that mortgage won't pay itself...

I'd do it tonight if I didn't already have plans

I'm actually looking forward to this one, and I've never been so confident of a quick software release.

I'd panic too, if my A1 jumped to C1 for no apparent reason. ;-)

And it's evil to use A-D and 1-4 with "up" and "left" commands ... and not telling us which side is labelled with letters and which with numbers.

Makes me wonder what TWENTY EIGHTY-FOUR would look like ;-)

Found a bug you might want to look into:

After 8 steps, I "won" after reaching the following configuration (all on the edges, from top-left clockwise):

16, 584, 26, 6, 18, and 7

That's not numberwang, according to the official definition [1]

[1] D. Mitchell, B. Russell, A. Turing, and R. Webb. Numberwang determination and the Entscheidungsproblem. Principles of Mathematics and Computation, 1944. Cambridge Press 14(2).

No, "That's numberwang" does not indicate winning nor the end of the game. It just pops up at random throughout the game.

Ah yes - that's true in the BBC 4 version of the rules, introduced in 1968. I think most countries use that now. In Australia we play according to the original rule set, hence the misunderstanding.

Presumably you modify the rules to allow lateral shunts though, as per the the 1963 Davison Reformed Numberwang Rule Set (Version 3)?

Has it turned into Calvinball yet?



My ball, you didn't sing the 'Q' song.

BBC 4 was never associated with Numberwang, it was actually BBC 7.1

The pilot debuted on BBC α

Mornington Crescent!

Do HN users outside of the UK get the surreality and humour of this entire conversation?


You can tell it's currently morning in the UK and night-time in the USA.

No. It's a well-known fact that surreality and humour are geographically isolated to the British Isles. Though the French did get a sort of surrealesque surrealism through cultural cross-contamination at one point, though it's clearly inferior to the real article despite their vigorous claims to the contrary.

L'œil existe à l'état sauvage.

I'm about a mile away from Mornington Crescent station, and I still have no idea what's going on.

Well, I was dying to find out what numberwang and then I realised it's a joke.

There is actually a somewhat similar game on National Public Radio. I forget what it's called though...

It comes on right after "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me". It's called "4".

It makes slightly more sense when you understand the context: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfa3MHLLSWI

Carol Vordaman is just brilliant.

To tie back full circle [1], if anyone hasn't seen it there's a great UK show called Only Connect. It may appeal to people on here as it's a fiendishly difficult pattern matching game.


[1] The hostess (Victoria Coren) recently married David Mitchell - the co-creator of the numberwang sketch

Flash-based online game version of Only Connect:


edit: which they've massively expanded since I last looked, I think they only had about 14 boards, now they have hundreds and seem to allow you to submit your own.

Victoria Coren Mitchell now. She's amazing and Only Connect is brilliant.

Now someone make 2048 where in addition to numbers you get math operations and should achieve some number. Game could even get more complicated during gameplay as new operations appear.

I'm really interested to know what his process was, since he didn't seem to actually know the product he was subtracting 50 from.

Well it seems that he was always going for 4 from the top row, which reliably gives him 25, 50, 75 and 100 (I think). He then uses the ability to divide by 25 to treat these as an additional 2, 3 and 4. So once he has 318, he does (318 * 3) - 2 to get his 952, except via the 25s; ((318 * 75) - 50)/25. It's a hack; increasing the set of available numbers by guaranteeing the presence of a common divisor.

And that's Numberwang!

Well, obviously.

I'd think of the thought process a bit differently than lclarkmichalek, though of course with the same result.

To get close to 952, you can quickly think of 106x9. 106 is easy to obtain and you have a 3. You can get another 3 from 75/25. You're now at 954 with only a 50 left. If you could divide by 25, that would give you the 2 you're missing but you already used the 25, unless you were to divide later. So instead of doing 106x3x(75/25), you do (106x3x75-50)/25.

He could have certainly thought of it another way but based on how players typically play that game, that would be a somewhat logical progression.

Another way to think about it:

He had the numbers 100, 3, 6, 25, 50, 75. 25, 50 and 75 are big and difficult to work with, but 50/25=2 and 75/25=3 are far easier. He could either do it right away, but that gives him either (2 and 75) or (3 and 25) and there's still a large number. (75x ± 50y)/25 on the other hand equals (3x ± 2y) and he's down to nice small numbers.

I was wondering how he thought of that. Even though we don't know, this explanation is beautiful and makes a lot of sense. Thanks!

There's two answers already that seem correct, but perhaps overcomplex, so here's my go.

He always chooses 4 from the top row, so he always gets 25, 50, 75, 100 and the rest are chosen randomly.

Using them in combination he can always trade 25/50 for a "2", 75/25 for a "3" and 100/25 for a "4" if he needs them to get the answer. Rather than work that out on the fly he just remembers it.

Taking it once step further he can do (75x ± 100)/25 and get 3x ± 4, or (75x ± 50) / 25 and get 3x ± 2 if that would be helpful.

One of the other answers points out that he can go further and multiply that 50 or 100 by any of the random numbers he's given, which would be equivalent to multiplying the ± constant by the same amount though he doesn't use that level of complexity in his answer.

So he's basically building a toolbox of potential moves based on knowing that he'll always get those 4 numbers. He doesn't need to do the full calculation each time.

Is there a general name for the kind of problem the contestants try to solve in that round of the show? I've encountered variants of it "in the wild" in a game we played at university. People would challenge each other to place arithmetic operators and parentheses between the digits of the serial number printed on bus tickets to get the number 100, with some variations. Despite playing this game for quite a bit I never learned any name for it or the problem it used; I asked other people who played it and nobody knew one, either.

Googling around finds the exact question on Programmers SE (https://programmers.stackexchange.com/questions/213924/name-...) but no answer.

Any problem with the Countdown Numbers Game as a name? Any variations on it could simply be called Modified Countdown Numbers Game.

I'm glad there's an established name to attach to this problem but when I searched for them I didn't find variations of "Countdown numbers round problem/game" mentioned in books on mathematics/theoretical CS or in research articles. The idea behind the basic problem seems obvious and must have occurred to many people, so the lack of such mentions makes me suspect it may have a different canonical name as a specific type of combinatorial optimization problem. If there isn't one then "Countdown numbers (round) problem" will do just fine (I'd say "problem" is better than "game" because looked at like this it is not a game with players in a game-theoretical sense).

Here's the playlist. Mitchell and Webb. Good stuff. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJDu5D_IXbc&list=RDqjOZtWZ56...

This is my favorite clone bar none. After about 5 seconds of playing I was giggling, as I remembered the sketches.

The first letter that popped up got me.

For me, it was the number 36 but a mirror image

Is that the elusive shinty six?

Haha, yeah this is great.

In hindsight, we should have all jumped on this and pretended we understood the rules of Numberwang, in the style of Mornington Crescent. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mornington_Crescent_%28game%29

Nobody should do anything like Reddit.

It actually plays identically to 2048 (except you can only rely on colours, not face values), but I still love it. Ich bin gewangernumbt!


No, it doesn't! I was doing well, and then it suddenly changed the color of one of my tiles. It was the largest tile I had (which I always keep in the lower left, so it was very distinctive), and it dropped by a factor of 8 (3 colors) or so. At least I'm pretty sure that's what happened...

Whenever you get Numberwang it seems to change some of the tiles either up or down the scale.

It's impossible to lose. Just hold down an arrow and watch your score go up.

You can lose, and it's worth it to see it happen!

Please guys, make it stop. I need to work. I need to sleep. I need to eat!! I have no idea wtf I was doing but this is by far the best! This dam game is worse than heroin....

Silicon Valley doesn't do the productivity porn thing anymore, does it?

I think I should have won by now: https://www.dropbox.com/s/2hokoh94hujyf2j/Screenshot%202014-...

I thought it played normally, and it does for a while, but it always eventually seems to randomly revert your high tiles (I verified that I had at least 1024 by checking the debugger).

[edit:] Ah, I found the code. It's possible to win but you have to survive the small chance that it will perform a random merge and destroy your tile:

        // 0.005% percent chance that we will merge a cell anyway
        if (next && Math.random() > 0.995) {
          next.value = tile.value;

Hm, the comment is wrong, it's 0.5% chance.

And that's CommentWang..

I'll get my coat

I've found this seems to make the game significantly easier. If you get a block stuck in a bad spot it will eventually get merged fixing the problem.

How do I rotate the board?

I opened a pull request for you.


If you're on mobile it integrates with your accelerometer. Just rotate your device 360 degrees.

I'll admit to getting annoyed a bit by all of these 2048 clones. But this made me laugh regardless.

Ditto. They've actually been pissing me off since it seems like Threes is getting shorted by 2048.

But this was great. I managed to get 11032 before I lost. Just making a rules engine that could deduce Numberwang along is an incredible accomplishment.

you do realize the games still the same as 2048 right? just look at the colors of the tiles.

the only thing randomized is the numbers on the tiles

Yeah. But the sense of humor from Numberwang makes it more than a "look I just stole someone else's idea" clone, gives it it's own personality.

These past few days have been one of the rare times I've wished HN functioned like reddit, so I could have the ability to hide posts from the front page. Not only has there been a constant barrage of clones, but they seem to have a lot of staying power in the top 30.

I love this, only thing is it doesn't have my favorite number: H

Is there going to be a Wangernumb mode too?

I did get an 'h' once. It's simply less common than numers like 3 or √7. It's even got 'i' (and everyone knows that's not a real number).

Of course 'i' is a real number. 'There are i edges in this shape, where i is equal to the value of half of x'...You can also use it when texting informally e.g. 'i m out atm'.

i is a real number, it's one-fifth of v.

Should you lose, "you've been wangernumbed!". Not sure if that counts as a mode.

This is amazing! I cannot stop laughing! The first reversed number hit me like a ton of bricks and I couldn't stop.


This is one of the few clones/memes that gets better as it is propagated.

Looks like the internal state of the numbers that actually decide what can be merged is changed when you press a key. Also works if you hold it down, which is a bug I think.

Just hold down one direction to observe.

This game does not any have bugs by design. If you discover a bug than it is a feature.

Brilliant! Even better because Numberwang is our internal term for "any random number in some code that isn't declared as a constant". Love it.

Note that it is possible to lose, eventually: http://i.imgur.com/kKsjG2u.png

is only a matter of time now before someone makes a 2048 that is turing complete

I love the backwards seven! And to think I, an American, get this reference because I read The Guardian's football forums...

I started giggling with the first numberwang. As it kept happening, the giggle escalated into full out laughter that just kept getting stronger. I am sure I've seen the numberwang sketch, but don't remember it, so reference was wonderfully subliminal and all the more absurd. Anyway, I love this. Laughter is glorious.

"maths quiz show that’s simply everyone"


It's a quote from Numberwang Episode 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJDu5D_IXbc&feature=youtu.be&...

Das ist Nümberwang!

This is the best, but I'm still waiting on someone to translate the Numberwang board game :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DmiEODmYNmI

i'm not entirely sure what I'm doing, but I think I'm winning...

Welcome to life, you now understand the rules.

i keep getting shinty-six

Try this reverse version of 2048 game.. See if you can end up with fractions :P http://ajnas.in/one/

I'm due a slow commute to London next week and I can't wait to play it on a train see whether those sitting near to me can figure out the rules of the game.

Thank you netflix, for insisting that I would like peep show.

Despite best efforts, this is still playable because the color codes haven't changed from the original.

Did you change the rules after posting it here? It seems like they are more chaotic now (and I like it).

This is phenomenal. So, so good.

The definitive version of 2048.

I think I just peed my pants.

That's numberwang!

This is my absolute favorite version, because I can actually beat it!

Needs more fish numbers.

Oddly enough, makes it easier to win.

Not bad... not bad at all!

You have my attention..

Love this so much.

thank you for brightening my day. i love it

This has just turned into a meme clogging up hn

can someone stop posting this?

oh my god this. this so much. <3<3<3

I love this! I enjoy playing!

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