Published by Graham's Games
Designed by Graham Lipscomb
Reviewed by Stuart Dagger
Part of my mission at Essen was to make games inventors feel good by giving them the opportunity to beat me at their own games. The inventor of Abalone gave me a demonstration of that excellent and very successful game and Graham showed me the way home at this one.
Once again the board is an attractive tesselation, this time built up from circles. If you arrange six touching circles to form an approximation to a hexagon, you have the basic building block. Then fit these blocks together so that each shares two of its circles with each of its neighbours and you have the playing area. The playing pieces are dice - red and black for each of the two players and some special ones for doing the scoring. At any one time you have five dice of your own colour in front of you. This is your hand and from it you place dice on the board in an attempt to score points. Points are scored by achieving one of the permitted scoring patterns round one of the circles and there are rules governing what can sit next to what which ensure that the game is primarily about strategy rather than dice rolling.
The scoring patterns are: The numbers 1 to 6 in order around a circle - this scores 5 points; two adjacent numbers alternating round a circle e.g. 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4 - this scores 3 points; and a completed circle fitting neither of these patterns, which is worth just 1. In all cases the points go to whichever player owned the dice which contributed the higher total to the sum of the numbers round the circle. So my 1, 3, 6 loses out to your 2, 4, 5 on a 5- pointer. When you place a die on the board, the number it shows must be exactly one away from those on all adjacent dice. In addition to placing dice on the board you may slide dice that are already there around. When you do this the number that they display changes - up one for each move of an opposing die and down one for each move of one of your own. Quite clever that because it means that as you break up your opponent's positions you are forced to increase his scoring potential in other places, with the opposite effect on your dice as you manoeuvre them into better places.
When you place dice on the board you roll new ones to bring your hand back up to five and there are also re-roll options to help you improve a bad hand. So, a precise and slightly complicated set of rules, but they are also very logical and you pick them up quickly. So quickly in fact that at the two thirds point of our game, Graham was very worried that I was picking them up too quickly and that he was going to lose. Two reasons for that: the first is my Marvin-like cranial capacity and the second that he couldn't roll a 3 to save his life.
As with Creeper, the presentation of the game is first class, the rules are clearly written and there is a supplementary booklet with an illustrated example game to help you pick things up. The price given is again the one for direct sales from the inventor (address at the end of the Creeper review). There is a further pound off the combined price if you buy both games: so £39.90 the pair, including UK postage. Again, add 20% for overseas.
The Game Cabinet - email@example.com - Ken Tidwell