Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Review -- SUMMUN


All right, packaging is a huge thing in boardgames.
To start with the package helps attract interest whether on a store shelf, or at a gaming convention.
More importantly, you rely on packaging to properly store your games. There are two basic types that work reasonably. For small games, a drawstring bag is great. You can toss several in a drawer, and you’re good.
The second is a good sturdy cardboard box which can easily hold the game components. Game boxes stack and store on a shelf pretty well.
Get away from those basic concepts in packaging, you end up with a game that doesn’t store easily.
There in lies the first flaw you see with the recently released Summun game.
The box itself is a sort of soft, see through plastic, the kind you might use as a temporary fix on a broken window. In a stack of games, the word that comes to mind is crushed.
The game itself is plastic, and the board combines with a couple of molded trays, to become the storage unit for the game pieces.
The first time I pulled the contraption apart one of the plastic flanges that guides the pieces together snapped. Now I might not be the most careful guy in the world, but in a lifetime of gaming, this system is not going to stand up to the abuse most gamers will inflict.
A good boardgame should be a purchase for a lifetime. Summum will require finding alternate packaging at some point in that lifetime.
You have been warned, so on to the game itself.
Summum comes from The Magi Games and sadly the creator is not credited. The company is in the Netherlands so the website is in Dutch but here it is for a look at the game at least;
Summum is an abstract strategy game for two players, played on a grided board that is latticed with bars in a virtual kaleidoscope of colours (six in total). The colours are an integral part of the game.
The players take turns placing pieces on the board trying to form one of three patterns, which are clearly identified on the single page of instructions. The simplest of the patterns is worth one point, but is also the base structure for the two patterns which are worth bigger points.
So when a player does manage the simplest pattern, the opponent is faced with the decision whether to block its progression to a higher value design, or to work on a pattern of their own to score points.
The decision is made trickier because you score not only based on the pattern, but you also add points for the colour of the rectangle on which the last piece of the pattern is placed. Points range from one to six, based on the six aforementioned colours.
The first piece always goes on the central point of the board, which may tend to limit options over repeated play. I am not sure leaving the decision of where the first piece is laid would detract from the game, and would create additional strategies.
Each piece added has to touch at least one other piece.
The game ends when both players have played their last piece.
There are little plastic kings which are used as markers to track the score.
The game rules are simple to follow, with pattern recognition at the heart of the game. The use of the coloured stripes as a scoring mechanic are interesting, and does mean players have to weigh some moves based on points they can give, or take during a game.
A solid game that may not be a favourite, but fun enough for a few games. Just wish it would store better.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 16, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

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