A gem in the rough, there's more to it than meets the eye, harder than you might think initially.
These are some statements that could describe this game in a nutshell and furthermore, they offer me a great opening to start my review of the game.
The usual disclaimers apply : English is not my native language, yadda yadda and so on. On to the details!
Once upon a time, when animals spoke with each other and dino's held delicious barbeques (hey, if you have one ridiculous statement involving conversating hedgehods, there's always room for another), there was a small gaming company that threw Glory to Rome on the unsuspecting gaming market. Let us just say that this is an AAPEP review so we will just quickly and very briefly stick two thumbs up for Glory to Rome. If you don't have it, consider purchasing this brilliant game :-) Especially if you think that San Juan with "more" and "better" sounds like a good thing.
So from that same company, I got hold of Aapep and initially thought : "Does the world REALLY need another abstract?".
The game doesn't come in a typical box (like you except from a bigger publisher) but in the same material as Glory to Roam : a sturdy plastic container that I suspect being more resistant to pressure than a plain cardboard box. What else is in there? The gameboard, the 11 tiles, some glass beads (the markers), some pokerchips to denote the colours and the manual. All decently produced (coming from a smaller gaming company) and decent enough but of course, lacking the 'professional' feel. My only major concern is the fact that the tiles are a bit too thin. I did't have problems picking up the tiles myself but my friend (poor guy : he has somewhat chubby fingers ;-) ) did find it difficult to juggle the tiles around.
Gameplay (for 2 players) :
It's not a difficult game : you have 16 spaces (4x4 spaces) which can be filled with thin tiles (11 in total), each containing a number of yellow and/or black sides (always 4 in total of course yet each tile will have different `distributions` : there`s a tile with 4 black sides, 4 yellow sides, 2 yellow and 2 black sides alternating, 3 and 1, and so on...). They might represent pyramids (seen from above) but as it's an abstract, they are the abstracted representations of their greater counterparts. These 11 tiles are placed next to the gameboard before the game begins. Next up are also two shadow markers, which are placed on two opposite corners during the setup.
During your turn and while there are still any unplaced tiles, the day phase evolves. Each player can now pick a tile, place it somewhere on the board where he can spot a free space (there`s no previously played tile nor a shadow marker on that space) and after the placement, move one of the two shadow markers to another free space. This goes back and forth until one player can 'see' 4 sides of his/her colour from one of the sides of the main board. If the black player spots 4 black sides after placing one of the tiles, he/she has won. The manual also states to place a blocking marker (more of that later on) but frankly : I was wondering what the use of that would be (except for the last two tiles in the day phase). Have all the 11 tiles been finally placed without any player reaching a winning situation, the night phase will take over.
During this night phase, you will also be using two markers to 'block' your previously played piece (those blocking markers I mentioned before). A typical turn now changes : instead of placing a new tile, you will be picking up a tile (mandatory) and place it somewhere else (rotating is allowed as long as you don't place the tile on the original location!) + put your blocking marker on this tile. Move a shadow marker and that's it. The players will be moving (/rotating) the 11 tiles during their turn until one of the two players will succeed in establishing 4 same-coloured sides.
As there are two phases to the game, you always have to think one or two steps ahead and always have to consider the available tiles and which tile you will be playing next : during the day phase, we quickly discovered that it's rather easy to block each player from reaching a winning condition so after our second game, nobody ever won a game during this phase. Furthermore : we also discovered that the 4 corners can be quite powerful when two sides of your colour are thus immediately visible (without your opponent being able to block those during this phase).
Before reaching the second phase, it would be wise to 'prepare' the tiles during the `day` for a future nightly victory and think ahead of the possibilities : what if situations raise their wondering heads and you start thinking along the lines of : 'if I place that marker there or there, if I rotate that tile so or so, etc...'
There are some strategies but as said before : you won't be crunching those grey cells to death At least, we didn`t
Hmm... After having played this game now for over a week at work and bring this game along to a gaming night (so I'm now close to 10 plays with 2P and 2 plays with 4P), I have some mixed feelings about this game. The following only applies for the 2P part of the game as I don`t feel that my experience with 3P or 4P doesn`t warrant an honest review on more than two players.
It's certainly NOT a bad game, offering a quick abstract that's extremely portable (just bring along the board, the 11 tiles, 2 blocking markers and 2 shadow markers), it's quick to explain and almost as quick to play (each game clocking in around 10 to 15 minutes when both players are somewhat experienced). But the strategies get thin after a while and you are somewhat wishing for a little bit more. Alas, I can't accurately describe that "little bit more" but why do I keep on coming back to Abalone to give a small example? Another easy to explain abstract and that's where the comparison ends but there's something addictive about it which will not grow repetitive after 10 plays. That might be the word that best describes my current feel about the game : it has a somewhat repetitive nature as the strategies become quite clear after a few plays and then the victory is awarded to the player that didn't make a mistake while playing. I might be wrong, we might be playing this wrong but feel free to correct me, I always welcome the feedback!
So : Aapep is certainly a decent game and my rating is momentarily swinging between a 6 and 7 (with a small and slight preference towards the 7)
It's a Zendrum. www.zendrum.com
Thanks for the review of my game!
why do I keep on coming back to Abalone to give a small example? Another easy to explain abstract and that's where the comparison ends but there's something addictive about it which will not grow repetitive after 10 plays.
This is an amazingly interesting comment to me, as I adore Abalone, rating it a 9. To say that Aapep is more addictive is a wonderful comment, thanks.
There's an old chess saying (I'm sure someone out there can tell me who said it) that the winner of a chess game is the person who makes the next to last mistake. Aapep often has that feel, of setting the trap and seeing who mis-steps. Whether or not that's a good thing is a purely personal choice. Sometimes I feel like a game like that, sometimes I don't.
As far as material in the game's construction, well, lets see how this first print run goes...
And for someone who is not a native English speaker, you certainly write better than a lot of the locals.
I hope you continue to enjoy it as the little mental filler it is!