Pyramid Scheme was back for a second year at the Bitcoin 2023 conference! If you are unfamiliar with this game, please do take a look at our walk-through of the first iteration of the game from last year. We won’t be covering all of the details of the theme or how the game works here, but rather walking through some of the more interesting puzzles and challenges from this year.
Changes From Last Year
Taking into account some feedback from the first year, instead of filling the three Bronze, Silver, and Gold pyramids with easy, moderate, and hard challenges, respectively, we decided to turn the Bronze pyramid into a tutorial area, the Silver pyramid into challenges that you did not need to be present at the conference to solve, and the Gold pyramid into all of the challenges that you probably needed to be present to solve. We also opened the Bronze and Silver pyramids a week before the conference to allow those who are too busy to play during the conference an opportunity to play before they arrived and got busy.
Also adjusting slightly the challenge categories from last year, we dropped the Memes & Scams category in favor of a new History category.
Finally, we also integrated the Nostr decentralized communications protocol to post game updates, moving away from the Twitter social medial platform that we used for the same purpose last year.
To get people started, we posted the following game information card to social media and our Discord a week before the conference, as well as included printed versions in the conference SWAG bags that attendees could get when picking up their badges at registration:
We again had a presence on the conference floor where Players could also find the game information, but instead of a table in the Gaming Arena like last year, we had our own booth in the Bazaar! Our on-site support staff mostly hung out at the booth, receiving scavenger hunt items and helping players with technical difficulties or who needed hints to the more difficult challenges.
The game this year had two types of prizes. Each challenge would pay out their own individual rewards in sats. Each reward was a percentage of the overall prize pool of sats, ranging from 0.1% of the prize pool up to 5% of the prize pool. The non-tutorial pyramid capstone challenges also paid out a much larger prize to the first to solve them, as well as a physical prize:
|Pyramid||Capstone Physical Prize||Capstone Sats Prize|
|Silver||Book Bundle||20% of the Prize Pool|
|Gold||Hardware Bundle||30% of the Prize Pool|
This year there were a total of fifty-nine unique challenges. Challenges were again arranged on the pyramids as bricks, and the bottom tier of each pyramid would begin unlocked. As each challenge was solved, the two bricks above it in the pyramid would unlock, allowing the Players to work their way up the pyramids to their respective capstones. Challenges were also categorized into one of six categories:
- Bitcoin Skills
Here we’ll walk through some of the more interesting challenges that were included in this year’s game:
The Bronze Pyramid this year was our Game Tutorial, walking the Player through examples of the types of challenges and game mechanics they were likely to encounter throughout the game, such as unlocking more challenges, taking and submitting photos, scanning QR codes, unlocking hint information, solving ciphers, and joining our Discord to find support.
Our game platform, Scramble, now has the ability to capture some Player profile settings and preferences directly from challenges, so the first few challenges in the Tutorial did exactly that, asking the Player for their Display Name for the Leaderboard and their LNAddress so that they could receive the challenge rewards directly to their Lightning wallet.
Once the Player completed the Bronze pyramid, the Silver pyramid’s bottom tier of challenges would unlock. The bottom tier of the Gold pyramid unlocked the morning of the first day of the conference.
The Silver Pyramid contained challenges that could be solved remotely, not needing to be physically present at the conference.
Right-click and Save
|Location:||Anywhere with art|
|Challenge:||Take a photograph of a piece of art and submit it.|
One of our favorite challenges for this particular conference, and taking a good-natured jab at NFTs, this challenge simply tasked the Player with taking a picture of some art somewhere and submitting it.
|Challenge:||Welcome to the first Vida challenge! Not only are you able to earn some Sats you’ll get some exclusive access to Vida’s communication tools.|
Please browse HERE for further instructions. When finished, return here.
What is the number that “Satoshi” gave you?
One of our few sponsored challenges this year, VIDA worked with us to create an interesting set of challenges that involved VoIP and Nostr, using their platform. This first challenge tasked the Player with creating or logging into their VIDA account, then messaging a specific user to get some sats and the password to complete this challenge. This set the Player up for the second VIDA challenge later in the game.
|Challenge:||Decode the following cipher using a recently published book that will also be available at the conference:|
One of our favorite ciphers is the classic Ottendorf cipher. Using coordinates derived from some form of printed material, usually a book, the Player was tasked with reconstructing a passphrase out of Saifedean Ammous‘s new book, Principles of Economics. Saifedean was on-site at the conference and held a book signing, and the book was otherwise available from vendors on the Expo floor. We also had a copy of the book at our Support Booth for Players to reference.
As indicated by the hint, the coordinates referred to Page, Line, and Word. Translating the five coordinates to five words reconstructed the passphrase.
Genesis Block Nonce
|Challenge:||What was the nonce value used to mine the Bitcoin Genesis Block?|
This challenge tasked the Player with reading up on the structure of a Bitcoin block header to identify where the nonce value is located and then using a Block Explorer to find that value in the header of Bitcoin’s Genesis Block, block 0. Alternatively this value can be found on the Bitcoin Wiki and other locations on the Internet without having to do any block exploring.
|Hint:||Scan some friends!|
|Challenge:||Scan 3 Pyramid Scheme Players’ profile QR codes!|
This challenge tasked Players with scanning some friends. Usually expected that the Players find each other in person, we wanted to see if Players would figure out that they do not need to meet in person to share their Profile QR codes for scanning, but rather could do this via our Discord server. Some coordinated over Discord, however most did not…
|Hint:||Pay the Invoice|
|Challenge:||Demonstrate that you can pay a Lightning invoice by contributing some sats back to the Pyramid Scheme game’s prize pool!|
Enter how many sats you’d like to donate (minimum 10) and then pay the Lightning invoice that we generate.
Now completely integrated with the Lightning Network, our Scramble gaming platform can not only stream sats to an LNAddress, it can generate invoices as well as pay them. We wanted the Players to demonstrate that they knew how to pay a Lightning invoice, so we provided them the opportunity to donate some sats back to the game’s prize pool. By entering how many sats they wanted to donate, the game would generate a Lightning invoice for that amount for the Player to pay.
|Hint:||5 Blocks in Size|
|Location:||THNDR Tetro Tiles Game|
|Challenge:||What is the pentomino piece that the game doesn’t give you until levels 23, 24, or 25?|
Because we’re gamers as well as Bitcoiners, and huge THNDR Games fans, we had to include at least one challenge built around one of their games. Having recently released their new Tetro Tiles game, we chose that one. The game gives you a set of pieces that you must place onto the game board. By successfully placing them all, you advance a level. There is one particular pentomino piece that the game does not give you until the final few levels before you win, so we asked the Player what this piece is to get them to play the game long enough to make it to the final levels.
|Challenge:||Step 1: Draw three points representing the corners of a triangle.|
Step 2: Randomly draw a fourth point anywhere within the triangle created by the first three points.
Step 3: Randomly select one of the first three points and draw a point halfway between the most recently drawn point and the randomly selected point.
Repeat Step 3 until an image emerges. What is this image?
In this game, we try to pack as many pyramid-themed challenges into the game as we can. This is a very interesting point plotting exercise that if done long enough, a particular geometric shape emerges. Because this can take a very long time to achieve by hand, we provided a tool in the hint that can automate this for you. Once the shape is revealed, Players needed to research to find out what it is called, if they didn’t already know.
|Hint:||Generate an npub key|
|Challenge:||Many Bitcoiners nowadays hang out on Nostr, the decentralized communications protocol. Many social-media-like apps have been built for Nostr. Get yourself a Nostr app, generate an identity key pair, and post the following message.|
Give us your npub public key so that we can verify your message!
<Unique Message String>
Given Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter earlier in the year, and the subsequent mass-exodus of many communities from the platform, we decided to integrate the Nostr decentralized communications protocol into our platform as Nostr-based social media seems to be where a large number of Bitcoiners from Bitcoin Twitter had migrated to.
To help promote this communications protocol, we tasked Players with onboarding themselves to Nostr by creating a Nostr key pair, posting a unique message generated by our platform just for that user (to prevent reply attacks) to the Nostr network, then giving us their public key, or, “npub” so that we could find them on the Network and verify that they posted the message.
VIDA Nostr SIP
|Hint:||Make a VoIP Call!|
|Location:||Vida Global Communication Network|
|Challenge:||Connect to the Vida Global Communication Network, learn some SIP, earn some geek brownies.|
Please browse HERE for further instructions. When finished, return here.
What is the answer that you received from the final room?
The second of two sponsored challenges, this VIDA challenge tasked the Player with using their account either established or logged into during their first challenge to learn about the SIP VoIP signaling protocol, set up a SIP client, and make a phone call using it. The recipient of the phone call revealed the passphrase to this challenge.
The Gold Pyramid challenges were intended to be challenges that the Player would need to be on-site at the conference to solve, or at least have help from someone who was in attendance.
The final puzzle for the Gold Pyramid, its capstone challenge, involved a physical puzzle created by the very talented laser Artist Puzzle, for which many different puzzle pieces and clues had to be collected from individual challenges throughout the Gold Pyramid. Physical “Constellation Finders” and clues representing where and what orientation to place them on a word finder board were scattered throughout the game, but more on that later.
Seek the Stars
|Challenge:||I am a map to the night sky above and surface below,|
A template for those who seek to discover.
A viewfinder’s key to unlock the cloaked,
And chart the course of the stars I uncover.
Speak STARS to the Cloaked Ones to find me.
Who is printed on my surface?
To find one of the “Constellation Viewfinders”, Players were given a riddle that hints at needing to find the CryptoCloaks booth in the Bazaar and give them the password “STARS”. They would then give the Player a 3D-printed constellation finder to use later on the word hunt board:
Players were then asked who the Egyptian god printed on its surface was. The name of the god solved this challenge.
Trace the Coinbase
|Hint:||Use a Block Explorer|
|Challenge:||The majority of the Bitcoin sitting in address 1KWSBZAZKKmpujfyxi7UMTFKRaq6xyNvAG came from a single block’s coinbase. What block number is it?|
A classic blockchain analysis challenge, this one tasked Players with tracing transactions backwards from a final Bitcoin address and determining which mined coinbase block the majority of the balance of the address originated from.
|Hint:||Sign a Message|
|Location:||Pyramid Scheme Booth|
|Challenge:||Come by the Pyramid Scheme Support Booth to use our TapSigner. Add the TapSigner as a key in your Nunchuk wallet app (PIN 333999) and sign the unique message below using the TapSigner key. The sign message function is in the key’s dots menu when viewing the key info.|
The unique message is:
The derivation path should be left as default, or
The signing address shown after creating the signature should be
Submit the signature to pass this challenge.
To bring some attention to an amazing new product from Coinkite called the TapSigner, we tasked Players with coming by our Support Booth, adding our demo TapSigner to their Nunchuk wallet, and then cryptographically signing a message using the TapSigner. Submitting the valid signature would solve this challenge.
Just a mere few weeks before the game, the Nunchuk wallet didn’t actually have this message signing functionality. We wanted to do something with the TapSigner and Nunchuk in the game, but actually moving funds around seemed a bit risky and problematic, so we contacted the Nunchuk team to see if they could add message signing functionality. The Nunchuk team was very responsive and got this feature implemented, tested, and rolled out to their production product in a matter of days. Thanks Nunchuk!!!
King of Money
|Challenge:||There is a hidden message in Marcus Connor’s artwork “King of Money”. Tell us what the message says.|
Over the few years we’ve been producing this game, we’ve built some really good working relationships with many of the Bitcoin Artists who bring and show their work in the conference’s Art Gallery. Working with Artists before the event has helped some of them begin thinking well in advance about building puzzles directly into their artwork for both inclusion in our game as well as adding interesting features and lasting value to the artwork itself.
This year, Marcus Conner built a cipher puzzle directly into his artwork entitled King of Money. Players were tasked with decoding the cipher, and the decoded message was the passphrase to solve this challenge.
The Timechain Codex
|Hint:||base64 + Ottendorf|
|Challenge:||The key box cover reveals the key…|
Decode the following to set coordinates free.
What is revealed shall lead you through the dorf,
You Otten understand a book:page:box:word morph.
Seek within the visual story told…
Scan the placard QR so that it may unfold.
Where at first the cover was a fit,
Here the book covers you must omit.
The final result that you assemble,
Can be verified, with a binary resemble.
Enter the final result assembled to solve this challenge.
Another Artist with work at the conference, FractalEncrypt had his work displayed out in the main foyer for the conference rather than in the Art Gallery. An elaborately designed laser-cut book container for his graphic novel, The Timechain Codex, was displayed alongside a laser-cut key within a laser-cut key box.
We gave Players a riddle that hinted that the cover of the key box had a clue to decode the coordinates needed for an Ottendorf cipher. The cover of the key box had a ring of I-Ching symbols. There are 64 I-Ching, indicating that the encoding used was Base64.
Decoding the Base64 string reveals a set of Ottendorf cipher coordinates, which when used with the graphic novel revealed a message. The message was the passphrase to solve this challenge.
We Are All Satoshi
|Hint:||base64 & grid letter|
|Challenge:||Find Adam Kadmon’s artwork entitled “We Are All Satoshi” and solve the following riddle:|
To begin the sixty-fourth journey, you must start at the base.
Upon the first round of decoding you will face…
Sets of numbers staring back at you, but what relation have they?
A careful study of the artwork is needed…
to determine how the numbers were seeded.
Follow the Rank and File to find your position,
This will reveal a ciphertext composition.
Then a twist into the final rotation…
Guided by the masks through space and time,
Will get you to the final solution,
And solve the mystery of this rhyme.
Enter the final solution to solve this challenge.
Another artist with an amazing piece of work in the Art Gallery, Adam Kadmon had brought and displayed an incredibly detailed piece of work entitled We Are All Satoshi. This piece has a lot of built in symbolism and numerology, and plenty of components from which to build a puzzle.
We gave the Players another string of encoding along with a riddle that hinted that the encoding was again Base64. Decoding the Base64 encoded string revealed some sets of numbers. These numbers represented locations and letters found in the artwork, which when decoded constructed a passphrase which was the solution to this challenge.
|Hint:||Collect Constellations and Clues|
|Challenge:||Collect the constellation viewfinders received from previous challenges and bring them to the Pyramid Scheme Support Booth in the Bazaar.|
Use the clues you’ve collected from earlier challenges along with the viewfinders and the pyramid word search board found at the Support Booth to identify 12 seed words.
Restore a Bitcoin wallet using the 12 seed words. What was the amount of sats in the first transaction sent to the wallet?
The final challenge of the game, the Gold Capstone challenge, involved a physical puzzle created in collaboration with the very talented laser Artist Puzzle. At the Support Booth, we had a large word hunt board:
Similar to the Seek the Stars challenge detailed earlier, other challenges also awarded Players with other “Constellation Viewfinders”, each laser-cut from a different material, which the Players needed to collect:
Players also received twelve clues throughout the game for completing other challenges, which the Players also needed to collect. These clues represented one of the twelve words, and contained information indicating which constellation viewfinder to use and where to place it on the word hunt board:
Players then needed to bring the viewfinders and their clues to the Support Booth and use them on the word finder board to uncover twelve Bitcoin wallet seed words.
Restoring a Bitcoin wallet using the twelve seed words yielded a wallet with some amount of Bitcoin in it, if they were the first to restore the wallet, or at least a transaction history if the funds had been swept already. Entering the number of sats sent in the very first funding transaction for the wallet would solve this challenge.
Overall, this year’s Pyramid Scheme was a great success! We had 156 Players who won a total of 61,358,140 sats in prize rewards over the three days that the game was live. A few fewer players than last year, but the conference overall was also half the size of last year as well, so as a percentage of conference attendance, our game participation was up over the prior year.
This year we had multiple sponsors but only one sponsor with sponsored challenges. We would like to thank our sponsors for their gracious support, who were:
Finally, we’d like to thank our challenge collaborators, without whom our games would not be nearly as amazing.