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Subject: The most entertaining stacking game I've played, by far rss

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Ben Lott
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Mason
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We've gone on several different trips as chaperones for our church's youth group. Every trip we go on, there is always some gaming going on, but the most interesting to me are the games that the youth start up without my prompting. This was the case with Jenga. Apparently a few of our youth are avid Jenga fans and play it quite frequently. This love of the classic dexterity game was what inspired me to pick up a copy of Villa Paletti. I had read that it was a good alternative. But was it as good, or even better than a classic? Read on...

What do you get with Villa Paletti? In the box you get a rulebook, a base plate, 12 small wood cylinders (3 per color), 4 large wood cylinders (1 per color), 4 hexagon wood pieces (1 per color), 5 platforms, a 4 sided die (each side has one of the colors on it), and a hook.

How does Villa Paletti work? All the column pieces are placed on the base plate (spread out, not side by side.) Then the largest platform is placed on top of them. Players roll the die to see what color they will be. On a player's turn they take one column from the base plate, whether it's under the platform or freestanding (using the hook if necessary,) and place the column on top of the platform. If a player starts to pull a piece, and realizes it won't come out safely, they can stop pulling and pass their turn.

Turns continue in this fashion until a player's turn comes where they declare that no further columns can be removed without bringing the structure down. If another player disagrees and challenges the declaration, they must attempt to pull a column out. If the challenger isn't able to get the column out, the player who made the declaration gets to remove any column from the game. If the challenger is able to get the column out, the challenger removes a column from the game. If no one challenges, then the player who made the declaration puts on the next largest platform.

Once the second platform has been placed, scores start to get tallied. On a player's turn, each column they put on top is worth points (1 point for small round, 2 points for hexagonal, 3 points for large round.) Plus players score an additional point for pulling one of their own color columns. The first person to place a column on the second platform will take the die to signify that they are the "master builder." If/when a player places a column that gives them more points than the current master builder, they take the die, but they put the prior player's color face-up.

Players continue in this fashion, pulling columns, adding points, and placing new platforms when necessary. However, each time a new platform is placed the scores are zeroed out and start again. When the structure falls down, whoever is the current master builder wins the game. But if the structure falls on the master builder's turn, the player who last held the title (determined by the color on the die) wins the game.

What does Blott think of Villa Paletti? In general I stink at dexterity games that require a steady hand. What I like about Villa Paletti is that the hook allows even the shakiest player to pull out a column that is dangerously close to another. There also seems to be a depth of strategy that you don't find in many other dexterity games. Knowing what piece to pull, and when to challenge is crucial. It is really cool to see how players are able to strategically place their columns on the current level so that it puts more weight on a piece in an opponent's color, or takes weight off of their own colored piece. The structure can get quite impressive in height when players make smart plays. But the enjoyable part is that you have to evaluate, not only if the piece you are pulling supports the level above, but if removing it will unbalance the level below.

Who will enjoy Villa Paletti? I have yet to get a negative reaction to Villa Paletti. Adults and children alike seem to enjoy the tension of building up the tower in a careful fashion. You will often find strangers, who aren't even involved in the game, walking up to see what you are playing. There is just so much universal appeal to the dexterity game genre. I would highly recommend this game to families, casual gamers, and anyone else who enjoys a good dexterity game. There isn't a ton of strategy, but enough to entertain almost any player.

Any parting comments about Villa Paletti? With all the praise, I do have to log a complaint about Villa Paletti. My problem is that several situations will crop up in a normal game which are not addressed in the rulebook. For instance, if a player is pulling a column out and they accidentally knock over another column or two, what do you do? If the structure collapses before the second platform is on, how do you determine a winner? It's not a huge deal, because the fun in this game is really in the game play and no one really seems to care who ends up winning. But these ambiguities keep me from rating this game higher because I always feel like they could have tightened things up a little more and I would want to play more. Still, it's a great game with lots of fun moments that I do recommend highly, just be prepared with a couple house rules.
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Rick Kimmel
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I *always* get caught doing the "I can get just ONE MORE piece...." thing.
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