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Subject: Fun Fast Filler rss

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S. Deniz Bucak
United States
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As Above, So Below
My books are forgeries. Nobody wrote them. - Philip K. Dick
Tesserae is an abstract tile laying game played with colorful diamond shaped tiles. Players match the sides of the diamonds by color and attempt to create 'completed' areas that allow you to play an extra tile. You win by getting rid of all of your tiles. The interesting shapes of the tiles lend the game more strategic depth than the simplicity of the rules would suggest as you can block off areas or combine the tiles in unexpected ways. The playing area builds up in attractive cube-like patterns, as you can see in this picture of a completed game:

In the interest of full disclosure I should say that the designer of the game is a friend of my college roommate and I received a free review copy of the game. However I've never actually met the designer and I don't feel obligated to give the game a good review. Which is what I'm going to give it anyway.

Let's start with the pieces. The game comes with 96 tiles in either thick or thin diamond shapes, a rulebook, a plastic bag which is entirely inadequate for containing the tiles and a reasonably sized box that can be toted around without much problem. The tiles are a thick cardboard, brightly colored and pretty good quality for a small startup's first game. I would however suggest separating them from the sprues with an exacto knife when you punch the pieces. The pieces can be prone to separating from their backing if you're not careful and the nubs that used to attach them together can interfere with play if not trimmed.

The rules are dead simple. You start with 4 tiles, 2 thick “chunk” tiles and 2 thin “sliver” tiles.

Each turn you play two tiles, matching the already played tiles full side to full side and by color. You cannot play a tile in a way that overlaps any other tile. If you play a tile in a way that a color is “completed” (surrounded by other colors) you get an extra play. At the end of your turn you draw two tiles to replace the ones you played. Since you may have played more than two tiles if you completed a color, you get rid of your tiles as you play. This provides a nice catch-up mechanism as the players that are winning have fewer tiles and hence fewer options. To win you need to play your last tile and still have one more play to make. Another way to think of it is that you have to complete three colors to win. There are also rules for partnership games and no luck variants but I didn't try those.

The game is fun, requires thought to play and is over in 15 minutes. I found myself progressing from checking each tile in each possible spot to coming up with two or three tile combos as I learned how to play. I've played it as a filler with my game group and as a family game. The box says 10+ but my four year old had no problem understanding the rules and my seven year old even won a game. I've played with 2, 3 and 4 people and it worked well with each number.

Overall I gave this game an 8 out of 10. It's nicely strategic for a 15 minute game.
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