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Subject: Creeper review rss

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Jason Arvey
United States
Arlington
Virginia
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I’m a fan of abstract games that combine two interesting mechanics into a finely-tuned experience, so when I saw Creeper, my interest was immediately piqued. Creeper involves both linking two sides of a board (by placing tokens on octagonal spaces) and capturing pieces (either by jumping a peg over an opponent’s token, thereby flipping it, or by jumping a peg over an opponent’s peg). The combination was irresistible and, as it turns out, works very well indeed. Unfortunately, there is also disappointment in this box: uncharacteristically of a PIN game, the components are somewhat sub-par. So, first the bad news…

The components look great at first – a nice wooden board with cleanly drilled holes, nice, sizeable wooden disks, clearly printed octagon and square pattern on the board, and perfectly-shaped depressions to hold the pieces – everything one would expect from PIN. But, on further inspection, not ev4erythign was as nice as they seemed. The first problem was with the box. The box has a cardboard tray inside. It’s got a lot of internal empty space to provide padding for the board nestled inside. Usually this is a good thing. With Creeper, though, it proposes a problem: if the tokens come out of their beveled nests, they can slide inside the cardboard tray, and then you either have to shake the tray seemingly endlessly until they fall back out, or you have to unfold it (and then remember how to refold it). The next problem is with the tokens themselves. They are a deep brown, with a white circle painted on one side. I would have far preferred a black circle painted on the other side, for symmetry’s sake, but this alone is merely cosmetic. The problem then comes with matching the tokens to the board. The empty spaces are natural wood, the dark corners are colored dark brown to match the dark brown tokens… so, logically, the white corners should be painted white to match the white sides of the tokens. But they’re not; the white corners are filled with thin brown diagonal lines which make them look in between light and dark brown – certainly not white. Finally, the game comes with sixteen metallic pegs. They sit nicely into the holes, either tall or short, depending on which side is up. Short, they are hard to pick out of the holes — not much stands above the board to hold on to. So, they’re better to play with when tall… but, you can’t store them when they stand that way because they’re too tall to fit in the box. So, whenever you’re done playing, you have to flip all the little pegs to their short sides before packing it away. The little annoyances of the pieces add up to be frustrating, but, fortunately nowhere near game-ruining.

That’s the bad news, and as bad news goes, these are mild problems that Creeper makes up for in design and gameplay. As I said before, there are two mechanics involved in Creeper. It is the goal of each player to build a continuous chain of adjacent octagons (diagonals don’t count) connecting his or her two corners of the board. You do this by moving pegs along the squares that meet at the intersections of octagons: if you jump a peg over an octagon, you get to place a token of your color on the octagon. If your opponent has an octagon in your way, you can jump it, flipping it to your color. Moreover, you can jump your opponent’s pegs, capturing them. The linking and flipping/jumping mechanics work hand in hand to present both a strategic goal of forming your chain and a tactical puzzle in determining how best to avoid being captured while still being in position to further build your chain of tokens. The rules are simple and elegant, with games lasting only 20 minutes or so, but they are rewarding, offering interesting options and a tight endgame. It’s a pity about the pieces, though, because they’re so close to perfect.
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