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Subject: [Review] Griddle rss

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Tom Vasel
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I was slightly apprehensive when I received Griddle (Josdan Games, 2005 - George Williams), because it looked like a football game. I had already played one excellent football game, Pizza Box Football - could another good football game be inside the tubular container of Griddle? Fortunately, the rules deliberately state that game is NOT football and not even a sports game. After playing the game, I certainly agree with this sentiment.

This does not mean I don't like Griddle, which oddly reminds me of Backgammon. There's a great deal of luck in the game, and a LOT of rolling the dice. In fact, the game might just be a little longer than it should be, and it won't be one that strategy fanatics will like. Yet, despite the fact that the luck is high and the strategy middling, the game will appeal to those who like to roll dice, push their luck, and simply have a light, fun time. When playing half a game, my rating for the game is fairly high - it has just enough simplicity and luck to hold my attention that long.

A board is set up on the table that looks somewhat like a football field. ON this field are five tracks of spaces - twenty spaces long, with a red goal at one end, and a blue goal at the other. Players place a marker down to denote that it's first quarter, a marker on the "15" of a clock track, and markers of their color (red or blue) to show their score and timeouts (3) remaining. A coin is tossed to see which player controls the game first. This player takes the five "Gridders", double-sided blue and red pieces, and places them their color side up - one on each track in the middle. The other player then grabs the five dice with pips on them (five different colors: white, yellow, black, red, and blue), or the five dice with numbers printed on them (same colors). The first play is ready to begin.

On each turn, both players roll all of their dice. Each pair of dice (by color) is compared. For every tie (both numbers are the same), the marker on the clock track is moved down by one. For every other pair, the player whose number is higher "wins" that pair. A player must move one Gridder for each pair that they win. First, however, if either player has no Gridders available on the table (or not enough), they must flip one Gridder over to their color instead of moving. After any Gridders are flipped, then players move their controlled Gridders, one corresponding to each dice pair. The amount of spaces moved towards the enemy's goal line equals the difference between the dice (for example, if Sam rolled a "five", and I rolled a "1", he must move one Gridder four spaces). Each Gridder can only be flipped or moved once. A player is attempting to move a Gridder into the enemy goal by exact count. If they do so, they will receive points equal to the final move. However, if a player must move a Gridder into the enemy goal utilizing a number that is higher than needed, they must flip the Gridder over to the other player's color. This may also be done voluntarily.

When the clock quarter reaches "0", the next quarter then begins. At halftime, the Gridders are all reset into the middle, to the player's color who did not control them at the beginning of the game. Players also have three timeouts for each half of the game. They may use one before dice are rolled to cancel the time clock moving for that turn. Players may also use up a timeout to avoid having to flip over a Gridder when they must because of having to move a Gridder into the opponent's goal line by excessive spaces.

After the fourth quarter, or an overtime period (in case of ties), the player with the most points wins the game!

Some comments on the gameā€¦

1.) Components: The game comes stored in a cardboard tube container that is slightly larger than the tubes found in rolls of paper towels, except that it's green. The board and rules are rolled up inside, which makes them curl when placed on the table, although the rules recommend rolling the board in the opposite direction for ten seconds, which seems to work. The board is also waterproof, but I've never had occasion to test this out. The board looks a little stark and certainly looks like a computerized overhead view of a football field. The chips used to mark scores, timeouts, etc., are small tiddlywinks, and the Gridders are a pair of red and blue tiddlywinks glued together which actually work pretty well. The dice are nice (although we argued whether the dots rolled better than the digit dice - doubtful) and a plastic coin is included for that first coin toss. Everything slides easily back into the tube - which is nice, although I still prefer boxes.

2.) Rules: The four pages of rules are quite sufficient to understand the game, although some examples would have been nice. A couple of odds tables are included, for those who are quite mathematically minded, and a pretty big section talks about overtimes; although I have yet to see one occur, and I think the likelihood is pretty small. The game is easy to teach and learn, once players understand the basic concept of movement and flipping.

3.) Luck: The best roll to get is to roll a six and have your opponent roll a "1" on the matching die, but this is a rare thing. Still, when you get several of them on one turn, it's a nice touch. I'm still not sure that the overall winner isn't determined by luck, but strategy does have some basis in the game. People who don't like luck are going to be quite annoyed at the massive amount of dice rolling in the game, more than almost any other that I've played.

4.) Strategy: I can't deny that there is a good amount of tactics and strategy in the game, however. Despite the dice rolling, players are faced with some decisions - mostly about how to play the odds or push the luck in their favor. Since rolling a five is rather rare, is it worth it to keep a Gridder five spaces away from the goal line? The obvious answer might be "yes", because five points are worth quite a bit. But several three point goals can be even better! Players may not often have the choice, anyway, but usually they can decide whether to push tokens as far towards the goal line as possible to increase their odds, or hope for the big goals. Another interesting tactic is to deliberately cause a Gridder to flip to the opponent's color when it's only one space from their goal - letting them move it back a bit, so that you can flip it, and then move it in for more points.

5.) Fun Factor: The game offers these tactical choices; but really, the game is mostly determined by luck, at least as far as I can see. I think a more experienced player will win more often than they lose; but they will lose a decent amount, simply because of the luck of the dice. This still will make the game a lot of fun for some people who don't mind this sort of thing, but others will have a hideous experience. For me, the game was fun for about thirty minutes (one half), and after that, started to get a bit tedious. So from now on, I'll be playing the game one half at a time.

Do not buy this game if you are a football fan or are expecting a great battle of tactics and strategy. Rather, get it if you like Backgammon, or other games in which dice are rolled, and the player must use those numbers to strategically move their pieces. Lots of luck determines the flow of Griddle, and that will most likely determine your enjoyment of the game. For some reason I enjoyed it, but it's not a game I'd pull out more than a couple times a year.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"
www.tomvasel.com
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New GRIDDLE!QuickPlay Option...

Josdan Games has added an option to the rules of GRIDDLE! which allows for a shorter, 30 minute game. The GRIDDLE!QuickPlay concept was actually considered for the initial release. But, our playtesters overwhelmingly agreed that a 60 minute playing time format was best to capture the driving force behind GRIDDLE!, an "American Football feel" without having to "know" the game. Consequently, the 30 minute playing time concept was rejected.

However, Tom's review of GRIDDLE! has caused us to reconsider our original decision. In hindsight, we now realize that we should have given GRIDDLE! players a choice!

Consider this oversight corrected!!!

Future shipments of GRIDDLE! will include a GRIDDLE!QuickPlay insert with the rule booklet.

All Josdan Games customers who previously purchased GRIDDLE! will be contacted soon, so that they may obtain a copy of the insert for their games.

And thanks for playing GRIDDLE!

Tony Williams
Proprietor
Josdan Games
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