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Subject: Rukshuk: Making Fat Stacks (a review) rss

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David McMillan
United States
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Zen. A state of peace. The sound of the word evokes images of sand gardens and monks dragging giant wooden rakes behind them leaving swirling patterns in their wake. Over there is a gently bubbling fountain, it's bamboo spigot bouncing up and down as it fills up with water and then, full, empties itself. Across the path meanders a peacock. This is bliss.

But there's nothing Zen about Rukshuk. Rukshuk will show you that everything you thought that you knew about stacking rocks was wrong. In the game of Rukshuk, players will be tasked with having to recreate a rock formation shown on a card using a bunch of rocks that have been randomly drawn from a bag. As the timer ticks down and as the rock formations topple over, players will scramble to scrape out as many points as they can in order to emerge King of the Rock Stackers.


Rukshuk comes packaged inside of a large, rectangular pinkish box. On the front of the box we can see the game logo. Beside this, we see a rock formation. At the top of the stack is a bright yellow rock sitting beside a bright green rock. As if defying gravity, they sit precariously on top of a stack of other rocks. The entire structure appears unstable.

Inside of the box we find a bag of multicolored rocks. Some are blue, some white, some green, others pink, and there are a few gold rocks as well. There are also several long flat stones called 'bridge rocks'. As the colors change, the flatness and roundness of the stones begins to decrease. Some rocks are much pointier and jagged than others and this is what creates the real challenge in this game.

Also inside of the box is a score pad, a small hourglass shaped timer, and a deck of cards. The front of each of these cards contains a rock formation that the players are going to attempt to recreate with their own rocks during their turns. The left edge of the card features the name of the game and the right edge of the card contains five circular areas, each of the a different color, along with the point values that each of the colors represents. Gold rocks are worth 6 points apiece.

Pink rocks are worth four. Green are three. Blue are two. White rocks are worth 1 each. The formation on the card has a special name that appears at the bottom of the card. To the bottom left of the formation illustration is a black circle that contains some text which describes the maximum amount of points that can be scored for the formation. Just above this, inside of a red star, are special instructions that are used to up the difficulty. These instructions are optional.

The only other thing in the box is a small, double-sided rules sheet. The front of the sheet contains the rules of the game and the back side contains some notes about several of the features. It does an excellent job of describing the game play and provides just the right amount of illustrative examples.


Each player is given two bridge rocks apiece. Then the deck of Rukshuk cards is shuffled and placed face down onto the table. Once this has been done, you are ready to begin playing.


Each turn is played in the same way. First, each player will blindly draw seven rocks from the bag. Then the top card is flipped over and players are given a few moments to take a good look at the formation.

Next, the timer is started and the players will have until the timer runs out to use the rocks that they have drawn to build the formation on the card. There are a few rocks shown in the formation that, if their position and color match exactly, are worth bonus points. It does not matter which rocks are used to create the formation, though. Players will receive credit for the rocks that are actually a part of the formation at the very least.


First, the players are awarded the base points for the rocks that are used in the formation. For instance, if the players use one bridge rock, 3 white rocks, and a green rock in their formation, they will earn a total of 7 points as their base.

Secondly, the players will then earn bonus points for correctly colored rocks that are in the correct position. If the green rock in the previous example was labeled with a "double points" bonus, then the players total would be 10 points since the green rock would actually be worth 6 points instead of its normal 3.

Thirdly, there is a 3 of a kind bonus of 5 points. If a player has used three rocks of the same color in their formation, then they will receive an additional five points.

Lastly, there is a completion bonus. If the formation has been completed, the player will receive an extra five points for having done so regardless of which rocks were used to complete it.

There is one caveat to scoring, though. If a player has completed a formation incorrectly, then they will only get scored for the rocks leading up to the incorrect portion of the formation.


Before the game even begins, the end game condition should be determined. If playing through every card or even a certain number of cards, then the person who has the highest score at the end is the winner. If playing to a certain point total, then the first person to reach that total is the winner.


This is by far one of the most unique and most challenging games that I have ever played. I've walked past billions of rocks in my lifetime, but it never would have occurred to me to make a game out of them. The ingenuity that went into this game just amazes me.

What makes this game challenging is that each of the rocks in this game have subtle differences in shape and that can make getting them to stack and stay stacked a real battle. As if this weren't bad enough, you are constantly aware of the timer ticking down. As the tension starts ratcheting up, your hands start shaking and then your delicately balanced rock structure crumbles and you find yourself furiously trying to build it back up again.

I know that doesn't like it would be a lot of fun, but somehow, it is. This game is just amazing and it's one of the most fun games that I have ever had the pleasure of playing. If you've never played Rukshuk, then you don't know what you're missing and you should rectify that as soon as possible.
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