OSKA


 

4 - 5 Strike Thro

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1995

Creator(s): Bryn Jones and Michael Woodward Creations (Designers), artists are unknown

Steven…Sorry, I Mean OSKA:

While this months theme is “Old (usually) Wooden Games” OSKA doesn’t exactly fit that theme. It really all comes down to your idea of old, if you’re ten years old and 1995 seems like “FOREVER AGO” and “BEFORE I WAS EVEN BORN!” then OSKA is old, but if this is not the case then there’s every chance you remember 1995 and so it doesn’t seem that old. It does have an earlier history than its publication but that still only dates back to the 1950s, which some of you also may possibly be able to remember. See the history section for more information.

Our copy of OSKA with borrowed Pieces.
Our copy of OSKA using borrowed pieces.

What’s in the Box:

A picture lovingly borrowed from www.boardgamegeek.com just to show you what a real complete copy would look like.
A picture lovingly borrowed from www.boardgamegeek.com just to show you what a real complete copy would look like.

In a normal OSKA box you find:

  1. One wooden board
  2. Eight pieces. Four red and four blue.
  3. And it should have an instruction booklet to remove any ambiguity about the brief instructions on the back of the box, (see section “Playing the Game) but there isn’t one.

However our copy came from a charity shop (one of the best places to buy games if you were unaware of this). So in the box there was just the board with no pieces! So we borrowed four white and four brown pieces from a game of  Draughts!

Playing the Game:

Normally here I would give a brief outline of the rules but as the rules to OSKA are already brief I have copied exactly what it says on the back of the box:

OSKA is a speedy game for 2 players which is deceptively simple, using the Draughts (checkers) principle of diagonal movement and capture. BUT – keep well in mind the quirk that gives OSKA its bite. The winner is the player whose remaining pieces first reach the far side – the less pieces you have left, the easier this will be. The skill lies in when, or if, to capture, and when to force your opponent to capture you.”

The big problem with this set of rules is that there are more than one set of rules to Draughts. For example in English Draughts you can only take diagonally forwards (unless you are using a king) but in International Draughts it allows you to take diagonally backward. I have assumed that it meant the English Draughts; firstly because it initially refers to it as Draughts rather than Checkers and secondly, because OSKA was invented in England.

So let’s just clarify the rules:
  1. You set up your four pieces on the back row like this:

    Start Positions!
    Start Positions!
  2. We played white moves first but you could play either way, and if you’re playing with red and blue pieces you could play whoever is set up on the white section moves first.
  3. You move one pieces diagonally, the the other player does the same.

    The Game after one move each.
    The Game after one move each.
  4. You take a piece by jumping it, so this can only be done forwards and so long as the space the other side of it is empty. You do not HAVE to take as the rules state “when, or if, to capture”.
  5. The winner is the first one to have ALL of their REMAINING pieces to the other side, so if all of their pieces are taken except one and they get that one to the other side before the other player gets all four of their pieces across, they win.

    Winning!
    Winning!
Rules We Assumed:
  1. We rationally assumed that in the scenario that all your pieces are taken you’ve lost.
  2. We also assumed that if you both ended up with the same number of pieces in the end zone at the same time it was a draw. This CAN occur if one player while moving its last (or only piece) into the end zone takes the other players only piece that’s not in the end zone. However this is unlikely to occur, as in that scenario you can choose to move into the end zone without taking.
  3. We also assumed that if a similar scenario occurred and one person had more pieces than the other in the end zone they won.
A Little Help:

Just to help we filmed a video of the game play of OSKA to help clarify. Here it is! Our very first video blog… Sort of. Our real video blogs will happen when we get a much better camera but it’s a start!

Strategy:

Now while the game is simple (once you’ve clarified the rules) and fast, there’s a lot that could be said about the strategy. For starters you cannot afford to make mistakes, I know this can be said for almost all games but one mistake in OSKA and the other person most often enters a state where they can’t be beaten because all series of moves that follow result in their victory!

The key to the game, I believe, lies in forcing the other person to take you. You can create a series of plays where they have no option but to take you because they have no other available moves. And once you start to lose pieces you have an easier job than they do as you have less pieces to get across the board.

I could go on about strategy and start drawing diagrams and things of this nature (as that how “into” this game I have got, a game that less than a month ago I was unaware existed). But I will spare you all, however, in the future I may write a specific post on the dynamics and maths of the game, which everyone can feel free not to read.

History and Interesting Facts:

Unfortunately due to the obscurity of this game the history and fasts that are about to follow are mostly off the back of the box as there’s not much more information on the game out there. Which is a shame as it’s a good game.

  1.  The game was originally devised by Bryn Jones in the 1950s.
  2. Bryn Jones was a miner so the game was originally played scratched into the dust on the floor of a mine at Lancashire Coalfields to pass time at breaks.
  3. In the early 1990s Bryn brought the game to Michael Woodward Creations.
  4. Woodward Creations annotated the rules and refined it into the more presentable format you find it in now.
  5. It can now be found as part of The Inventors Collection which is a gathering of games and puzzles from the worlds top game inventors.
  6. The game is made of eco-friendly wood.
  7. It can be considered as part of the Draughts family of games.
  8. Not really a surprise if you’ve read the post above, but the rules are ambiguous which unfortunately takes away from a very good and very fast game.

To Conclude:

This may come as little surprise to you (if you have read the above), I like this game! I’m a huge fan of Chess (as most sane people are) and similarly simplistic but complex at the same time strategy games make me happy. However as far as I’m aware there is no game as perfect as Chess and probably never will be. But OSKA falls into the category of games that are in the right ball park when it comes to your basic strategy game. I would even proclaim that it has a one up on Draughts as I maintain Draughts is too large and long a game to have such simplicity, in short it can become boring, which is why to every 100 Chess matches I have played I’ve probably only played half a Draughts game. This is where OSKA hits the nail on the head, its taken the same idea as Draughts and made it small, fast and above all FUN!

The biggest flaw I find with this game is the ambiguity of the rules and their phrasing. I am slightly ashamed to admit that we played the game wrong in two different ways before finally re-re-re-reading the paragraph on the back of the box and breaking it down to create clarity. First time round we missed the word “remainder” so we where playing first one to get one piece across…This version of the game is ridiculously flawed because the person who moves first (providing they’re not an idiot) will ALWAYS win! We also played that you HAVE to capture if you can capture and even after we started paying attention to the “remaining pieces” section of the rules we still failed to notice the “when, or if, to capture” phrase that implies you do not HAVE to capture. Anyway once we had figured it all out this game is a 4 out of 5 however the amount of time we wasted playing it wrong reduces it to a 3 out 5 (hence the top scoring). It could be argued that us playing it wrong is our own fault but I maintain the rules are needlessly ambiguous and if you don’t know what Draughts is they’re impossible to follow!

Additionally if anyone would like to buy the game check out HERE! – keep in mind this link is to an eBay sale so it won’t always be valid but it’s valid at the time of publication and will hopefully either be updated or removed when it stops being valid.

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