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

Review -- PALAGO


Palago is one of those games that has been of interest for some time.
Well, that is only partially correct. It is really a situation where I have become interested in games created by Cameron Browne. Our paths crossed on the excellent Board Game Geek website (, and we actually corresponded there on occasion.
From there we became friends on Facebook, so the connection remains.
As an aside that is one of the amazing things about the electronic world we now life in, we can connect with people that in the past would have only been a name on a game box. That connection, at least for me, makes certain games a more personal experience. The opportunity to correspond with someone like John Yianni creator of the modern classic is akin to writing back-and-forth with the unknown creator of chess. It’s a rare honour.
While Palago isn’t maybe as ‘classic’ as Hive, when you are talking tile laying games, there aren’t many which come to mind as better.
Like the best tile laying games, Palago works with simple, easily understood rules.
The goal is likewise simple. Players strive to form closed groups of their colour.
A two-player game; blue and white share a common pool of 48 hexagonal arch tiles. Each tile contains a white arch and a blue arch, and may be placed in one of three ways so the corner colours are the same for each rotation.
White starts by placing two touching tiles. From there players take turns adding two tiles so the edge colours match neighbouring tiles.
The game is won by the player who forms a surrounded island of their colour containing at least one arch. If a move forms winning groups for both players, then the mover loses.
Published by Tantrix Games Ltd. who also produced Trax which has been reviewed here previously, the published version of Palago comes with a selection on solitaire puzzles where you are trying to create certain ‘creature designs’ outlined in the rulebook, by using a set number of tiles.
Rules also exist for playing Palago with three to five players, a system which adds the element of dice and point scoring. The unique dice are included.
The ability to take a game which was initially a two-player one, and expand it to multiplayer, or have the option to explore the concept solitaire is quite brilliant. Each facet of the game offers something unique, from brain burning solitaire puzzles, to the influence of dice with more than three players.
The pieces are bakelite, so they should last.
The game fits in a nice, small drawstring bag, so it’s easily taken with you.
Add up all the features, and you get a winner. Mr Browne has done an excellent job on Palago, and I for one look forward to more of his games making it into production with a fine game company such as Tantrix Games Ltd. who knows how to produce high quality games. Check them out at

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 9, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Review -- ROMAN TAXI


Roman Taxi is one of those light, fun games that has some initial attraction, but likely won’t hold your interest for a lot of repeat play.
The game is based on the idea players being Roman chariot taxi drivers. You pick up passengers, and get them to their destination to score points. The most points naturally wins.
There are passenger cards with assigned destinations, and travel cards which affect movement and event cards which impact the game in some fashion, most often scoring additional points. With three decks of cards influencing the game, the card draw becomes paramount in this game. As a result you have quite limited control over game play. You simply draw a card and do what it allows.
The game has a social aspect, allowing two to five players, but game play is rather restrictive.
The game board, while well made, is rather busy in its design. A road system of small, brightly coloured squares is at times a bit much, although it does have a sort of 1970’s appeal.
The small squares though are a problem in that the player tokens are too big for the squares. That just seems like a detail production should have been able to handle.
Therein lies the problem with Roman Taxi. Everything about the game seems to promise a fun game, but somehow falls just a little short of achieving the level of expectation.
The limited game play options, draw a card, move, wait for your turn again, can make multi-player games drag on, without a feeling of impacting the outcome past drawing cards. Even in Monopoly, the world’s most boring game in my opinion, at least offers decisions on what properties to buy, when to build houses, or to wheel and deal a title trade.
If Roman Taxi had just a few ways to change one’s fate, it would be better.
The basic idea of competing cabs, with the pasted on Roman theme is intriguing, but there are just far too many better games out there to suggest this one should take up shelf space, and that is where it will likely end up since it will rarely see the gaming table.
The game was designed by the team of Dan Tibbles, Jeremy Holcomb, Joseph Huber (II), and Stephen McLaughlin. It is a new game being released only this year from Bucephalus Games.

-- Review first appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper Dec. 2, 2009 - Yorkton, SK. Canada