Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Review -- RETSAMI


The classic board games which were created decades, and in some cases centuries ago, and have remained intriguing enough to game players to have survived, are among favoured games for many of us.There is often a simplicity to these games in terms of mechanics, which is a perfect compliment to a much deeper game in terms of strategy and how we must attack the game to be successful. Checkers, backgammon and others are an example of such games.With that in mind it is with particular interest that one turns to a new game which upon first look illicits thoughts of the older classics.That's exactly the reaction to Retsami, a board game created by John Wildsmith and released in 2006.A first glimpse of the board has one immediately thinking checkers. The well made game pieces have a decidedly backgammon-feel. The combination is fitting because the game seems to draw on both.Retsami is most closely related to backgammon in the sense it is a sort of race game where players maneuver their pieces around the board looking to be the first to get one home. The game even touts that it is 'the greatest game since backgammon'. That is a rather bold statement given the popularity of backgammon, but there is no doubt Retsami would likely find favour with backgammon players because it shares some common themes.Unlike backgammon there are no dice here where a roll can often influence the outcome as much as good game play.The game is played on a 9X9 checkerboard, with a sort of spiral game track that has pieces moving around the board in a race to the center square. The board, while pressed cardboard, is thick, well-made and should stand the test of time if looked after.A single stone slides around the board as far as it wishes, with the caveat it can pass only one corner per turn.Pieces are captured either orthogonally, like a chess rook, or diagonally, as a chess bishop. Therein lies the strategy of Retsami, a name which is Master in reverse. As a player moves a piece around the board he must do so in a way in which it is supported by other pieces, so if captured, he can simple repay the favour.Each player starts with their four pieces interspersed on the tile farthest from the centre, so captures can start pretty quickly.However, a captured piece is not lost. It may be returned, in lieu of a move, to any empty space on the starting row. As result of the regeneration mechanic players always have the same number of pieces, although they may not always be on-board.The game does tend to evolve into a battle of position along the home row. Each player is likely to send a piece out along the track, one leading, the other chasing, in hopes that the lead stone can be sniped at some point.To capture a piece you have to watch the home row, setting up covering attack vectors, much like catching an enemy in a crossfire.As a result the game does seem at times a little too much a give and take on the home row until someone is simply out maneuvered, but that might change if one played it as much as backgammon to learn more of the strategy.Even with limited plays Retsami has a look, and game play approach of a much older game, and that is a good thing. It's a game always worth a game or two to explore a new game with an old feel.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 17, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Review -- MUNCHKIN


Every once and a while it's good to sit down with a game that requires limited thought, and is instead completely focused on fun, and more importantly camaraderie with those sitting around the gaming table.
Now if you are one of those people that has an interest in fantasy, and especially if you have ever played a role playing game such as Dungeons & Dragons, the answer for a light, but hilarious evening is the card game Munchkin.
Designed by Steve Jackson, an iconic name in the gaming industry, Munchkin first hit the streets back in 2001, and it has become something of a game phenomenon ever since.
The premise of the game is rather simple, with one explanation I've seen stating, “kill the monsters - steal the treasure - stab your buddy. That pretty much sums it up.
It's a game where you have character cards with certain powers, powers that can be enhanced through the collection of other 'magic' cards.
The characters then face various monsters, humourously re-created creatures from the world of RPGs. Defeat the monster, and you collect more treasure.
You must collect enough points along the way to meet the win condition, before anyone else at the table does, the game is for three to six players.
If the cards aren't rolling well in terms of you beating up the monsters, you can always work at thwarting the efforts of everyone else at the table. You can play cards to strengthen monsters, steal treasures and simply infuriate other players, all in good natured back stabbing of course.
The game play is smooth, fast, and the rule set easy enough to pick up in just a game or two, even for those unfamiliar with the RPG background to the game. The thing about being a role player though is that you will get more of the wacky humour that Munchkin has in terms of card text and creatures, since they are often twisted interpretations of classic RPG storylines.
As mentioned, Munchkin has been a huge success in terms of the game industry. While the original is a solid stand alone game in its own right, Munchkin has had at least six expansion decks released. The expansions play as stand alone games, or you can mix them all together to create a huge and varied deck from which to play.
The game has also inspired a number of novelty items for the really avid player, from life counter dice, to an actual pewter miniature of the Munchkin mascot which is also used as a life counter.
While the original Munchkin, and its expansions focus on a basic medieval era, fantasy theme, there have also been a number of sequel editions produced.
Among the varied sequels are; Star Munchkin takes you to the world of outer space, Munchkin Bites!, has vampires and such, while Munchkin Fu takes on the world of kung fu movies.
Remember these are all very much tongue-in-cheek efforts, with bad puns and crazy ideas, yet that's what makes the game so endearing.
It's not a game for play every night, but when the mood strikes, when a night arrives you just want some silliness and laughs, Munchkin fits the bill.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 10, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CANNON


There have been some amazing games developed in recent years, especially in terms of abstract strategy games, a genre that has enjoyed something of a Renaissance in recent years.
One of the games that has fueled that Renaissance is Cannon, a game designed by David Whitcher, and released in 2003 by PyroMyth Games.
The game succeeds based on two main precepts in terms of game design. To start with the game has an elegant simplicity, one which really reminds of games from an early generation.
There are basically only two moves in the game that of a soldier, and of a cannon.
A soldier can move forward one space, either straight ahead, or diagonally. It may capture the same way, as well as one space either right or left.
The cannon is a formation of three soldiers in a straight line. The cannon moves ahead, or back one space as a unit. As might be expected with a cannon, it captures at a distance. It does not move, but can capture a single soldier either two, or three spaces in front of it, as long as no other piece is immediately in front of the cannon.
That's it is terms of movement. The game has a simplicity of move that has me likening it to checkers.
The game is played on a 9X9 board, with the pieces placed on the lines, akin to XiangQi (Chinese Chess) a game which has something of a common theme with cannon in as much as the cannon pieces are marked with Chinese symbols.
At the start of the game each player in turn places a village piece along the back line on his side. The goal of the game is to eliminate the opponent's village. Since the village can start on any of seven starting points, a single strategy will not work in this game, since the goal must be attacked from different angles, depending on where the village is.
Each player also starts with 15 soldiers, aligned as five cannons on alternating lines with their opponents pieces.
From there it's a straight forward battle. Since cannons attack at range, it takes only a couple of moves before combat begins. The game sees casualties on both sides in rapid succession, as might be expected if cannons were blasting away at one another.
While the cannon formations are the power of the game, it often comes down to a lone soldier sneaking through the carnage to capture the opponent's village.
With it's Oriental theme, and somewhat checkers like movement, the game has the 'feel' of a game far more ancient than Cannon is. You might well think it's a game created in Japan, at the time of chess, or checkers, by the way the game plays, and that's a good thing.
If there is one drawback, the wooden board and pieces were a disappointment. The board is basically plywood, and while functional, could have been made of nice wood.
Still the board is far superior to the pieces that are made of a wood that has the feel of balsa. There is no weight at all, and the cut job on many was extremely rough. In trying to trim, the cheap wood splintered chunks off easily.
It didn't help that on a couple of pieces the Oriental symbol was badly off centre either.
Recognizing Cannon was produced by a small, designer-led company, the pieces were still a letdown.
There is a plastic version, but from pictures it lacks the vintage look of the wood one.
I do believe the game will soon be produced by another company, and hopefully they will boost production values.
While the pieces are far from perfect, game play is so compelling, the game still comes highly recommended. If a better version is produced, then it will be a total classic.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 3, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



This week let's take a look at a game which may have the best mechanics, game play of any abstract strategy game created in the last couple of decades, coupled with one of the worst marketing plans in the history of board games; Navia Dratp.
Navia Dratp is a recent creation by Koichi Yamazaki, and released in 2004 by BanDai, so yes it is from Japan.
Let's start with the good stuff, the game play.
Navia Dratp is very much a game in the style of chess, well to be more accurate it's a game in the same vein as Shogi, the Japanese version of chess reviewed here last week. That said Yamazaki has added a bunch of new elements to the mix to make Navia a definitely unique game.
Players start the game, played on a 7X7 board, with nine pieces on the board, called gulled stones, which really equate to pawns. The actual pieces are rather cheap looking, which is odd since the rest of the components for the game are great.
Like pawns the gulled stones have limited movement, but in Navia Dratp they have an essential purpose. Each time you move a gulled stone you earn gyullas, which would be far better off being called something simple like gold pieces. You can start to see a major flaw developing on the marketing side with all the near impossible to pronounce terms.
Anyway, gyullas are an important aspect of the game, so you want to earn as many as you can.
Players also start with a Navia figure on the board, essentially a chess king in female form. If your Navia is captured you lose the game.
Each player also starts the game with seven Maseitai, the major pieces of the game. The Maseitai start off the board, and can be summoned onto the board on specific squares in lieu of any other action on your turn.
This is where it gets interesting, each Maseitai has a specific movement pattern, as well as a dratp cost. Pay the dratp cost with gyullas and you can flip the movement key, exposing a new movement pattern, or other enhanced or special ability. This again leads back to Shogi where most pieces can be flipped for enhanced moves.
The Maseitai pieces are fairly large, nicely detailed pieces, with a definite fantasy/anime-look. They are actually quite stunning, and next to the mechanics, are easily the best aspect of this game.
Also each time you capture an opponent's Maseitai you gain it's drapt cost in gyullas.
If you have 60 gyullas you can dratp your Navia and that is an automatic win, one of three win conditions, the others being capturing the opposing Navia, or getting your Navia across the board to your opponent's end line. Having three win conditions is a major plus of the game.
The game is also collectible, meaning there were boosters packs of Maseitai available. With two starter packs and two booster sets, there are 44 Maseitai out there to choose from, and since you only have seven in play, the options are rather diverse, even though the game lasted only a short time in terms of new product.
As a game it plays great.
However, marketing wise it was a huge failure.
On one hand chess fans were no doubt turned off by the weird language, and believe me when you start looking at the names of the Maseitai it gets even worse with Sungyullas, Agunilyos and Coydrocomp just three examples.
For younger people more into the world of Japanese anime, a definite influence here, the fact the game is a chess variant wasn't likely a big draw.
The game also came with two distinct starters, but you needed both to play. Can you imagine buying a chess set and getting only half the pieces in the box and then having to buy another set to play.
Navia Dratp is an amazing game, but you do have to cut through a language barrier of sorts to get into the heart of the mechanics to appreciate it. It is worth the effort though. You can still find starters on ebay quite easily, and if you like chess at all, or just a great strategy game, this is a must to find.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 26, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SHOGI


Most people, even those with just a passing interest in board games, know that chess is an ancient game. In fact the chess game most of us recognize dates back to the mid-1400s, but comes from even earlier roots.
However, as chess migrated away from its likely birthplace in India, the game evolved down divergent paths depending on where it was taken and nurtured.
In Japan the game became known as Shogi, and it remains one of the more fascinating chess variants available to play today.
Shogi, as a game in its own right, dates back about a thousand years, with an estimated creation around 1000. It's rather phenomenal that any game has survived so long.
While Shogi is clearly a chess variant, the familiar bishop, rook, pawn and horse (knight), there are a number of significant differences which make the game compelling different for game players.
To begin with, the gold general and silver generals are pieces that are different than western chess, and new pieces are always interesting to explore in terms of interaction with other pieces. Finding synergies between pieces create the strategies to win.
Another major difference is that while in western chess only pawns promote, in Shogi almost every piece has the ability to upgrade when it reaches a particular rank on the board. In this game it's a unique way they deal with such promotions too. The pieces are flat, more like a checker piece than a standard western chess piece. The Japanese symbol for the starting piece is on one side, and the advancement piece on the other. Players simply flip the piece over when they reach the rank to advance.
The advanced pieces have changes, and/or enhanced movement abilities, adding a nice layer to the strategy of the game which goes beyond the western concept of a pawn becoming another queen on reaching the farthest rank.
The second aspect of Shogi that makes it unique is that captured pieces are not totally eliminated from the game.
A captured piece is held 'in-hand' by the player who captured it. That player has the option of foregoing a traditional move on his turn to place a captured piece on the board under his control.
The ability to 'drop' captured pieces back into the fray dramatically changes how Shogi plays compared to western chess.
A captured piece can become a key resource which can be brought to bare to fashion attack strategies, or provide added defence to protect a threatened king.
The fact that captured pieces usually find their way back into action also changes how the Shogi board develops through a game. The game is played on a 9X9 board, with each player starting with 22 pieces, so the board has a piece density of just more than 27 per cent.
In western chess the density of pieces declines as the game progresses, and pieces are captured. In Shogi that density tends to stay constant, since pieces are often reintroduced, so you must battle through a more crowded board to win.
Overall, Shogi is familiar enough for chess players to pick up fairly easily, yet different enough to offer new challenges. while getting a taste of a different culture's development on the game.
And, for the truly adventurous into the world of Shogi there are numerous variants, including Tori Shogi a variant on a 7X7 board with bird themed pieces, and the huge Chu Shogi played on a 12X12 board with each player controlling 46 pieces, and Dia Shogi on a 15X15 board with each player having 65 pieces.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 19, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



There are those games out there that you hear a lot about, the kind that you have always wanted to play, and are excited by the prospect of actually sitting down to try it out.
Such was the case with Settlers of Catan, a game that seems to be highly rated by many who have played the game, and thus was on the gaming radar for some time.
Sadly, this game doesn't come close to the hype heaped upon it.
In fact, this is a game that has very little going for it once you get past the expectation.
Created by Klaus Teuber in 1995, Settlers has been something of a board game phenomenon since, with a legion of players, and a number of expansions, and game system clones created in the past 13 years. In that respect it reminds me of Monopoly. Wait, it reminds me of Monopoly in another way too, just how awful this game is.
So what exactly is Settlers about? It is a game where players collect resources to build towns, cities and roads, and to amass armies, each worth points toward winning.
Sounds like a game where there would be a descent level of strategy involved in gaining and managing those resources doesn't it?Sadly, this game quickly throws player thinking by the way side in favour of a game with layer, upon layer of random luck determining the victor.
The game starts out so promising too, having a modular board, that is laid out each game, giving the initial board a different look each play, which should lead to the need for some different strategies too. The modular board is the best aspect of this clunker.
However, the board pieces are then assigned numbers from two to 12, although there is no seven. Players then get to place two towns and two roads onto the board to start the game.
After that a player's turn comes down to rolling a pair of dice. If you have a town adjacent to the territory with the number that comes up on the dice, you gain resources.
OK, do some quick math, with seven off the board, six and eight are the most likely number to be rolled, so guess where you better place your town if you can.
Now for the seven, when that number comes up, and statistically it will come up most often, it can be used for players to turn resources over to the bank should a player have too many, or it can move a random 'robber' piece to actually steal resources from another player. Yep, randomness on top of randomness.
There is also a deck of cards one can draw from, another aspect of the game in which players have no control over the outcome.
This is a game where you need different types of resources too, wool wheat, iron ore etc., and a player can end up shorted out of one or more depending on where their towns and cities are placed. There is a trading option between players, but that is likely to come down to players cooperating to overcome a clear leader, and hardly adds to giving good players the win.
There is just way too much randomness for this game to be taken seriously.
That said, everyone stays in the game until there is a winner, which is generally a good thing, although you might wish you could lose out to go watch a television test pattern in the case of Settlers.
This is a game you might see referred to as an entry level sort of board game, one that is great for introducing new players to the hobby. Yes, you can teach the rules quickly, but you aren't exactly giving anyone much of a challenge. This is a game about rolling dice, drawing cards, snoring a bit and rejoicing when it's over.
Leave this one in the store.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 12, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MORDHEIM


Sometimes board gamers like to expand their horizons just a bit, and that is where tabletop war gaming can come into play.
With a table top system you are no longer restricted to a pre-designed board, but instead lay out terrain pieces on a table and go to battle. The scale of the battles can be huge, think of the Napoleonic battles you may have seen laid out on a table in some old British-themed movie, to battles involving only a few miniatures.
Of course when you limit the number of miniatures you have to buy, it lowers the cost, so for most the entry level tabletop war gaming is what is widely known as skirmish level.
When it comes to such skirmish level battles, few offer up a better starting alternative, at least on the fantasy side of things, than does Mordheim: City of the Damned. Mordheim is one of a range of miniature games produced by Games Workshop, the granddaddy of the genre, and arguably the best known company in the field.
While Games Workshop produces full-scale war gaming options such as the medieval fantasy Warhammer, and its space battle twin Warhammer 40K, Mordheim is a neat game where players need a maximum of 20 miniatures to play. A starter set has fewer miniatures still, and can be had for about $50 depending on what faction and where you buy it, a cost that is about what a round of 18 holes of golf costs these days. And, remember the round of golf is gone once played, miniatures are forever.
First released in 1999, Mordheim has taken on something of a cult-like following. Games Workshop is no longer producing new material to enhance the game, but various war bands are still easily accessible, from skaven (rat men), through dwarves, witch hunters, various human factions and beastmen.
A quick Internet search will turn up a tonne of player-generated scenarios, and additional war band ideas too.
So what makes Mordheim work so well? It comes down to the campaign rules in my mind. You select a war band, based on having 500 gold pieces to spend. Each character has a set cost, as does items you equip the war band with, from simple slings and knives, through to black powder pistols.
Once you have a war band you battle opponents through what are essentially the ruins of the city of Mordheim. If a character dies, he is lost not just for the current battle, but all future battles in the campaign. Along the way those who live gain points to enhance skills, and you gain gold too to hire more men, or buy better gear.
The system creates a situation where decisions are far reaching as the campaign continues.
And, it allows some characters to become truly formidable and well-loved creations.
The game plays out rather well, with rules that aren't overly confusing in terms of mechanics, and they cover the effects of ranged weapons such as bows, hand-to-hand fighting, and of course magic.
Given the wealth of material existing for Mordheim, the relatively low-cost to purchase an initial war band, and the overall mechanics and feel of the game, if you like sword and sorcery games, this is one you definitely want to check out.
The rules are even available for free download by visiting the Games Workshop site, www.games-workshop.com, and following the links to the specialist games section.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov. 5, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



With the World Series taking centre stage in the world of sports right now, it seemed fitting that I should delve into what remains the best non-video game, baseball simulation out there.
Just for the record, there are literally dozens of games which have come out over the years trying to catch the magic of baseball. Some are pure board games, others strictly cards, and still others rely on miniatures, or the rolling of unique dice. None come close to the simplicity of play, and the depth of strategy than Strat-o-Matic Baseball does.
Hal Richman created the game more than three decades ago, with the first edition being produced in 1962.
Since its initial release the game has become widely known and enjoyed, gaining such popularity that it is exhibited in the National Baseball Hall of Fame. That pretty much tells you right there that the game is highly respected in terms of being true to the real game.
So what makes Strato so good? It's simple, the two-player game puts each participant into the role of manager of his given team.
As manager of a team the player is allowed to get into the actual thinking behind the myriad of moves a manager makes in each and every game. He controls the batting order, the choice of a starting pitcher, and within game strategies, such as whether to hit and run, or whether to attempt a steal. They can also issue intentional walks, have batters bunt, and position infielders according to who is batting.
The depth of options is what makes the game such a true-to-life baseball experience.
And, the decisions are made most often simply by stating what is happening to the opponent, such as “I'm holding the runner on” or “I'm going to attempt a suicide squeeze.”
Attention then turns to the classic battle of baseball, that of pitcher versus hitter. Each baseball player has a unique card created with statistical probabilities so they realistically reproduce the real-life performance of each player for the season represented. Therein lies another of the great strengths of Strato. The cards are created from the year-to-year statistics of a given major league player. As a result you can choose to manage the Toronto Blue Jays from their World Series season, or simply go with the current year edition of your favourite team.
New cards are released annually, and over the years vintage sets with cards for teams and players from earlier eras have also been released.
With the stat cards in hand a player rolls two six-sided dice and consults the card results. Get a number on the pitching card of someone like Roy Halladay and it's like an out. But if the dice takes you to the batter's card and it's Manny Ramirez, and it might well be a home run.
Of course the fun is that the cards do not represent just team superstars, but full rosters, so you can manage with a sub in the line up in the event a starter is injured, and it can happen.
Simple to follow charts round out the game allowing for the probability of injury, making it to first on a dropped third strike and other baseball quirks.
Strato plays smoothly, and quickly, so you can usually get in a nine inning game in an hour, then switch up the starting pitcher, adjust the line ups and go at it again.
The game perfectly mimics what occurs in a real game, and is an ideal simulation of what decisions a manager must make. Mix in true-to-life statistics for players we all love, and Strat-o-Matic is a grand slam home run.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 29, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ABALONE


Often when we think of the great abstract strategy games, we look to the past for games such as Chess, Shogi, Go, Camelot and Othello.
However, you don't have to go back quite that many decades to find an abstract that has the intangibles of greatness; simplicity, looks, and of course gaming challenge and fun. In fact, you can stop back in 1987, and look at the modern classic Abalone.
Created by Laurent Levi and Michel Lalet, Abalone has been critically acclaimed since its release. The box from the University Games version of the game suggests Abalone is the “winner of more awards than any other game in the world,” including being named Game of the Decade by the International Games Festival, Cannes French Riviera. That's pretty heady stuff in its own right.
The same box also points out 'Over 4,000,000 sold,” which again is highly significant for an abstract game.
So why did Abalone amass such an interesting resume?
Well let's start with the games simplicity.
Each player starts with 14 marbles, with the simple goal of pushing six of your opponent's pieces off the board. (The board actually has a gutter around the edge which captures and holds the marbles that are pushed from the playing field).
You accomplish the push by what has been perhaps best-described as a sumo match between marbles. On your turn you can move one, two, or three of your marbles in a straight line one space. During a move, if you move two marbles you can push one of you opponent's marbles. If you move three, you can push two opponent pieces. That's it folks, a rule set that you can teach in a few seconds.
Now there are those who will point out the game has been “solved”, basically meaning there are set ways to win. Unless you are one of those people who read the last page of a book first, that isn't a huge issue when you buy a game. It will take many plays to find the secrets and along the way you get a pile of fun.
And, Abalone has also evolved, with several alternate starting layouts now played regularly, which alter what works, and what doesn't. A quick Internet search will discover many of the alternate set-ups.
Back to the game. The look of Abalone is clean, and simple. It will look good out on the coffee table where it will attract a visitor's attention, and you know you can teach the game in seconds, so getting new players to try the game should be easy.
The board is a classic black, made of durable plastic. The marbles are huge, more than inch in diametre, making playing the game a satisfying tactile experience.
The game is not particularly large, so it's pretty mobile as is, although a smaller travel version is available, so you can take Abalone with you.
The game is one of the best in the last 25 years, having had championship tournaments for dedicated enthusiasts. Give this one a try, and you quickly understand why Abalone has attracted the attention the past 20 years.
Mark Abalone as a game to own, and an absolute 'must have' for lovers of abstracts.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 22, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- DOOM


So you are a fan of video games, but there are times you want to turn off the tube and face an opponent across the table for a board game. At times such as that, you might want to take a serious look at Doom: The Board game.
Designed by Kevin Wilson, “Doom” The Board Game is based on the DOOM computer game by id Software, and is published by Fantasy Flight Games (FFG), this is an interesting package. To begin with coming from FFG, you are pretty much assured of great component quality, and that is certainly the case with Doom.
The game essentially has marines battling through a secret military/research facility battling a myriad of demonic invaders in an attempt to escape. The marines, and the demons, ranging from huge spiders to truly monstrous bipedal creatures of the dark, are all cast in plastic, making the visual representation of the players and invaders excellent. If you want a little extra pizazz, paint some detail onto the miniatures and away you go.
As an added bonus the pieces can be utilized in some other games, especially for anyone into role playing games, so you get a little extra bang for your gaming dollar.
The board itself is modular, so it can be laid out in several layouts. Made of thick cardboard, they will hold up over time, and again can be utilized in a few other miniatures games if you want.
The game comes with a few pre-generated scenarios, adding to the play variety, and that's a good thing. With the modular board pieces, coming up with additional game play ideas are easy enough to.
So far so good.
Now a possible negative, or a major flaw, depending on your gaming perspective, is the actual game play. The game can be played by two to four players. One player takes control of the demon invaders, the other players taking control of one marine. The more marines involved, the more cards the demon controller gets, and the tougher the road to victory.
Did I say tougher road to victory, I meant near impossible. The first game with three marines in action we didn't get out of the first room. Three games, we had barely opened the second door. The demons come in waves. To survive it's run like mad, use well planned military tactics, and cross your fingers that your dice roll hit and the person in control of the hordes draws bad cards.
As the marines make their mad dash they can pick up ammunition, better weapons, and med kits to heal, and of course they battle demons as they crawl out of air vents, and pop into the middle of the room. You quickly feel the urgency, and near helplessness of the marines situation. It can be frustrating, but it's also very intense gaming to survive.
If the marines survive to win, it is a major, amazing victory, one to long be savoured. The game certainly favours the demons, and they are going to win the vast majority of times. That may turn a few players off, but it should also be seen as a supreme challenge in terms of board gaming.
As an overall package, if you are into a war game scenario with a futuristic, scifi feel, Doom should be an ideal fit.
If you really like the game there is an expansion which adds more demons, and scenarios to the mix.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 15, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- ODIN'S RAVEN


If you are a fan of Norse mythology, and aren't we all, you are no doubt aware of Odin, the top dog in the Norse pantheon. Well, the story has it that Odin had a pair of ravens, and that is where we arrive at this week's game; Odin's Ravens.
While the Odin theme is pasted on, you could do the same game with Hekyll and Jekyll if you chose too, it does help grab attention.
The game uses decks of custom cards which are laid out to create the 'board', or more accurately in this case a raceway.
The premise of the game is that Odin's ravens; Hugin and Mugin, are racing across the land, the cards depicting various landscapes; mountains, forests etc.
The two ravens are represented by nice raven-shaped wooden game pieces, and that is one of the most charming aspects of the game and its components.
The game is a race between the two ravens, with each players taking owner of the birds. The course is laid out using the cards, and off you go.
Of course it's not quite that simple, since players have other cards which can alter the course, shortening it at times, lengthening it at other junctures, or speeding your raven along the course, or impeding the opponent's progress. Since most of the cards have two game play options, there is a certain amount of strategy involved regarding which option to use, and when a card is best played.
Arguably the most powerful tool in the game is the Odin marker which when placed in front of one of the ravens on the course, stops that player's progress until they can draw a card to remove the marker. Sadly this piece, while wooden, is simply a tiny disk which lacks the aesthetic charm of the raven pieces.
There are also six magic way cards in the game, with one being laid out each game. Players can lay cards to the magic way in an attempt to gain points by an alternate scoring method, which again adds to the depth of play.
With each race you accumulate points based on the margin of victory in the race, and through playing magic way cards. The first player to record 12 points over a series of hands is the winner.
The cards here are narrower than a standard card deck, so they feel a little awkward as you shuffle. It would have been better to go with a standard card size here in terms of how one looks at the overall package of the game.
Game play with Odin's Ravens is rather quick. You should certainly race through a game in under the 30-minutes which is what the suggested play time.
As a two-player card/race game Odin's Ravens has enough play options each turn that players do get to offset the usual randomness of a card game with skillful play, although luck still contributes to the outcome too.
This is a game that is best played as a light filler. There isn't quite the depth to play it real seriously, and it really doesn't have that little something to make it truly addictive, but it is worth trying out if you like solid two-player games.
Odin's Ravens was designed by Thorsten Gimmler and is published by Rio Grande Games.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 8, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



It has been said the name of a product is everything. As an example of that running shoes and cars have had entire advertising campaigns go sour when they find a name suddenly has negative connotations in another language.
Now in the case of the board game Shing Shang, it's not that the name has a negative connotation as much as it sounds like some game designed for little kids, when it's actually a pretty darn good abstract strategy game which is sadly all but unknown.
The game was released in 1970, the creation of Henri Sala, and published by the English games company Nathan Wiggins Teape. It is one of a trio of abstracts games created by Sala and published by the same firm, the others being Samurai and Bushi, both better named, but offering less in the way of game play.
Since it was an English firm the game may be better known in Britain, but from what I can tell from some 'Net surfing, this game sort of slipped through the cracks of time.
So let's get past the bad name and look at what is good about the game.
Shing-Shang is played on a 10x8 grid, well it actually has two extended rows at the centre, but you get the general idea. The object of the game is to advance a piece called the dragon onto one of two of your opponent's gate circles. The gates are basically the goal areas, which no piece other than a dragon can land.
Each player controls two dragons which can only move by jumping over other pieces. They can jump over friendly pieces to gain ground, and when jumping an opponent's piece they are captured. As in checkers multiple jumps are possible. When you capture a piece you get to move an additional piece.
The other pieces on the board are lions (four each) and dogs (six each). A lion can move one space each, or by jumping over other lions or dogs while a dog moves two spaces or by jumping other dogs.
The use of the rock-paper-scissors form of movement and capture requires some definite forethought.
Interestingly the pieces are set up in the two corners closest to the player, with two empty spaces between the forces. The sort of automatic flanking array is also rather unusual in terms of the genre, so creates a different feel.
While the box points to placing a dragon in the opponent's gate is the way to win, by default if both your dragons are ever captured, you lose. The two avenues to victory again open strategies; do I look to move across the board to get to the victory gate, or focus on defending to capture your opponent's dragons?
Since a dragon alone is basically frozen, it moves only by jumping, you also have to keep some supporting dogs and lions close by, or your dragon becomes a sitting duck. With only 12 pieces on a side, with 84 squares on the board, piece density is quite thin, so losing even a few pieces can be devastating because of the dual pull to attack and defend.
The pieces for the game are quite 1970s, made simply of molded plastic, although the detail in the art of the dogs, lions and dragons, done in very Chinese-looking motif is quite good. They come in red and black, set against a gold coloured board, so it has a sort of Imperial Palace feel.
Overall, there are enough twists in the mechanics, coupled with solid game looks, that this game deserves more recognition than it has gotten in the past near four decades. If you get a chance grab this one. A very solid abstract.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Oct. 1, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- LA TREL


La Trel in a game which rolled out in 1994 with the tag line 'the ultimate lateral thinking board game.'
That's a pretty heady claim for any game to make, but at least la trel makes a fair attempt at fulfilling its own hype.
The game, created by Richard Morgan, really boils down to an attempt at combining elements of chess and checkers, something games often claim to do, with varying degrees of success. To Morgan's credit he has come pretty close to combining the best of both worlds here, while adding enough new elements to give players something new to deal with.
The majority of pieces here are familiar in nature. The sabre moves as a chess rook, the trident as a bishop and the warriors as queens.
However, Morgan has switched up the pawn role, here called defenders. The defender moves one space as a rook, but cannot capture, which makes its role purely defensive.
The array for each player, at least in the advanced mode of the game, also has two blockers, which move in a unique way, up to a three space fashion. They can neither capture, nor be captured, again making their role one of defence.
And, defence is a good thing here, since the offensive trio of pieces; sabre, trident and warrior, are far ranging pieces, which capture as in checkers. They can move up to a piece, capturing by jumping to an empty space on the other side. In the basic and tournament formats of the games multiple captures are possible, fully integrating that checker aspect in la trel. However, unlike most checker games, captures are not mandatory.
The multiple capture elements can make the game brutally devastating if you miss a move that opens up a multiple attack, and that is why strategic use of defenders and blockers is a must.
La Trel has a lot going for it game wise, but the designer may have tried to be a bit too all encompassing in producing this game.
To start with I believe three versions, metal, wood and plastic were available. The plastic version is nice to look at but hollow, although you can use marbles and fish weights to give them some heft and then put felt on bottom. You get the feeling a single edition, likely plastic for cost, but weighted and felted would have been a better approach right from the start.
The game rules also offer options for basic, standard and advanced, then there's a leaflet for tournament rules which actually use more basic rules than advanced which is sort of bizarre. You would anticipate tourney rules to be the ultimate rule set.
As it stands I'm not sure exactly which version of the game the designer may have deemed the one he envisioned as the true form of la trel.
The tournament rules do utilize the full array of 18 pieces, and the neat multiple capture rule, so go with this one. It seems to be the truest in capturing what the designer seems to have been attempting to do here.
While marketing wise they might have streamlined a few things with la trel, the in-game mechanics are strong in terms of offering elements of chess and checkers, with game complexity certainly up from checkers, but not quite as deep as chess, making it a perfect mid-way effort.
Definitely a game which should be more widely known than it is.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 24, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CHASE


Whenever you roll dice with a game you temp the fates. Sometimes they smile upon you, and more often, at least it tends to feel that way, they laugh at your feeble attempts to win a game, and dash your hopes with truly lousy rolls.
So, dice aren't always a prized component of a game for many.
They certainly don't have a place in an abstract strategy game where the element of imposed luck is not supposed to exist.
Or, do they have a place after all?
Grab a copy of the game Chase, and you quickly see that when an innovative approach is taken to incorporating dice into an abstract strategy game it can work like a charm.
Chase was first released in 1986. Created by Tom Kruszewski, the game was published by TSR (Tactical Studies Rules). It is a game which incorporates dice as playing pieces, but those dice are never randomly rolled.
Instead, each player starts the game with nine dice along their home row, with the top dice faces in a particular sequential order. The total of the nine faces is 25.
A piece moves as many hexagonal spaces as the dice face shows. The idea, like many abstracts is to land on a hex with an opponent's piece which is then captured, and removed from the game.
However, in this unique game, more takes place than a simple capture. The number on the captured piece must then be distributed among that players remaining dice. For a simple example, one of your dice showing a two is captured. You can then flip another of your dice to compensate for the lost piece. So you can roll a dice showing a three, to now have a five.
A player loses the game if at anytime they do not have 25 points worth of dice in play.
In another unique twist a player may enter the central hex on the board and split the dice that entered, So a six can be converted to two dice, giving you more of a chance to keep 25 points in play.
As pieces move around the board a couple of other interesting features come into play. When a piece comes up against the board's edge behind the players starting positions, it does not end its move, but instead ricochets off in a new direction continuing to move until its total movement is used up. So in your move you have a six two hexes away from the edge. You move it the two, then it bounces off and moves its remaining four spaces of alloted movement.
If a piece moves to a side edge, it doesn't ricochet, but instead follows through coming onto the board on the opposite edge, effectively moving as if the board were a cylinder.
The way the dice move in accordance with the board edges adds a huge layer of strategy to this game.
The components of the game are quite simple, two sets of six-sided dice in two colours, one for each player. A player actually has 10 dice, nine on the board,. And a 10th in reserve to facilitate when a player uses the central chamber.
When you combine the unique use of dice, the changing ability of movement depending on captures and visits to the central chamber, and the interaction with the board edges, Chase is both fun, and deeply strategic. One of the best games out there.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 17, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Few boardgames have hit with the splash, and had the cultural altering impact, that Trivial Pursuit has enjoyed.
This is a game which has really become a foundation for an entire family of games based on the simple premise of asking and answering questions to succeed.
Again it's one of those simple game premises that makes one wonder they didn't think of it. Well at least in the case of Trivial Pursuit it was a couple of Canadians who had the brainwave.
Trivial Pursuit was first conceived on December 15, 1979 by Chris Haney and Scott Abbott. At the time, Chris Haney worked as a photo editor at the Montreal Gazette, and Scott Abbott was a sports journalist for The Canadian Press. The story has it that the pair came up with the basic concept of Trivial Pursuit within a few short hours after playing a game of Scrabble and deciding they should invent their own game.
While created in 1979, it was not until 1981 that the board game was commercially released.
The initial release was self-produced in Canada after fund raising by selling shares to friends and family. The game was popular enough to draw interest from Selchow and Righter a major U.S. game manufacturer and distributor in 1983.
The game is now sold under the label of Parker Brothers.
So the game is simple, six categories covering general areas of knowledge such as sports, or geography. Answer the questions correctly you move your playing piece around the board, and in key locations earn tokens. Collect the token for each knowledge category and get to the centre of the board first to win.
The game caught on huge, no doubt connecting with the same basic attraction people have had to the popular television show Jeopardy.
People enjoy knowledge and trivia, and as a party, or family game, Trivial Pursuit fits the bill ideally.
The game was so popular initially Time magazine called it the "the biggest phenomenon in game history,” and in December 1993, Trivial Pursuit was named to the "Games Hall of Fame" by Games magazine.
Trivial Pursuit has become huge, with numerous editions published since 1983, some specific to certain popular trivia topics such as a version with questions just on sports, and another where all the questions relate to movies and film.
Other editions highlight certain eras of history, or like the Millennium edition, update things considering the game was first released 27 years ago. One can expect a fairly major thrust for the game in 2011, to mark its 30th anniversary one would think.
With all the different editions no one can gain an advantage by memorizing the material, and if they can manage to keep all the answers in their head, they really deserve to win anyway *smile.
While the game can be somewhat overwhelming for those who do not easily retain the minutia of trivia, that can be overcome by playing in pairs.
This is a classic idea from a game which really did completely infiltrate modern culture in a way few, if any modern game has. Versions can often be found in thrift stores cheap, so if you haven't tried it, grab one, it's a ton of fun and you learn a few things along the way too.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 10, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- OTHELLO


Sometimes the simplest concepts create the most compelling and lasting board games. Such is certainly true of the classic Othello.
Othello was originally created under the name Reversi way back in 1880 by the team of John Mollett and Lewis Waterman. The duo created a game startlingly simple in its mechanics, yet deep in the possible strategies available to players.
The game is played on a board of 8X8 squares, which unlike checkers and chess, are not coloured. The pieces used in the games remind of checkers, but are double-sided, black on one side, and white on the other. Each player takes a colour, but they pull pieces from a shared pool.
Players alternate placing a piece on the grid, a piece which must be connected to the others already laid out. The goal is simple, to have the most pieces of your colour showing once the board has been filled in.
The trick of the game comes from the mechanics whereby a player can flip pieces on the board from the opponent's colour to his own. This is accomplished by having one piece of your colour at either end of a straight line of pieces of the opposite colour. For example if a black piece is on the board, adjacent to a straight line of four white pieces, the black player can flip the entire row of white by placing another black piece at the opposite end of the string of white.
Since a straight line can be on the vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines, it is possible to flip multiple rows of pieces, something which generally occurs as the board fills up.
The game does necessitate the repeated flipping of pieces, an exercise which might seem to be fidgety at first glance, yet never seems to be an issue during game play.
The game has enjoyed significant popularity through the years, with national organizations devoted to the game, and championships held. Today, thanks to the Internet the game is playable online at a number of sites.
Like many placement and alignment games, the first player does have a tactical edge, so if two equally skilled players hook up, he who goes first will tend to be victorious most often. That is really only an issue among the highly skilled at the game though.
Like many games which rely on strategy, there are some concepts with Othello that players will soon recognize. The most obvious is the importance of getting to the outer edge with your piece, simply because it reduces the opponent's ability to flank you by three directions.
For the same reason the corner squares of the board are even more strategically important, because you end up commanding key lines, and reduce the ability to be out-flanked even more.
As a result the game revolves around a player's efforts to set up situations where he can be the one to place their pieces in the key corners, and therein lies a central strategic thrust of the game.
Othello is amazingly simple in its mechanics, allowing the basics to be taught in minutes, so it's a great game to bring out if someone doesn't know a lot of games.
It is also deep enough, that it has remained popular and available for more than 125 years, and that alone tells you about all you need to know about Othello. It's a classic, which is well worth learning, and exploring.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Sept. 3, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- CRIBBAGE


When is a board game more than a board game? Well, how about when it's also a card game?
And, in this case the combination is a classic winner.
Of course what we're talking about this week is the game of cribbage, a game which was first introduced in 1630.
Of course it's no surprise this game has withstood the test of time, because it has just a ton of features which makes the game endearing.
The game was created by Sir John Suckling, a man with a definite flair for being creative. Cribbage has one of the most interested array of scoring possibilities of any game out there. In fact, at first glance it all looks rather chaotic in the way you can score points by counting 15s, 31, runs, pairs, three-of-a-kind, flushes, and even when cutting a Jack, for what is called 'nibs'. As wild as it all seems, the learning curve is easy, and the game play smooth.
It is also interesting how the dealer actually ends up scoring from essentially two hands, since players toss cards into a 'crib' which stays hidden until the hand plays out, and the dealer then gets to score points out of the crib too.
With each score you peg along the board, with the winner the first to 121 points.
It is possible to score a maximum of 29 from a hand, although you can play a lot of games and never see a perfect hand, one reason when you do it is often something local newspapers in smaller communities will run in the news.
The diverse ways to score is one of the most interesting aspects of the game because the players' choices on which cards to toss to the crib, and how to play out a hand actually do influence scoring, something many card games lack by the sheer randomness of drawing cards.
The game is also highly portable, and that is a huge asset. It should be standard gear for anyone heading to the lake, or out camping, just in case bad weather keeps you in doors. Cribbage can help the hours pass.
Interestingly too, cribbage can be played by two, three, or four players. Few card games can boost that, at least doing it as well as cribbage. The game plays as well with three, as it does with two, as an example. That makes it a great game for husband and wife, or for when two couples get together, and even if grandpa shows up and you need to go three-handed.
While cribbage seems near perfect in terms of what it offers as a card game, like most things there have been efforts to enhance and improve the game. For example in 2002 a wild deck expansion was released by TDF Artists. The deck of 32 cards sits on the table with players drawing one and following the instructions, which of course impact the game, anytime they score off a five card.
There has also been a larger board produced with various spots where players can take short cuts, or are forced longer routes depending on where their scoring takes them.
Another board design called crash cribbage was released in 1999 from designer Joe Kane, which has players pegging on a board in the shape of an '8' which means players can actually crash into each other's pegs, pushing them ahead, or back depending on the situation. If you hit your opponent's tail peg you will send it forward, if you hit your opponent's head peg you will send it backward.
The expansions, or variants, are at best a novelty, for a game that really never needed improvement.
As it is plain old cribbage offers easy portability, the smooth mechanics for two, three, or four players, interesting scoring, and enough tactical decisions for players to have an impact on the game. A total package to be enjoyed.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 27, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TERRAN


Sometimes the relatively new is simply a mirror of something amazingly old.
Such is basically the case with the board game Terran. Self-published by its creator Malcom Lyons in 1993, Terran appears to be a rather modern concept, at least stylistically. The pieces are bright yellow and red plastic rocket ships, with names such as Missiles, Lasers, Smart Weapons and Command Centre. The box itself shows three planets in a night sky.
One might expect the game to be some sort of war game, and in it's simplest form, it is, if you recognize chess as a game of warfare.
Terran is quite simply a chess-variant dressed up in some out of this world garb and verbiage.
That said, one shouldn't automatically turn away from Terran. The interesting thing here is that Terran mimics not the modern game of chess, but rather has a feel much closer to Chaturanga, which is considered the root game of chess. The history of the game suggests Chaturanga was played in India in, or before the 7th Century A.D.
Chaturanga has many of the familiar pieces of modern chess, albeit with somewhat different names and abilities.
The Counsellor, was the precursor of the Bishop, but moved only one space diagonally. The Laser in Terran moves one or two spaces diagonally.
In Chaturanga the elephant could jump two spaces diagonally, just as the Missile does in Terran.
The chariot (rook) in Chaturanga has two general trains of thought re its movement. Most suggest it moved as the modern rook, free ranging orthogonally on the board. But, there are some indications it was limited to only one space, much like the counsellor was. If that is indeed the case, it falls closely with the Laser in Terran, which moves one, or two spaces only orthogonally.
Some early versions of chess also had the queen restricted in its movement, and the Smart Weapon moves one one or two spaces as a Queen now does, while the Command Centre moves as the King.
Only the Knight is missing from Terran for it to be a slightly altered Chaturanga variant.
Terran does utilize a 'central star base', an extra space in the centre of an eight by eight grid, Terran plays on the intersections not the squares, which allow diagonally moving pieces to emerge on a different colour diagonal, which adds a bit of a twist, but would be better left out of the mix.
Since the pieces in Terran have movement restricted to a maximum of two spaces, the game is slower to initially develop, and requires a close-in combat strategy, since you can't mount long ranged attacks as is possible in modern chess.
That close in work takes some adjusting too for those who grew up on chess. You do get an understanding why pieces were likely adapted to longer range moves playing Terran because of the time it takes for the game to develop in the early stages.
However, there is a certain charm to Terran which comes from that sort of time spanning mix of elements. On one hand you have a game with futuristic looking pieces, and yet it plays much like a game created well over a thousand years ago. That combination makes this one worth giving a whirl, to experience the roots of chess dressed up in something more at home on Star Trek.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 20, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MONOPOLY


If you were going to pick one game which was full of gaming flaws yet has stood the test time and sold countess copies, you would probably end up picking Monopoly.
This is one of those games which truly is unusual. First published in 1935, the game was designed by Charles Darrow, Elizabeth J. Magie and George Parker, and the fact you can find it on the toy shelves of any big department store today shows it has survived the test of time – only two years shy of 75 now.
It is a game almost everybody has played at least once, and many households harbour a copy in some closet of the basement alcove.
Yet, the game has some serious gaming shortcomings too.
Let's deal with the flaws first.
To begin with the components leave much to be desired. The money is always a piled mess, requiring pre-game, in-game, and post-game sorting, which is basically tedious work to play the game.
The pieces are small and frigidity. It's hard to get four houses properly situated on any property location, and should one ever fall to the floor it's easily lost where it becomes a hazard should it be found by a young child, or a bare foot.
The game is also designed for two to eight players. With two or three it is slow to develop and rather boring. With more there is some joy provided as friends land on your property and have to dole out the cash, but as players lose out they are forced to watch, which has to be the height of boredom, or they are off to the TV which is what you are trying to get away from with a boardgame. The best multi-player games keep everyone involved until the end, such as Ticket To Ride.
As for the mechanics of Monopoly, it's a double barrel case of luck. Your piece moves on the whims of the dice gods, and depending on where you land you can find yourself drawing a Treasure Chest or Chance card, which adds yet another layer of luck.
The lone aspect of skill is the ability to wheel and deal to some advantage.
On the positive side, you can teach the game pretty quickly to anyone.
And, the game obviously has a level of popularity given its continued sales. It's one of those games that always seems to be under the Christmas tree for someone.
Of course it helps that the game has been licensed to a number of sports leagues and other interests, resulting in multiple editions of the game being produced with collectors in mind. There are Monopoly games dedicated to particular cities, to the National Hockey League, NASCAR, Disney, the U.S. Marines and Army, Chronicles of Narnia, Pokemon, The Simpsons, Harley Davidson, Spiderman, Elvis and Star Wars to name a few, and that has opened the game to new sales. It is likely there are now people who simply collect Monopoly editions.
There is even cross marketing, with familiar Monopoly icons showing up on sneakers, glasses, and even a series of Johnny Lightning collectible cars.
As flawed as the game is, Monopoly isn't going anywhere. It will remain a board game standard. It may not be one to run out and buy, but it is one everyone should play once just so they can determine for themselves if the game has merit.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 13, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- KENDO


They say good things come in small packages, well that is certainly the case for the boardgame Kendo. The game comes in a package about the size of a cigar box.
Kendo is an excellent abstract strategy game from the same family tree as chess and checkers, sort of fitting half way between the two root branches of the abstract genre of games.
The game was created by K. Budden and Seven Towns, and was first released in 1989 by Ravensburger, one of the premier boardgame companies out of Germany which has released literally hundreds of games over the years.
In the case of Kendo, it is a game which had a fairly strong following in Germany over the years since its release. One play and you can understand why. The game combines simplicity with a depth of strategy which is often difficult to achieve on a game board.
The board comes in three folding pieces which when ready for game play interlocks in the same fashion jigsaw pieces fit together. The pieces are colourful plastic. While functional, this is an area they could have went a bit fancier to improve the game aesthetics.
Kendo has been called 'The Samurai's Favourite Game'. The slogan sounds intriguing, but really the theme of Samurais and Kendo fighting are pasted onto the game for flavour. The game is essentially one where you look to move your key piece to the centre of the board before the opponent does. Along the way you try to avoid capture, while taking out enemy pieces, much as one does in chess.
Each player has one prince, which moves one, three samurai which move three and four fighters which move two. The pieces must move their exact movement, and can't jump intervening pieces, either your own, or that of an opponent. When a piece lands on a spot occupied by an opponent's piece it is removed.
The game is played out on a hex board, with a player winning in one of two ways, getting his prince to the centre of the board, or by capturing the opponent's prince.
The game can be played by two head-to-head, but also allows for three- and four-player action.
Three player is rather lopsided, with two players being so close to each other they tend to be forced into battle, while the third moves his prince freely to the win. It would need some house ruling to really work.
Four player is rather chaotic too, although could work better if players played in teams.
Where Kendo shines as an abstract is head-to-head. The game plays rather quickly, but there are lots of strategic paths to take, which means you have to stay on your toes. The hexagonal board, and the way the pieces move creates lots of options, and is different enough from the regular check-style board to be fresh.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 6, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



What makes a good board game for a group of friends?
That is always a good question, and it really comes down to a handful of key gaming features.
To start with a game must generally have simple rules. Serious gamers might like games with tons of depth in terms of mechanics and rules, but if you want to keep a group of friends who show up interested, it's usually important to have a game explained in a few minutes.
The game should be fun, and be simple enough play wise to keep everyone interested, with clearly defined goals, and an obvious way of measuring how one is doing as the game goes along.
And, generally it's best if everyone finished the game at the same time, and a winner is then determined based on points, or some other factor. There is nothing worse than a player going out of a game early, then being bored watching as the game continues while the rest battle on to determine a winner.
A relatively new game that offers all of the above attributes is Ticket To Ride (TTR).
The game was designed by Alan R. Moon, whose name is attached to literally dozens of games over the last 20 years or so. None have achieved greater popularity than TTR.
The game has a simple elegance in terms of game play. Players collect cards of various types of train cars they then use to claim railway routes which run across North America (Canada included). The longer the routes claimed, the more points earned. You can score additional points by fulfilling Destination Tickets – goal cards which connect distant cities. The player who builds the longest continuous route also scores a bonus.
The components are well done too. There is the game board itself featuring high-quality illustrations, basically a map of North America with a scoring track laid out around the outer edge. There are the game pieces 225 custom-molded train cars, along with 144 illustrated cards, and wooden scoring markers, enough for the game to be played by two to five players.
There are definitely choices to be made in this game, which routes to focus on, do you try to block an opponent's rail line, do you risk adding an additional line to your goal, although of course it often comes down to which cards you draw, and when.
Ticket To Ride has been critically acclaimed in the board game industry, and with good reason. It is far superior to say Monopoly, or even Risk for the casual boardgamer. It has a great look, and keeps everyone in the game until the end.
The game has been popular enough to spin-off several expansions, including Ticket to Ride: Europe, TTR: Nordic Countries, TTR: USA 1910, TTR: Mystery Train Expansion, and even a card game based off the board game. Pretty impressive considering the original only debuted in 2004.
You can get more information on this intriguing game at www.daysofwonder.com/tickettoride/en/
This one should become a long time classic.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 30, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- JETAN


If you are a fan of science fiction, then you are undoubtedly familiar with, if not a big fan of, Edgar Rice Burroughs.
As a writer Burroughs amassed an impressive collection of books, many among the all-time greats in the world of speculative fiction.
Now, you might wonder what a famous author has to do with a column dedicated to boardgames?
Well, among Burroughs works was the Barsoom series of books, which told stories of a fictionalized Mars. The fifth book in the series was The Chessmen of Mars, in which the author wrote of the game of Jetan, a game he created as a Martian representation of chess.
The game, at least in the book, is that of an ancient war between the Yellow (often seen as orange too) and Black races of Barsoom. The field of battle is thus presented on a black and orange checkerboard of 10 rows by 10 columns, with orange pieces on the north side and black pieces on the south. The board is traditionally oriented to these directions because Barsoom's Yellow and Black races inhabit its north and south polar regions.
Now it should be understood the game of Jetan was developed as a literary device for the book by Rice Burroughs, and at least initially was probably not developed to necessarily be played in the 'real world'.
However, since sci-fi fans tend to be a bit fanatical at times, there were soon those who took Jetan from the pages of the book to actual game play. It hasn't been a perfectly smooth transition, since Burroughs' exact ideas for game play are at times confusing. He has the game detailed in the story, but then in appendixes, has a slightly different interpretation of the piece movement.
Similarly, in the book Jetan is a game with wagering, and that too muddies the waters a bit in terms of game play.
There are however, several websites which do discuss the game, including www.chessvariants.com, and these sites do provide enough insights into Jetan, and its rules, to make the game worth trying out.
Research suggests there was at one time a rather expensive set of pieces available, more as a collectible for the books than to be played. Other than that set, it appears no other commercial Jetan sets have been made.
So this is a game where you need to be a bit creative to make your own. A good starting place is of course a regular chess set. As you might imagine a lot of Jetan pieces have a familiar feel of normal chess pieces in how they move. From there you can play around to create a couple of the more specialize pieces. For example, the small plastic caps used to splice electrical wires together works well.
If you are a true fan, or find you really love the game, a bit of black and yellow (orange) paint can round out a homemade set nicely. Once complete you have a real conversation piece, especially among sci-fi fans.
As a game, Jetan is a little rough around the edges, but when you accept it as something of a novelty chess variant, and as a pathway to get into the mind of one of the great writers of the genre, Jetan is certainly worth giving a try.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 23, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- SALTA


At the turn of the century, well the 20th century, Salta was just hitting the market, and for a time it proved a popular new boardgame, especially in Germany.
Salta was invented in 1899 by the German composer Conrad Büttgenbach, and within a couple years the game had an international following around Europe.
Research into the game on the Internet showed that Salta gained rapid acceptance in the early 1900s. The success might be attributed to a gold medal at the World Trade Fair in Paris in 1900. Following the award the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, ordered a Salta set with pieces adorned with diamonds, emeralds and rubies. Salta magazines were begun in Germany and Sweden, and several books described the game. The Vie Illustrée of Paris and the London Daily Express both offered their readers 12,000 Goldmark for solving some difficult Salta problems.
Salta clubs were organized all over Germany and in several other European countries.
An international tournament was held in Monaco, with a first prize of 20,000 Swiss Francs.
The popularity was short-lived, with the game declining in play significantly after World War I.
However, a near century later this game is still one worth looking into.
As a game Salta might be described as a checker variant, but one with a decidedly different approach in that pieces are not captured. As a result it has often been termed 'The Humanistic Game'.
Salta is a two player game of strategy played on a board with 100 squares.
Each player has 15 pieces: five suns, five moons and five stars numbered from one to five. Play is conducted on black squares only, as in checkers, with the pieces allowed to move one square diagonally in any direction to a vacant square.
One must jump over an opponent's piece if it occupies a square diagonally in front of one's own piece and the square immediately behind the opponent's piece is vacant. Unlike checkers a piece leaped over is not captured or removed from the board. Players may jump only one piece per turn, in a forward direction only, and are not permitted to leap over their own pieces.
The object of the game is to be the first player to reach the goal position, which is to shift your pieces ahead seven rows, in other words to move your pieces across the board to occupy a mirror position to how they started out.
The game strategy comes down to forcing your opponent to make jumps which move his pieces away from their required end positions.
As you might expect with 30 games pieces on the board at all time, the Centre play can be quite crowded, and it takes some time to get your head around the idea of a game where piece capture is not a game element.
As the game progresses, and pieces clear the centre board where interaction with the opponent's piece are the norm, the game evolves into something of a race to the finish. In this phase the key strategy is efficient piece movement to get to the end position required for the different pieces. If too much backtracking is required to achieve the final position a game can easily be lost.
While finding an actual commercial version of this game is a major task, if you have a 10X10 board from another game, such as Omega Chess, it is quite easy to make a proxy of Salta, and the complete rules can be found via an Internet search. It will take a bit of effort, but the unique game mechanics and vintage feel of this century old classic is certainly worth the work to bring it to gaming life.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 16, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- MASTER


Dice can be truly evil little cubes at times as most boardgamers can attest.
Anytime a game has the roll of the dice as an integral part of the game's mechanics, Lady Luck becomes the determining factor in the outcome of many games. Just when you think victory is assured, the dice can go cold as a January blizzard, and suddenly the sure victory becomes a disheartening defeat.
Of course the reverse is true. You can be in a position where all looks lost, and then the happy faces of a comeback start showing up every time you roll the dice.
While dice are by nature, creatures of pure luck, there are a few games out there which use dice in creative ways, where they become game pieces, without the players actually rolling them, which takes the luck aspect out of the equation. Such games, while few and far between, are worth a look at for gamers, and one of the more interesting options is the game Master.
Master dates back to 1985, and so far I have not seen a reference to who created the game, which is too bad since it is a quite innovative approach to gaming. The game was published by Jeux Inspiro, which I suspect is a Canadian company with the French wording. It does appear Master may have been the company's only release.
Master is an abstract strategy game, with each player having 16 six-sided dice as playing pieces, plus two Master pieces. The goal of the game is to capture your opponents two Masters.
The two Masters have limited movement, going only two spaces diagonally, as a bishop in chess.
The dice are more mobile. Twelve of the dice start in one row, with the top side showing a one. The remaining four dice are on the second rank with the Masters. They start the game with a two on the top face.
The dice move horizontally, or vertically as a rook in chess, moving by the number of squares on the upper face.
And, that's where the strategy, and ingenuity of Master comes into play. After each move a player may rotate any one of his dice to a new top face. A piece which moved only one space can suddenly strike up to six spaces, depending on what a player decides to do.
The game really becomes much more a battlefield simulation than even chess in the sense battles are always in a state of constant change, and the continuing ability to alter how far a piece moves mimics the uncertainty of battle very well.
The game also has a sense of urgency because you are never really sure what an opponent's long range plans are, or how they will choose to defend when you attack. The depth of the game is certainly there, but again with more of a battlefield confusion, and less of the well-understood elegance of a game like chess.
At the same time the innovative use of dice makes this game one to search out. It's a mind-bending workout at times, but well worth the effort to master.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 9, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- BLOOD BOWL


With the Saskatchewan Roughrider season in the Canadian Football League getting under way last week, it seemed appropriate to look at a boardgame with a football flavour.
However, in this case it's football with a decidedly different feel, with many elements lifted directly from books and movies such as Lord of the Rings, or Eragon.
The game this week is Blood Bowl, a fantasy football game which pits teams of elves, dwarves, humans, and all manner of fantasy races against one another on a football pitch.
The game is a creation of Games Workshop, a company renowned for its fantasy war gaming miniatures and game systems. Blood Bowl is one of a handful of stand alone, board style games, the company has created over the years, and is arguably the most well-known, and best of the bunch.
Created by Jervis Johnson, the game debuted in 1986, so it has some lasting appeal to still be around today. Part of the success, and maybe one of the game's drawbacks too, is what is termed a 'living rulebook'. Over the years the game has evolved, and that has meant rule changes, with at least three editions, plus an expansion called Death Zone.
The constant changes have helped smooth out some of the wrinkles in the rules, and expanded upon the game options, but it can be a problem if an owner of the first edition, and one of one of the later incarnations of the game get together and want to play. The games are not really the same in the details.
So what are the basics here?
Well, in spite of its fantasy birthright, this game does a pretty nice job of mimicking football. You field a team of 11 players, with positions such as lineman, runner, and thrower. Each has individual statistics for movement, toughness, and strength etc., plus a range of different skills such as dodge. The package of numbers provides the basis for what the pieces can do on the pitch.
The goal is to score a touchdown by having one of your players cross the opposition goal line with the football. To do that you can move players, pass the ball, and block opponents, who are of course moving to intercept the ball carrier and strip the pigskin free.
The fantasy element comes from the various teams. You can have tough as nails dwarves, sneaky fast Skaven (ratmen), high flying elves and a series of other teams. That is a huge aspect of the game, the ability to have different teams. Often board games have only the two options that come in the box, and boredom can set in. By selling different team packages for Blood Bowl, Games Workshop has helped provide a quick way to change the game by simply fielding a different squad.
Another winning aspect of this great game is the statistics to actually have players improve their skill set over a series of games. In a league, for instance, veterans would get better, and that really adds to the feeling you are 'managing' the team.
When you mix in the fun aspects of being able to foul opponents, use special skills like bashing a puny human with your minotaur's horns, or rolling over an elf with a mechanical dwarven death roller and the game becomes that perfect mix of football and fantasy mayhem that has this game a classic to be enjoyed for years.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 2, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



So you want value when you turn your hard-earned dollars into gaming options?
Well of course we all want that, but in few instances will you get better bang for you buck than when you plop down four or five dollars for the game Cosmic Wimpout.
Cosmic Wimpout is a game which reinforces the old adage good things come in small packages, although you might update it to 'great things' in the case of this little gem.
Cosmic Wimpout is a dice game, so not technically a board game, but hey it still fits here. The game consists completely of a set of five dice, which fit in a little plastic tube which is only 3 3/4 inches long.
Talk about your portable classic. You could take this one backpacking up the side of a mountain without knowing you had it in terms or space and weight in your pack.
And, as a dice game, it can be played on any flat service, so take it down to the local coffeehouse and play away over a cup of your favourite cappuccino.
The game, as most dice ones are, is rather straight forward, once you get a handle on the rules.
The rules are where this game, first released in 1975, gets its quirks and charm.
The six-sided dice have unique faces. As an example, there are crescent moons, star bursts and lightning strikes which fit nicely with the cosmic theme, as well as having a 5 and 10 side. Four dice are white, a fifth is black, the black dice having a flaming sun side, which is essentially wild, allowing you to use it in a number of different situations throughout the game.
The game centres around collecting points, usually attempting to be the first to reach 1,000.
Points are achieved by rolling flashes, three of a kind on a single roll. Ah, but wait, don't add up the points so quickly. You have to clear a flash in this game, meaning you have to roll the remaining dice and add to the score before you get to keep the flash points.
Roll five of a kind, called a 'Freight Train' and you could be in for a big win. Five of the moons are 200, five of the fives is 500 etc. Roll five of the star-sixes and you instantly win.
Of course you might 'Supernova' too. That is rolling five-10s on a single roll, which is deemed 'just too many points' and you are automatically out of the game.
When you have satisfied the rules, you can chose to stop rolling the dice, and take your points, or keep rolling to add to the total. But you must score points on every roll, or you 'wimpout', losing any points accumulated on your turn so far.
The only exception, score with all five dice, and you must push your luck and roll again.
For flavour, if you fail to score when rolling all five dice, you have managed a 'train wreck'.
This game has zero skill requirements past rolling a handful of dice, and enough math to keep score, but there is such a quirky feel to the game, and it goes so quickly, who cares. This one is all about fun.
Created in the 70s, it has that sort of smoky, Woodstock, Haight Ashberry feel to it, sort of Yahtzee on speed, being way more fun than the more familiar dice-toss and add game. Highly recommended.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 25, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



For something a bit different this week, how many readers out there are fans of the campy horror movies based around zombies rising from the grave to plague some small town, with the residents having to battle the walking dead until the sun rises?
OK, so most of you wouldn't admit it in public, but considering Hollywood keeps producing movies of the genre, it's a sure bet there are a lot of fans out there.
If you're one of them, and you like boardgames, then check out Last Night On Earth (LNOE): The Zombie Game, a game released in 2007 from Flying Frog Production. The game's creator is Jason Hill.
Last Night is a game about, yep you guessed it, a plague of zombies in a small town. The game can be played by two, to four players.
In the two player version, one takes on the role of a marauding zombies, which of course just keep popping up. Kill one, and it simply comes back into play the next turn. The other player takes the role of four beleaguered townsfolk – chosen from a pool of possibilities -- all with the campy personalities you would expect; the drifter, sheriff, sexy nurse, high school quarterback etc..
With the four-player option two people split the four heroes, and the others split the zombie horde.
The actual player character pieces and zombies are small, well sculpted figurines, a real plus in terms of the game's feel and look.
The board, which is modular, depicts different areas of a town, from a nearby corn field, to the high school gymnasium, to a auto wrecking yard.
The game comes with a number of scenarios to help keep game play fresh, from simply surviving the night, to eliminating a set number of zombies, to defending the old mansion from the zombie horde.
Both players and zombies have a set movement and can head off across the board in any random direction they want. This is not a follow the little squares boardgame.
Along the way the heroes can carry out searches, drawing randomly from a set of cards, giving them neat things like dynamite, keys to the old truck, and a shotgun, all designed to help the scavengers knock off a few undead.
The zombies, to be fair, also get cards, which give them special powers, and opportunities to thwart the best laid plans of the living.
The game does seem to favour the undead a bit, which runs counter to the movie scripts which almost have at least one or two heroes watching the sun rise. It takes some careful planning, and a lot of luck for the heroes to survive here. Yes, there is a huge luck element because fights are determined by dice rolls, as are how far a hero can move, and if a hero's weapon breaks or runs out of ammo.
If you forget the luck, which I guess when you're battling undead would play a significant role, then this game is a rather light-hearted, campy little offering, that is a descent way to kill an evening knee dead in undead and mayhem.
And, yes the game has been a hit, spawning an expansion called Growing Hunger, with new town locations for the modular board, more hero sculpts, game scenarios, and hero and zombie cards.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 18, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- OSHI


There are few things better than a game that is so simple in its design that you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself, yet has a certain level in the depth of its play which keeps you wanting to pull it out and challenge anyone who is up for a game.
Oshi is very much that kind of game.
It was created in 2006 by Tyler Bielman, and produced by Wizkids. When the game first came to my attention it made me think it was probably a much older game design because the game mechanics are so startlingly simple.
According to the publisher's website, Oshi, which means 'Push', and “is inspired by a Japanese legend in which the Goddess Amaterasu gifted the first Japanese emperor with her ancient wisdom, in the form of a game. The game is said to have taught the emperor and his court to temper their influence and power with caution.”
All right that might be a little thick with the romanticism, but the game does play nicely.
The goal is a simple one, to be the first player to push seven points worth of your opponent’s game pieces off the board.
Each player begins the game with eight game pieces shaped to look like one-, two- and three-story Japanese buildings. Although made of plastic, they look very nice in ivory and blood red colours. It would be nice to see a higher-end version with wooden carved pieces, or a heavier plastic, but that is likely only wishful thinking.
The number of stories a piece has equals the number of spaces it can move, the maximum number of other pieces it can push and the number of points it is worth if pushed off the board. How simple is that? A three story piece is worth three points if 'captured', as well as indicating how far it can move. The key mechanic of course is pushing pieces around the board. A one-tier piece can only move one other piece, yours, or the opponent's, while a three can move three pieces.
The game has a feeling of tug-of-war, and to avoid simply having players caught in a constant loop of repeating the last move, you cannot simply reply to a move by mirroring it.
The game is played out on a wooden 9X9 board, which again begs for an ornate version, although the one provided is quite serviceable.
Overall, the game has a sort of vintage appeal in both play, and its look.
Now Oshi is not the most challenging game, nor one requiring hours of thought before each move, and in that regard that's part of the charm. It plays quick allowing for lots of replay time.
This is a game that will look good on the table, is quick to teach, quick to play, and has enough challenge and charm to be fun over the long term.
A good game for all but the youngest players, give it a try.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 11, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada



Chess remains a board game which does possess an aura above most other games which are out there. The game has an ancient history, and because of the depth of strategy, and the level of skill which can be achieved in chess, a world ranking system, and local and international tournaments are held. All these factors, while not completely unique to chess, do place the game in a rather special light.
Of course the same popularity over what is literally centuries does mean the game is extremely well-known, with games between good players often coming down to a match of textbook moves. That can lessen the enjoyment of the game for many players, especially those who want to really study the game, and are skilled at memorizing the tomes of material written in terms of chess theory.
There are however alternatives which allow people to experience chess in new ways, ways that are not yet heavily analyzed and written about. What we are talking about here are chess variants, and there are many.
One of the most interesting of these is Omega Chess. This is an alternative chess game which was developed by Canadian Daniel MacDonald in 1992. So this one is a relative newcomer to the scene.
The game is available in a solidly made set. The pieces, while a plastic of sorts, have a nice size, and more importantly a good weight, that enhances the tactile feeling of moving the pieces. You get the feeling you are playing with a very nice chess set.
The board is interesting. It is made of a sort of heavy rubber/foam, which rolls nicely for storage in a tube, yet rolls back out flat, without wrinkles. It too has a nice weight, so if you play on the patio, or out in the park, it won't blow away with the first light breeze.
So what about the game itself? What makes Omega Chess worth our interest?
Well to begin with the game is played on a 10X10 board, as opposed to the traditional 8X8, which in itself changes the game.
However, the real innovation comes in adding two new pieces to the mix, both which have the ability to jump, a technique previously confined to the knight only on a chess board. The two new jumpers balances out the game between sliding pieces, queen, bishop, rook and now the jumpers; knight, champion and wizard.
The champion begins the game in the squares outside the rooks, filling the two additional spaces on the 10-square-wide board. It can slide one space orthogonally (like a rook), or jump two spaces in any direction.
The wizards actually start in four additional corner square, outside the 10X10 grid. It can slide one square diagonally, like a bishop, or leap like an extended knight. The wizard can jump three squares horizontally or vertically and then one square to either side.
The two new pieces are at the heart of Omega Chess. They open the game to numerous more strategies, and also mean pieces must often work in tandem to offer joint protection, rather than simply hiding behind another piece, safe from attack. The leaping pieces create the opportunity to literally jump into the fray when needed.
This game has wonderful symmetry, and when the high quality of the pieces are factored in, it really is one of the best chess variants out there, and you can still play the original version using the pieces and board, so it's a double winner.
This is a variant which deserves to be tried, and it should carve out its own following for years to come.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper June 4, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Review -- TEEKO


When it comes to boardgames simplicity is often something to look for when considering a new game.
Nothing can be more frustrating than finding a game, and once you get it home the instructions read like a university physics textbook, and even though you claw through the rules and fall in love with the game it's such a bear to teach to anyone else that you never have an opponent.
Or, you find that there are 211 little pieces in the game box, and you just know over time the fiddly little pieces will go AWOL, and leave you using bottle caps, or some other fill-in bits just to play the game.
Well, rest assured when you are lucky enough to find a copy of Teeko, you will have a game with simple rules, and only eight pieces to worry about. A Teeko set is comprised of eight medallion-shaped pieces, four red and four black, and a board with 25 circles arranged in a 5-by-5 matrix.
Yet, for all its simplicity is an amazing little game.
Created by John Scarne way back in 1945, Teeko is a game that in its era was highly popular, to the point Scarne actually published a book about the game and its strategies. Considering that books tend to only surface for the most popular of boardgames; chess, checkers, backgammon and the like, the books publication speaks to how well received the game was some six decades ago.
While that popularity dissipated with the decades, there remains something charming about this game when it is played even today. And, as recently as 2001, Washington Post Magazine ran a story on the game, the book, and its founder.
So what makes Teeko work?
Well the rules are; the board begins empty, and black and red alternately place pieces on unoccupied circles. Once all eight pieces are in play, the two players take turns moving one of their pieces to any adjacent unoccupied circle. The first to arrange his four tokens either in a square or a straight line wins.
As you can see the rule set has elements of checkers, and tic-tac-toe, both easily understood games, and even with the combination Teeko remains simple to learn, and quick to play. This one is a little more free flow than checkers, and far superior to tic-tac-toe, becoming something that is still fun after all the years since its introduction.
Yet, there is a solid level of strategic thought needed to be a consistent winner, although not so deeply strategic to turn off the casual boardgamer either.
Teeko is the game you teach a new friend in a matter of minutes, and win, or lose, you'll likely find yourself wanting 'to play just one more'.
Although rather rare to find these days, there are a number of Internet resources which can be followed to make a serviceable homemade version of the game, and once you play, you will appreciate it was worth the effort to make.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper May 28, 2008 - Yorkton, SK. Canada