Bantu is a dice-free race game that will almost certainly appeal to those who like Hare and Tortoise and Sechs Tage Rennen. Each player has four pieces with intrinsic movement capabilities of 4, 3, 2 and 1 which start at varying points on a track of linked dots and race towards a common finishing line. The first player to get all four pieces home wins. On your turn you may move whichever of your pieces you choose and you move it its full movement allowance. If the piece is alone in a row, this allowance is the piece's intrinsic movement capability, but if it is not, the allowance is the sum of the intrinsic movement capabilities of all the pieces which are together in that row. If a piece cannot move its full allowance because some other one is blocking the track, it may not move. Or more accurately, it may not move unless its full movement would bring it to rest on top of the blocking piece and the blocking piece is not in one of the `safe' positions on the track. If it can do this, then it displaces the blocking piece, knocking it back to one of the starting areas. As I hope you can tell from that brief description, this is a game with a lot of scope for skilful tactics: When do you block? When do you run? When do you bring on another piece? What route should you take? How best to set up a favourable position for next time? And how to exploit an opponent's temporary discomfiture?
The original game was purely abstract. Paul has given it a theme and instead of counters racing along a track consisting simply of dots and lines you now have coalmen racing through an obstacle-strewn, coal merchant's yard. (Hence the name change: `Bantu' was an inappropriate name for the original and would be damn silly with the new setting.) The only other change he has made is a minor improvement to the knock-back rule. The kit consists of the the rules, a set of counters and three nicely drawn A3 sheets which make up as the board. You will need to mount the board and the counters, and the board will look better if you colour it first (either pencil crayons or a combination of these and felt tip pens). The D.I.Y. aspect is not too onerous, even if the lack of a relative whose Geography O-level indicates a talent for doing neat shading means that you have to do it yourself. The kit costs £5 (which includes postage and packing) and is obtainable from Paul at 1 Queens Gardens, Tunbridge Wells, TN4 9NB (England).
Those of you who would like to read Phil Orbanes article can find it in Games and Puzzles #68 and also in Games International #4, where it was reprinted as part of the R.I.P. series.