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John Farrell
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Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
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Disclosure: I was a play-tester for this game.

Palago, formerly known as Lambo, is a design by Australian computer scientist turned game designer Cameron Browne, author of Connection Games and Hex Strategy: Making the Right Connections, and developer of Yavalath. Unlike Yavalath, which was "designed" by a computer program, Palago was properly designed by a human. A theme in Browne's recent game designs has been hexagonal and square tiles with connecting patterns - the designer's games page (very pretty, worth a look) includes games such as Truchet, Mambo, Trugo, Che, Gates and Vasco which are all abstract tile-laying games involving various patterns and objectives. Palago is a descendant of Mambo and seems to be the best design so far. Those games are almost solely published on the web, usually on gamerz.net, and it's at that site that you have your only opportunity to play Palago.



A Palago tile is in two colours and contains 4 regions - two large parts known as arches, and two small parts known as tips. Palago is a game for exactly two players, each playing one of the colours. The object of the game is to place tiles such that a region of your colour containing at least one arch is completed. For example, blue has won this game:



Play is simple. The first player places a tile, and due to symmetry there's nothing interesting to be done on that move. The second player then places a tile adjacent to the first. Players then alternate placing two adjacent tiles each, until either a region is completed or all 48 tiles are played - in which case the player with the group containing the most arches wins.

Despite play being simple, it's not easy. With a couple of games experience players are able to recognise threats and negate them, thus requiring multiple threats to be sure of a win. Those threats must be disjoint, so that the opponent cannot negate both of them in a single move (remember the two tiles you play on a turn must be adjacent to each other). With experience the players recognise larger threatening patterns, and the pattern of play becomes further removed from anything the casual observer can appreciate - like all of the great abstracts! A winning move will often set up a small (one bridge) threat, whilst also adding a tip to a much larger group whose other side is on the other side of the game - at which point your opponent smacks himself in the head in frustration.

The sign of a great abstract is the emergence of complex play from simple rules. Palago has one type of tile, and very few rules, but from those arise a mind-bending game worthy of study and analysis (and a lot of groovy designs). The designer's page includes puzzles, opening strategy, and descriptions of threatening positions. No doubt more of the game will become visible as players gain experience. Personally, I'd love a set of the tiles to experiment with - physically rearranging the tiles would be so much more satisfying than looking at them on the net!
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Teacher Fletcher
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This game looks very promising. I can't help but be reminded of Trax. Any plans to produce and sell a nice bakelite set?
 
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Russ Williams
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Lawnjob wrote:
This game looks very promising. I can't help but be reminded of Trax. Any plans to produce and sell a nice bakelite set?

Apparently (though it's not clear what the tiles are made of, I'd assume they are similar to the Trax tiles):
http://www.playpalago.com/worldwide.html
 
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John Farrell
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Buster Keaton from 'Go West'
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Yes, now that it's published, it's the same stuff as Tantrix, which I believe is Bakelite.
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