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Subject: Dexterity Games: Villa Paletti, Hamsterrolle and Bamboleo rss

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Physical dexterity games, which tend to focus attention on "man vs nature" rather than "man vs man", are excellent tools for handling small, unstable game parties where people come and go unpredictably.

These games do great as "appetizers" or "salads" for a game party. They finish quickly and instantly draw the interest of new arrivals into the party.

Hamsterrolle seems to play better with fewer players and works very well to keep early arrivers occupied. We didn't get into the real ins and outs of the strategy, but it was nevertheless a lot of fun.

Like most dexterity games, Hamsterrolle quickly runs into grey areas no matter how carefully they try to define the rules. Thus, I did not encourage particularly competitive play, and we improvised a lot of house rules.

Once enough party traffic arrived, it became too dangerous to play on Hamsterrolle a table and we had to move the game to the floor. Unfortunately, this made moves very uncomfortable to execute.

Bamboleo stands up much higher on the floor and is thus more practical when there's a lot of traffic. It is really more a parlor trick than a competition - figuring out who wins or loses just isn't as important as the intriguing discussions about what effects disturbing various pieces will have.

The dexterity required is only temporary, as your hand only needs to be steady for the critical seconds during which you remove a piece.

It is also very easy to improvise alternate rules: you can play it Jenga like, or - like we did - you can simply see how many items the group as a whole can remove before things collapse.

We also found we could make things quite a bit harder by having round pieces lying on their side. This generates unpredictability and livelier discussion, as you have to discuss how pieces might roll in addition to changes in table tilt.

The design of Villa Paletti is intrinsically competitive, meaning that any holes in the rules will cause problems that are harder to work around.

Of these games, Villa Paletti is physically the most demanding, requiring hands to be steady for long periods of time trying to access, remove, then replace pieces.

As a result, it's hard to get a challenging game unless all players are evenly matched in dexterity.
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