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An article discussing the game "Mentalis" in Abstract Games Magazine discussed the fact that one reason many abstracts probably were lost in the shuffle of popular demand in the '70s was due to packaging. In the case of Mentalis, the packaging was too plain and uninteresting. "Skirrid," a late-'70s game from the developers of Kensington, does not have a plain box at all, but it still, in my opinion, has the worst packaging for a board game. The box art is of the standard '70s "people-playing-the-game" variety (although the Kojak-Orson Welles guy is kinda creepy), but the problem is that Kenner, for whatever reason, decided not to do a folding board, resulting in a box that is roughly the size of a small table top. Yuck!

It is fortunate that inside of the box is a pretty decent abstract game. The (unfolding) board consists of a 19 x 19 grid flanked by scoring tracks (which are purely cosmetic--pencil and paper will do--and probably contribute to the unwieldy box). The grid is numbered in every other cell, with lower numbers occupying the yellow central area (the "arena") and the higher numbers occupying the blue corner areas. Players alternate placing pentomino-style pieces of various sizes on the board, scoring the numbers covered by the pieces played. All play begins in the "arena" and then extend (upon a player scoring 75 points) into the corners. All pieces played must orthagonally touch pieces already on the board. Some pieces have sections which double or triple the number covered by it, allowing for pretty impressive scores later in the game. The player with the highest score after all pieces have been placed wins.

When I introduced this game to my brother-in-law I described it as "Vagabondo from Hell", as it has some similarities with the colored tile game. If you are not a mathematical person, this game is not a lot of fun. It's quite dry, but with good competition the games are high-scoring and fast enough to make you want to play it again.

Rating: 7
 
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