xlCubeSuper An Excel Game Explained – Part3

This is the 3rd post to explain in detail how my xlCube game application was constructed. To read the previous post, go to:


This is the VBA routine I developed to add 3D cube ranges to the playing board of xlCubeSuper. It generates 7 3D ranges randomly with sizes ranging from 3x3x3 to 15x15x15.

Sub tdAddNamedRanges()

Randomize ‘ Initialize random-number generator

For s = 1 To 7

‘set x,y, and z values to fall within limits determined by cube size

x = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

y = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

z = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

‘create R1C1 style formula strings

cShipStr = “='” & z & “:” & z + (2 * s) & “‘!R” & x & “C” & y & “:R” & x + (2 * s) & “C” & y + (2 * s)

centerShipStr = “='” & z + s & “‘!R” & x + s & “C” & y + s

‘create names for cube 3D references and the centers of each cube

matchVar = False

With ThisWorkbook.Names

.Add Name:=”cShip” & s, RefersToR1C1:=cShipStr, Visible:=False

.Add Name:=”centerShip” & s, RefersToR1C1:=centerShipStr, Visible:=False

End With

If s > 1 Then

For m = 1 To s – 1

If Names(“centership” & m).RefersTo = Names(“centership” & s).RefersTo Then

matchVar = True

End If


End If

If matchVar Then

s = s – 1

End If


End Sub

The first statement in the VBA procedure uses RANDOMIZE to create a numeric seed that will be used by the RND function to generate a random number.

Inside the For-Next statement, which sets the variable “s” to a value from 1 to 7, the xyz coordinates for each cube are generated as follows:

x = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

y = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

z = 1 + Int(Rnd() * (20 – (2 * s)))

The numbers generated by these fomulas keep the cube on the board, depending on the value of “s”. The z coordinate is for the worksheets included in tne board and the xy coordinates are for the cells.

Then, for each value of “s”, the 3D cubical range and the center of each cube are generated with these formulas in R1C1 format.

cShipStr = “='” & z & “:” & z + (2 * s) & “‘!R” & x & “C” & y & “:R” & x + (2 * s) & “C” & y + (2 * s)

centerShipStr = “='” & z + s & “‘!R” & x + s & “C” & y + s

When they are saved as defined name formulas using the following code,

With ThisWorkbook.Names

.Add Name:=”cShip” & s, RefersToR1C1:=cShipStr, Visible:=False

.Add Name:=”centerShip” & s, RefersToR1C1:=centerShipStr, Visible:=False

End With

the formulas are converted by Excel into A1 format.

Originally, this was all of the code for this process. What I had ignored what the fact that two different cubes could have the exact same center. During all of the testing/playing of this game over the years, that scenario was never recognized as having occurred. But the current version, with 7 cubes, had this happen several times in early testing. So, I came up with this solution to correct this issue.

If s > 1 Then

For m = 1 To s – 1

If Names(“centership” & m).RefersTo = Names(“centership” & s).RefersTo Then

matchVar = True

End If


End If

If matchVar Then

s = s – 1

End If

A key part to this code is

Names(“centership” & m).RefersTo = Names(“centership” & s).RefersTo

which compares the currently added formula to each previous formula added. If this statement is TRUE, then matchVar is set to TRUE. Then,

If matchVar Then

s = s – 1

End If

which decrements “s” by 1, effectively rerunning the previously generated 3D formula until an unique center is produced.

The next post will discuss the worksheet formulas used in this game.







xlCubeSuper An Excel Game Explained – Part2

In Part1, the new version of xlCube (now referred to as xlCubeSuper) was introduced.


In Part2, I will describe the different techniques to make this game application work. But, before I do, I think that it is important to point out that the game is not tied down tight. For example, there is no workbook-level protection. If users wanted to, they could damage the integrity of the game by adding or deleting worksheets (if they saved the changes). So, the game is not tamper-proof and was never intended to be. Rather, it was made as a game to be enjoyed and an application to learn from. Here then is a list of the major techniques to be discussed.

  • 3D formulas
  • Defined named formulas
  • Conditional formatting formulas
  • Formulas to aggregate shots and hits
  • Use of VBA to:
  1. Add 3D ranges
  2. Shoot using VBA event procedure.
  3. Create and delete non-ribbon (old style) menus.
  4. Store and sort game scores.
  5. Control the formatting of shots and hits.
  6. Display information and results.

The backbone of this game is the 3D formulas created to define virtual cubes and the center of those cubes. We will see in a later post how these formulas are generated through VBA, but for now, here is what they look like as shown in Name Manager.


In Part3 we will see how these formulas are created in random locations by VBA.

xlCubeSuper An Excel Game Explained – Part1

I have just recently updated/modified my xlCube game that I first started on 20 years ago. The main modification is that it now has 7 cubes that must be destroyed before the game is over. For those who have never played the game, the previous version can be found at:


The new game is called xlCubeSuper. And, like the previous release, I encourage you to dig into the details of how this application was constructed. But, I know that your time is precious, and you may feel that this would not be an effective use of your Excel time. So, this time I am going to explain in detail all of the tricks and techniques used in the making of this game. In Part 1, I am only making it available to you. The explanation will come in subsequent posts. In the meantime, have fun with it.

You can download the file here.



#Excel Data Validation – Non-Contiguous Ranges and Changing Data Validation List after Picking

I recently saw this challenge for creating a data validation list from 2 non-contiguous ranges.


Then, while looking up current information about data validation tricks, I reread this post on Debra Dalgleish’s Excel site, which showes a way to change the data validation list based on items picked.


I decided that I would try to combine both of these techniques, while at the same time creating the required data validation list without the need for helper columns. When I started on this, I was not sure that it would be possible, but that is the kind of challenge I like 😊.

I had previously published a method for combining non-contiguous ranges into a comma-delimited string.


Using this technique along with modifying the ranges to exclude blank values, the following formula produces a delimited string combining the elements of two ranges named List1 and List2, as shown in the figure.


TJ_TLists =TEXTJOIN(“,”,TRUE,IF(ISBLANK(List1),””,List1),IF(ISBLANK(List2),””,List2))

It is important to note here that any number of ranges (rectangular, non-contiguous or 3D) can be combined in this step to afford the data validation list in the final step. As an example, see:


The next formula converts this delimited string into an array.

CombinedDV =TRIM(MID(SUBSTITUTE(TJ_TLists,”,”,REPT(” “,999)),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(TJ_TLists)-LEN(SUBSTITUTE(TJ_TLists,”,”,””))+1))*999-998,999))

Unfortunately, an array cannot be used directly as a data validation list. But, since there is more work to do to create data validation that can be used as a pick list, the following formulas are needed.


affords {“”;”b”;”c”;”d”;”e”;”f”;”g”;”h”;”I”;”j”;”k”;”l”;”m”;”n”;””}


affords {“”;2;3;4;5;6;7;8;9;10;11;12;13;14;””}

Then in cell H2 is entered the formula =INDEX(MatchArr,SMALL(MatchRow,ROW()-1)),which is filled down until a formula returns an error. This is the range to be used as a data validation list.

As shown in the figure, the range where data validation is applied


contains an “a” and an “o”.

Then, the formula used for the data validation list is


So, when the data validation is used in its current state, the list will not contain those two letters.

I hope that you find this useful.

The example file can be downloaded here.


#Excel: Extracting an Array of Words From a Sentence


The following formula will create an array of words from a string (sentence).

= ArrayFromSDS(TEXTJOIN(“”,,IF(MID(A1,ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(A1))),1)=” “,” “,IFERROR(CHAR(64+MATCH(MID(SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”?”,”-“),”*”,”-“),ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(A1))),1),CHAR(64+ROW(INDIRECT(“$1:$26″))),0)),””))))

Here is an explanation of how it works.

The array used in the 3rd argument of the TEXTJOIN function starts with the 1st part of the IF formula, shown below.

IF(MID(A1,ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(A1))),1)=” “,” “,

which keeps any space from the string in cell A1. The rest of the IF formula


returns only letters from the string in A1. The 1st argument of the MATCH function in this construction,

MID(SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”?”,”-“),”*”,”-“), ROW(INDIRECT(“1:”&LEN(A1))),1)

is very similar to the 1st part of the IF function, but it has one important difference.

Instead of using the string from cell A1, the formula SUBSTITUTE(SUBSTITUTE(A1,”?”,”-“),”*”,”-“) is used instead. The reason for doing this is that the MATCH function recognizes the * and ? symbols as wildcard searches. So, if the 2nd argument of the MATCH function does NOT contain a * or ?, the character “A” will be returned instead (if not removed from the core string).

The 2nd argument of the MATCH function is


which returns an array of letters from A TO Z.

The result of the MATCH function is an array with numbers from 1-26 for positions in the string with letters and “” if not. For example, if the string in A1 is “ AAx,d a.”x~y*z”. c?e! ”, then the MATCH array will return


This array is particularly useful in this specific case, since the numbers can be converted to the letters in the string by using the CHAR function (along with the IFERROR function to turn errors to an empty string). That converts the array to

{“A”;”A”;”X”;””;”D”;” “;”A”;””;””;”X”;””;”Y”;””;”Z”;””;””;” “;”C”;””;”E”;””}

Now, this array can be used as the main argument in the TEXTJOIN function to afford the string


Now, using the ArrayFromSDS user-defined function (shown below)

Function ArrayFromSDS(MyString As String)

ArrayFromSDS = Split(MyString, ” “)

End Function

produces this array of words.




#Excel: Remove Multiple Characters From a String Using The TEXTJOIN Function and Without Using the SUBSTITUTE or REPLACE Function


There are a number of examples of the removal of characters from a string which utilize nested SUBSTITUTE or REPLACE functions. However, they are hard-coded in that the formulas are built with a set number of characters to remove based on the times that the SUBSTITUTE function is used. The formula methodology I am presenting here is more flexible and robust than previous solutions.

In this example, I am trying to remove all punctuation from a string, specifically the one shown below from cell A1. You will note that this string contains five different punctuation symbols, several occurring more than once.


The following array formula removes those symbols


and affords the desired string shown below.



#Excel: Most Frequent Item in a List of Delimited Strings


rng is a defined name range on the worksheet with each cell containing delimited strings. Although it does not necessarily have to be a 1-column list, most examples of delimited strings in a range are of this type. To convert this range to an array, use the following formula.

Define arr as =ArrayFromCDS(TEXTJOIN(“,”,,rng))

where the VBA UDF is shown below.

Function ArrayFromCDS(MyString As String)

ArrayFromCDS = Split(MyString, “,”)

End Function

So, arr is a 1-D array of all of the delimited values from each cell of the range. Then, use this formula


to return the most frequent item.