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Subject: Claiming's easy, but can you hold on to what you got? rss

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W. Eric Martin
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Apex
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This review first appeared on FunandBoardgames.com.

The urge to gamble seems hardwired in the human system: We date people we know nothing about, we take on ill-defined jobs that promise future riches, and we create new humans who cause all kinds of havoc in the lives of everyone around them.

No wonder then that we crave gambling in our games as well—but unlike the hazards of everyday life, playing the odds in a boardgame has few consequences beyond the ability to strut in victory or watch someone else do the strutting.

Claim It!, the debut game from Wattsalpoag Games in Bellevue, Washington, offers a new take on push-your-luck-style gambling games. Players take turns attempting to claim land plots on a 6x6 gameboard in the hope of holding onto the largest connected group of plots when the game ends.

At the start of a player’s turn, he rolls three regular dice, then claims a free space on the board. One die determines which of the six numbered rows you land in, the second die which numbered column, and the third die which of six temporary “squatter” tokens you can place. At the start of the game, your options are numerous; rolling 2, 4, and 5 on the dice, for instance, allows you to place a squatter marker in one of six areas.

After placing a squatter, you can end your turn, replace the squatter with a colored marker, and let the next player take her turn, but you’ll need lots more turf to win, so keep rolling! As long as you place a squatter marker on the board—or cap a previously claimed space with a security marker—you can end your turn and claim your spoils. Fail to place a marker, though, and you lose everything you gained that turn.

Placing a black security marker on your land prevents another player from swiping it, in addition to making the plot off-limits for all future die rolls, thereby upping the odds of a player busting. Once a player has secured 6-13 plots (with the number of players determining exactly how many), everyone takes one final turn, then the player with the most adjacent plots wins.

Claim It! plays quickly with two players, and while you’re at the mercy of the dice, you often have options in terms of attacking an opponent, defending old claims, and opening new ground. Busting isn’t too severe as a lone opponent can claim only so much ground on her turn. With more players, though, your marker placement is more restricted, and sometimes you want to play safe simply to secure a piece or two to give you a foothold on the board. Downtime could possibly be an issue with four or five players. On other players’ turns you can only urge them to attack someone else or browbeat them into trying to claim too much, but those options seem perfect for a light family game.

Claim It! appeared at Spiel with practically no advance notice, but it’s a fine first game from Wattsalpoag. With four other games in the pipeline for 2007, they’ll hardly escape notice next year.
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