Thursday, December 11, 2008

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

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