Play "blitz chess" like a real hacker, with our modern-retro Arduino-compatible Game Clock!

Game Clock

If you play any game that requires accurate timekeeping, you will love the Game Clock. Designed with high quality snap action switches and a high-precision real-time clock, the Game Clock will react to your touch within milliseconds. While similar devices typically come in a boring beige enclosure, the Game Clock is proudly exposing its internal circuitry and deep black PCB in a fully transparent 3mm acrylic laser-cut enclosure. It is primarily designed for chess games that are played in constrained times but offers plenty of configurability. The device can be powered by 2 AA batteries or a USB cable, so you can take it anywhere.

The Game Clock also comes as a truly hackable device. Open source and open hardware, it can be fully reprogrammed in the Arduino environment to suit the most exotic needs. The Game Clock features an XBee compatible socket for optional low power networking: imagine keeping track of all games in a chess tournament in real time!

The Game Clock features:

  • two 4-digit red led displays,
  • two high-quality Honeywell snap action switches and a tact switch,
  • an Atmel ATmega328PB microcontroller with 32K flash and 2K SRAM / 1K EEPROM,
  • an extremely accurate I2C-Integrated RTC, the DS3231, with an accuracy of 2ppm over 0 to 40C,
  • a battery holder for two AA batteries,
  • a USB socket,
  • a 20-pin XBee socket for the addition of an optional wireless module,
  • voltage regulation circuitry providing 4.9V to the MCU and an optional 3.3V for a wireless module,
  • a buzzer.

Most of all, it looks cool and it's open-source!

And you can buy one on Tindie!

Using the Game Clock

Want to use it to play a game? Check out our user manual.

Hardware overview

Power: The Game Clock can be powered with:

  • 2 x AA alkaline or rechargeable batteries (recommended for portable use)
  • USB (for continuous usage)
  • Serial Port / ISP Header (during programming, debugging, etc.)

A boost regulator assures constant voltage to the device regardless of the power source used. USB power always takes priority over battery power.

A small switch allows you to power the device on or off.

Microcontroller: At the heart of the Game Clock is an ATmega328PB microcontroller running at 8MHz and 4.9 volts. It features 32K flash, 2K SRAM and 1K EEPROM. This is the new and updated version of the classic microcontroller that you may find on the Arduino UNO boards. It comes proprogrammed with a serial bootloader that uses 8K of flash.

Buttons: The Game Clock features two high-quality snap action microswitches rated for 10 million cycles! In addition, a traditional tact switch is seated in the center top of the board, notably to access various configuration options.

Display: The device can display information to the user through 8 red LED digits, physically split in two 4-digit red LED displays, typically used during gameplay to show the time available to each player. The LED display is controlled by a MAX7219CWG IC through SPI, with software controlled brightness.

Sound: The Game Clock is fitted with a passive buzzer capable of playing tones of varying frequencies, providing audio feedback to users.

Real-time clock: The circuit features a DS3231M IC, a very accurate RTC with an integrated calibrated and temperature compensated oscillator. It communicates with the MCU using the I2C bus.

XBee headers: The Game Clock has a 20-pin header that allows it to be optionally connected to an XBee wireless communication module. An onboard 3.3 LDO and voltage shifting circuit assures compatibility between the MCU and the XBee logic levels. In order to conserve energy, the 3.3V LDO is disabled by default and can be enabled by software on the MCU when necessary.

Size: The Game Clock 122 x 76 mm (4.8 x 3 inches).

Arduino compatibility

The Game Clock is built around an Atmel ATmega328PB, and can be programmed like a classic Arduino UNO R3, using the Arduino IDE without any additional software installation.

A USB to serial board is required (not included) to upload software from the Arduino IDE to the Game Clock using the 6-pin connector located at the back of the device. We use and recommend the SparkFun FTDI Basic Breakout. It's hassle-free and easy to plug into the Game Clock.

Configuring the Arduino IDE

The built-in board definition for the "Arduino Pro or Pro Mini" in the Arduino 1.8 IDE is all you need to start programming the Game Clock with your own software.

Select "Tools" in the menu and select "Board" :

Choose the "Arduino Pro or Pro Mini" board:

Menu Select Board

Select "Tools" from the menu and then "Processor":

Choose "ATmega328P (3.3V, 8MHz)":

Your Arduino IDE is now correctly configured to write software for the Game Clock. To upload a sketch, please check out the following instructions.

Serial Port Programming

Plug your USB to Serial adapter into the Game Clock's 6-pin serial connector. If needed, the serial pins are identified on the silkscreen at the back of the Game Clock PCB, so that you can check your connection.

In the Arduino IDE, select "Tools" and then "Port":

Select your serial port (yours will have a different identifier):

You can now upload a sketch to your device!

Arduino Pins

The following table summarizes the wiring of the Game Clock MCU:

Arduino Pin ATmega328pb pin Input/Output Description
0 PD0 Input Serial RX for Arduino programming and optional XBee communication.
1 PD1 Output Serial TX for Arduino programming and optional XBee communication.
2 PD2 Input Left snap action switch (active low)
3 PD3 Input Right snap action switch (active low)
4 PD4 Input Center tact switch (active low)
5 PD5 N.C. Unused
6 PD6 Output Buzzer
7 PD7 Output Enables the 3.3V LDO
8 PB0 Input Connected to the SQW pin of the DS3231 RTC
9 PB1 Input Optional XBee RSSI
10, 11, 12, 13 PB2, PB3, PB4, PB5 Input/Output SS, MOSI, MISO and CLK for SPI connection to ICSP port and MAX7219 LED driver.
14 (A0) PC0 Output Optional XBee RTS
15 (A1) PC1 Input Optional XBee CTS
16 (A2) PC2 Input Optional XBee ASSOC
17 (A3) PC3 Input Input voltage level sensing, either (1) battery voltage or (2) USB voltage - 0.6V
18, 19 (A4, A5) PC4, PC5 Input/Output SDA and SCL for I2C connection to the DS3231 RTC
N/A PB6 Input Connected to the CLK32K pin of the DS3231 RTC