Thanks to Thomas Mauer, aka wanderingmouse, I did not have to download Snake Pit and assemble the pieces myself - Thomas sent a copy to me already put together. All I had to do was sit down and play. And play. And play.
Snake pit is a quick and light tile-laying game for 2 to 4 players, with simple rules and an easy scoring system. Each player begins with five snake tiles hidden behind their snake screens, with one starting tile laid down on the table. Each tile is two sided, with one side being the mirror image of the other side, so simply flipping a tile over may allow it to be placed in a tight spot. And each tile comes with two snake "parts" on it - a snake head, a tail, a straight body segment, or a curved body segment. As in most tile-laying games, you must play your tiles (2 each turn) so that they match up with one or more other tiles on the table. Your goal is obvious - complete snakes from head to tail, and score points based on how long the snake is.
But even if the goal is obvious, it's not always easy to achieve. There are four colors of snakes, and it always seems that there is a shortage of heads and tails available to complete the snake you're working on. Because you must line up snakes of the same color and match up all sides that a tile touches, opponents can run a snake into a dead end, never to be completed. (Of course, they might also steal a snake by finishing it off with a head or tail!)
Nor is it a simple matter to finish a few small snakes and score points rapidly. Your score for a snake is based on its length: 1 point for one segment, 2 for the nex segment, 3 for the third, 4 for the fourth, and so on. Thus, a 3 segment snake (head, 1 body, tail) is 6 points. A 4 segment snake is 10. A 10 segment snake is a whopping 55 points, and if you luck out in building such a snake, chances are you've run away with the win.
Thus, you must balance out the temptation to score quick easy points with small snakes against the need to score a large number of points with one long snake. But if all you do is try to build long snakes, you'll find your opponents blocking you or stealing your points from under you.
The game comes with a couple of variant chips that can rapidly bump up scores in three or four player games. One variant gives everyone a double-score chip; on your turn, you can place that chip on a snake, and whoever completes that snake wins double the normal score for the snake. Naturally, hold this one out for that 5 or 6 segment snake you can complete on your own turn! The other variant gives everyone a single colored snake-head chip; on your turn, you can reveal your color, and from that point forward any snake of that color scores for you, regardless of who actually completes it. These two variants can be combined of course, and can either give handicaps to young children playing the game (adults can abstain from using the chips), or can make a game extremely cut-throat by forcing opponents to prevent you from benefitting from those counters.
This is an excellent game to play with children, as it is simple to teach and understand, helps reinforce math skills, usually plays in about 15 to 20 minutes, and is visually appealing to the young eye. It is also a good choice for gamer-parents looking to advance their children beyond Candy-Land and Trouble, before introducing the kids to more complex games. But don't classify it simply as a kid's game, as it can easily become a highly competitive contest between adults as well.
Do take the time to download and assemble the game - for what the game offers in fun, you simply can't beat the price!