Michael Aucoin was again able to arrive early, so it was the perfect opportunity to give Kris Brum's Dvonn its inaugural playing. Dvonn is the fourth game in the Gipf Project series and, aside from Tamsk, seems to be the easiest to learn. Aside from some rudimentary strategies, however, I'm still not able to get a handle on any long-term planning.
The components Dvonn, as they are in every game in the series, are top notch and a joy to handle. Each player possesses 22 heavy rings, which are made of durable plastic but have the appearance of marble. Plus, there are three red rings, which are known as the Dvonn pieces.
Players alternate placing these rings onto the board, which has very subdued ring images on the gray background. Not a very exciting board, but since the game is abstract, it works nicely. The three red rings are placed first, followed by all of the other rings. Initially, only one ring occupies each space.
Once all rings are in place, the player with the white rings moves first. The movement rules are simple, yet key to the game:
1) Each ring may only move in a straight line.
2) Each ring must come to rest onto an already occupied space, wherein the ring is placed ON TOP of the existing ring or rings.
3) A stack of rings is controlled by the player whose ring is on top. A stack is moved together and MUST be moved a number of spaces equal to the number of rings in the stack.
4) If a ring or stack of rings is completely surrounded on all six sides by other rings, it cannot move.
That's it. Players alternate moving one of their rings or stack of rings until neither player can legally make any further moves. At that point, players stack all of the ring stacks they control and the player with the greatest total number of rings wins.
Now, here is a critical rule: At all times, rings must maintain contact with one of the red 'Dvonn' rings. Contact can either be by being in the same space as the Dvonn ring (on top of it) or connected by an unbroken chain of other rings, whether they are yours or your opponent's. If a ring or rings fail to remain connected, they are removed from the game.
This rule is the real kicker as it forces players to carefully analyze each move to insure that their controlled rings remain in contact with a Dvonn piece. It is quite possible that a single move of a ring or ring stack will cause one or more rings to become disconnected, forcing their removal from the game. It's a great move when this forces the removal of numerous rings of your opponent!
The best tactic, as recommended in the rules, is to keep as many of your rings mobile. Once a stack gets too large, its movement options are severely limited or nonexistent. I tried to keep several single rings and several small stacks (2 or 3 rings). In my second game, I managed to get four consecutive moves at the end of the game without my opponent (Darren) being able to move at all. This proved to be the difference in determining the victor as I was able to capture several of his stacks.
I found the game quite fun, but have a nagging feeling it may suffer the same fate as Tamsk and Zertz. That is, the novelty will wear off after a few playings and they will become a "once or twice a year" game for me. That's understandable when the game is a 3 hour endeavor, but when it is a quick, 20 minute 2-player game, that says more about the game ... and it isn't a good thing. I hope my fears prove unwarranted.
Michael and I fought a close match, with both of our moves expiring at the same time. I managed to win by a few rings.
Later in the evening, I taught the game to Darren. Again, the match was very close throughout, but near the end I had a bit more mobility, allowing me to capture several of his stacks and claim the victory.
Ratings: Greg 6.5, Michael 6, Darren 6