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Subject: Not a bad game but could be improved rss

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Moshe Callen
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ἄνδρα μοι ἔννεπε, μοῦσα, πολύτροπον, ὃς μάλα πολλὰ/ πλάγχθη, ἐπεὶ Τροίης ἱερὸν πτολίεθρον ἔπερσεν./...
μῆνιν ἄειδε θεὰ Πηληϊάδεω Ἀχιλῆος/ οὐλομένην, ἣ μυρί᾽ Ἀχαιοῖς ἄλγε᾽ ἔθηκε,/...
1. Introduction

This is the last of four games I was kindly sent gratis by the designer who asked only a fair review. Notably, this is the one that led to that event in that I had noted on this game's BGG page that I simply wanted the board, my reasons being that the 13x13 grid of spaces also forms a 14x14 graid of points and hence a perfect Renju board. Be that as it may, the designer sent me the board and rules, although I had to supply by own pieces for this one or use those sent me for two of the three other games.

Overall, I would say this is not a bad game but it needs some improvement in areas. Since what I was sent could be considered a proto-type in the sense that the designer's games have all been, as I understand it, purchased by a games ppublisher who is revamping them a bit as well, the fact that some points need improvement should not be given undue weight.

2. Rules

The rules are quite thorough but need be better organized. As presented, one needs read through the rules at least twice to get the general idea of play-- let alone specifics-- because the object of play is deferred until after the details of play itself and the logical construction follows this pattern.

The rules however nicely deal with all the various aspects of the game. The designer has clearly put a great deal of effort into the game already.

3. Game-play

Each player starts with a set number of pieces (called zealots in the rules) which varies with the number of players. The object of the game is to score the most points of any player when all by the time the first player to do so runs out of pieces to play. Points are deducted for excess pieces. Scoring occurs for both captures and potential captures, with actual captured pieces being returned to the given player's stock of pieces to play. Thus for example, although one starts with 12 pieces in a 7 or 8 player game, the actual game could be more than 12 turns by a possibly considerable margin due to captures.

The manner of capture is a modified form of the custodial capture characteristic of latrunculorum or tafl games. The modification lies in that, to be captured, another player's piece need not only be sandwiched between two pieces of another given player but that the player making the capture must also place a third man in a lineon either side. Thus, a player must have one piece on one side and two pieces on the other-- all in a line with the piece captured-- in order to actually make a capture. Potential captures which score consist of three men in a row such that a single piece need be played on either end to make a capture and at least one space is open in which to do so. Thus, the traditional custodial capture pattern scores but does not remove a piece from the board as does a line of three pieces with two of the same color next to another player's piece, provided a space is open on either end of the line. One placed, a piece does not move.

One problem with the implementation of the game is that the nature of the set-up causes this game to develop into a collection of min-games between specific pairs or triplets of players utilizing regions of the board. In the four-player version of the game for example the game becomes red vs. yellow and purple vs. green primarily with the areas of activity separated into quarters of the board because the nature of the set-up, oombinations of red and yellow and of purple and green in diagonally opposite corners. Red and yellow have no inducement and in practice little opportunity to engage either green or purple or for that matter vice-versa. This problem exists in all but the two or three player versions of the game given the starting positions. The game could be vastly improved by having all pieces start off the board and allowing players to place pieces anywhere on the board.

Another issue lies in the fact that scoring is immediate upon a plyer forming a scoring pattern of pieces. Thus, response to position of pieces becomes effectively limited to one or at most two turns. End-game scoring would vastly improve the strategic depth of this game. for example, player might score for captures made and potential captures existing on the board at the end of the game.

4. A note on the omission of a discussion of components

I have not discussed components because the only component I have is the board, and that will be changed to whatever degree by the publisher who has purchased the game.
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