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Stephen Tavener
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Plateau is a challenging mixture of strategy and bluff, played on a 4x4 grid. The objective of Plateau is either to capture 6 of your opponent's pieces, or to build a stack of your own pieces 6 high.

While the game is fairly simple in essence, there are quite a lot of rules, so I've tried to give you an overview, without getting too bogged down with the detail.

(Incidentally, the inventor has come to the conclusion that the best way to learn Plateau is if someone teaches you, so he has created a computer version of the game which will act as a simple step by step tutorial. The program is available free from his web page, http://www.plateaugame.com/, and is well worth a look. If you manage to beat the program, which isn't too difficult once you have learned the rules, then you are entitled to a $5 discount off the price of a game. If you do visit the plateau web page, have a look at the section on the history of Plateau, where there is a fascinating tale of Jim Albea's long struggle to make Plateau a success.)

Anyway, back to the game itself. Play starts with each player putting a stack of two pieces on one of the border squares of the 4x4 board. After this, players may do any one of the following each turn:

"onboarding" - players may introduce a piece onto the board. Pieces can be placed in an empty space, on top of a friendly stack of pieces, or even in the middle of a friendly stack.
Moving a stack - direction of movement is determined by the top piece in the stack, distance by the height of the stack. Players are allowed to flip the top piece in their stack over before moving it, which may change its movement and/or capturing ability. Pieces can be picked up or dropped off from the stack as it moves, and it may make a capture at the end of the move.
Exchange of prisoners - a player may offer one or more captured pieces for exchange with the opponent. The opponent must return prisoners to an equal value, if possible (values of pieces are set out in the rules).
The movement of a stack is determined by the colour on top of the stack when it moves. Note that the top piece can be flipped before a move, possibly giving your opponent a nasty shock! The pieces may have various combinations of colours on each side, from the humble mute (blank on each side), to the mighty Ace (red and blue). The colours are as follows:

blue pieces, which move diagonally
red pieces, which move orthogonally
orange pieces, which move something like chess knights
blank pieces, which move orthogonally or diagonally, but may neither capture nor cover an opponent's piece
Apart from the orange pieces (which always move the same distance), the distance moved is limited by the height of the stack, i.e. a stack two pieces high can move a maximum of two spaces.

Plateau is a game of limited information; at the start of the game, the game box is placed between the players as a screen, behind which they can hide their off-board pieces. When the pieces are in play, only the top side of the pieces are visible, and it is only when your piece is flipped or captured that your opponent gets to see whether you placed a piece as a harmless decoy, a sacrifice, or a vicious attack.

One of the best features of Plateau is the size of the board; with only 16 squares, there is no easy escape from your opponent's attacks, and pieces can easily be placed to serve more than one purpose. For instance, you could place a piece so as to threaten an opponent's piece, to simultaneously defend a stack of your own pieces, and with an additional threat that the piece could be picked up by a moving stack for an instant win on the next move!

I like this game a lot; the hidden information adds greatly to the excitement, and yet there's enough scope for strategy that the bluffing doesn't dominate the game. At the same time, the bluff elements interest people who wouldn't otherwise play abstract games. I also like the efficient packaging; by using the box itself as a screen, the inventor has managed to squeeze the whole game into a video box.

(This review originally appeared in G3 magazine)
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