If you like puzzles, and you like games devoid of imposed luck, DaVinci's Challenge is just the ticket.
Paul Micarelli created the game, and it emerged from Briarpatch in 2005, so you know it was a game that was developed to cash in on the interest in The DaVinci Code book, and follow-up movie.
In most cases I would suggest avoiding games that are tied in to some momentary popular culture curiosity, but this one has managed to be a rather entertaining game, even if the theme is pasted on to ride the wave of the aforementioned nook and movie.
What helps take this game farther is the fact the creator has found a way to make an interesting game on the DaVinci Code idea of secret patterns, without having to layer on a bunch of random card draws, or dice rolls. Too often when theme gets pasted on, it's imposed by cards that have zero to do with anything except to create a false atmosphere of the tie-in that is trying to be achieved.
DaVinci's Challenge keeps things amazingly simple in terms of game play. Each player, or team, you can play two person teams, has an equal set of pieces. There are triangles and sort of squashed ovals. The pieces match the two pattern designs on the nicely laid out board. Made of plastic, the pieces still look very nice, and work well, although be warned, if you lose one, it will make it hard to play the game since generally most pieces are used before finishing up a game.
Each player places a piece on the board, their choice of either star, or oval. In placing pieces, players are attempting to complete one of nine different patterns which score points.
Some patterns, such as the triangle and diamond need only three pieces to achieve, and are worth only one point in terms of scoring.
More complicated patterns are worth greater points. A gem takes four pieces, and is worth five points, the star takes six, but is worth 10 points, with circles and flowers worth 25 each.
While it looks as though the key is going after the larger designs for the big points, it is possible to double up on points with a single piece placement. For example, you can at times lay a single piece that could complete a triangle, gem and hourglass all at the same time, creating a 16-point score.
Initially, you will tend to concentrate on creating your own scoring chances, but as you get into a few games, it become rather apparent you have to expend at least as much effort watching your opponent and moving to block their big scoring opportunities.
With more plays you will also realize you need to work at creating what are best described as double scoring chances. If a player moves to block one, you have an alternate place you can lay a piece on your turn to still score.
This is pattern recognition on an ever changing board, and in some cases, in particular the pyramid, can be difficult to recognize.
The pieces, in black and white, are easily differentiated though, so that helps.
After a couple of plays, your eyes can be a bit strained, since concentration is a must.
While I couldn't play four, or five games of DaVinci's Challenge is a single sitting, it is a good change of pace, which avoids false luck, and focuses on seeing patterns as they emerge, something not seen in a lot of games.
Overall, entertaining, if not outstanding.
-- CALVIN DANIELS
-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper July 8, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada