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Hack 53. Capture the Map

Capture the Map (; Flash required) is altogether a little silly, but it's a spot of fun nevertheless. A strategy game similar in flavor to the popular (at least it was when I was growing up) board game of Risk (, you attempt near-global domination by taking turns placing pins into a map of the world, claiming more territory than your opponent.

Would that it were that easy?

You don't simply get to place pins into the map; that's where Google comes in. You and your opponent battle it out by supplying queries to be run against the Google index. The first nine results are localized according to where in the world the server hosting the resulting page lives, each represented by a pushpin at a particular latitude and longitude on the map. For example, if you searched for news and one of the first nine results were the BBC News home page, you'd find yourself with a pin in the UK-York, to be precise. A CNN hit would net you a pin in Reston, Virginia.

But simply placing a pin isn't enough to maintain your hold on any particular spot. A well-placed query can replace your pin with that of your opponent. Perhaps he searched for CNN directly and not only knocked your Reston pin out of its spot, but also chalked up three Reston pins of their own. The only way to protect your pins is by collecting several in one spot; for each pin placed, you also claim one of the adjacent squares. Amass a three-by-three grid of squares and you're safe from any further attack.

The game is over when either player is out of pins. The player with a higher sum of placed pins, captured squares, and saved captured squares (three-by-three grids) is the winner.

Figure 3-8 shows a game of Capture the Map underway. Blue (that's me) is in the midst of placing pins, mostly in Reston, VA, thanks to a search for CNN. Notice the dragable magnifying glass over the United States, revealing overlaid details in the form of larger squares showing the number of pins at each spot. A scorecard beneath each player's search box shows number of pins placed, number of squares captured, and number of squares captured and saved.

Figure 3-8. Capture the Map turns Google into Risk

Capture the Map is surprisingly addictive, as you try to noodle which search will return the maximum number of results from the same geographical location. You'll likely spend hours just trying to take down your opponent's all-but-three-by-three grid in Melbourne, Australia.

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