"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
Spiromania should not be confused with the vintage Spirograph geometric drawing toy that became popular in the 1960s. Political historians expecting to see a game about former Vice President Agnew will also be disappointed.
Spiromania is an abstract strategy game that features four "spiraling" pathways that lead to a center core. It was published in 1984 by Rainbow Games. The object of the game is to move along this spiral network and be the first player to get all four pawns into the central zone. The game is designed to be enjoyed by 2 to 4 players age 8 and older.
The game begins with four pawns in each player's start space. These pawns should hang up a few family photographs, get the cable TV hooked up, and make sure the refrigerator is stocked with Diet Coke and frozen pizza. Some of the plastic tokens are going to be spending a lot of time coming back home to this start space. They might as well be comfortable.
Four Player Set Up
During a turn each player rolls one six-sided die and moves his or her pawns counter-clockwise along the pathway. Just one dice... one roll per turn... one move. Did I mention that the players only get one die roll per turn? This is going to be a loooooooooooooooooooong game.
In the hallowed tradition of uninspired game design techniques the players must roll an exact number to get out of the starting track and into the spiral pathway. This isn't a problem at the beginning of the game when a full set of pawns is bursting out of the starting area like four frantic bulls at Pamplona. However, as the contest finally grinds to a halt after 60+ minutes a player trying to get one lonely pawn out of the chute could be rolling, missing the required number, and passing his or her move for several turns. Yawn.
The spaces along the pathway are color coded. White spaces are open territory in which pawns are vulnerable to being sent back to the start space by another player. This is called "hitting" in the rules. This unpleasantness can happen anywhere on the board. A player who laboriously rolled the die a dozen or more times while a pawn slowly crawled closer to the inner circle can watch his or her token get zapped back to square zero.
Colored spaces are safe so players with some tactical skill will avoid positioning a pawn on a white space whenever possible. Pawns will get "hit" in spite of the best efforts of thoughtful players because in some cases a player is forced to leave the shelter of a safe space and move forward into a danger zone. I don't mind this mechanic being used as a strategic gambit but getting flushed all the way down the drain is just too much.
Colored spaces that match a player’s pawn allow the player to "spiral" into the next pathway. Black spaces also allow a player to send a pawn "spiraling" into another pathway. Some rare combinations allow a player to jump two spirals in one move. This is the about the only point where the game come close to catching fire.
A player can create a "block" by placing two pawns in one space. Just what this game doesn't need; another element that can create static situations. If any player can establish a "block" in the inner pathway while he or she still has another pawn available to move freely on the board almost all movement toward the central core by any of the other players will come screeching to a halt.
The end of this game is pure agony. Anybody who can get all four pawns into the central core within 60 minutes against three competent opponents has my sincere admiration... and my sympathy for wasting an hour on this game. If one player is obviously out of contention he or she can send a renegade pawn smashing into the other tokens like Dick Butkus. This game might be a little more fun if the players could roll more than one die, or if the pawns were aliens racing to save a burning space station, or if I were 8 years old and it was raining outside and we had no television.
Spiromania? Bring on a game about Spiro Agnew... at least he was good for a few memorable quotes.
Andy Van Zandt
so another uninspired Pachisi/Sorry!/Trouble yawner. thanks for the warning