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Subject: One good turn deserves… cruel exploitation and diabolical laughter! rss

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Pete Belli
United States
Florida
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"If everybody is thinking alike, then somebody isn't thinking."
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“One good turn deserves another.”

Proverb



Down Fall is a double-blind strategy game based on guiding a set of colored discs though a series of interlocking gear-shaped wheels. Numerous versions of the game have been published by different manufacturers but I paid just one dollar for my copy of a vintage 1979 Milton Bradley edition at a local thrift store.





The game is designed to be enjoyed by 2 or 4 players at least seven years old. The four-player version is intended for team competition but that doesn’t sound like much fun for anybody unless a small child is joining forces with a parent. The rules take just a couple of minutes to explain so a young kid facing a challenge from an older sibling can compete on what is essentially the same level. No reading is required to play but the children must know their numbers.





The playing surface is actually a vertical plastic grid. The tower is just 12 inches tall with a 7x7 inch base so the game doesn’t require much room to play. We put the device on the couch between us and had no problem. The grid contains five wheels shaped like gears and two chutes at the top of the tower where the scoring discs are inserted. The slots in the gears on each side of the tower are not symmetrical so each player is facing a different challenge. I mentioned the double-blind aspect of Down Fall... neither player knows the precise arrangement of the other contestants gear pattern or exactly where the scoring discs are located as they slowly pass through the network of notches and slots.

(An experienced player with a Mensa brain and a memory like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman might be able to exert total domination in the game. This would require the genius to memorize the gear patterns on each side of the grid -- just a reminder: only one side is visible to each player during a session -- and subsequently remember the position of each disc as this mental marvel heard it drop into place. I doubt it would worth the effort.)

Play is swift and the flow of the game is reasonably smooth. A player can turn one gear as far as he or she desires in either direction (but not back-and-forth in the same turn) until a disc falls or until a potential alignment of two slots is prepared for the following turn. The next player follows the same pattern but in most situations that contestant can’t spin the same wheel. Clever indeed.





Most adjustments are “offensive” in the sense that a player is trying to hasten the fall of a disc or set up a future drop. However, it is possible to make a “defensive” adjustment in hopes of spoiling your opponents next move. As my wife mentioned during our sample game, a successful strategy requires the player to have a poker face when a wheel is revolved into a favorable or unfavorable position by an opponent.

In a two-player challenge each child has a double set of discs in different colors. The scoring discs are numbered 1-5 and each player must guide his or her tokens through the mechanism in numerical order. Since it is possible for a player to have more than one disc in the gear device this requirement creates an extra headache when the entrance chutes are especially active… and adjustments made by the other player will often allow your discs to fall into the mechanism when you least expect it!

My wife has an analytical mind. I tend to play games impulsively. Her logical “Mr. Spock” brain revealed itself during our session as I heard the steady plop-plop-plop of her discs cascading into the mechanism. Many of my adjustments (which certainly did advance the downward progress of my score tokens) also seemed to aid her progress. It was especially discouraging to spin a gear wheel and drop one of my discs into the bottom tray only to see one of her tokens fall at the same time. She giggled wickedly.

We had fun in spite of her solid three-disc triumph at the end of the game. In fact, two of my discs were still parked in the upper chute waiting to enter the mechanism. She was gloating, of course! My beloved wanted to play again.

Down Fall isn’t exactly a brain-burner but it offers a decent amount of entertainment with a shallow learning curve anybody can handle.

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Sim Guy
United States
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New Mexico
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Played this when I was six or seven, once or twice. Decently fun at the time.

Saw it in a thrift store at NMSU with a wargaming/drinking buddy of mine. We stood there for almost half an hour trying to think of a way to make a drinking game out of it for an upcoming 'event' but eventually passed it by. Leaving us more money for beer...
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