It's been a long time since I had given a game with magnetic elements a try.
Honestly, I'd say my last experience was with Touche, a game owned by my parents.
I picked up Jishaku at a Barnes & Noble in the Sacramento area. The idea of magnet game pieces grabbed my attention, as did the stone-in-a-hole concept, which had me thinking this would be a mix of Touche and Mancala. The price ($19.95) was attractive as well.
Here's a general overview of the equipment:
Force field game base: Sounds impressive, but let's translate this as "black plastic tray you use as a border for the foam game area." Ta-da.
Foam play area: It's basic asymmetrical foam with peaks and holes. The holes are for placing the stone pieces, which the peaks can influence where they sit and shift in the holes. It's not uniform, which means every copy of the game doesn't have the same holes in the same places. Versions of the game can have either 22 or 23 holes. My version has 23: 5 rows with 3 holes, with 4 row of 2 holes running between. Or, depending on how one is sitting, it could be 3 row of 5 with 2 rows of 4 between, but I digress. The blue color of the foam works nicely with the black plastic of the base.
Stones: You get 18 magnetic "stones" (I suspect these are hematite) of varying shapes.
And here's where the game is made or broken. The strength of the magnets compared to the space of the game. And here's where I have a slight issue with the game's design. Testing on the linoleum kitchen floor of my apartment, I found that attracted sides of the magnets pull together at around 2 to 2 1/4 inches apart. Even when opposite sides are facing each other, at 1 1/4 inches, a magnet with flip around and snap together with another magnet.
And that's where I have an issue. The centers on holes on a diagonal are about 1 inch apart. In short, the foam doesn't provide enough grip to make placing a stone in a diagonal from another stone almost (I won't say totally) impossible. A placed stone will almost immediately spin in the hole and then snap to connect. This drives part of the strategy side of me absolutely bonkers.
But, does it make finding enjoyment in Jishaku impossible? No. You just have to keep that in mind when placing stones, and try to force your opponent into making those diagonal placements. Some dexterity is still required even when placements aren't diagonal; if you're careless, you can still cause non-diagonal stones to pull together.
The game comes with three suggested game variations: In two of those, the object is to dissuade stones from attracting to each other and one where the goal is to want them to attract. The virtually automatic attraction of diagonals make that third game lack in entertainment; it's too easy to figure out where to go.
But when the goal is to prevent stones from pulling together, strategy can come into play. It's comes down to figuring out when to place stones in the 3-rows (or 5-rows) and the 2-rows (or 4-rows) to force another player to take a diagonal.
When it comes to visual and audio, Jishaku does well. The blue foam look good when paired with the black of the plastic and the dark stones. When stones connect, it's with a loud, sharp, snapping noise, almost like an electric shock. It creates a fun contrast - you move slowly, gingerly trying to put a stone in place, only to have it rapidly jump around the board and with a loud clack snap itself onto other stones.
Overall, this is a game that will work well as a quick warm-up game for light gamers and kids due to the lack of deep strategy and the fun elements of the magnets. But if you're looking for a deep, pure strategy experience, look elsewhere.
Some suggested modifications:
*Play the "All Out" game with two players only having 8 stones each and the outer rows of 3 ineligible, leaving 18 spaces for 16 stones. It will be much harder to get all 8 of your stones out until you can force your opponent into a major snap-together.
*Play on a sheet of paper on a flat surface with spots to place the stones slightly larger than in the foam, or even where the spots are not asymmetrical.
Overall rating: 5.5/10
A pretty boring game. Not a whole lot going on here. Good review though.
Jishaku: An attractive idea, but are the flaws repelling?
I see what you did there...
On a more serious note, thanks very much for the review. I've had my eye on this game and you just saved me 19.95.
Why why why didn't I set up a RRGSP! (Registered Retired Gamer Saving Plan)
So many games.... so little time...
Some say flaws, some say features...
Placing stones on the diagonal is possible, you just need to be careful and gently set your magnets up to allow it. We've found that our games usually went down to the last magnet each, and unfortunately the next person usually loses as his last stone inevitably attracts or jumps to and adjacent magnet(s), usually collecting over half the magnets in the process. Making it extremely easy for the other player to finish.
I've found it a quick and fun game for people of all ages (from 4 to 64).
As I said, the only problem I found was that the first person who makes a mistake (and attracts a magnet or two or three or ten) usually loses.
A little research showed me that the original Japanese game actually had a slightly smaller board, so I went out and bought another 9 magnets (yes they are polished hematite and can be purchased at most gem/stone shops) Try to get really odd shaped ones to add to the fun and challenge.
With 9 more it makes a much better game for up to 4 players (4=6 each, 3=9 each, 2=13 each) in that it ensures that the game doesn't always end on the next move after someone "attracts" all the magnets.
I have to tell you, I have yet to see any another game cause people to jump and holler the way this one does when those magnets decide to leap snap and rattle together.