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Subject: Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future rss

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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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The GIPF project has changed the way people approach abstracts. Kris Burm's family of games has shown us that one single idea can spawn an entire series of games that share a similar concept yet are diverse in their goals and different in their approaches. This is the fundamental idea behind the GIPF project and it works extremely well. Some of the games, such as Yinsh (28), DVONN (61), and ZERTZ (95) are popular enought to reside in the top 100 of Boardgamegeek which is quite an accomplishment. However the other games haven't quite attained the status of their 3 big brothers. TAMSK is one of these and is often looked at as the worst of the GIPF family. Burm has even gone so far as to officially remove it in favor of his new creation TZAAR which he feels better fits the GIPF family. Does TAMSK deserve to be excommunicated, or does it deserve a spot on your shelf?


Rules

TAMSK is a game for 2 players. The goal is to use more rings than your opponent.

To start the game, each player takes 32 rings and places them on a ring holder. Each player also chooses one of the colors of sand timers and places them on the corners of the board alternating between red and black.



There are 3 levels of complexity to the game which provides a way for players to learn the ropes.

The basic game is the easiest way to play and gets players used to the basic mechanics. On a player's turn, he will move one of his pieces to an adjacent space. He may then place a ring on that space. Pieces may only move to unoccupied spaces that are still open. A space closes when the rings around it match its height. The outer spaces are 1 ring high, the next spaces are 2, the inner ring is 3, and the center space is 4. Once a space is closed, pieces can no longer move into it. This ultimately creates a situation in which pieces get trapped with no more moves. If a player cannot make a move, he may pass. The player who has less rings left at the end is the winner.

The second step of the game is where the real fun comes in. The same rules apply as the basic game but every time a timer is move, it must be flipped over. If a timer runs out of sand, it's dead an cannot move for the rest of the game. Additionally, each player must move all 3 of his pieces on his first 3 moves of the game. He can move any pieces after all three have been moved once. The win condition is the same, but in addition to losing pieces to being trapped, a player can lose pieces when they run out of time.

The third level has all the rules of step 2 but adds on last layer of complexity. On a player's turn, his opponent can flip a 15 second timer. If the acting player does not finish within the 15 seconds, he must skip his next turn. He may finish his current turn and place a ring as normal, but he must forego his next one. The 15 second timer cannot be flipped again until it runs out of time.

Additionally, any time a player chooses not to place a ring or forgets to, his opponent may place a ring on the space which the acting player skipped.


Components

TAMSK doesn't have a lot of components but what it does have is solid and attractive in its own abstract way.

To start, the ring holder is made of a reasonably strong black plastic that matches the look and feel of the board. Its not spectacular, but its basically just a rack to store your rings.



The rings themselves are made of a plastic that feels heavier than it looks like it should be. For such a small piece of plastic it has considerable weight and almost feels like stone instead of plastic. They are polished to a glossy finish which adds to the presentation.

The board is made of a semi-rigid plastic. The spaces are raised holes that allow the sandtimers to sit firmly in place without fear of knocking them over. Each of the spaces is connected by raised lines so you can always see where you are allowed to move your pieces. My board seems to have a slight warp to it, but I think that's because it was in the box the wrong way. I have corrected it and I think it will work out fine.

The most important part of this game is the timers. They look pretty much like any timer you would find in any other game, but a bit taller. The height is actually a bit of a problem because when turned over they tilt in the spaces. They also seem to have a bit of a channel through each end. The timers could really benefit from a slightly wider base, but this could impede the ease with which they go in and out of the spaces. The tilt doesn't seem to affect the sand running through so I don't feel like its a problem. I'm sure there are occassional issues with timers not being equal but I haven't noticed that issue with my pieces.


Gameplay

Frantic. In a word, thats how I would describe TAMSK. On a player's turn, all you need to do is move one piece and place a ring. But the constant falling of sand gets inside your head. This game has a huge psychological factor because you constantly feel like you don't have enough time. Even though the sandtimers have 3 minutes worth of sand, it never seems like there's any left so you constantly feel rushed to make a move and this often leads to sub-optimal maneuvers.

The key to playing TAMSK is to stay calm. You need to make the time work for you instead of working against it. If you can manipulate your opponent's use of the 15 second timer as well, you will be ahead psychologically and probably on the board too. The psychological game here is just as important as the actual gameplay.

While the sandtimers are great the game plays surprisingly well without them. The gameplay boils down to a simple game about position and timing in which each move is more important than the last. While simple, the base game is still a challenge. This is surely one of the key reasons why the full game is so good. When you add the extra dimension of time as a limited resource to a solid base mechanic you have a winning combination of simplicity and depth that many games strive to reach and fail.


Theme

TAMSK is an abstract strategy game so there's no theme here.


Compare it to...

The other GIPF family of games. Although TAMSK is a bit different from the other games due to its use of sand timers, the basic principle is the same. Simple rules with deliciously tough decisions.


Overall

TAMSK is a wonderfully different game that really stands out. While some people see the timers as a gimmick, I see it as a unique way of adding resource management to an abstract. If abstracts stepped out of the box like this one does there would probably be a lot more people that would enjoy them.

I can't really understand the decision to remove TAMSK from the GIPF Project. I've played YINSH and DVONN and TAMSK is on par with them. If its purely for aesthetic reasons then that is a poor choice. Just because TAMSK doesn't look like its siblings doesn't mean that its not just as good and as deserving of a home.

For me, TAMSK is everything I could want in an abstract. The playtime is really quick which allows for multiple plays in one sitting. The basics of gameplay are really quite simple but its a tough game to play well. The game is pure strategy without any luck and it's the players' skill that will ultimately decide the outcome. I'm happy to rate TAMSK 7.5/10. I will certainly play this at least once if asked and I'll probably suggest it pretty frequently as well.

TAMSK is a winner that is outshined by its siblings' success. This game is just as good as the others in the GIPF Project and deserves a home there as well as on your game shelf.
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Dean Thomas
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Great review. I am very interested in the GIPF Project and would like to find someone in my area that has copies of some.

I REALLY liek the idea of the sand timers in TAMASK
 
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I will not rest until Biblios is in the Top 100. - Steve Oksienik
United States
Howell
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Well I been watchin' while you been coughin, I've been drinking life while you've been nauseous, and so I drink to health while you kill yourself and I got just one thing that I can offer... Go on and save yourself and take it out on me
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Thanks. This game is pretty unique, but if you would like to try some of the others, just check out BSW. www.brettspielwelt.de You can play YINSH and DVONN and possibly some of the others.
 
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marc lecours
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Re: Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the futu
Yinsh may be more deep than Tamsk, but Tamsk is more fun.


Without the timers it is an OK game but the timers add a whole new aspect to the game. You can play a blocking move with a timer (but eventually you have to move it or lose it. So you are forced to unblock.) This adds whole new level of thinking to the game. Also there is no real downtime since the timers are running. Fun.

The strategy seems to be a bit like go. Wall off an area where you will be the only one to place rings.
 
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Nick Bentley
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I'm guessing that TAMSK was booted from the project due to production costs. The decision was made around the time the project switched publishers.

 
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