Update – We’re both back!

So as you’re all aware from Dave’s updates, I’ve been out and about in Europe for the last month or so with a friend. But I’m back now and we’re ready to get the blog back on schedule(ish) for the rest of the summer!

However, whilst on our travels, Rosie and I have come across, and played, many a game. Some that we’ve already reviewed, like Cripple Mr Onion. But other (more interesting games) that we found in hostels we stayed in, such as Pandemic! (Turns out we’re terrible at this game, we’re just too good at destroying all of humanity…) So below are a few photos of the game related things that we did:

This was waiting for us (by my bed) in the hostel in Stockholm, the first city we visited, because we’re both terrible at maths, we didn’t play it.

 

For some reason, it won't let me turn it the right way up...
For some reason, it won’t let me turn it the right way up…

In between Mathable and the next photo we also managed to play English Scrabble with a German Scrabble set. Needless to say scoring was interesting. Unfortunately, we forgot to take photos. ūüė¶

Switzerland appears to have been the best country for board games in the hostels, most of the other places had chess, Copenhagen did have a few other interesting-looking games, but they were mostly in Danish, which neither of us could speak or read.

We found this in the hostel in Zurich:

PANDEMIC! It's a race to save humanity
PANDEMIC! It’s a race to save humanity

We freaked out a few people sharing the common area with us for the five hours that we spent playing this. Apparently we were taking saving the world from four deadly diseases far too seriously…

Also in Zurich I wanted to get this for Dave:

Because it's just beautiful, as chess sets go
Because it’s just beautiful, as chess sets go

But it was a little out of my price range. He got a bar of Toblerone instead.

From Zurich we headed to Bern, and in Bern we found (but didn’t get a photo of) a giant Nine Men’s Morris set, an outdoor one, like the chess sets they have in schools and parks. It was awesome. But we also managed to play Mastermind in Bern, albeit, with a set that was missing a few pieces…

Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind
Slightly makeshift game of Mastermind

Once again, we apologize for the slightly hiatus in posts, but we’re hoping to be back on track, spamming you all with geeky board game reviews within the next few days!

The Settlers of Catan

5 - 5

Number of Players: 3-4

Year of Publication: 1995

Creator(s): Volkan Baga, Tanja Donner, Pete Fenlon, Jason Hawkins (Artists) and Klaus Teuber (Designer)

Create the Best Civilisation and become King of Catan!

Okay, you don’t actually win the title “King of Catan” if you win the game, but it’d be cool if you did. Instead, you just win the sheer joy of winning, which is almost as good. Settlers of Catan¬†is a brilliant game, primarily for its simplicity and versatility. Because of the way the board gets set up, no two games are ever going to be the same and it’s got so few rules that anyone can learn to play!

What’s In The Box:

The stuff!
The stuff!
  1. 19 Terrain Hexes and 6 Sea Frame pieces – set up in one possible arrangement for play.
  2. 9 Harbour Pieces
  3. 18 Circular Number Tokens (chits)
  4. 95 Resource Cards (19 each of Stone, Sheep, Clay, Wood and Grain)
  5. 25 Development Cards
  6. 4 “Building Costs” Cards
  7. 2 Special Cards
  8. 16 Cities (4 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  9. 25 Settlements (5 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  10. 60 Roads (15 each in Orange, White, Red and Blue)
  11. 2 Dice (one Yellow, one Red)
  12. 1 Robber
  13. 1 Game Rules and Almanac Book

Playing The Game:

Objective: To develop your civilization fastest in order to gain 10 Victory Points and win the game!

Setting up the Board:

To start the game you set up the board so it looks more or less like the photo below. You give a few of the Terrain Hexes to each player. They’re then laid out in that honeycomb kind of pattern, and edged with the Sea Frame pieces. There’s no set layout for the beginning of the game, so the hexes you get given can be placed anywhere. Once the board is set up each player chooses a colour and takes all the Cities, Settlements and Roads for that colour. They also take the Building Costs card of that colour. Then the Circular Number Tokens are placed on the board. These tokens all have both a number and a letter on them, numbering from 2-12, missing only 7, and having the respective letters A-R. One player then chooses a starting tile, and places the Token with A on it. The other tokens are then laid out in alphabetical order moving clockwise around the board. One of the Terrain Hexes is the desert, this is the only Hex which¬†doesn’t¬†have a token placed on it.

Starting set up for the game.
Starting set up for the game.

Once that’s been done, the grey Robber figure is placed on the desert Hex, and each player can then place two of their Settlements, and two Roads on the board. Settlements (and later Cities) are always placed on the corners of the Hexes, so your Settlement will be on the point on a Hex where two or three Hexes meet. Roads must be placed on the edges of Hexes and connected to a Settlement or City of their colour. To start, your Settlements can be placed anywhere on the board, but following this they must¬†always be connected to a previously existing Settlement by a road. To start each player collects one Resource card for the tiles they have Settlements on, for example, at the start of the game above, White would receive two Stone cards, one Clay, one Wood and one Crops.

Turns:

A players turn is divided up into the following phases:

  1. Rolling the dice, moving the Robber and collecting Resources
  2. Trading Resources with other players or the bank
  3. Building Roads or Settlements, upgrading to Cities and buying Development Cards

Rolling the dice always happens first, and the number rolled reflects which Resources will be produced on that turn. There are two Number Tokens for each number that can be rolled, apart from 12, once the dice are rolled, find these, and anyone with a Settlement on the corner of the corresponding piece receives one Resource card for that tile. On a roll of 7 no Resources are produced, and the Robber’s moved. The player that rolled the dice can now put the Robber wherever they like. If placed on a tile, the Robber prevents any Resources being produced for this tile until someone else rolls a 7 and moves him, so he can be a huge inconvenience to your opponents.

Like this:

Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources
Here the Robber was preventing me from receiving any Sheep Resources

Next you can trade Resources. This is done verbally and with the exchange of cards. One player simply states which Resources they need, and what they’re prepared to offer for them, and other players may accept or decline. Or haggle, if they feel so inclined. if a player has a lot of one Resource they can trade five of one Resource in to the bank, in exchange for one different Resource of their choice. If a player rolls a 7 all players must also count how many cards are in their hand, if they’ve got more than 7 Resource cards in their hand they must discard half of them, in the case of an odd number, for example, 9, you round down, so you would only discard 4, not 5.

It’s also possible to use the Sea Ports to trade resources, but you have to have a Settlement or City built on one of the three points adjacent to a port to use it.

Finally you can build things, your Building Costs card tells you how much each thing will cost you in Resources, and you discard Resources into the Resource bank to build on the board or buy Development Cards. Settlements or Cities must be connected by at least two roads, so they cannot be on the points next to each other, meaning that only three Settlements can ever be on one Hex. You must also have a connecting road before you can build a Settlement.

Play continues like this until one player has gained 10 Victory Points!

Winning the Game!

Winning the game actually isn’t very difficult, each Settlement you build is worth 1 Victory point and each City is worth 2. So you start the game with 2 Victory points, for your two Settlements placed before game play starts. You can also gain an extra 2 Victory points for having the longest unbroken road, this is one of the Special Cards, and is awarded once a player has a road at least five segments long. However, this card can get passed around a bit, as other players build longer roads. In the game we played, I had the longest road:

I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long
I was Orange, my road was 8 segments long

So I got the extra Victory points on the Special Card:

Longest road!
Longest road!

So, the end of our game looked like this:

I win!
I win!

So, ignoring the tea, ice cream and small rubber duck, this is what the game looked like at the end, I had acquired here, Longest Road, Largest Army (which is the other Special Card, Knights can be acquired by buying Development Cards and you get Largest Army once you’ve got three) and then also some Cities and Settlements.

Strategy!

This game can be played strategically, at the start of the game, when the board is being arranged, look for areas where a lot of one resource are concentrated, if you build both your starting Settlements on these and then quickly expand your Roads you can create a monopoly on one resource, forcing other players to trade with you for whatever you demand. Alternatively, try and build you Settlements so that you get as many different resources as possible. Both these are acceptable ways to start the game. One thing I would say to not do is this: unless you’re going for monopoly on something¬†DO NOT BUILD YOU SETTLEMENTS CLOSE TOGETHER TO START. Doing this is going to severely inconvenience you later in the game. It makes getting Longest Road, or heading out to resources on the other side of the board much harder. Also, don’t be too harsh with trading, if you have something another player desperately needs, don’t ask too much for it, as they might get annoyed, and refuse to trade something you really need later in the game. It’s all a question of balance, getting as much as possible out of the trade without being unreasonable.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. One of the first European games to achieve real popularity outside of Europe – it’d sold over 15 million copies by 2009.
  2. There are over 50 Scenarios and Variants now available for this series of games.
  3. There are only four base expansions to this game, which are: Catan: Seafarers, Catan: Cities & Knights, Catan: Traders & Barbarians and Catan: Explorers & Pirates.
  4. Die Siedler von Catan is a novel, set on the island of Catan, written by Rebecca Gablé following the popularity of the initial release of the game.
  5. Settlers has been created and recreated online over the years – it used to be playable over MSN, for everyone out there who remembers when MSN was the going thing!
  6. A series of mini stuffed animals based on the resources produced in the game was released by Mayfair, call Catanimals.
  7. A version of the game to be played on Nintendo DS was announced in 2008, but has yet to be released.

To Conclude:

This game has a rating of 5 because of how versatile it is, and how easy it is to play, the rules have little to no ambiguity in them, the storage space in the box is well laid out and therefore not annoying, and it’s a really, really fun game to play, which takes between an hour and an hour and 40 minutes, more or less. Which I think is an almost perfect running time for a game, long enough to be interesting, without becoming boring! It’s a brilliant family game too, as the simplicity of the rules allows for younger players!

Conquest of the Empire – Classic Rules

3.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2 – 6

Year of Publication: 2005

Creator: Glenn Drover, Larry Harris, Jr., Martin Wallace (Designers) and Paul Niemeyer (Artists)

Julius Caesar, The Roman Geezer, Squashed his Wife with a Lemon Squeezer:

So as far I can figure¬†Conquest of the Empire¬†is just a table top version of Rome: Total War¬†and being a huge fan of that game I’m also a huge fan of this game. In many respects it’s cooler; because you’re playing real people you actually feel some sense of victory when you crush them! But on the other hand, it’s obviously far more limited than Rome: Total War. To¬†illustrate¬†my point this is a picture of the Rome: Total War map:

Lovingly borrowed from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Rome_total_war_map.jpg
Lovingly borrowed from http://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%A4%D0%B0%D0%B9%D0%BB:Rome_total_war_map.jpg

And this is a picture of the Conquest of the Empire board:

IMG_0515
Can you see the similarities?

Now, there are two sets of rules to this game, as I explain in the History and Interesting Facts part of the post but this post is only covering the Classic rules, as we haven’t had the time to play the other rules. Hopefully there will be another post covering the other set of rules before the month is over, so keep an eye out for that.

What’s In The Box:

IMG_0505

IMG_0509

  1. 1  Game board (see picture in introduction of it laid out)
  2. Province tokens
  3. Some of the Chaos tokens (the ‘X’s at the bottom of the other sheet are also Chaos tokens)
  4. Influence/control tokens for each colour (except the bottom row)
  5. 2 Instructions Booklets:
    1. 1 for the Classic rules
    2. 1 for the new Conquest of the Empire 2 rules
  6. Black game pieces consisting of:
    1. 1 Caesar
    2. 4 Generals
    3. 20 Infantry
    4. 10 Cavalry
    5. 6 Catapults
    6. 8 Galleys
  7. Yellow game pieces, the same as black
  8. Blue game pieces, the same as black
  9. Purple game pieces, the same as black
  10. 25 five-talent coins (Silver) 50 ten-talent coins (Gold)
  11. Red game pieces, the same as black
  12. Green game pieces, the same as black
  13. 8 Dice (for some reason ours has 12 but it did come from a charity shop)
  14. 16 Fortifications
  15. 16 Cities
  16. 1 deck of cards
  17. Cards
  18. 20 Roads

Playing The Game:

Objective: To capture the other player(s) Caesar

The aim of the game is ultimately just to capture the other player(s) Caesar, which can lead to a fairly short game if you get lucky and the other person is careless; or if the other person is careful it can be a long complex game of strategy and well thought-out battling.

The board right at the beginning.
The board right at the beginning.

You start in one of the six starting provinces, these are shown on the board and the instruction book denotes which are available relative to how many players there are. The tribute scale at the bottom of the board is used to mark your income per-turn and increases if you capture provinces and decreases if you lose them depending on the worth of the province (marked on the board). you start on 15, as you home province is worth 10 but it also has a city in it which adds an additional 5.

The tokens for each player show the amount of money they get each turn.
The tokens for each player show the amount of money they get each turn.

Each turn is broken up into 6 sections:

  1. Movement
  2. Combat
  3. Collect Tribute
  4. Destroy Cities
  5. Purchase New Pieces
  6. Place New Pieces

So first up is movement, normal pieces can only move when attached to a General/Caesar. When they’re attached they form a legion; a legion may be up to 5 pieces (of any type) and then the¬†General/Caesar to make a legion of six pieces overall. Without roads normal pieces may only move one space (being from one province to another) in a turn, however¬†General/Caesar may move two, so they may move with a legion and then one further turn on their own. However they cannot fight by themselves – but are useful for conquering unoccupied provinces. The exception to this is roads; once on a road a player may move as far along that road as he/she likes. Galleys are the only units that can move without a¬†General/Caesar, they can move up to two sea provinces even with no units in them.

The first move of the game.
The first move of the game.

The second part of a players turn is combat. Combat occurs when you move your pieces into a province occupied by an enemy and once you have finished all of your moving.

Just before combat.
Just before combat.

Combat is somewhat similar to Battle Cry! (as reviewed here) in that it uses dice with symbols that show which piece have to be removed. You role as many dice as there are piece in your legion (up to 6) and the defender does the same. the relevant pieces are then removed according to the symbols on the dice, and either you fight again or one player retreats. Generals/Caesar are the last pieces to be removed from any legion and can only be captured when the rest of the legion has been destroyed. Captured Generals are kept by the winner and can be bartered with later in the move, if Caesar is captured the person who loses their Caesar has lost the game and is out.

A captured Cesar.
A captured Caesar.

The next phase of a move is to collect tribute, that’s as simple as it sounds, you look at the tribute scale at the bottom of the board and collect the amount of tribute you are due.

A pile of gold!
A pile of gold!

The next phase is to destroy cites, you can do this in provinces you own if they are about to be captured to stop the other player gaining any benefits from them. This phase doesn’t have to be done as you may not be in a situation where its required.

The next phase is to buy pieces. You use your tribute to to buy pieces to build a bigger army. Pieces initially cost:

  1. Infantry – 10
  2. Cavalry – 20
  3. Galleys – 20
  4. Catapult – 30
  5. Fortified City – 50
  6. City – 30
  7. Fortification – 20
  8. Road – 10

However when inflation is trigger the first time (marked by the change in the tribute scale at the bottom of the board) cost doubles, when its triggered again (by the second change in the scale) the cost triples from the original prices.

A newly bought army.
A newly bought army.

The very last phase of a players move is to places his newly brought pieces. All new combat units must be placed in the home province of the player buying them, ships are placed on the coast of that province, or on the closest coast if you are landlocked. Cities are placed in the relevant province that you want a city in, only one city per-province and only one fortification per-city. Roads can only be built between two cities in adjacent provinces but multiple road sections between multiple cities can be used to make one long road.

Roads!
Roads!

This process is then repeated until there is only one players Caesar remaining.

Strategy:

Now, like most games on this blog I don’t claim to be a master ,but here are a few things I picked up that are important:

  1. DON’T FOR GET ABOUT YOUR¬†CAESAR!¬†That’s how I won the game we played, he was left in a province by himself. Always know where he is and always have him protected away from the action (unless you have no choice but t0 have him in the action.)
  2. MONEY IS POWER!  Conquering provinces is important to generate more tribute so you can buy more units so you can have more power.
  3. DON’T FORGET ABOUT SHIPS! Ships look like they can be a very useful tool to attack your enemy where he/she is not expecting.
  4. DON’T FORGET YOU CAN¬†DESTROY¬†YOUR OWN CITIES! Also¬†destroying¬†a city will¬†destroy¬†a road that runs between it and¬†another city as roads can only¬†exist¬†between two cities. This could help slow a fast enemy advance.
  5. BRUTE FORCE IS KING! Due to the luck/probability of the dice actually being 100% tactical is difficult, so just out manning the other player in all conflicts is advised.

History and Interesting Things:

      1. While I have stated the publication date of the game as 2005, and hyper linked the 2005 game on BoardGameGeek, the original version of the game was released in 1984 by¬†Milton Bradley¬†and it’s sole designer was¬†Larry Harris, Jr.
      2. However the original version of the game’s catapult rules were considered to be “broken” so the 2005 version of the game was issued with two sets of rules, one that was similar to the original rules but with fixed catapult rules (the classic rules, the ones played in this article) and another completely new set that were based on¬†Martin Wallace’s¬†Struggle of Empires¬†(these are Conquest of the Empire II rules).
      3. The original version of the game also had different combat rules and the rules in the 2005 version were changed along with the dice that have images that correspond to the different units.
      4. The game is thought to be very similar to the game¬†Axis & Allies,¬†this may be because it’s also designed by¬†Larry Harris, Jr. (and because of this¬†Axis & Allies¬†is obviously going on our Games We Want page).
      5. It was a 2006 Golden Geek Best Wargame Nominee
      6. The original version of the game is now completely out of print and therefore a prized collectors piece.
      7. However, that’s what Wikipedia says but you can buy a 1984 original copy from America for around ¬£55 on Ebay here¬†(eBay listing was active at time of publication).
      8. The game is set in the Roman Empire after the death of Marcus Aurelius. So just after this happened:

(This may be from the film Gladiator and therefore may not be historically accurate).

      1. Like I said in my introduction, the game really is a physical version of Rome: Total War, just less complex and in some ways more fun.
      2. It is also the largest game we have played to date, which makes it just a little bit more awesome.

 

To Conclude:

I like this game, I like it a lot, but I was always going to – as I said in my introduction, it’s just table top RTW. However this version of the rules has quite a lot of ambiguity but with careful reading and a ¬†bit of logic you can think your way through this. There are a few thing I think should be done differently, for example you should be able to build units in places other than your home provinces, other cities would have had barracks and been able to train men etc. Also it just feels wrong to collect your money half way through your turn, everyone knows turns begin with collecting money, it’s true of so many games, both table top and computerized. However I understand the building units one turn and not being able to move the till the next because it represents a training time.

The biggest issue with this game though is this:

Everything thrown in the box!
Everything thrown in the box!

POOR BOX DESIGN! Now you may say that this is irrelevant to the game in the sense that it doesn’t affect game play. But it does, if you’ve had to spend 20 minutes sorting out pieces because there in a mixed mess you’re not going to have the same amount of fun playing the game as if they were all sorted already in a vacuum-formed tray in the box like 90% of games I’ve played (like Battle Cry!.) The only other game I’ve come across to rival this is the¬†Pirate of the Caribbean¬†edition of Buccaneer! Which you can read my rant about at the end of the post on it here.

But all in all¬†Conquest of the Empire¬†is a good and fun game (perhaps not quite as good/well thought out as Battle Cry!¬†and definitely not as versatile). It’s also very large which for some unknown reason makes it more exciting…

We’ll have to wait and see if the other way of playing it is as good or perhaps better.

P.S. I (Miriam) wouldn’t usually add on to a post like this, but it was more like 2 hours sorting time than 20 minutes which makes this, in my opinion, an epic design flaw… Especially when trying to determine if all the pieces were still there.

They weren’t.

Battle Cry!

4 - 5

 

 

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 1999/2010 (Anniversary Edition)

Creator: Richard Borg

Picture lovingly borrowed from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/uncle-sam/uncle-sam-posters.htm
Picture lovingly borrowed from http://www.sonofthesouth.net/uncle-sam/uncle-sam-posters.htm

As is self-evident from the name of the game¬†Battle Cry¬†is a strategy war game. It recreates the American Civil War. Players play as the Union or the Confederates, in other words, North or South America and can play through each of 30 scenarios from the war. The board is set up using Terrain Tiles with different images on them to create different parts of the country. Each scenario is defined in the Rule Book and has a pictorial representation of the starting layout of the board. My favourite thing about these descriptions is that there’s a little historical information provided about each scenario, but at the bottom, right after it tells you who originally won that battle it says:¬†“The stage is set, the battle lines are drawn, and you are in command. The rest is history.” And it leaves you to find out who the best strategist is!

Dave and I did initially play the game slightly wrong, because we were in a rush. But this just reinforces our firm belief that you should thoroughly read the rules before starting any game.

Our first attempt at playing this game - we set up the board wrong.
Our first attempt at playing this game – we set up the board wrong.

What’s In The Box:

The stuff. I know the layout of the box looks weird, I have since changed it, but taking another photo was a lot of effort...
The stuff. I know the layout of the box looks weird, I have since changed it, but taking another photo was a lot of effort…
  1. 8 Battle Dice
  2. 9 Double-sided Entrenchment/Fieldwork Tokens
  3. 46 Double-sided Terrain Tiles
  4. 14 Double-sided Flag Tokens
  5. 60 Command Cards
  6. 3 Artillery with Flags and 6 Artillery Crewmembers
  7. 3 Generals with Flags, 3 Cavalry with Flags and 6 Cavalry
  8. 10 Infantry with Flags and 30 Infantry

Plus also (and in a different picture just for fun):

The other stuff.
The other stuff. The stuff that didn’t fit in the first photo.

The Game Board, Terrain Reference Sheet and Game Rule Book.

Playing The Game:

Objective: To capture a given number of your opponents flags before they do yours and win the match!

Although this game has a few scenarios that’re a little time-consuming to set up, it’s actually not all that complicated. Turns consist of five parts: playing a Command Card, giving orders, moving, battling and drawing a new card. I’ve only played two of the available scenarios so far, but both have been really good. The starting set up for the board on the simplest set up is this:

The starting set up for the simplest scenario, called First Bull Run. Blue is Union, Grey is Confederate.
The starting set up for the simplest scenario, called First Bull Run. Blue is Union, Grey is Confederate.

To give you an idea of how simple this set-up is comparatively, here’s a photo of the next one on in the Rule Book:

A slightly more complex (and time consuming) set up.
A slightly more complex (and time consuming) set up.

There’re a fair few men on the board here, but it’s a lot simpler than it appears – the occupants of one hex on the board are a unit and all move together. Infantry can only move 1 hex at a time, Cavalry moves 3 hexes, Artillery moves 1 hex, and a General can move 3 by itself or if it’s in a unit with Cavalry, but can only move one when in a unit with Infantry.

Command Cards:

There are two different kinds of Command Cards; the Section Cards and the Tactic Cards and Dave and I have ranked the Section Cards in terms of usefulness. The least useful are the Scout cards, these allow you to order one of your units in one section of the board, then draw two cards instead of one, and choose which one to keep, discarding the other. Next are Probe cards, you can now give two orders to two of your units in one section of the board. Yet more useful is Attack, you guessed it already, you can now give three orders to three units in one section of the board. But the most useful of these cards are the Assault cards, these allow you to give one order per card you have including the one you’re playing, to units in one section of the board. The section of the board you give orders in is always specified on these cards and can be either Centre, Left Flank, or Right Flank.

A Section Command Card in play.
A Section Command Card in play.

The Tactic Cards are very different, they allow you to do a whole host of things that the Section Cards don’t, such as placing Fieldwork Tokens on the board, which changes the terrain, and impacts on sight lines, amongst other things. There are, however, a lot of Tactic Cards, so I’m not going to go into any detail about them. But you can have a photo of one!

An example of a Tactic Command Card in play.
An example of a Tactic Command Card in play.
Giving Orders and Moving Units:

Once you’ve read out the Command Card you’ve chosen to play you put it face up on the board and announce which units you intend to move. You¬†must order all units before moving any of them. Next you move your units, taking into consideration terrain restrictions and remembering that a unit¬†cannot battle unless it’s been ordered, even if it does not move.

Battling and Retreating:

Now you can battle! Any unit that’s close enough to an enemy unit (or an Artillery unit that was ordered but not moved) can now try to eliminate some of the opposing soldiers. This is done by rolling Battle Dice. Terrain restrictions, distance from target and type of soldier all effect how many dice you roll, and therefore how likely you are to succeed in doing any damage.

For example; if you’re attacking an enemy unit that’s on a hill hex, you roll¬†one less¬†Battle Dice than normal depending on how far away from the target you are, because you’re attacking uphill, which puts you at a disadvantage.

All units have one member that has a flag in them, when fighting an enemy unit, you always remove the flag bearer last. 

I won’t go through how each unit attacks, but I’ll use Cavalry as an example. Every unit has a different range to the others, Infantry can attack enemy units up to four hexes away, Artillery up to five hexes away, and Cavalry must be adjacent to the unit they wish to attack.

Depending on where you are in relation to the unit you’re targeting you roll a certain number of Battle Dice. Cavalry always roll three, unless terrain battle restrictions state otherwise.

Of the three Battle Dice rolled here two were hits. As you can see, the small image on the dice is of a Cavalry figure. When rolling to eliminate opponents you must roll the correct symbols.
Of the three Battle Dice rolled here two were hits. As you can see, the small image on the dice is of a Cavalry figure. When rolling to eliminate opponents you must roll the correct symbols.

These are all six of the sides of the Battle Dice, and each symbol means something different. Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery are fairly self-explanatory – for every one of those symbols rolled, you can capture one of the equivalent enemy pieces if there is one in the unit you’re attacking. The cross sabres are the only symbol that can remove a General from the board, however, if there’s no General in the unit, sabres also remove anything else. The flag is a retreat:

The Battle Dice. As you can see, there are two Infantry symbols showing. This is because there are two sides of each die with the Infantry symbol on them. Making them the easiest units to capture.
The Battle Dice. As you can see, there are two Infantry symbols showing. This is because there are two sides of each die with the Infantry symbol on them. Making them the easiest units to capture.

A flag rolled means that the unit you’re attacking must retreat one hex, however, it can’t retreat onto an occupied hex, unless that hex has a General on it that’s not attached to a unit, the General then become attached to the unit and must move with it.

Different Kinds of Terrain:

There are hexes on top of the board, these are the Terrain Tiles. In both the scenarios I’ve played so far there are only three kinds on the board: Woods, Hills and Homestead hexes. These alter the course of the game in that they place restrictions on movement, line of sight and accuracy. So can be used to your advantage, or to severely disadvantage your opponent. All of these act as blocks in the line of sight when you want to attack a unit, but the Woods and the Hills can be incredibly useful. From the top of a hill the range of an Artillery unit is increased by 1, whilst the accuracy of an attacking unit is decreased by 1. Likewise, on a Woods hex the attacking units accuracy is decreased by 1, but the unit inside the Woods has no such impediment.

Winning the Game!

One the page in the Rule Book assigned to whichever scenario you’ve chosen to play there will be a small amount of information underneath the picture of the starting set up. This will include the historical background to that particular battle, which General both sides are commanding as, who moves first, and¬†most importantly, how many flags you need to capture to win.¬†The first player to achieve having this number of their opponents flags, immediately wins the match. However, to play a complete match, you’re supposed to reset the board and change sides, and the winner is determined after both matches are complete. This probably often ends with a draw, but I haven’t yet played a complete match in this way. The game we played the first player to capture six flags won:

My victory stand at the end of the game!
My victory stand at the end of the game!

Strategy:

This game is tactical, it requires strategic thinking and a little bit of foresight. I’ve found that on the First Bull Run the best way to play is just to push forward in more or less a straight line, going up hills wherever you can, or into woods. If you’ve got possession of the hills and woods you’ve got the advantage, because your enemy is less likely to be able to capture you when they attack.

This isn’t a huge amount of help, as it’s things that’re mostly just common sense, but I’m not particularly strategically minded, so although I’m not bad at this kind of game, I also don’t make plans when I play them. Just take each turn as it comes, kinda thing.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. The first game to be published under this name was published in 1961. The concept of this game was the same as the version we’ve got, but much much simpler. Each side only has 22 pieces, the grid is square, not hexagonal, and there’s only one battle scenario available to play.
  2. An online version of this game was released in November 2008, to GameTableOnline.com and can be played player vs player or player vs computer.
  3. It won the International Gamers Award in 2001 for the General Strategy: 2-Player category.
  4. I don’t have anything else to write about the history of the game, so have some points about the Civil War instead: Before William Tecumseh Sherman became a famous Union General he was demoted for apparent insanity.
  5. More men died in the Civil War than in any other American conflict, and two-thirds of them died of disease.
  6. During the war Robert E. Lee’s Virginia estate was confiscated and turned into a cemetery by the Union.
  7. Robert E. Lee was the bloodiest General of the war.
  8. President Lincoln was shot at, and almost killed, nearly two years before his assassination riding to the Soldiers’ Home (his summer residence) from the White house on an August evening in 1863.
  9. On the Union side, black soldiers refused their pay for 18 months because they were being paid less than their white comrades.
  10. Harriet Tubman led a raid to free slaves during the war, this one raid freed more than 720 slaves – more than 10 times the number she had freed in 10 years on the Underground Railroad.

I read about the history of the war here, and got my game info off of Wikipedia.

To Conclude:

So ¬†this game is great for a few reasons; it’s easy to understand, it’s easy (though time-consuming) to set up, and there are so many different scenarios that it’s going to be a long time before it stops being interesting!

I recommend it to anyone who enjoys a proper sit-down game. It takes about an hour to play a scenario, with around 15 minutes set up time (this’ll probably become less as we get more familiar with the board and different layouts). For anyone with a son or daughter who’s an up-and-coming tactician, this would be a fantastic game to play with them.

If this is a game that’s up your street, go out and get a copy, and have lots of fun re-writing the course of history!

Thud

2.5 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 2002

Creator(s): Trevor Truran РInspired by the books of Terry Pratchett

Thump…Sorry I mean Thud!

Thud¬†is the first Discworld board game! The first of four (true at time of publication) to be precise. It’s a product, initially, of the genius mind of Terry Pratchett¬†(if you are unaware of Terry Pratchett check out this months update post for more details on him HERE!)

What’s in the Box:

This is the Terry Pratchett game with the fewest pieces.

The Stuff.
The Stuff.
  1. A game board. With an Octagon of squares on it.
  2. 32 Dwarf pieces.
  3. 8 Troll pieces.
  4. 2 different thud stones.
  5. An instruction booklet.

Playing the Game:

The objective of the game is to capture as many of the other players pieces, while losing as few of your own pieces as possible.

To see the rules in full, look¬†here, but I’m going to give a brief overview anyway:

Dwarfs¬†move first; they can move any amount they like, in any direction, so long as it’s in a straight line and there’s nothing in the way, like this:

IMG_0459
The first Dwarf move.

Then the trolls move; they may only move one square at a time in any direction, as they are large and slow. Like this:

First Troll move.
First Troll move.

To take another piece a dwarf cannot just go to the same space as a Troll, he must be thrown at the Troll by a line of Dwarfs behind him. Like this:

Each arrow shows formed lines ready to throw the front Dwarf. The lines also apply on the diagonals and horizontals but it just looked like a mess if I drew that many lines.
Each arrow shows formed lines ready to throw the front Dwarf. The lines also apply on the diagonals and horizontals but it just looked like a mess if I drew that many lines.

The number of Dwarfs in the line determines how far the front Dwarf may be thrown.

Trolls take by moving next to Dwarfs, any Dwarfs adjacent to it are taken.

So all of the Dwarves marked with red crosses would be taken.
So all of the Dwarfs marked with red crosses would be taken.

Trolls can also form lines like the Dwarfs and shove the front one of their line, depending on how many Trolls are lined up behind it.

The game is over either when one person loses all their pieces, or (much more likely) when you communally decide there’s no point continuing play because the trolls will never capture their Dwarfs and/or the Dwarfs don’t have enough pieces to form a line to take any Trolls.

Like this.
Like this.

Then you add up the amount of points that each player has left on the board; a Dwarf being worth 1 and Troll being worth 4 for their respective players. You then switch sides and play again, the total of both games determining the winner.

Strategy:

Now the strategy of the game is very interesting and also potentially very complex. Not being a master of it I’m just going to focus on one aspect we noticed to be rather crucial if you want to win as Dwarfs.

This is… FORMING A SQUARE… Like this:

IMG_0466This is super useful and basically the most practical (and likely) way to win as Dwarfs! By forming a square like this you make it very hard for the Trolls to approach you without being taken. Because any angle they approach you from is going to be on a line that you can throw on, and therefore take them.

To break your square they then have to sacrifice a Troll OR form a shoving line, which is easy to disrupt by adding additional dwarfs to your square to make the distances you can throw greater.

History and Interesting Facts:

  1. Thud was first mention in Terry Pratchett’s book Going Postal¬†it then became the focus of the following book¬†Thud
  2. The origin of the game is the Battle of Koom Valley, which it supposedly represents.
  3. If I’m understanding this correctly¬†Trevor Truran created the game and it was published in 2002. Terry Pratchett, approving of the game, then worked the complete version of it into the Discworld universe, talking about it in Going Postal,¬†published in 2004.
  4. In Dwarfish it is called¬†“Hnaflbaflwhiflsnifltafl“.
  5. Which the beginning of the word bears an interesting, and ridiculous resemblances to the name of the Norse game Hnefatafl on which the game is based.
  6. The release of the book Thud! lead to a special edition of the board game being released, the Koom Valley Edition, where the pieces were produced to look more like the cover art from the book.
  7. The fictional creator of the game is Morose Stronginthearm who created the game for the Low King of the Dwarfs.
  8. There is another way of playing the game which we have not covered in this post (and also I have to admit I haven’t played). This is Koom Valley Thud¬†and is played with the same amount of pieces and the same board shape as normal Thud but the starting up is different, as are the rules.
  9. Fictitiously the game of Thud was devised as an alternative to the fighting.
  10. Fictitiously the game is supposed to be played once from each side to make up one match in order to teach the merit of seeing things from both sides. This also has real world application.

Also there are ways you can play online on the official site, to do that see here!

To Conclude:

I like Thud, it’s a good game, it has a good concept and is quite well balanced once you’ve got the hang of being each side. However it just doesn’t grab me in the same way some of the other Discworld board games do. I don’t find it half as playable/re-playable. I’m not exactly sure why, because you would imagine it would appeal to someone who likes Chess… And it does… For maybe one game every 6 months.

Go!

3 - 5

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: Unknown

Creator: Unknown

Strategist? Don’t Plan Wars, Play Go!

Go¬†is a strategic two player game which dates back some 3-4,000 years in age. It’s got initially very simple rules, but will probably take me the rest of my life to get anywhere close to good at it as it requires a dimension of thought I don’t believe I currently possess. I was introduced to it by a friend back in September, she tried to teach me the basics in a pub one evening, using a Chess Board and Draughts pieces. Needless to say, the outcome was a little interesting and involved me losing spectacularly and being completely confused for quite a while.

My copy of Go, the box is very 80's...
Our copy of Go, the box is very 80’s…

What’s in the Box:

As you can see, the contents of the box, is thoroughly unexciting.
As you can see, the contents of the box is thoroughly unexciting.

Inside the box you’ll usually find:

  1. A board (I have acquired two boards for the game, as the one in the box is bent, and therefore, given the size of the pieces, fundamentally useless).
  2. The instructions, very handy for the point when you realize you’ve been playing one of the rules wrong for the entire game.
  3. 180 white playing pieces.
  4. 181 black playing pieces.

Playing the Game:

Objective: To surround empty areas of the board and capture your opponents pieces.

This is what our board looked like at the end of the game, for anyone who plays Go properly, it probably looks horrendous as this is only the third time i've played this game
This is what our board looked like at the end of the game, (you can’t really see the white pieces, but they are there) for anyone who plays Go properly, it probably looks horrendous as this is only the third time i’ve played this game

The Rules:

  • Players move by playing stones on the intersections on the board with Black playing first.
  • Once a stone has been played on the board it cannot then be moved unless it is captured – captured stones are removed from the board.
  • To capture a stone the opposing player must closely surround it, cutting of all its “liberties”. Liberties are the four lines extending out from the intersection a piece is played on. If all four of these are blocked on the next closest intersection, that piece is captured.
Three pieces placed in different locations on the board. Their Liberties are marked with small X's. This shows which lines must be blocked to capture a piece.
Three pieces placed in different locations on the board. Their Liberties are marked with small X’s. This shows which lines must be blocked to capture a piece.
  • Once a space like this has been created it is called an Eye, the space in the middle of the Eye cannot be played on by the other colour player, as this move is suicidal – your piece would be captured as soon as it had been placed – however, in the event that playing this piece caused one of your opponents pieces to be captured, thus freeing up one of the Liberties for the piece in the centre of the Eye this move becomes legal.
Here white has made three successful Eyes, the spaces in the middle cannot now be played in by black.
Here White has made three successful Eyes, the spaces in the middle cannot now be played in by Black.
Now black can play inside whites Eye because the move would result in capturing the left hand white piece, thus creating a new Liberty for the played piece
Now Black can play inside Whites Eye because the move would result in capturing the left hand white piece, thus creating a new Liberty for the played piece
  • Stones played on the edge of the board only have three Liberties and can be captured in the same way as other pieces.
  • A player can create an Army by playing one of their stones on the Liberty of another of their pieces, these are now connected and to capture them you must block all of their combined Liberties.
  • Armies can be continually extended by connecting Liberties but it’s important to note that diagonal connections do not¬†count.
Here white has created two armies, although they are next to each other, the diagonal on which they are connected doesn't count
Here White has created two armies, although they are next to each other, the diagonal on which they are connected doesn’t count.
  • Once a player has created an Army, their opponent cannot take individual pieces, the Army must be captured as an entire unit, or not at all.
  • Any Army that encloses an empty space on the board must also be captured from the inside, once all external Liberties have been surrounded the capturing player must play a stone on the available intersection(s) inside the Army to remove it from the board.
White has completely surrounded Blacks army, all they need now do is play one piece in the remaining space inside the army.
White has completely surrounded Blacks army, all they need now do is play one piece in the remaining space inside the army.
  • If a position is reached where one player acknowledges that there are some stones on the board that cannot avoid being captured, their opponent can remove these stones as prisoners at the end of the game without needing to further occupy their Liberties, this can only happen if both players agree.
  • Ending the Game:¬†Theoretically a player can pass a turn, by handing over one piece from their unplayed stock to their opponent as a prisoner. Once both player pass in succession, the game is over. However, in practice, the game usually reaches a point where all available territory has been securely surrounded by one player or the other and there can be no dispute about whether or not any groups of stones can still be captured. Now the game ends by mutual agreement, and points are scored to determine who wins.
  • Scoring Points: points are scored by counting up the number of empty intersections left on the board surrounded by each colour. Captured pieces also give a bonus of one point each and these two scores added together determine the winner.
  • Illegal Moves: There are only two illegal moves in¬†Go;¬†The “Suicide Rule” and the “Rule of Ko”. The Suicide Rule forbids a player to place a piece in a location that would cause it to immediately be captured, as I said before. The Rule of Ko is much more interesting, “Ko” is a Japanese word meaning “eternity”, this rule was invented to prevent the game reaching stalemate. This rule forbids a player to move in a way that leaves the board in exactly the same position as his or her previous move.

Strategy:

Go is essentially a tactical game, and therefore probably not one i’m going to excel at any time soon, but it is very interesting to consider the different angles of play. Interestingly, games like this (and also Chess) can reveal a lot about a person. Whether you play defensively, aggressively or recklessly, it can be a challenge to restrain your natural instinct towards your chosen method of going about things in the interest of actually winning the game.
Having played the game so few times there’s not much I can give in the way of tactics, but there is one type of play that’s so well-known and used that it’s more or less become a standing play, something that features in every game.

INVULNERABLE ARMIES:
If one player has managed to create an Army, and there is an empty space inside this Army, they may intentionally place pieces inside the Army to create Eyes there. If a player manages to create an Army with two or more Eyes in the centre, this Army cannot be taken, as placing any piece here would be suicide and there is no way to simultaneously cut off all its Liberties.

Because Blacks army has two Eyes, there are now no circumstances under which it can be captured.
Because Blacks army has two Eyes, there are now no circumstances under which it can be captured.

History and Interesting Things:

  1. Although the game is thought to have originated in China it became really popular in Japan, where, in the early 17th Century, stipends were awarded to the four strongest Go players, by the Shogun. These were then later extended to their heirs, and so the four Go schools; Honinbo, Hayashi, Inoue and Yasue were founded.
  2. Over the following 250 years the four¬†Go schools encouraged such rivalry that a ranking system was set up with nine grades of¬†Go player, the highest of which is¬†Meijin,¬†meaning “expert”. This title was only held by one person, and only achieved if one player managed to out-class all their contemporaries.
  3. Meijin Dosaku is considered the best Go player in history, and was the fourth head of the Honinbo school, which was easily the most successful of the four, producing more Meijins than the other three schools put together.
  4. In 1868 professional Go was undermined in Japan as the Shogunate collapsed and the Emperor was returned to power.
  5. A game of Go once decided the future of Tibet when the Buddhist ruler at the time refused to engage in a battle and instead challenged the aggressor to a game of Go.
  6. Go is followed as avidly in the Far East as sporting competitions are in the West, professional players from Japan, Korea, China and Taiwan become national heroes in their home countries.
  7. By 500 BC in China,¬†Go was already one of the “Four Accomplishments” that¬†had to¬†be mastered by a Chinese gentleman.
  8. In Europe the game was not played at all, despite having been described and written about by European travellers going to the Far East, until 1880.
  9. Britain has been playing Go for at least 100 years now, and currently our top ranking player is Matthew Macfayden (not to be confused with actor Matthew Macfadyen)
  10. Prior to the last 20 years, games of Go  were rarely played between Go masters of different nationalities, the game has been advancing hugely in recent years, in part thanks to the internet, there are many servers for Go players of all levels now, encouraging the continued growth of the game worldwide.

For the Super-Interested…

So that’s the end of this somewhat lengthy post about Go. It currently rates 3/5, not because it’s anything less than a brilliantly concieved game, but because the tactical development involved in learning to play the game is complicated, and I think that to play well, one would actually have to study the game. So learning it is quite an undertaking, for the willing individual.

If anyone’s interested enough to actually want to learn how to play this game properly (something that i’m now trying to achieve), you could watch this video:

Further Reading:

Here’s¬†where you’ll find all my history points, and more!

And HERE¬†is where i’m trying to improve my limited ability to play this game!

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 ‚Äď keep well in mind the quirk that gives¬†OSKA¬†its bite. The winner is the player whose remaining pieces first reach the far side ‚Äď 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.‚ÄĚ

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.

Solitaire

3 - 5

Number of Players: 1

Year publication: 1697

Creator(s): Unknown

How to Play With Yourself – Solitaire:

Solitaire¬†is an interesting game and the first game to be officially reviewed in 2014! Solitaire is an old¬†(usually wooden) game, so it fits our theme for this month. This is the first post with our new standardized format so any feed back would be appreciated, let us know if there’s anything we are missing or if anything is too much.

The game.
The game.

What’s in the Box:

the board and peices
The board and pieces separately.

Solitaire only consists of two things:

1) A board with 33 holes or groves in it.

2) 32 pieces – sometimes pegs and sometime marbles – sometimes 33 pieces are included so you remove one before playing.

Playing the Game:

The aim of the game is to remove all of the other pieces leaving just one in the central hole that is originally left empty.

The Rules:
  1. The board is set out with 32 pieces leaving a gap in the middle.
  2. You move to take pieces by jumping over them.
  3. Taking can only be done horizontally or vertically NOT diagonally.
  4. You win if you manage to remove all pieces and are left with one pieces in the central slot.
  5. You lose if you are left with one or more pieces not in the central slot and you cannot make any more moves.
Win
WINNING! (I did not actually win this I just set the board up like this to take this picture)
Strategy:

While this game has a very simple set of rules and is fairly easy to understand mastering it is a whole other matter! While I consider myself somewhat intelligent (and also modest) I have played this game through 30 or so times and still failed to win! I always end up in situations like this:

fail
FAIL!

I’m getting closer but I still feel quite far way. As far as I can see it makes sense to clear the board systematically and try very hard to not leave any pieces out on the edges by themselves. Of course you could always cheat and watch this video:

I have refused to watch it as I want to solve the game myself and will not be helped by Youtube! Additionally, once you’ve committed to memory how to beat the game it’s a bit of a one trick wonder as it has no replay-ability because you will always be able to beat it!

History and Interesting Facts:

The aim of this is not to give you a full history lesson on the game – that would be long and boring! But just a quick ten bullets to give you a rough idea of the games history and cultural relevance as well as some interesting facts about it.

  1. The earliest known reference to the game is a French engraving of Anne de Rohan-Chabot, pictured with the game, made in 1697. As seen here:

    Borrowed lovingly from Wikipedia!
    Borrowed lovingly from Wikipedia!
  2. The first literary reference made to it is in a French magazine from the same year.
  3. The Solitaire featured in these references, however, is not the same as the Solitaire featured in this post. There are two common/traditional versions of the game. The one featured in this post is the English version (which is fitting as we are in England) the one originally featured in the engraving is know as the European version. If you look at the engraving shown above you will see the board has four more holes that occur in the inside corners of the board to give it a more rounded shape. Additionally you do not traditionally start this game by leaving the middle hole empty but rather one offset towards the top of the board.
  4. There are also a fair few other versions of the game including a version made by J. C. Wiegleb in 1779 in German that has 47 holes and is effectively an extended version of the English version.
  5. There are also other ways of playing it on the same board, whether you’re using the English board, European board or any other. Including a version where your starting and finishing slot is in the bottom right corner. ¬†To take a look at some of these different versions and play them (and even see solutions to them) see HERE!
  6. The shortest solution to the English version of the game was found by  Ernest Bergholt in 1912 and was proven to be the shortest by John Beasley in 1964. This solution in full detail can be viewed HERE, but I challenge you to find it yourself first, in fact I will give £100 to the person who can irrefutably prove that they found the shortest solution to the game without any assistance!
  7. While there is only one shortest solution to the English version of the game there are three shortest solutions to the European version of the game that are all very different from each other but result in the same amount of moves made. To read about them in detail see HERE!
  8. A much thorougher analysis of the mathematics of the game(s) ¬†is provided in the book¬†Winning Ways for Your Mathematical Plays – Volume 1¬†which on the¬†extreme¬†off chance anyone is¬†interested¬†in can be bought HERE¬†and viewed as a pdf HERE¬†(it’s discussed in chapter 23 under the name Peg Solitaire).
  9. The game is historically called Solo Noble or Peg Solitaire, however in the UK it is usually just referred to as Solitaire as the card game of the same name(s) is commonly known as Patience.
  10. Very interestingly there are 577,116,156,815,309,849,672 different sequences to the English version of the game (being how many different orders of things that can happen). From this set of sequences there are 40,861,647,040,079,968 different solutions (some are simply reflection and rotations of others). To see this maths in more detail see HERE!

To Conclude:

The thing I find most interesting about this game is your could vary it almost indefinitely and it would still be a playable and difficult problem, it is rare that you find a board game that is so interchangeable but still maintains its fundamental characteristics. It also stands as a classic mathematical/logic problem that is quite challenging to initially complete.

While it is fun and simple it is also quite limited in the sense that is is simple. You can furiously try for 40 minutes to try and figure out a solution and then lose interest completely because you feel like you’re just repeating the same thing again and again and never getting closer to your goal. So it might be a steer clear for those of you who are more OCD about things as you may never be able to put it down until you find the solution. However if you’re not OCD then definitely¬†give it and play! I challenge you to find the solution without help!

On The Second Day of Christmas, My True Love Gave To Me…

…A Two-player Game and Promised The Evening To Me – Two Polarity Doves

Two Polarity Doves...not world class photoshopping
Two Polarity Doves…not world class photo-shopping

The Rules:

The aim of Polarity is difficult to describe, it involves magnets (hence the name) and some skill, patience and a steady hand. However rather than going into it in great detail here I will simple link you to the very detailed¬†post my sister has done on it (on this very blog ¬†and only two days before this post) that’s very informative and right here!

For Christmas?

I personally would consider this a great game for Christmas, one to bust out and show the relatives as something a bit different from the average board game and something I’m sure everyone will want ago at. It might even stop Aunt Jean from recounting the endless tales of here youth to you as she infers how lucky your generation are and how things weren’t¬†this easy back in her day! However she may consider the balancing magnets as¬†witchcraft declare you all heathens and start shouting “The power of Christ compels you”. But hey whats Christmas without a slight mental break down by someone.

You may consider this a cop-out as we have already posted about Polarity, well then just to warn you a few of the posts will be things we have already done posts on and the others will be ones we are doing full post on very soon and we are not chickening out we are simply highlighting good games we think you should all play regardless of weather we have posted about them yet or not!

Happy Boxing Day!

Diving back to quick games: Mancala

3.5 - 5

 

Number of Players: 2

Year of Publication: 550

Creator(s): Unknown

So, having been pretty quiet for a while, I’m making a return to my quick games chain of posts, with Manacala. I’ve been playing this game my whole life, although, as children my brother and I played it as a mini game on an educational computer game we owned and it was called Mother Bird’s Eggs. I wasn’t introduced to it as a non-virtual reality game until a few years later.

The board, the pieces, and how to play!

Objective: The objective of the game is to have the most pieces in your Mancala at the end.

It ‘s a very quick game to learn, the board is (usually) made of wood, is oblong in shape and has several hollows carved into it. There will be one long hollow carved vertically into each of the short ends, so that they run parallel to the end of the board. Then there will be six small circular hollows carved into each long side of the board. Each of the circular hollows will then have three playing pieces placed in it before the game begins. Pieces could be anything, from small stones to pieces of glass, to counters you’ve borrowed from another game.

A Mancala board set up for play (with three "connect four" pieces used to make up for three missing dragon drops)
A Mancala board set up for play (with three “connect four” pieces used to make up for three missing dragon drops)

Each player plays to their right, so the long hollow on the end of the board to their right becomes their “Mancala”, similarly, the hollows on the side of the board you are sitting on, are yours – this is very important – you are not allowed to move pieces from your opponents hollows. ¬†Before play begins you will determine who plays first and they will then choose one of their hollows, and move the pieces from it. To move your pieces, you pick up all the pieces from the hollow you’ve chosen and place one in every subsequent hollow (including your Mancala if you have that many, but excluding your opponents Mancala) until you run out. You may find, when moving pieces from a hollow containing a lot of pieces, that you place pieces in all of your hollows and then have to continue round to those of your opponent. This is often irritating, as you are providing them with the opportunity for more pieces, but is sometimes unavoidable.

A game in mid swing.
A game in mid swing.

Apart from what i’ve already described, there are very few rules to this game. If a player ¬†is moving their pieces and, in placing them in the hollows, manages to place the last one in their Mancala, they take another turn. This can be both advantageous and disadvantageous as your opponent may have strategically stockpiled some of their pieces in one hollow, and, to force them to move it, you are trying to stall, by moving as few pieces in each turn as possible, so you would not want to be giving yourself extra turns if you can avoid it.

Taking Pieces:

Players may also take their opponents pieces. If, when you are moving your pieces, your last piece lands in one of your hollows, which is empty, and your opponent has pieces in the hollow directly opposite it, you take these, and place them in your Mancala.

Ending the Game:

The game ends when one player runs out of pieces in their six hollows. When this happens anything that remains in their opponents hollows is added to their opponents Mancala, and the number in each is counted. The winner is the player with the most pieces stored in their Mancala.

Someone quite obviously won that one!
Someone quite obviously won that one!

Due to a lack of photos of us playing the game (this has now been amended), this description has been pretty wordy, however, I hope it makes some sense and is even a little interesting. If you’re bored of game play info, keep going down to find out a little of the history of this very old strategy game!

History and Things (my 10ish interesting points):

  1. This is the only ancient game surviving in the world with an Arabic name – the name does not apply solely to this game, but to this family of games.
  2. It is possible that this is the oldest game in the world, one of the reasons for this being that it is simple and can be played using whatever materials are to hand – tribes in Africa would scoop out hollows from the earth and play on the ground with pebbles.
  3. Although there is now a generally played version of the game, with six hollows for each player and three pieces per hollow, the game can be played in many different ways as it has been played for thousands of years in Africa and the Middle East. Here each tribe would have a slightly different way of playing the game, varying from the number of pieces used to how many “ranks” (rings) there were around the board.
  4. Mancala is the most widely-known (at least in the Western world) name for the game, however, there are many others, a small sample here: Wari, Warri, Ware, Walle, Awari, Aware, Awaoley, Awele, Oware, Owari, and Wouri.
  5. The game is, and was, played for recreational purposes, but there are also some areas, such as the West Indies, that have associated it with religion. It was played in a house of mourning in the belief that the soul of the departed would be amused until burial.
  6. Despite its primitive origins, the game is completely mathematical, and some of the more complex versions of it have as much standing as Chess.
  7. Two-rank boards have historically been found North of the Equator, whilst the four-rank boards are found South of the Equator.
  8. Stone Mancala boards found carved into temples in Memphis, Thebes and Luxor date the game in Egypt back before 1400BC.

I made eight points, that’s not bad going. 10 may have been slightly ambitious of me…

For anyone interested I found a selection of my interesting history points here, and here! Happy reading and hopefully there’ll be some more regular posting going on from now on!