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Subject: [Voice of Experience 2.0] Finito: Do you like to organize things? rss

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Mark Schlatter
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Note: this review is part of the Voice of Experience 2.0 contest. You can find more information about the contest at this thread and see the reviews at this geeklist.


The big picture: Finito is an easy-to-learn and quick game in which players race to be the first to place twelve numbered tokens in numerical order. The problem is that on every turn you can only place a token on one spot determined by a die roll. If you like putting things in order and can handle mitigating luck, this is a nice filler.


The rules: Everybody in Finito has twelve tokens numbered 1 through 12. They also have a six-by-six board (a homemade version is shown below) with the numbers 1 through 20 printed on it. The goal of the game is to place your tokens on the board so that they are in increasing numerical order as you read left-to-right and up-to-down. (Note that tokens do not have to be placed on the board space that matches their number.)



The game has two phases. In the first phase, you are placing your tokens on your board. At the start of the game, you mix up your tokens (face down) and turn three of them face up. You then roll a twenty-sided die --- that tells everyone where they can place a face up token. So, for example, if you roll a 1, everyone must place a token (your choice of the three) in the top left hand corner of their board. If you roll a 3, you have your choice of the two 3 spaces. After everyone places, you turn face up another randomly chosen token, roll the die, and repeat the process.

Note that if you roll a space that is taken, you can place your token to the immediate left or right of that space. For example, if both of your 4 spaces are already occupied when a 4 is rolled, you can place a token in the rightmost 3 space or leftmost 5 space (assuming both are vacant).

When all twelve tokens are on the board, the second phase begins. You continue rolling the twenty-sided die, but now you can move tokens on your board. The same rules as above apply, except you can move any token to the rolled space. The first person to place their tokens in numerical order wins, but note that draws are possible (as you move simultaneously), but not frequent.


So, is there strategy?: Well, there isn't tons, but this isn't a luckfest. Indeed, www.happymeeple.com (where I play the game) has several levels of bots, and it took me a while to learn how to beat them.

The major point of strategy is that you want to maximize the number of board spaces that help you. Ideally, if you have consecutive tokens, you want no spaces between them and lots of spaces where you need to place a currently out-of-place token. Suppose you have an 8 just in front of a 7; you want lots of spaces on either side so that you can move the 7 before the 8 or the 8 after the 7.

Of course, if you can place well in the first phase, that's all to the good. I try to put my 1 and 2 in the first row, 3 and 4 in the second row, etc.... That doesn't quite match the probabilities, but it helps me organize my play. I have also followed the advice in another review that when I have no good play, place extreme numbers at the ends (even if it's the wrong end) and median numbers near the middle.

Luck is still a big factor. You can set it up so that seven rolls help you win and only one helps your opponent, and you can still get hosed. But if you can mitigate the luck well, you can win often.


So, is there player interaction?: Uh.... no, not really. This is pretty much multiplayer solitaire. You can't block another player. I've considered trying to make moves based on my opponent's plays, but I haven't really seen a good way to do that (and despite that lack I'm currently ranked in the top 20 on HappyMeeple). If anyone out there makes plays based on other boards, let me know how you do it! The most I have done is look at other player boards to see how close they are to winning.


So, is there a theme?: There is no theme. Nope. Zip. Nada. If you would like to pretend that the lord of the manor is choosing spots for cultivation so that the serfs can practice the best crop rotation, go for it. If you want to think that you are lining up zombies for their eventual demise (or victory parade), be my guest. But there's no theme.

Here's the thing --- for me, the goal of lining up things in order is visceral. For a game this short (at most five minutes on the computer), I don't need a theme. Moreover, the race aspect gets me going and adds a sense of tension. But if you don't get even a little tiny sense of satisfaction from shelving your media, putting away your dishes, or organizing the files on your computer, you may want to stay away from Finito.

(Note: HappyMeeple recently added sound to their games, and Finito has theme music that sounds like a game show --- that's a pretty apt choice!)


What's the connection to other games?: Finito is a puzzle turned into a game by the introduction of asymmetry in the first phase of the game. The random selection of tokens is the only mechanism that differentiates players --- everyone uses the same die rolls for the entire game.

In this way, it's remarkably similar to FITS. In FITS, everyone places a different Tetris-like figure to start, but afterwards everyone places the same shape every turn (unless the shape that turn was their initial shape). Unlike FITS, Finito is a race game, not a points scoring game, but the underlying principle is the same.

I think of Finito as one of the ur-multiplayer solitaire games (even though it was published after many of them). It's what you would get if you took Agricola or The Castles of Burgundy and removed the player interaction, theme, and complexity. (And if you are terrified by that statement, kindly stay away from the game.)


Gateway, filler, time-waster or waste of time?: Well, I don't really think Finito leads to anything as a gateway. I don't even think of it as akin to the other HappyMeeple games; it certainly doesn't have the player interaction of Lost Cities, for example. I'm not sure I would play it face to face with a group unless I had a number of game newbies or children. But, on the computer and played quickly, it's a great filler. Even though I rank it a 6 on BGG (because I don't always gravitate to it on HappyMeeple), it gets plays from me on a regular basis because of the race tension, the quickness of the game, and the focus on order.
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upandawaygames.com
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You didn't really cover the actual rules which imply multiple rounds. The intermediate scoring introduces further wrinkles.
 
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Mark Schlatter
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heli wrote:
You didn't really cover the actual rules which imply multiple rounds. The intermediate scoring introduces further wrinkles.


Thanks for the notice --- the HappyMeeple implementation just plays one round at a time. Do you find differences in strategy with multiple rounds?
 
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Nicolas Guibert
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Hi Mark,

I am the owner of Happy Meeple. Thanks for mentioning Happy Meeple in your very nice review! I am glad that you liked our recent sound addition BTW.

I initially played Finito! with several rounds. Our rule for counting points is different from the one in the rules book. Instead of giving points to each player depending on how many tokens they have managed to order (up to 12) and playing to a score of 50, we give the winning player a number of points equal to the difference he has made with the other player. So a 12:8 score is replaced by a 4:0. Instead of going to 50 points, we go to 9 for example. I am not sure this would work perfectly for 4 players, but for 2, it is great. It has the added advantage that the trailing player can always come back in the game (even if lead by 8:0), unlike in a soccer where you are losing 4:0 with only a few minutes left (the last minutes of play are useless).

I still hope that some day, we will offer this advanced mode and quite clearly this will spice things up. It is difficult to say by how much, but there is no doubt that in some situations you will have to play a different move depending on the score or the opponent's progress in the round. Shall I go for the quick win and risk a lot of points or make sure that I don't lose by much. Maybe we will add an extra rules to spice things up even more if that's necessary, but then I'll need to see with the game designer if he has any idea. I know that Hartmut has some Finito!'s variants in his books.

Over time, I have read many good reviews of Finito! and I think that it is a very good game. Certainly not deep, but very entertaining.

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