Eric arrived early, allowing us time to play two quick 2-player games. The first on the table was Mole Hill, yet another Reiner Knizia title I was able to pick up while in Germany.
In spite of its cutesy theme of a farmer attempting to capture a dastardly mole who is hell-bent on digging up his lawn and garden, the game is actually a very nice tactical exercise. For some reason, it reminded me of Alex Randolph's Twixt, a game which has always been a favorite of mine.
The board, depicting a farmer's field, is superimposed with a 9 X 7 grid. Eight of the squares depict a flower garden, while the center square is the moles' main hole, allowing him to enter and re-emerge anywhere else on the board.
The game is played in two rounds, with each player playing the role of the mole and farmer once. The mole player has 20 disks, the first ten of which are colored light tan. These are placed on the board in one stack. On a turn, the mole player may move his stack of disks to an adjacent square, including diagonally. However, he must leave the bottom disc of the stack behind on the square just vacated. He may not return to that square during the course of the game.
After the mole moves, the farmer player then places one of his barriers along the edge of any square on the board. These 'barriers' are nice wooden, rectangular blocks ... very similar to the road markers in Settlers of Catan. The idea is for the farmer player to complete enclose the mole player, rendering him unable to move. Once this is accomplished, the round ends and the mole player scores points for each of his DARK disks left behind. The light tan disks do not score. Thus, the first ten squares the mole moves to do not earn any points. A bonus point is earned for each flower garden space the mole player has visited.
As mentioned, the tactical thinking is very reminiscent of Twixt. Each player, particularly the farmer, must think ahead several moves and attempt to force the mole player into areas which will limit his future choices and moves. The mole player, on the other hand, must attempt to maneuver in such a fashion that he always has access to wider areas of the board and attempt to prevent being 'hemmed in' by the barriers, board edges and previously visited spaces. The center space is also a very desirable space for the mole, as this allows him to jump to any other space on the board. Thus, keeping access open to that space is very important for him.
This was my first playing of the game and I got my mole butt kicked severely by Eric. I played the mole on turn one and only managed to place ten disks, scoring zero points. Eric, on the other hand, cleverly maneuvered his mole to an impressive score of ten points, with four visits to flower gardens.
Ratings: Greg 7, Eric 6