This weekend, I finally had a chance to try out the latest title from Jactalea, Splits. Splits was announced last year, but hasn’t been wide available until a few months ago. In a departure from most of the Jactalea games which are done in leather and foam, Splits is built from laser-cut wooden hex panels and wooden player discs.
The rules are quite simple, with players seeking to split their starting pile of discs and move one of the split parts as far as possible along any straight line of hexes. The first player to be make a split and move, loses the game. This took a pleasantly short time to explain, and within a few minutes we’d built a board and were off.
Each game of Splits takes only a handful of minutes so I decided to write up a session report of several of the first few games as we found our way around.
First game, red started. Without any real idea of how to play the game, red dashed to block white’s starting tower while white spread around more. It became fairly quickly obvoious that red had lost access to the top part of the board and its empty squares, giving the game away.
Timing was everything in this game. Red left his primary tower standing there for one turn too many, letting white neatly block of off and take the game and the upper board with it. It’s clear that players need a keen sense of their greatest vulnerabilities, so they can fix them before the other player takes advantage.
In this game, it was white’s turn to misstep. A large white tower was moved into the corner guarded by red’s starting tower and neatly blocked there. Keeping that advantage, red managed to slice off a chunk of the lower board for expansion, leaving white with not even enough discs to fill up the space at the top of the board. The game was won by the 3rd picture, but we quickly played it out to the official end to see what happened.
After 3 games and starting to get the hang of things, we decided to lay the board out again. This time, we deliberately tried to make it a little interesting, with multiple little poking out corners. The very first version actually created a hole, but without a ruling on whether the shore of a ‘lake’ was an edge, we decided to rearrange to this.
This board still had a few long-axis moves, and White moved quickly to take control of the longest diagonal axis. Red optimistically made a very similar placement and was then neatly cut off from most of it by White’s opening move. White now had 4-safe squared, so Red started out well behind.
Red first moved to send large new towers up and across on the board, ready to claim large chunks of new territory, while white dashed across the board, too late to stop Red’s explosion into new areas. Between the white and red towers, it quickly came out that white had lost too many pieces blocked into corners and red had won.
Splits is a cute fast-playing abstract. It’s effectively an area-control game a little reminiscent of Fjords with a couple of twists. The first twist is the heavily restricted movement (straight line only, and always as far as possible), the second is the requirement to plan all your counter moves in advance, because having towers guarding some wonderful wide-open space doesn’t help you in the slightest if they’re both 1-piece
A nifty game. I plan to play it a few more times, and then write up a more detailed review.