Monday, August 24, 2009

Review -- CONHEX


All right, I admit it, I am a total sucker for board games made of wood. There is something about a game fashioned out of wood that speaks of an older time, when there was some pride in producing a game that would last, that looked great, that was a pleasure to own.
So many games today are plastic and cardboard. They come across as cheap, no matter how good the game plays.
That is why I drooled over Gerhards Spiel und Design's version of Conhex when it arrived.
The board is beautifully rendered in wood, a heavy, nicely grained wood, that has a beveled bottom so that it looks absolutely amazing on the table come game time.
The pieces, of which there are both glass marbles, and wooden rectangular pieces. The wood pieces are stained a rich walnut brown, the other a tan.
The game even comes with two wooden dishes to hold the pieces as you play.
The quality of components with this version of Conhex are A+. It is an heirloom game in terms of the quality, meaning it should be something your great, great grandchildren cherish.
The game itself was created in 2002 by Michael Antonow, who really brought together a few different concepts in this two-player, abstract strategy game.
The basic premise has a player taking control of certain areas of the board in order to ultimately connect two sides of the boards with their pieces. Each player has a predetermined goal as to what sides they are seeking to connect.
Several abstracts have a similar goal, but Conhex has a slightly different mechanic at work by really combining two phases of game play.
The board is a pattern of non-regular hexagons with a few non-hexagonal polygons, which are referred to as cells in Conhex. Players alternate turns placing pieces of their own color marbles on a vertex on these geometric shaped area. A player can claim a cell after placing marbles on at least half the vertices of that space, at which time he marks the space by placing one of the rectangular wooden pieces. So as an example if a cell has six vertices (points) where marbles can be placed, a player must be the first to occupy at least three to claim the cell.
Once placed marbles and cell markers are not moved during the game.
The result of the mechanics is interesting, since players are really focusing on a number of small confrontations for control of certain cells, while always looking to further their efforts in terms of ultimately connecting their two sides before the opponent does.
The depth of strategy really comes in placing marbles at points which influence at least two, if not three cells. By so doing, even as an opponent moves to block your effort in one cell, you can gain advantage in an alternate cell which was influenced by the initial placement.
The game strategy is further influenced by the fact cells around the outer board have only three vertices, so are easy to gain control over than those that have six. The middle cell has five vertices for marble placement.
The rule set is simple, easy to teach, and aided by being visually easy to interpret, so getting a new player into this game is a breeze.
There are many decisions to make each turn in regards to moving to gain control of a cell, or to try and block the opponent, set against whether you want to try to use the outer areas because you can gain control more quickly, or go the inner route where each placement can influence multiple cells.
In spite of the choices to be made, Conhex plays rather quickly, in most cases under30-minutes.
The component quality, clear, concise rule set, abstract game nature, and quick play all combine to make this a true board game gem.


-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 12, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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