Thursday, February 5, 2009

Review -- TERRACE


Have you ever looked at a game and thought to yourself it was one you might like, then put off buying. Then over the weeks and months you keep coming back to it, giving it second, third and fourth looks, yet always seeming to pass it by.
That was the case with Terrace for me. It was always an abstract strategy game that had my interest, but it was ages before I took the plunge and bought a copy.
Boy, am I glad I finally put the game on the top of my want list.
As I look back I'm really not sure why I kept turning from the game, unless it was that the usual set you see available for this 1992 release is the neon orange and green set that frankly is a little gaudy for my tastes. I tend to look at the best abstracts as games that are classier, like a nice chess set, and the neon colours were a turn off.
That said the neon version gave Terrace a level of notoriety in the gaming world as it was used as a prop in a couple of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation where it was seen being playing in 10-Forward, the lounge area of the Enterprise.
Fortunately, Terrace was also produced in a classic black and white design, and when one of those finally came up on eBay, and from Alberta to boot, I threw in a bid.
When the game arrived I was immediately impressed with the components. The board is large, and made of a injection molded plastic. It's not a cheap plastic either. It is a board that should withstand the tests of time, and being plastic its ideal for a game over coffee since a spill simply wipes away without harming anything.
The pieces, each player in the two-player version gets 16 pieces, are also high quality plastic. The pieces are in the shapes of little domes, which are aesthetically very nice. The 16 pieces are divided into sets of four of different sizes. While each piece has the same movement pattern, size does not matter here. A piece captures any piece of equal, or smaller size. So the biggest domes are most powerful.
That said, one of the small pieces has the mark of a 'T' being the Terrace piece. If the piece is captured, you lose. By contrast if you can successfully maneuver your Terrace piece across the board to the opposite diagonal corner from where it started, you win.
Interestingly, Terrace does allow one to capture their own pieces as a way to set themselves up for a better board position. Few games offer the sacrifice mechanic, so that is a nice touch which adds to the possibilities of the game.
The other compelling feature of this game is the board, which is designed in a terrace fashion. As a result you are not just moving pieces around the board, but up and down levels, giving strategy a sort of three-dimensional aspect.
Pieces may only capture from a terrace one tier higher, in a move jumping down a level, so high ground is a definite plus.
The simple move down is straight down, while a capture is done diagonally down. Climbing up a level can be done straight up, or diagonally up.
On a particular terrace, pieces may move to any open space, as long as they do not have to jump over an opponent's piece. They can leap frog their own pieces though.
While it might sound a little complicated, once you look at the illustrations on the one panel instruction guide, it all comes together quite naturally.
Overall Anton Dresden and Buzz Siler created a great game which deserves more recognition. The rules are unique, the components of high enough quality that it is an heirloom game which will last for generations, and the play deep and challenging. The game was the 1992 Mensa Select award winner.
The set comes with pieces for a four-player game, each player gets six pieces, and a smaller travel edition was also made for this one.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Jan. 14, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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