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Subject: Review, Rules and Strategy Tips with examples rss

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Evan Stegman
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Way back when, I had a roommate who liked games as much as I do.

We played at lot of games: backgammon, cribbage, chess, Wizard's Quest, Fuedal, Abalone, King Oil, 5ive Straight, Lords of Conquest (boardgame on the computer) and many others.

If you count sports-type games (tennis, racquetball, badminton, bocce, darts, etc.) we probably averaged playing games four or five nights a week.



Falcon's Maze is probably the game we played the most. We must have played hundreds of games over the years.

It has some of the feel of backgammon but on two axes instead of one. It has a lot of the same strategy and tactics: try and set yourself up so that as many dice rolls as possible are helpful; get your pieces off while preventing your opponent from doing the same.

I still teach and play this game and my semi-gamer friends often request it.

I don't have the original stones or the box or the rules any more. The description of the game on BGG talks about a rule in a way that is different from the way we've always played it but since I don't have the rules anymore, I am not sure if I have it wrong or they do.

Components

The game is played on a 19x19 grid with a blocked center square (The Keep).



The grey shaded squares are just to mark the row you need to get your falcons to fly them off the board and to mark the squares around The Keep to make them more obvious (The Keep is the black center square, more on that later) otherwise, they have no special function and are the same as any other square.

Each player gets two falcons:



They also each get a supply of contrasting stones. The game originally came with some polished stones that were different in every set. In my set, I had some dark brown stones with light brown veins and some turquoise colored stones.

The numbers of the stones slowly dwindled over the years and eventually I replaced them with Go stones.

The game also came with two small dice in a sealed, clear plastic container. This was a good way of doing it because some games end up with most of the board filled and one errant die can send a dozen stones scattering and it is nearly impossible to remember exactly where they were. Having them contained prevents that from happening.

The downside of it is that the rattling was kind of loud. Nowadays, I usually play with a dice tray instead. A popamatic would be good as well.

The Object of the Game

You can win in one of two ways:

1. Fly both of your falcons off the opponent's side of the board. This is accomplished by getting your falcons to end their move on one of your stones in the last row on the opponent's side of the board.

2. Capture an opponent's falcon when it is impossible for them to get out of the keep

If I would have to guess, I would say that with experienced players, 95% of the time the game is won by getting the falcons off the board.

After you've gotten burned by not being able to get out of the keep, you learn to make sure early to have a way out but sometimes you can get it set up so that you can keep capturing your opponent's falcon as they are leaving the keep slowly whittling down their escape route until it is gone. Doesn't happen very often but it does happen.

Start rules:

Players start with an empty board.

On a player's turn, they roll the dice.

They must place a stone in a row at a distance from the player's starting edge equal to one die's value.

Example for a first roll of 3-4:



For the second die and dice on subsequent rolls, if there is a stone at a distance from the starting edge equal to one of the dice and with no falcon on it, they must place a falcon on it (if you can place a falcon, you MUST place a falcon). No stone may ever have more than one falcon on it at any point in the game.

If not, they must again place a stone in a row at a distance from the player's starting edge equal to one die's value with the restriction that it may NOT be in a column that already has a stone.

Continuing the above example, if the second roll was a 3-3, you must first place a falcon on the existing stone in the third row before using the second 3 to place another stone in the third row (it cannot be in the same column as the stone in the fourth row but must be in a column that doesn't already have a stone in it):



Once a player has both falcons on the board, that player moves on to the Regular Play rules. The other player must continue to play with the start rules until they get both falcons on the board as well.

Regular play:

1. Mandatory Flight Move

At the start of a player's turn, they must make a Flight Move with one of their falcons (unless they have a captured falcon in the keep or have no legal moves).

A Flight Move is moving a falcon in a straight line any distance to another of the player's stones (or onto an opponent's falcon when capturing).

- Falcon's may not jump any stones of either player (all squares between the starting stone and the ending stone must be empty). The Keep also blocks flight moves and cannot be flown over.

- If a flight move ends on the last row on the opponent's side of the board, it has successfully flown off and is removed from the board.

- You may capture an opponent's falcon with this flight move if possible.

- Players skip this flight move if they have a capture falcon in The Keep.

- In the extremely rare situation a flight move is not legally possible, there is no penalty, the player simply does not take a flight move.

- Except when capturing an opponent's falcon, no stone may ever have more than one falcon on it.

Example showing the legal moves for Black's Mandatory Flight Move (NOTE: the straight ahead red move is a capture move; more on capturing later):



2. Roll two dice

The player may either:

Use the total of both dice to either:

Make a flight move from one stone to another whose distance is exactly equal to the total of both dice. All spaces between the starting stone and the ending stone must be empty and may not cross The Keep. This may be used to capture an opponent's falcon.

Example - On a roll of 4-6, the black player could use both dice to make the flight moves indicated (the red move is a capture. More on captures later.)



Or:

Place a stone in a straight line from any existing stone at a distance equal to the total value of the dice. All spaces between the existing stone and the placed stone must be empty and not be blocked by The Keep.

Example - On a roll of 4-6, the black player could use both dice to place a stone in any of the indicated squares.



Or the player may use each die individually in any order to do any of these things:

- Place a stone. A stone may be placed in a straight line at a distance from any of the player's existing stones exactly equal to the value one die. All spaces between the originating stone and the placed stone must be empty and not be blocked by The Keep.

Example - On a roll of 3-4, the black player could use the 4 to place a stone on any of the indicated spots:



- Make a regular flight move. A falcon may be flown from its stone to another of the player's stones that is at a distance exactly equal to the value of one die. Falcons may not pass over any stones of either player or The Keep. A player may capture an opponent's falcon with this move

Example - On a roll of 3-4, the black player could use the 3 to make either of the blue flight moves indicated or the 4 to make either of the red moves.



- Make a hop move. A player may hop along a chain of connected stones (including diagonal). No stone may be used twice in a single hop move (i.e., one die) including the starting stone. A hop move must use the full value of the die. You may hop on a stone with your other falcon on it but may not end the move on that stone. A player may capture an opponent's falcon with this move if it ends on an opponent's falcon. You may not capture except with the last hop of a hop move. NOTE: If you also make a hop move with the second die, you MAY hop on stones used in the first move.

Example - On a roll of 4-6, the black player could use the 4 to hop to any of the stones indicated in blue. They could not use the 4 to end up on any of the squares indicated in red because it would require hopping on one or more stones more than once in the same move.



Capturing an opponent's falcon.

If a flight move or hop move may end on an opponent's stone if it has an opposing falcon on it. This captures the falcon. Put the opponent's falcon in the keep and replace the opponent's stone with one of your own.

Example - On a roll of 3-6, the black player may either use the 6 to use a flight move to capture white's falcon on the left (indicated with blue) or the 3 to make a hop move to capture white's falcon on the right (indicated with red). The second picture shows what the results of those moves would look like (Note: The captured white falcon is in the keep and the white stone that it was on when captured has been replaced with a black stone).




The Keep

The keep is the center square. The Keep blocks movement and may not be hopped on or flown over.

Captured falcons are placed in The Keep. There is no limit to how many captured falcons may be in the keep.

If a player has a falcon in the keep, they must get the falcon out before they can place any more stones or make any other move including the Mandatory Flight Move.

A falcon may only leave the keep by making a legal hop move using the full value of one die. If they cannot get a captured falcon out, they pass their turn. If a player has a captured falcon and no stones adjacent to the keep (necessary to make a hop move) they lose the game.

Example - The white falcon has been captured and is in the keep. Because they didn't set up their escape route well, they can only hop out if their roll has a die that is a 1, 2 or 3 (if it were a black falcon in The Keep, they would be able to escape on any roll). If neither die is one of those numbers, they must pass their turn.



Flying a falcon off the opponent's side of the board.

If a falcon ends its move (either flight or hop) on a stone in the last row of an opponent's side, it has successfully flown off and is removed from the game. If a player flies both of their falcons off, they win the game.

Example - on a roll of 3-6, the black player could either use the 3 to make a flight move to end on the last row (indicated in blue) or the 6 to make a hop move to end in the last row (indicated in red. Note: a 4 or a 5 would also have allowed black to hop off). In either case, the falcon is removed from the board. If black's other falcon has already flown off, black wins the game.



Strategy tips:

Some games have a lot of capturing, some have none. Some games are won with long flight moves and some are won by creating a chain all the way to the opponent's side of the board and hopping off.

Try and get yourself set up so almost no matter what is rolled, it will be helpful. For example if you see a place where you want to get a stone but can't get it there this turn, place a stone so that more numbers will help you next turn.

Example - the black player can make the indicated flight move off the board on their next turn but white has spread out their stones in such a way that they can block that flight with any roll:



Learning 'board vision' is part of the key to doing well. Being able to see how you can get a stone where you want it with a less obvious move is what separates experienced players from new players.

Learn to see the combos. In the example below, if on Black's turn, they roll a 1 and get a stone on the square marked with a red border, they will be able to connect up a chain for a chance to hop move their falcon to the last row and be flown off the board. But white is set up in such a way that, because of combos, the only roll where they won't be able to get one of their stones in that square to block that move is if they roll a 6-6. It's obvious that if just one die is a 1 or a 2 they can get a stone in that square but can you see how they also could do it with a:

3-3?
3-4?
3-5?
3-6?
4-4?
4-5?
4-6?
5-5?
5-6?



Don't move onto a chain unless you have a stone to sit on that is fairly safe from a hop move capture. In the example below, It might be tempting for Black to take the red flight move to get on that chain that is almost all the way to the last row, but White can take the blue flight move and capture with a hop move with any roll. Black would be better off taking the green move and then the yellow move on the next turn (or on the same turn if they roll a 6 for a regular move flight move) or trying to connect the chain to those stones in the upper left.



Make sure you have a chain with a safe stone attached to the keep. In the example below, Black is set up badly because if a falcon gets captured and white can get to their own chain, black is in danger of being hit again immediately. And because a capture also replaces a stone, that makes black's chain shorter (and thus harder to get out of the keep) and even more dangerous. Even if white gets captured, they will always have a fairly safe stone (indicated by the green square) to hop to with most rolls.



Defense is harder to learn than offense. If your games are only lasting 10 or 15 minutes and ending with only a couple dozen stones on the board, you are not playing defense well. Try and anticipate where your opponent is trying to go 2 or 3 turns down the road. If you wait until they are one move from where they can make a move to win, you often get yourself in the bad position of needing a few certain rolls on the dice to stop them. Try and get yourself set up early with stones spread out on your side of the board so you will have more options when your opponent starts pressing.

At the start of the game, with the initial rolls where you are putting the stones in separate columns before you have your falcon's on the board, I like to put my high rolls in the center on lines to get stones adjacent to the keep (as indicated by the red arrows in the example below) and my low rolls off to the side so I don't get caught with no stones where my opponent is trying to push through. The example below is where I might set up my stones if my first two rolls were 5-1 and 6-2:



In the beginning to mid-game, I like to keep one falcon back on defense and put one on offense.

Offense can force an opponent's moves. If you keep yourself flexible, more rolls will help you. This is not a game where high rolls always better. Often ones and twos are more helpful than fives or sixes especially when you are trying to connect up a chain. Try as much as possible to keep yourself in a flexible enough situation that you can make good use of almost any roll.

A defensive falcon on a safe stone on a chain that touches a lot of stones of an opponents chain can keep them from flying onto it or force them to fly off of it rather than make a Mandatory Flight Move to a dangerous stone.

In conclusion:

I am not a big fan of purely abstract games but this is one of my favorites. The game moves quickly, rewards being able keep the big picture in mind, flexible thinking and advanced planning and every game plays differently.

I also like that it is an open information game so if a new player seems to be struggling with how to get done what they want to get done, I can point out a move they might be overlooking.

This game is hard to come by but I highly recommend grabbing a copy if you ever run across one if you are looking for a fairly light game that still has some depth and lots of replayability.
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Great review. I played a very enjoyable game of this the other night, and I think you have the rules right and the BGG description is (slightly) in error.
 
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I saw this game on eBay, and bought it after reading Evans great review. I've received the game and played it. I like it a lot. I did read through the rules, though, and I think they differ slighty from what Evan has said here:


Quote:
1. Mandatory Flight Move
...
- You may capture an opponent's falcon with this flight move if possible.


I don't think this is true. Although not specifically stated, captures are a different section, and it does state that captures can only happen after the dice are rolled, so that would mean not during the Flight Move.

Quote:
2. Roll two dice
Make a flight move from one stone to another whose distance is exactly equal to the total of both dice. ... This may be used to capture an opponent's falcon.


They way I read the rules, the only time you can do a flight move after the dice have been rolled is for a capture. Normally you must place stones or do Hop Moves.

Quote:
You can win in one of two ways:
...
2. Capture an opponent's falcon when it is impossible for them to get out of the keep


The rules state this in a slightly differently way and with a wider scope--If a player surrounds one of the opponents falcons, they are trapped, unable to ever get to the opposite side, and so, that player loses. This includes surrounding the Keep, so that a captured falcon is trapped.

Oddly enough, they say that a falcon can take no move once captured except to escape with a hop move, but they don't specifically mention the case of not having an available hop move causing immediate loss, as Evan has stated, but it is implied by the rest of the rules.


There is one other grey area--I didn't see anywhere in the rules that stated one way or the other whether or not you could hop on the same stone more than once during a Hop Move. However, I played that you couldn't as Evan stated in his review--it just feels right.


We played by the rules as I read them and thought it was a good game. I think that both of the major rule differences--not being able to capture on the beginning Flight move, and only being able to use a Flight move after the die roll to capture--probably make for a slightly slower developing game, which is good, IMHO. It's a fast game, for sure, both of our games lasting only 20-30 minutes.

-BoB
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Evan Stegman
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Yeah, I lost the rules years ago so am not surprised I got some things wrong.

I have playtested 'my' rules quite a bit and they work but there are some pros and cons compared to the original rules.

BoB3K wrote:
...


Quote:
1. Mandatory Flight Move
...
- You may capture an opponent's falcon with this flight move if possible.



I don't think this is true. Although not specifically stated, captures are a different section, and it does state that captures can only happen after the dice are rolled, so that would mean not during the Flight Move. [/b]


That was one of the ones I was most unsure of when I started teaching the game again after it had sat untouched for years.

In the end, I decided to allow it thinking it just makes people have to pay attention a bit more where they leave their falcons.

In practice, it doesn't come up that often since it is easy to spot.


Quote:
Quote:
2. Roll two dice
Make a flight move from one stone to another whose distance is exactly equal to the total of both dice. ... This may be used to capture an opponent's falcon.


They way I read the rules, the only time you can do a flight move after the dice have been rolled is for a capture. Normally you must place stones or do Hop Moves.


This one I am not so sure which I like better.

When you can make a flight move even without capturing, the falcons are much more mobile.

But it really doesn't happen that often. Usually you are better off placing a stone since it helps you the whole game whereas a flight move only helps you right now. Occasionally a situation comes up where you will use it to get out of trouble or to get in position to capture or fly off but because it requires an exact number, it is not unsual for it not to ever come up in a game.

My first instinct is that is a good thing but I will try the original rules again and see which way I like better.


Quote:
You can win in one of two ways:
...
2. Capture an opponent's falcon when it is impossible for them to get out of the keep


The rules state this in a slightly differently way and with a wider scope--If a player surrounds one of the opponents falcons, they are trapped, unable to ever get to the opposite side, and so, that player loses. This includes surrounding the Keep, so that a captured falcon is trapped. [/b]

I don't think this one really matters because I have never seen it happen (although if it had, I would have said the player lost since there is not much they can do anyway).

More common is someone trying to get an impenetrable line across the board so the opponent can't reach the other side. I have seen people get close to getting it completed but no one is ever able to manage it before the opponent either gets stones in the way or sneak their falcon through.

Quote:
There is one other grey area--I didn't see anywhere in the rules that stated one way or the other whether or not you could hop on the same stone more than once during a Hop Move. However, I played that you couldn't as Evan stated in his review--it just feels right.


Now that I am surprised is not in the rules because I am sure that's the way we have always played.

It would take a lot of the challenge away if you could step on a single stone twice in a move. All you would need is two stones connected to the keep and you could get out on any roll!

I agree with you: it just feels right that you can't do it.
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