Alien Tiles Official Web Page
"The Universe's Most Challenging and Fun Puzzle Game"
(Scroll down for directions.)

with seed

 Moves so far.

Starting from a 7x7 array of all red cells, make all the tiles blue! Alien Tiles is a vivid and fiendishly difficult puzzle recently created and developed by Dr. Cliff Pickover (and programmed by Cam Mckechnie). Some have called it "Rubik's cube for the new millennium."   The rules are simple, but the patterns soon become very complex. I look forward to hearing from artists, puzzle fans, and mathematicians regarding any interesting solutions, observations, and patterns.

Note for the year 2020: Now that browsers do not show/enable JavaScript or Java puzzles by default, without changing browser settings, this web page no longer displays the game by default for most people. How sad! Perhaps some of you will repogram the puzzle using methods that will display on all browsers. For example, another goal is to start from a 7x7 array of all red cells and produce this blue-diamond pattern:

A complex possible target pattern.

How the Puzzle Works

Click on any tile in the array, and then all tiles in the same row and column advance by one color in a cycle from red to green to blue to purple and finally back to red. (In other words, the puzzle is to find a sequence of clicks that transforms a starting state of all red squares to a goal state.) If you can get the puzzle to display by enabling JavaScript in your browser, try it. You can always start over again by selecting the "Start" button.

Example: The following image depicts the initial grid (left) and then after a single click on row 3, column 2 (right):

Example: Clicking just one square at left would produce pattern at right.

Pickover's Alien Tiles has spawned countless technical papers, for example:
  1. - Free paper: Glenn Rhoads, "A Group Theoretic Solution to the Alien Tiles Puzzle."
  2. - Free paper: Ian Gent, "Symmetry Breaking in the Alien Tiles Puzzle"
  3. - Paper Intro: Peter Maier & Werner Nickel, "Attainable Patterns in Alien Tiles"
  4. - Free paper: Iain McDonald and Barbara Smith, Partial Symmetry Breaking
  5. -- Free paper: Martin J.Chlond, "An Alien IP"
  6. -- Free paper: Ian P. Gent, Warwick Harvey, and Tom Kelsey, "Groups and Constraints: Symmetry Breaking during Search"
  7. -- Web page: "Alien Tiles Problem"
  8. -- Web page: Alien tiles heuristic function - Stack Overflow
  9. - A long discussion at rec.puzzles


First Goal: Starting from all red, your goal is to make every cell in the puzzle turn all green, blue, or purple in as few moves as possible. Are you certain your solution requires the least number of moves?

Second Goal: Starting from all red, create a board that is all purple except for a single, central red tile.

Third Goal: Inside the 7x7 array, create a Xenoplastic Diamond -- a rotated 4x4 square of one color inlaid within tiles all of another color. Click here for an example. If you can ever create this magnificent specimen, you will have a long life filled with joy.

Fourth Goal: To achieve ultimate peace and transcendence, create the following Alien Tile "Sivaraman" patterns: Bazuluk Shenkursk Vologda Novomoskovsk Orel Shar'ya Vyshniy Charon

Playback Demo and Game Saving

You can use a mouse to copy all your moves. As an example, you can try playing back a sequence of 587 moves for the 7x7 board. You can try this by using a mouse to copy this odd solution into the "Replay" field.

Click here for the Classic 4x4 board. (In some situations, this is actually more difficult than the 7x7 board.)

Click here for an amazing 14x14 board.

Contest and Reader Comments

Click here for a grand Internet contest with valuable prizes as a reward.

Click here for other challenges, unanswered questions, and challenges from vistors to

Click here for some program code to solve some aspects of the puzzle.
If Alien Tiles intrigues you, check out these new books.
Shiver at the sexy minds who have laid naked the mathematical machinery whirring just beneath the skin of reality.

Please e-mail me if you get these books, as I would like to know what you think of it.


Send feedback, questions, and discoveries.

Who are We?

There are still many mysteries and questions surrounding the Alien Tiles. Visit our web sites for puzzles, artwork, books, mind expanders, and more information about us:

-- Dr. Cliff Pickover, contact information
-- Visit Cliff Pickover's web site (

Tell five friends about this web site. After you do, you have permission to click here for a different, wonderful alien image every hour. Thanks.

© 2002-2009, Cliff Pickover and Cam Mckechnie, All rights reserved. Alien cartoon by Brian Mansfield.

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