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Stewart Winter
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Alcatraz is a two to four player game. Each player is trying to get their men out of Alcatraz prison, past the prison guards and onto the ship at the opposite end of the board. The theme is as thinly pasted onto the game as a theme could be. The game could just as easily be played with a chess board and some coins. The artwork on the game is dark and somewhat abstract. The quality of the components is good.

As a player you are trying to move your men primarily in a vertical direction up the board (divided into squares -- think of a chess board). All player's men start on the same side of the board and are headed to the opposite end of the board. Each line of the board has a guard on it. The guards move horizontally on the board. Players take turns moving one of their men of their choice. You may move a man as far as you like in a straight line, but for each square you move, the guard in the horizontal line where your piece stops will move towards you the same number of squares you moved. If the guard overtakes your man (or an opponents), that man is sent back to the starting end of the board.

The basic strategy is to move two men up opposite sides pulling the guards one way then the other. In addition, you try to move to squares where the guards will overtake an opponent's man (sending him back to the beginning). Your prisoner must exit the far end of the board through an area in the centre of the board (so you can't limit yourself to the sides entirely).

The game has a number of serious flaws. Flaw #1 is that there are no resources (other than getting 3 of your 4 men to the other side). Nothing about the game mechanics drives the game to a conclusion. Flaw #2 is that the only real strategy you can employ is to focus on preventing your opponent from winning. The result of these two flaws is that, assuming both players are competent, the opponents move their men primarily trying to avoid making an error that would create an opportunity for their opponent. Eventually someone gets too bored or tired to think straight and the error is capitalized upon by their opponent.

I wouldn't recommend this game to anyone.


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