Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Review -- DVONN


There is nothing better than getting back to the wonderful games created by Kris Burm, the genius behind the outstanding gipf series of games.
The set of six games is possibly the best set of games created this decade, and easily the best collection of abstract strategy games created by a single mind.
In the past I have had the pleasure of reviewing Zertz, Gipf, Yinsh, and Tzaar, all of which were amazing games.
This week we are back to look at Dvonn, which Burm created and launched in 2001, which makes it one of the earliest games in the series, although certainly no less great than the other games on the list.
Like all games in the series Dvonn is a two-player, perfect information abstract. It pits the two players in a head-to-head battle of strategy based on skill, rather than dice rolls or the random draw of a card. For me that is the ultimate in a game, although it is not for everyone, so be forewarned.
Dvonn, again like all games in the series comes in a nice, compact box. All the boxes are the same size, so they store nicely, and you will want to keep them handy since they are all likely to become favourites.
The components are excellent as usual. The pieces, stackable rings in three colours, are high quality plastic, and the board as good as pressed boards get.
The game is played on an elongated hexagonal board, with 23 white, 23 black and three red pieces. The red pieces are integral to the game and are called the Dvonn pieces,
The board in Dvonn begins empty. The players take turns adding pieces to the board grid, starting with the Dvonns, then working from the cache of their own colour.
Once all the pieces are placed, the game turns into stacking game.
Players take turns stacking pieces on top of each other.
The movement of pieces is what is the intriguing aspect of Dvonn. A single piece may be moved one space in any direction, a stack of two pieces may moved two spaces, and so on. A stack must always be moved as a whole and a move must always end on top of another piece or stack. When moving, a stack can move across both empty and occupied spaces as long as the move ends on an occupied spot to create a stack.
If a stack gets too tall, it can limit its movement options since it can’t move in a straight line the needed number of spaces.
The second defining mechanic of the game is that all pieces, or stacks must stay in contact with at least one of the red Dvonn pieces. Pieces, or stacks which lose contact with a Dvonn piece are removed from the board. The game ends when no more moves can be made. The players put the stacks they control on top of each other and the one with the highest stack is the winner.
Like all games in the gipf series the rules are pretty straight forward, yet the depth of game play is high.
The fact the game board starts empty, with randomized piece placement, also creates a different game each time, requiring its own strategic approach, which keeps the game fresh.
Like all gipf games I have played, Dvonn is a must own. A great game.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Nov.25, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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