DESIGNED BY MICHAEL SEAL
REVIEWED BY KEN TIDWELL
Axiom is a game that I picked up by chance at the Camden Lock Market in Camden Town, a district of London that reminds me a lot of Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco. The Market is a big bustling affair that sells new and used clothing, handmade musical instruments, rare and hard to find CDs and tapes, and just about everything else that has been devised by man to clean out my wallet --- including interesting and unusual games.
Axiom is a two player strategy game that is played in three dimensions on an ever changing board. All of the playing pieces are divided into two colours, black and white. The board, and I use the term loosely here, is made up of twelve cubes, six of each shade. There is either a small pyramid or an indentation capable of containing such a pyramid on each side of the cubes. Initially, the cubes are arranged in a 3x2x2, rectangular cube with black on one side and white on the other. Each player is also issued two sceptres --- cleverly designed pawns which can be snapped into the indentations on the board cubes allowing the pawns to be attached to the sides of the playing surface!
The goal of Axiom is to place one of your sceptres on the same cube as one of your opponent's sceptres. Each turn you are faced with a number of options. You may move any cube of your colour, that has no other cube or sceptre on top of it, to any other position so long as it is in contact with one other cube and it fits --- that is, you cannot place a pyramid face adjacent to another pyramid face. You can also move a sceptre. Sceptres may move either orthogonally or diagonally so long as they stay on a single plane --- like the top of the initial setup. A sceptre may wrap round the edge of the board onto any number of planes but is restricted to orthogonal movement when doing so. Sceptre movement is always blocked by other sceptres and by the jutting pyramids. Finally, if a sceptre moves from a cube of your opponent's colour onto a cube of your colour and the opponent's cube has no other cube or sceptre on it then you capture your opponents cube. So throughout the game the board is moving, changing, and shrinking - hopefully drawing your opponent into an artful trap but often leaving you with that awful dread of a cornered animal.
The game is incredibly easy to teach so you can get a game going in five minutes or less. It's fun to watch people play their first game. Inevitably the winning move comes whizzing around from the side of the board that they can't see. A little light dawns in their eye and the next game they're constantly looking round the other side. The latest edition of the game includes a small mat to play on that can be rotated so that both players can have a good look at all sides of the board before moving. Its normally sometime during the third game (all played in quick succession, of course) that they begin to grin and really enjoy the game. It's about then that you realize that you are thinking about this game in a completely new way. It's the first board game I've ever played that really made me think in three dimensions. Games like 3D chess or tic tac toe really degenerate to complex pattern matching for me.
With Axiom I found myself envisioning the total space and manipulating that space in complex ways in my mind. The space is much more than just a simple cube with a regularly spaced grid laid over it like you find in the other 3D games I mentioned. The space has contours, obstacles, and just when you have it mapped out in your head it changes. Delightful!
Axiom was designed by Michael Seal, a great guy who mans his own stand at Camden Lock most every Saturday and Sunday. Most of Michael's games seem to involve interesting design work - injection moulded pieces with odd, abstract shapes --- and he's intrigued by the concept of board as playing piece. Axiom sets are of good quality and rugged enough to stand up to many playings and even a bit of travel. Axiom is produced by Seventh Seal, 3 Denmark Terrace, Brighton, BNl 3AN, England and distributed on the continent by Dewar Ltd., Postfach 1223, 77802 Buhl/Baden, Germany. Rules are in English, German, and French. I believe I paid around £30 for my copies (I own two - the first or travel edition and the expanded bookcase design with rotating mat).
On to the review of An den Ufern des Nils or back to the review of Big Boss.
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