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Using max7219 microcontroller Build an electronic score keeper/storage box




The instruction manual for each of the MANY munchkin series of card games always includes a phrase like “you will need a 10 sided die for each player or some other device to keep score.”

electronic score keeper10 sided dice are not hard to find in my house, but I took this as a challenge to make my own device to keep score.  I created this electronic score keeper that also doubles as a box for transporting a subset of my family’s munchkin collection.  The box can keep track of each player’s score and notify everyone when someone wins.

This device is not limited to keeping score in munchkin games of course.  It will keep score for 1 to 4 players (sitting anywhere they like around the box) ranging from a score of -9 to 99 for each one.

Even if you don’t need a munchkin score keeper, this article might still be of value to anyone interested in:

  • How to use a max7219 chip to drive up to 8 seven segment LED displays with just a few pins of your microcontroller.
  • How to recover from minor flaws in a board.
  • Re-purposing parts of obsolete electronics, and make a virtue out of pack-rat-ery.

Of course, if I had my own laser cutter, the box would be much more ornate and even more munchkiny.  I would craft my own custom box and burn artwork both silly and terrifying in its sides. Players would be advised to keep their gaze fixed on the score lest they be driven mad by the terrible runes seared in its facets.*

Please vote for this this article in the laser challenge so that I can realize that ambition, and perhaps stop the dreams coming.

For more of my thoughts on what I would do if I won the epilog laser challenge, please see the notes at the end.

* Perhaps we play munchkin Cthulhu a bit too much.

This project was designed as component to fit into whatever framing device is desired.  Mine ended up being a sturdy cardboard box, but it could be any box, a board of some kind or even a table.  I’d probably upgrade to bigger displays in that last case.  The displays are modular and connected via ribbon cables, so your mounting options are extremely flexible.  Below is everything you need besides whatever you decide to mount it in.

You will need the following tools:

  • Soldering iron.
  • Dremel and/or other tools to cut and shape the enclosures if needed.  I used a hobby knife to cut my box.
  • Diagonal cutters.
  • Hot glue gun (optional).
  • Vice or Helping Hands to hold the board while soldering (optional, but highly recommended).
  • Multimeter for testing.
  • USBTinyISP or other AVR programmer to program the firmware.  See step 7 for other options.

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