Monday, September 14, 2009

Review -- SIX


Six is one of those games which really impresses on several levels.
To begin with it comes in a nice, small, cube-shaped box that is sturdy, and ideal for taking over to a bud's for a night of gaming, or down to the coffee shop to play a few games. That is a huge plus, and it stores well too.
Inside the wooden pieces, and yes wood is also a nice touch in terms of game pieces, are stored in a simple cloth bag, with an easy pull-string to keep the pieces safe. Another fine touch for Six.
The game pieces are hexagonal; shaped, with a set of red and a set of black. There is no board, with the pieces creating the play area as they are added to the the game. That means you can play Six on any flat surface, which is another plus.
The rulebook is well laid out, and has a number of coloured examples, so picking up how to play is very simple. Of course the rules are pretty basic too, which is good as well.
While a simple rule set, there is still some definite depth to this two-player abstract strategy game which was designed by Steffan Muhlhauser. To begin with, Six has three objectives with achieving any one of them creating a win.
To win you must either end up with six of your pieces in a straight line, or six pieces in a triangular shape, or have six pieces in a ring shape. Having multiple win conditions adds much to a strategic game, and is one of the nicest features of Six.
The game is played in what are two distinct phases. To begin with players take turns adding one piece of the their colour to the ever growing 'board' until all 38 pieces are played, or someone has achieved a winning position.
Once all the pieces are placed without a win, play continues with players again alternating as they move a previously placed piece of their colour. A player cannot move a piece that would leave the configuration split into more than one connected group. Play continues until someone wins.
Advanced rules allow players to move a piece that would split the configuration, with all the pieces in the smaller group removed from the game. The advanced rules then add another win condition, or more correctly a loss condition. If a player is left with fewer than six pieces they lose.
While the advanced rules add to how one must approach the game, a loss by simply being isolated with fewer than six pieces is less satisfying in terms of game play.
Released initially in 2003, and available through Fox Mind Games, Six plays quickly, has great components, simple rules, and transports and stores easily. In terms of what you want in a game, at least a two-player abstract, it's hard to find fault with Six when you add up the positives.
That said, like most games where you are looking to create a pattern, the first player has an advantage if they play perfectly against someone of comparable skill. And, while there are different ways to win, the strategy is not as deep as the best abstracts; Arimaa, Terrace, Chess and the like.
Still, this is a game accessible to all, and one well worth having in a collection.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Aug. 26, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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