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Subject: Polarity: a game of unique skill. rss

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david funch
United States
Clarkston
Michigan
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Polarity follows the classic theme of simply pitting black disks against white disks for control of the board. Yet it's the unique combination physical and tactical skill that sperates Polarity from the rest. Every play of a disk is a balancing act and one false move could give your opponent points.

After each player places their 5 foundation disks onto the mat, the game starts. What's required of the players is every turn they must attempt to bring a new disk into play by leaning it against the magnetic field of one of their foundation disks.



It requires a bit of practice to get the feel for where that magnetic cushion is and how to place a disk without disturbing the other pieces, but that's the basic concept right there. Balance a disk without messing up.

If, while placing a disk, you change the game state of what's already on the board, you've just caused a fault. You might've knocked down a disk that was balancing, caused a disk to fly into your hand, caused two or more disks on the board to touch, or a combination of those three. Regardless, you've caused a fault and depending on what type of fault it is, various things happen. Any disks knocked down are left where they lay. Disks that flew into your hand are returned to reserve pile of pieces to play. And Disks that are touching are turned into towers of your opponent's color. It's a little more complicated than that but that's the jist of it.

The game is played in this manner until a player has no more disks in his reserve. Players recieve a point for each disk in their towers (A tower is at least two disk, stacked verticaly) and lose a point for each disk in their reserve.

Once the naunces of how to handle faults is learned, it's a pretty simple game. That's all well and good but that's not what makes the game great. What makes Polarity great is how the the properties of magnetic forces add their own rules to the game. After a couple games it's clear that the written rules mearly provide a framework to fairly judge one player's skill against another, while it's the physical rules of nature that'll dictate where and how you can place a disk.

Understanding the rules nature provides is the key to winning. Disks can be placed and balanced in areas that make it very difficult for your opponent to place a disk in the same area without causing a fault. These situations arrise early because the playing area is not that large. The red center disk also creates a sizeable "no-go" zone, because if it's touched the game is over and the player at fault automatically loses.



The basic concept of leaning a disk against another is fairly simple. So is leaning against a stack of two disk. Trying to do a lean in the middle of a bunch of delicatly balanced disks? Not that simple. Leaning against three disk is very possible and not uncommon to see in a game but it's difficult and unstable. Four disk or more? Forget it. The bigger the stack the bigger it's magnetic field and thus it'll have a bigger impact on the area around it. Those are the basic rules that nature provides and you cannot break them. Try to place a disk "illegally" and you'll cause a fault for sure.

As players progress into the game the stakes are raised. The "safe" areas to play shrink rapidly and there are often two or three disks balancing against each foundation disk. These multi-lean formations can be thought of as "traps". Cause one part of it to fail and the trap will likely spring together every disk that was in the formation, forming a new tower and points for your opponent. What's worse, it might have momentum after snapping together and roll towards another trap, causing a chain reaction. Because of the size of the board and the amount of disks that need to be played, such things are inevitable. However, all those disks are now in a tower instead of spread out, so there's more space to place disks again.

That concept of how the game flows is pretty impressive because it doesn't arrise out of a designer's mechanics. It's from how magnets naturally want to react to each other.

So every gamer should try Polarity twice, once for practice and again for real. Especially if you like area control and/or dexterity games.




 
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Dennis Bingham
Germany
Herford
NRW
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I'd like to add that there are revised instructions on the manufacturers website that are MUCH easier to understand. Nevertheless, i really didn't enjoy playing Polarity and was rather disappointed in it's gameplay. The components are unique and well made but the gameplay lacks behind in my opinion.

Good review though!
 
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