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Subject: Looking at LYNGK — A Review rss

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Rex Moore
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LYNGK is described as the "seventh title" in the GIPF solar system, and "acts as a synthesis of the project.” Keep in mind that this is a series that originally had six games, then had one kicked out of the system like poor Pluto, another added in, and now this “final” synthesis game… the eighth game, but seventh title, in a six-game series.

Clear enough? (Apologies to my non-English-speaking friends running this through Google Translate.)

But even if Kris Burm struggles to keep the GIPF universe under control, he is my favorite abstract designer, and I credit him with getting me back into abstracts with a passion once the GIPF series started rolling out. So yes, I was really looking forward to Lyngk!

Quick rules summary

To start, 43 pieces — eight each of five different colors plus three of another “wild” color — are placed randomly on a size 4 “hexhex” board. There are six strange starting spaces outside each of the six hex edges. Here's the setup image from the rulebook:



• All moves consist of moving an entire stack (or single piece) in a straight line and on top of another stack (or single piece). No moving onto empty spaces, only over them.

• At the start, all pieces are neutral and may be moved by either player. At the start of a turn, a player may “claim” one of the five colors, and from that point is the only one who can move a stack with that color on top. Players will eventually claim two each of the five colors, and the fifth color remains neutral.

• The three wild pieces can represent any color in a stack, but are never moved on their own — other pieces may be stacked on them, or they may be moved as part of a stack.

• A stack may never contain more one piece of any color, and thus can grow to a max of five pieces high.

• Once a player makes a five-piece stack with their color on top, they pull it off the board and it counts as one point at the end of the game.

• Now, here is a rule that I think adds greatly to the depth (and fun) of the game: Neutral pieces or stacks can never jump onto a stack higher than theirs. However, a claimed color’s piece or stack may move onto any size stack (as long as it stays within the stack-composition rule I mentioned above).

• The final twist is what’s called the LYNGK-rule. It “networks” together any claimed-color stacks or pieces that could reach each other via a normal move (i.e., either adjacent or separated by only empty spaces). Thus, a piece or stack can move along this network in one single move as long as it ends its turn normally on another piece or stack. This rule sets up some really nice combinations toward the end of the game.

When all moves are exhausted, add up the 5-piece stacks that were removed from the board to see who won… with the 4-, 3- and 2-stacks still on the board used as tiebreakers.

So how does the game play?

First let me say that Lyngk didn’t quite grab me from the start like some of the other Gipf games. Especially the brilliant Tzaar… my favorite of the series. (I still remember the thrill of larger stacks chasing smaller one around the board my first couple of Tzaar plays!)

But after my first couple of Lyngk games, I kept thinking about it. The different possibilities each turn for tipping things to your advantage. When to claim a color. Whether to play offensively or defensively, etc. And then I was ready to hop back in and play some more.

Here are some of my observations:

• The idea of colors not belonging to anyone until they’re claimed is genius. How soon should you claim a color, and what do you want the board to look like when you do? Ideally, your claimed color would have a few stacks already, especially since you don’t want a bunch of neutral pieces jumping on your color’s singles. Of course, if you wait too long, then your opponent is going to claim that color. Oh, the tension!

• I also really like the sudden “power burst” you get when you claim a color… meaning those pieces/stacks can now jump onto stacks of any height.

• Should you use your turn to jump a neutral piece onto your opponent’s piece (thus taking it out of play as a potential 5-stack)? Unclear. I did that for awhile but soon fell behind in finished stacks.

• How to best set up “lyngks" for yourself? Don’t know yet… at this point they’ve only happened to me by chance.

• Pay attention to the pieces starting in the six weird spots. They’ll be isolated more quickly than others since they only have two lines to move into the main arena. That could work for or against you.

Summary

It took a couple of plays to get the rules down and figure out what I should be doing, but Lyngk got addictive pretty quickly. It seems to bring the typical Gipf-series fun and “a-ha!” moments, with plenty of strategy and tactics to think about.

I don’t think it will surpass Tzaar or Yinsh for me, but then again it’s too early to tell where it will rank with the rest of Burm’s eight-game (and counting?) series. After all, it took me awhile to warm up to Yinsh, and now it’s a close second for me in the Burm-iverse.

It’s going to take dozens of plays to get a good feel for Lyngk. But, that will be time well spent, and I’m looking forward to it!
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W. Eric Martin
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orangeblood wrote:
Here's the setup image from the rulebook:

That's one example of set-up. You lay out the pieces randomly, which provides for more variety across multiple games.
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Russ Williams
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W Eric Martin wrote:
orangeblood wrote:
Here's the setup image from the rulebook:

That's one example of set-up. You lay out the pieces randomly, which provides for more variety across multiple games.

That part of the review does explicitly say that the pieces "are placed randomly".
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Petr Míka
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How long does it usually take to play the LYNGK?
 
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Dvonn Yinsh
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Very fast game. 15 minutes usually. 30 minutes tops.
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Nick Bentley
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Great, concise review. I'm impossibly excited. Burm's games have influenced me so utterly I can't design a game that doesn't end up with him in it.

LYNGK's publication is like God issuing an 11th commandment.
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Dvonn Yinsh
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milomilo122 wrote:


LYNGK's publication is like God issuing an 11th commandment.


I wouldn't mind a 12th commandment in the future...
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David Akenson
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This one seems a little baroque and seems to lack the 'simple to learn' aspect of his other games. However, I've only read the rules, not played. I will have to buy it in any case to add to the series. Nice to see colour also.
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Florian Trabert
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Thanks for sharing your impressions with us. I am especially excited about the timing aspect (when to claim a color). But I wonder how the game feels in the first couple of moves, since it seems hard to settle on a strategy when all the colors are still neutral.
 
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Russ Williams
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Tangential issue: with so many colors (including red, green, blue) used as (apparently) the only way to distinguish pieces, this looks like the first GIPF series game which is potentially problematic to play for color-blind people. (I wonder whether it was playtested with various color-blind people.)
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Sam
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Though they look like standard gipf pieces (in funky colours) which probably means you can use some e.g. tzaar pieces if you have problems with one of the colours.
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Brian Wittman
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is there an option for a standard setup or placement phase?

i dont like random setups.
 
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Dvonn Yinsh
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The random set up works in this game because none of the colours belong to either player. Part of the interesting decision tree is to decide which colour to claim (and when).

I would recommend you play it first before changing the rules. Conceivably, at setup, you could come up with some kind of fixed pattern, or you could take turns laying down the pieces one at a time so that it is not random, but I don't think it would add anything to the game.
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David Molnar
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candoo wrote:
milomilo122 wrote:


LYNGK's publication is like God issuing an 11th commandment.


I wouldn't mind a 12th commandment in the future...


oh, we got that...

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Brian Wittman
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candoo wrote:
"The random set up works in this game because none of the colours belong to either player."


There is still p1 and p2, the fact that the colors don't belong to anybody isn't relevant.

Even if you ignore the fact that some setups may result in first turns where p1 cant find any sufficiently balanced moves for pie, you still have the issue of one player getting a setup their familiar with while the other has never played one like it. They could both have trained equally hard at as many different setups as possible but one of them just gets lucky.

I suppose you could have meant to say that the opening is so opaque that it feels random? In which case that's fine for beginners, but the best games tend to give advanced players meaningful decisions within the first 5-10 turns. In which case random setups will occasionally cause one of the issues I mention above.

candoo wrote:
Conceivably, at setup, you could come up with some kind of fixed pattern, or you could take turns laying down the pieces one at a time so that it is not random, but I don't think it would add anything to the game.


So I already described what it would add, the only possible downside is that making the game too balanced could make draws too common, but with stacks on the board breaking ties that seems unlikely.

I'd probably find a few setups that seem balanced and interesting and just focus on those, but its nice when the designer/publisher does that work for me.

Of course previous games in the series have been good about giving options for these things, so i wouldn't be surprised if they offer some standard setups for this one too.
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Rex Moore
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simpledeep wrote:
candoo wrote:
"The random set up works in this game because none of the colours belong to either player."


There is still p1 and p2, the fact that the colors don't belong to anybody isn't relevant.


I think it is relevant in this case, because unless there is a setup that is very heavily advantaged to one color, no one is going to claim a color the first turn. And while we all only have a handful of plays under our belts, I’m having a hard time imagining a heavily advantaged setup. The reason is because if a color is claimed the first turn, there is much sabotage the other player can do the first couple of turns after a claim… turning an advantage into a disadvantage.


It’s interesting to look at the three games in this series that start with a full board:

Tzaar does have standard setups you can use, or you can use the “tournament version” where each player takes turns placing a piece on the board.

Lyngk says to place the pieces randomly, but there’s no reason you can’t do a “tournament version” setup if you wanted.

Dvonn calls for players to alternate placing pieces.

In all my games of Tzaar (about 115 played), I can’t recall a random setup that helped one side over the other. I’d guess it’s even less of an issue with Lyngk.

A random setup in Dvonn, on the other hand, could easily help one player over another. (And I wish there were a standard setup for it! I don't enjoy the long online process of placing the pieces. Face-to-face would be better.)
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Alan Kwan
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I think it's quite easy to show that claiming a color in the early game is detrimental. The game is largely about eliminating your opponent's colors by capturing them. If you claim a color early game, when most of your pieces are single pieces, your opponent can easily target them by capturing them with neutral pieces, while you don't have a target to attack because your opponent has not yet claimed.

You have to wait so that your opponent has to claim a color in return in order to effectively attack your pieces. Otherwise it's like an exposed, weak army fighting a concealed guerrilla. If you're exposed, you need to be stronger in force in order to win the battle.
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Robert Quillen
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russ wrote:
Tangential issue: with so many colors (including red, green, blue) used as (apparently) the only way to distinguish pieces, this looks like the first GIPF series game which is potentially problematic to play for color-blind people. (I wonder whether it was playtested with various color-blind people.)


I have a rather strong red/green color-blindness. And these (in the pictures at least) don't give me any issue. The red is a strong dark red and the green is a weak light green, making it easy for me to tell them apart.

Having said that I would say the green pieces are actually tan to me, but that doesn't matter since I only need to tell them apart, not identify their color.
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David McKenna
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In every game I have played so far, the person who chose a color first has lost. This leads me to believe that at some point my opponent and I will engage in a game of "chicken" as to who can hold out the longest before claiming. It'll be like a Tootsie Pop in reverse.
 
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Aaron M
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thataudioguy wrote:
In every game I have played so far, the person who chose a color first has lost. This leads me to believe that at some point my opponent and I will engage in a game of "chicken" as to who can hold out the longest before claiming. It'll be like a Tootsie Pop in reverse.


For us, picking the color has also been a game of chicken but with the opposite effect.

We build up a few stacks of 3 around the board making and breaking the power buildup and eventually someone claims that first color to block or to claim one of the burgeoning stacks through a LYNGK move. In our games first to claim has won more than lost. We are still learning the nuances of the game. The buildup may be a side-effect of our love for ZERTZ coming in and heavily influencing our play styles.

The game fits extremely well with the other project GIPF games and has been a blast to play.

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Rich Gowell
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I second that. Lyngk is at least for now my favorite gipfer. Lots of rich decision making.
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