So we are into October and that means thoughts of Halloween, and that means it's time for a look at a few games which fit the season, starting with one which has not been published, so if you want to play you need to be a little crafty.
The game in question is Pumpking, a 2008 release by designer Bobby Doran.
The game is essentially an abstract strategy game for two players with a definite Halloween theme pasted on.
Generally abstract strategy games with pasted on themes, games such as Hey! That's My Fish are a total turn off, but with a soft spot for Halloween this one is all right.
Pumpking, in terms of mechanics was inspired by the ancient game Latrunculorum, which is considered about 2000 years old.
Latrunculorum was known to be played by the Romans, and versions of the same game may have been played before by the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and afterwards by the Persians. That said the exact rules of the game have been lost to time, leaving various experts arguing game board size, number of pieces etc.
What does seem agreed to in the case of Latrunculorum is that capture is made when a piece has opposing pieces on either side of it. The idea of sandwich, or custodial capture is the mechanic used in Pumpking.
Pumpking has each player with six pumpkin warriors which move as chess rooks, two bats moving as chess knights, and a prince which moves as chess queen.
The game is played on a 6X11 board, and uses the Latrunculorum method of capture.
The game plays quickly, but there is room to employ strategy, although the smallish board means an error can be deadly.
So as stated this is a game you must craft. The rules and a nice board to download can be found at http://www.boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/38426/pumpking
As for pieces, Halloween is the perfect time to find suitable things to use. Head to the Halloween shelves in a store. That's where I found cheap plastic pumpkin whistles that with a quick trim, I was able to weight with a marble and glue into a pop bottle cap.
The bats were from cheap give-away rings that glued to a thread spool as if they were clinging to a pillar.
I used a gaming miniature for the princes, but there would be lots of options for the key piece (capture the prince and win).
Whatever you do to craft Pumpking, the effort will be worth it for the fast-playing abstract strategy game with its roots in ancient boardgaming history.
-- Review appeared in Yorkton This Week newspaper October 5, 2011 - Yorkton, SK. Canada