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Subject: Ancient Tribal Code Breaking rss

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Gary Dickson
United States
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Somewhere in the mind of Eric Jome there lies a mad tribal witchdoctor bent on cracking the code of the wolf, the deer, the owl and the serpent. I have played this game several times now and at all player counts. It is very much a code breaking game. But, not your run of the mill, puzzle-like code. No, this code is something special.

It's quite simple on the surface. Each player takes the role of either the wolf, the deer, the owl or the serpent. As such each player has a unique goal — one wants the sun/moon in front of them, another player wants moon/stars, another sun/stars and the serpent wants either all three in front of *any* player or for the game to end with no winner (cleverly making them the winner). Toward those ends a turn consists of drawing a card and playing a card (from the two that you now hold). Each cards effect is to move cards around the table. Sometimes this is a single card which you may move one or two spaces and some times this is moving two cards — one to be with another and the other moves on. There are also two cards that allow you to swap cards in different ways.

With two players the game is pretty ok. With three players it's pretty good. But with four players the game really sings. Every game is a new code and as each player tries new strategies the code becomes not just the order of the cards but that mixed with the unique set of personalities sitting around the table. Manipulating the cards can hinge not just on what you think you know about the cards around the table but also who is holding them and what strangeness they are capable of.

A good micro game is dang hard to design. Quite honestly this game perplexes me. It leaves me wanting to play it again and again — wanting to try something different every time. So, while I hesitate to say this game is "great." The mere fact that I am left always wanting to play it again tells me that there is some greatness here. It plays quick and scratches a deep itch, an ancient tribal code-breaking itch. How many games can you say that about?!

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