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Subject: A deceptively simple abstract rss

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Boyd Ludlow
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Connections is a two player abstract strategy game. It is based on a simple idea with a short and easy to comprehend set of rules. It is a quick and easy game to learn but not a light game, it allows for a quite large and complex set of actions. It is also impossible to have a drawn game.

The board is solid and consists of two overlapping but offset 5x6 grids of raised squares; one set in red the other in white. Each player has 21 octagonal tiles with a stripe of their colour (red or white) stretching across the tile. The tiles fit between the raised squares connecting two squares of the same colour and blocking the connection between the two squares of the opposite colour.

I have the travel version of the game. This means that the board (made of plastic) is smaller and hinged in the middle allowing the game to be folded on half with the tiles inside. The catches are very robust and the game can take some punishment while closed and show little effect. The tiles are also plastic and the overall quality is very good. The only possible problem is with the transfers used for the red and white stripes and squares; these will show wear after repeated use, but not enough to detract from the game.

The goal is to either create a path of your colour from one side of the board to the other or form an unbroken loop around an area of your opponents colour. The red player is trying to connect the red sides the white player the orthogonally opposite white sides. A loop can be around as small an area as one of the raised squares of the opponents colour on the board.

Game Play
Sitting at ninety degrees to each other the two players take alternate turns to place a tile onto the board so that it joins two squares of their colour. That is pretty much it. The interest comes from working out what your opponent is trying to achieve and how to prevent them from their goal while promoting you own plan.

I find that games normally start with a lot a caging manoeuvring for position until one player feels that they can force the other player’s hand. At this point the game tends to take on an act/react shape as the aggressor plays a piece in such a way that their opponent has only one valid move. This can continue until the defence is exhausted and the aggressor wins, but if they have miscalculated the roles can swap instantly.

Connections is incredibly quick and easy to learn. It has zero percent luck so an experienced player will generally beat a novice on their first few games until the novice gets the feel for the different gambits involved. Losing your first couple of games is not a big deal however as each game is so quick to play. Games can last anywhere from 2 to 15 minutes depending on how evenly matched the two players are and how much analysis is carried out.

If you enjoy spatial puzzles then you will probably enjoy this game. If you like short abstracts with a high replayability value it is also a good choice. If you are looking for something with a deep theme and reason look elsewhere. Personally this in one of my favourite games and I’m always up to play but I can understand that if you aren’t into abstracts that you won’t enjoy this.
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