A brief digression to start off with for our non-UK readers who may never have heard of Carol Vordermann.
CV is supposed to be the thinking person's crumpet. A degree in Maths from Oxford (I believe); she strode to fame in Channel Four's flagship programme CountDown, gently teasing the contestants whilst scribbling numbers on a whiteboard faster than the eye could see. Having established herself as both brainy and attractive, she found no shortage of work, there being precisely 0 other brainy and attractive women working in TV at the time (apparently). She has retained popular appeal despite the passage of time and some truly appalling choices in advertising contracts- consolidation loans being the latest.
So here she is, wearing a little black dress and high heels, adorning the box of her very own Sudoku game. And what sort of game is it?
It’s a fairly big chunky box. Inside is a flimsy white plastic board with depressions for the numbered counters, and two sheets of cardboard numbers- green for the starting numbers, reversible red and blue for the players. An egg timer, a piece of red cellophane to be inserted into a cardboard holder (assembly from flat required) and a deck of very small Sudoku grids. That’s your lot.
I bought this discounted to £5.99 so I wasn’t too concerned. The original price was £18.99, at which point I would have felt distinctly ripped off. Whatever CV’s fee was, some of it might possibly have been spent on components instead. A substantial board (rather than that sort of white plastic that rips if you turn it sideways) would have made a lot of difference.
Never mind; let’s look at the game itself. For a start, you can’t accuse them of overcomplicating the game. Of the two obvious ways to make a Sudoku into a game, this was number 2. Player 1 inserts numbers until 1 minute is up. Player 2 inserts numbers until 1 minute is up, and so on for a set number of turns or until the puzzle is finished. Each player scores +1 for each correct number in their colour, -1 for each incorrect number (a penalty that we felt was unfair given that once one incorrect number is down then subsequent play is pretty much bound to be wrong.)
The one unique selling point of this particular game is the red cellophane (remember that?) Each “easy” grid sheet comes with additional numbers in blue. The intention is that the better player views the grid through the cellophane and therefore can’t see the blue numbers. After the grid is set up with the normal numbers, the less skilled player is given the grid and they can add the blue numbers onto the board as and when they like, scoring for them as normal.
This might work better if the cellophane was larger than 10mm x 10mm. But there you go- they tried.
The other use for the cellophane is for the “medium” grids. Should both players get stuck, there are numbers on the medium grids that cannot (easily) be read without the cellophane. A player can “buy” a row of numbers by missing his or her turn. Since the “medium” grids barely make medium grade, it seems unlikely that we will be using that facility.
Cellophane excluded, it has to be said that you could take a normal printed grid and two different coloured pens and pass the grid between you at 1 minute intervals for exactly the same gaming experience.
Verdict- poor components, trivial rules, unnecessary fiddly USP. However since we like Sudoku we were quite happy playing with it nonetheless. It gives exactly the same feeling as looking over someone else’s shoulder while they are doing a puzzle, except that here you keep swapping roles. I expect it will come out a few times, maybe with parents who aren’t into games but like puzzles (although I suspect they will fail to see the point in a big way).
Alternatively you could consider it a cheap way of getting a lot of numbered cardboard counters, with some Sudoku grids (albeit rather easy ones) thrown in.
Finally it is suggested that you could use the grid to do Sudoku puzzles as normal. I wholeheartedly recommend it as such to anyone with an allergy to pens and paper and the patience to fiddle around with 81 cardboard counters. Have fun!
...Well, considering she seems obsessed with plugging Sudoku to the masses in any way, shape and form she can, selling her name to a Sudoku boardgame, whatever the quality, doesn't seem too out of character for her.
Interesting and useful review, anyway.
Thanks "louiseh" for this informative, and "dispel-binding" REVIEW, as I shall now 'avoid' THIS like the "P.R."! Mayhaps "m`lady" there, will even record a "song" of "Su..su..su-do-ku"! oh oh oh-oo-OH!