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Packing puzzles have come a long way since the Soma Cube was first introduced by Piet Hein, back in 1933. We've seen countless variations over the years, some more creative than others, but the main concept remains the same: Pack the given pieces into a perfect cube, usually with a 3x3x3 unit size.
Today, I want to show you the Switch Box. An interesting variation of the Soma Cube idea, as it uses all its seven pieces and adds a couple more, incorporating a new rule into the mix: All you need to do is to grab seven pieces from the box and leave out one light and one dark piece. Then, try to build a cube from the remaining pieces. When you solve the puzzle, disassemble it and remove one light and dark piece. Now, build another cube from the different piece setting. There are dozens of possibilities, so you're always solving a slightly different puzzle.
The design of the puzzle is both visually pleasant and functional, with a storage space for the extra pieces as well as a space to store the solved cube. Its dimensions are not very big, with a length of 13.5cm, a width of 8cm and a height of 6cm (5.3" x 3.2" x 2.4").
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The original Soma Cube has 240 different solutions. With the addition of a couple more pieces, I'm guessing the total number of possible solutions is a bit higher, although not exponential. I believe that's maybe due to the inclusion of only two light pieces against seven dark pieces, leaving less possibilities, as you have to always remove one light and one dark piece. There may be another reason, because if the number were more balanced, it might give more impossible assemblies. I actually don't know if there are any impossible assemblies, because I was always able to find a solution for every piece layout chosen. Then again, maybe that's the reason why there's only two light pieces, to avoid impossible assemblies. This would require a more detailed study of the puzzle with Burr Tools, though, but I'm not very good with it.
(Click to Enlarge) - Two examples of different pieces chosen to build a cube
The difficulty of the Switch Box is a bit hard to classify. Some of the puzzles you'll be creating by removing different pieces will definitely be harder than others, and some will be easier. That's also what's great about this puzzle, you'll never know how hard it is until you've tried it.
With so many similar versions out there, it's surely refreshing to see something that was clearly inspired by the Soma Cube, but still could create its own identity, by adding a new set of rules and a couple of different pieces. I highly recommend this one. If you don't own a Soma Cube it's great, because the Switch Box uses all of its seven pieces. If you already own a Soma Cube, then I'm sure you're gonna love the Switch Box even more.