Billabong has just been re-issued by Franjos. Oggie obviously still has fond memories of spending a year down under as he quickly scooped up a copy at the annual Essen games buying frenzy.
The game is about racing kangaroos around a billabong. Or, for anyone who lives outside of Australia, a pond. It consists of a cloth board, five wooden kangaroos in each of four colours and a black referee kangaroo. The board is rectangular and is marked with a grid. The billabong is in the middle of the board and a stream runs from it to one edge. This forms both the start and finish line. The players position each of their kangaroos in any square they want behind the start line, and the race begins. In his turn, a player moves one of his kangaroos. It can be moved to any adjacent square, or it can jump over a kangaroo. There are two rules for jumping. First the kangaroo being jumped over must be in the exact middle of the jump (i.e. the start and end positions of the jump must be the same distance from the kangaroo being jumped). Second, only one kangaroo can be jumped over in a single jump. Multiple jumps can be chained together in a turn, allowing kangaroos to move a good distance around the board.
Myself and Andy had played the game just a week previously. As we had it explained by somebody on the Franjos stall we were in the rather unusual position for our group of being able to play the game with the correct rules. We were joined by The Boog; a Billabong virgin.
The line up saw us all jockeying for position, placing kangaroos in anticipation of long jumps from the start whilst trying to block good moves for anybody else. Our earlier game game me and Andy a small advantage as it took The Boog a few turns to get the hang of setting up, and exploiting, opportunities for multiple jumps. He was soon in the middle of the throng though as we each tried to work our kangeroos to best effect. By the second bend we'd managed to clump all of the beasts so tightly that progress was slowed to a crawl. Andy had managed to work his way to the front of the clump though and when he finally managed to break away myself and the Boog were left eating dust.In the final reckoning, Andy took the race by a couple of turns with The Boog hopping in in last place.
I'm not usually a big fan of abstract games, which this one basically is. However, it gives a nice puzzle solving feeling each move as you attempt to plot the best move. Spotting a good multiple jump opportunity is particularly satisfying, especially when it ruins an opponents best laid plans.
Ratings (/10, for this session) All 7's