The product development of IQ-Stixx  (for SmartGames) 

Raf Peeters, January 2022

Like every year, for the past 10 years I needed to create another IQ-Puzzler for SmartGames. The problem is always the same: how to make something that feels like an IQ-Puzzle, but also looks fresh and new?  Therefor I was looking for something that is still a packing problem, but in a different way. I already used squares, circles, rings, stars, etc on orthogonal and hexagonal grids…


The solution was to use sticks with cutouts that would be placed horizontally/ vertically on top of each other, like how you would build a wooden cabin in the forest. The first thing was to find out if this was possible and if this would give enough options to create at least 120 interesting challenges. To my surprise it was indeed possible with 10 different sticks. 

Next was to make the game play more fun. To make a game fun, the first step is to avoid anything that consumers could find frustrating. We added numbers/ numbers on both sides of the sticks. These make it easier to show a challenge in the booklet, and will avoid any mistakes during setup. They also make it easier to check the solution afterwards. We also added some support for the horizontally placed sticks in the game board (on the left and right), so that players could not accidentally place the horizontally sticks at the bottom. And we added squares on the opposite side of the cutouts on the sticks. This way, you can always see where the cutouts are, even when they are on the opposite side of the stick.

I am really interested how people will react to this game. Although it’s a packing problem, you can’t really solve it in your head based on the shapes you see. In other puzzle games, you can often visualize if a piece will fit or not. In IQ-Stixx all pieces are just straight sticks, only the cutouts are on different positions. I could not visualize the solutions nor could I remember where the cutouts were on each of the sticks, except for the light green piece. This piece is the only one that has cutouts that are positioned symmetrical. Therefor the “shape” can be rotated 180° without changing the result. Therefor this piece has twice the same letter/ number.

The starter level is really easy and is more intended to get used to these unusual shape of puzzle pieces. Most of the challenges in this level show 5 vertically placed sticks. Since there is only one solution to each challenge, it’s kind of straight forward to place the other sticks horizontally on top of them. But as soon there are only 4 sticks in your challenges, things become a lot harder. Although some trail and error will be needed, the number of options can be reduced drastically by using logic and deduction. 

example fo a challenge and solution of IQ-Stixx

Example of an EXPERT challenge (left) and solution (right) of IQ-STIXX

A SmartGame designed by Raf Peeters, with 120 challenges


1) Select a challenge. Place the sticks on the game board as shown in the challenge:

 When you place sticks vertically, the cutouts in the sticks will stay visible (indicated by darker squares on the sticks). The correct orientation of each VERTICAL stick is indicated by a NUMBER on the top side.

• When you place sticks horizontally, the cutouts will be face down and not visible. But you can still see the position of the cutouts as they are indicated by smaller squares. Horizontally placed sticks show a LETTER on the LEFT SIDE.

2) Place all remaining sticks on the game board:

• All sticks should be level. The horizontal sticks are placed slightly higher than the vertical sticks.

• There are 25 positions on the game board where a horizontally stick crosses a

vertical one. There are also 25 cutouts in the sticks. This means that all cutouts must be used for crossings; two cutouts cannot be placed on top of each other (nor two sticks without cutouts).

• Players may lift horizontally placed sticks to fit sticks vertically underneath them, as long as the sticks shown in the challenge end up again in the right place and orientation.

3) You have found the one and only solution when all 10 sticks fit on the game board. Solutions can be found at the end of the challenge booklet.

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