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Subject: Arimaa: A Reluctant Review rss

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Mark Paul
United States
Springfield
Massachusetts
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My Perspective on New Abstract Games:

Look, abstract games by nature have a simple but hopefully deep mechanic with little or no real theme. The appeal of the game lies in it's depth and that with experience and sometimes study you can improve your play. Randomness, can play a factor as in games like Backgammon, Contract Bridge or Scrabble, but skill, study and experience need to be strong if an abstract game is to become a classic.

For me, another big factor must be present that isn't apparent in many abstract games. I want to have fun. Part of that for me is to limit the number of draws and to lessen the degree a brain burning.

My life in boardgaming has be awash with several flash in the pan abstract games that were once given a great deal of fanfare, celebrity endorsements and books and soon faded from the scene. When Pente was in it's fad period I bought the books, studied, went to organized matches and even bought an expensive game board. Kensington burst on to the scene with a record album game with pieces that would shame a Cracker Jack box and a photo of Omarr Sharif saying he would give up Bridge for this game. There have been several crazes for one abstract or another that ended in nothing but boxes littering thrift store shelves.

ENTER ARIMMA

Now we have Arimma. A game invented with the story that since Deep Blue has conquered Chess and CHINOK has solved checkers. We need a game that computers can't beat up evolved primates. (I am a Christian, but I do believe modern man evolved from lower forms of life, possibly Association Football or Soccer Players) Thus, Arimaa was conceived.

THE GAME

The Pieces are: 1 elephant and 1 camel, 2 horses, 2 dogs, 2 cats and 8 rabbits.

To win, you either need to get 1 of your rabbits to the other side of the board or remove all of your opponent's rabbits from the board.
To set up you place all 16 pieces along the two rows of the board nearest you however you like.

There is nothing diagonal either in movement or when you determine a piece is "next to you".

All the pieces can move forward, side-to-side, and backward (except rabbits can't move backward). Each turn, you can take four moves. A move is moving 1 piece one square or multiple pieces.


Also, animals can push/pull enemy animals that are weaker than them. The animal's power from top to bottom is as follows: elephant, camel, horse, dog, cat, rabbit. That means a horse is stronger than a dog, cat, and rabbit; an elephant is the strongest

If a piece moves, or is pushed/pulled, onto a trap and there are no friendly pieces next to it. then he is killed and is removed from play.

If your piece is next to a stronger enemy piece, then you cannot move your piece unless another one of your pieces is nest the the piece in question.

Overall Impressions of the Game:

I've been burned before, but I think this abstract has staying power. With so many possible set-ups it is a game of tactics as much as grand strategy. A book has been published on it and I am going to get it, but I doubt this game will be analyzed to death in our life time.

One other thing, this game is fun. For an abstract to attract me, that is a must. Fans of the game have made some goofy homemade sets. I saw one set with the Cthulhu pieces from Call of Cthulhu Card game used as elephants. Another game had Wade figurines from a Red Rose tea give away. If you get into this game, the Z-Man set is a good investment.






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George Husted
United States
East Hartford
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This is a good review, but the theme of the game just leaves me flat.

Perhaps if the game were played with 1 trebuchet and 1 ballista, 2 mounted knights, 2 dismounted knights, 2 crossbowmen and 8 men-at-arms.

There is just something unappealing about charging across the board with Little Bunnie Foo Foo to win the game.

The mechanics look interesting, so maybe I will try this with chess pieces or maybe some plastic soldiers...anything but the little bunnies.shake
 
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Was George Orwell an Optimist?
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Corvallis
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I'm curious about the title: why a reluctant review? Having read it, I find no hint as to the basis for reluctance.
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Fritz Juhnke
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Sphere wrote:
I'm curious about the title: why a reluctant review? Having read it, I find no hint as to the basis for reluctance.
My guess is that the reviewer has a general reluctance to take up any new abstract strategy game, no matter how hyped it is. He is probably of my generation, since I too got snookered by both Pente and Kensington in my early days. As it turned out, Kensington was not strategically deep, and while Pente had quite a bit of depth, it was so unbalanced in favor of the first player as to become unplayable at a world championship level.

Having been burned by over-hyped games in the past, why take up any abstract other than chess, Go, and other classics that have been play-tested and proven over the centuries? Most abstract gamers are not looking for variety for the sake of variety, although that seems odd to the typical BGG denizen. A significant chunk of the non-BGG boardgaming world wants to take up a single game and play that one game for their whole lives.

Arimaa is in a catch-22 situation. The exact people to whom Arimaa would be most appealing are the "lifestyle gamers" who have already found the one, true game that they will play for the rest of their lives. I have tried to promote Arimaa among that crowd, and let me tell you, they are reluctant. Some of them mention specific games that have been pitched to them in the past, but which were later busted like Pente and Kensington.

Fortunately, the few lifestyle gamers that give Arimaa a chance almost invariably come away impressed. Their reluctance only applies until they have caught a glimpse of just how deep the waters might be.
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Mark Paul
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WOW!, you must have read my mind or my mail. That is exactly how I feel. I find myself buying the book and the set and playing on line, but why get into a new abstract if it is a flash in the pan?
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