a game of creative connections
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Sembl is a multiplayer web-based "board" game for finding and sharing resemblances between things. The backend is coded in Ruby on Rails, and the frontend in React.

Development with Vagrant


You’ll require the following to be installed:

  • VirtualBox
  • Vagrant
  • Ansible

Then run:

git clone git@github.com:cathstyles/sembl.git
cd sembl
vagrant plugin install vagrant-hostmanager
vagrant up
vagrant ssh


vagrant ssh
foreman start -f Procfile.dev

The site should now be running on http://sembl.dev:3000/


Core models

  • Game: A Sembl game, which brings together most of the following models and is responsible for managing the state of a game at a given time.
  • Board: A player selectable game board. Includes attributes for the number of possible players and board layout.
  • Thing: A "thing" is an image and metadata uploaded by an admin or a player which can be placed onto a "node" during gameplay.
  • Node: A node is a spot in an active game which is filled, or can be filled, with a thing. Nodes are created when a game is created, and their locations are defined by the game's board.
  • Link: A link joins two nodes together. Links are also created when a game is created and their locations are defined by the game's board.
  • Move: A move is not stored in the database. A move occurs when a player places a thing onto a node.
  • Placement: A placement is created when a user places a thing onto an unfilled node during a "move".
  • Resemblance: A resemblance or "sembl" is created during gameplay when a user places a thing onto a node and describes the reasoning behind that placement (happens during a "move").
  • User: A person that has signed up on the website.
  • Profile: A single profile belongs to a user, and is created when the user signs up. It includes things like "name", "bio" and "avatar".
  • Player: A user that is currently playing a game. This model stores player related state, such as their current.
  • Rating: A rating is created during the rating part of gameplay (when, after each round, players rate other people sembls)

First-time setup

Install the required gems & prepare the database by running this command from the root directory of the application in Terminal:

$ bin/setup

Running the application locally

$ foreman start -f Procfile.dev

Visit http://localhost:5000/ to use the app.

Setting up the production Heroku Remote

You need to install the [Heroku Toolbelt])(https://toolbelt.heroku.com/), and login to a Heroku account (with heroku login) that has access to the Sembl Heroku application.

After that you can add the git remote by running:

$ heroku git:remote -a production

Loading production data

You will need Postgres database server installed. After that, running the following commands will capture, download and restore the production database to your local database server:

$ heroku pg:backups capture
$ curl `heroku pg:backups public-url` -o production_db.dump
$ pg_restore --verbose --clean --no-acl --no-owner -h localhost -d sembl_development < production_db.dump
$ rm production_db.dump

Working with the Solr search engine

Running foreman and specifying Procfile.dev (as above) will run a local, app-specific instance of the Solr search engine.

To load the search engine with the app's data, run this rake task:

$ rake sunspot:reindex

Importing Thing records from CSV

Open the rails console rails console, and then

if images are in the same directory as the file, run:


if images are in different directory, run:

ThingImporter.new("path/to/filename.csv", image_path: "path/to/images")

Testing emails

You can test emails locally using Mailcatcher, which you need to install separately:

$ gem install mailcatcher
$ mailcatcher

Now that it is running, visit http://localhost:1080/ to see the emails sent while using the local, development version of application.

Running specs

Running the specs are a way of testing the application is working as expected prior to deploying it to production (to Heroku).

  • Start the Solr engine in the test environment: RAILS_ENV=test rake sunspot:solr:run in one terminal session
  • Have foreman running in another terminal session to serve assets (see the "Running the application locally" section)
  • Many of the specs are currently out of date, but there is one large integration spec that runs through a whole 3 player game. Run this command in a 3rd terminal session:
    • bundle exec rspec spec/features/playing_a_whole_game_spec.rb


The production app runs on Heroku and uses these add-ons:

  • Heroku Postgres - database
  • PG Backups Auto - database backups
  • Heroku Scheduler - scheduled tasks (e.g. email reminders and hostless game management)
  • SendGrid - email delivery
  • Websolr - hosted solr search engine

Deploy to heroku with git:

$ git push production master