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Flashback: Sid Sackson Says: The FIRST Column

[In the estimation of many people (and I include myself in that group), Sid Sackson was one of the greatest game designers of all time. If he had only designed Acquire, that would have been sufficient to grant him legendary status. But Sid didn’t stop there. His list of quality designs are staggering: Bazaar, BuyWord (named GAMES Magazine’s Game of the Year), Holiday, Kohle, Kies & Knete (nominated for the Spiel de Jahres and reissued as I’m the Boss), Focus (winner of the Spiel des Jahres), Monad, Sleuth, Venture, the list goes on and on. (For a complete listing, check out our Games of Sid Sackson.) Sid was an acclaimed author too. Several of his volumes contained all original games and his A Gamut of Games is a true classic. Sid also wrote for magazines being a regular contributor for many years to Strategy & Tactics and GAMES magazine.

Sid and I met and shared the enthusiasm for quality games, frequently playing games together. In 1990, I asked Sid if he would be interested in doing something for Gamers Alliance Report. He gave me an enthusiastic “yes” and even had a name for the column all ready. Starting with the Fall 1990 issue, there was a “Sid Sackson Says” column in every issue but one with the final installment appearing in the Winter 1998 GA Report. All told, Sid would contribute 71 exclusive reviews to Gamers Alliance Report. Here, we reprint the first column that contained three of them.]

TETRIS (Milton Bradley)

 

tetris2Tetris, the computer bombshell from Russia, has kept countless fans transfixed as they guide myriads of falling shapes into the proper nooks and crannies. Now Milton Bradley has transferred the concept into old-fashioned cardboard, manipulated by hand power.

Four gameboards are provided. These are assembled (a not at all difficult procedure) so that the 8×11 grid slopes down towards the player using that board. There are 116 pieces, divided more or less evenly into seven shapes (the different possible arrangements of four squares – quadrominoes). The pieces are also divided, again more or less evenly, into five colors. Pieces must be played with the colored side up but, apart from that, color has no significance.

The pieces are thrown into a small deep box. At a starting signal, players grab one (no fair dropping it to take another) and place it touching the bottom of their grid. Further pieces are grabbed and placed as quickly as possible. New pieces must rest at the bottom or touch a previous piece along any edge. As unwanted piece can be unloaded on any opponent’s gameboard, forcing him/her to position it before grabbing another.

The game ends a soon as one player covers at least one space in the top (11th) row, and the player with the least number of uncovered spaces is the winner. Unfortunately, with this rule, a player can rush to reach the top and win if she/he has one more piece in place than any opponent. And the challenge of proper placing is completely lost.

To get around this problem, and a few others, I came up with the following variation.

Turn all of the pieces color face down. Then take one piece each of the seven different shapes and turn them face up in the center of the table. The player picked to play first takes any piece and positions it on his/her board. Players in turn to the left each choose a piece. After the seventh piece is taken, a new set is turned, and so on until the game ends.

A piece must be placed so that – in addition to any other connections – it rests at the bottom of the grid or touches the top of a piece already in place (stopping the new piece from sliding down the slope of the board). And a piece can never be placed so that it touches a piece of the same color, even at a corner! If not able to use any available piece, a player is eliminated from the game.

A player is permitted to place a piece so that it projects past the top of the grid, but this ends his/her play. When all players have finished, the one with the least number of uncovered spaces is the winner. In case of a tie, the typing player with the most completely filled rows wins. If this too is a tie, the victory must be shared.


Cue Me!

 

cuemeCue Me! is more fun from Frank Thibault, whose valuable contributions to the gaming world started in the golden days of 3M with Ploy (featured in the “Classic Games” series in the Spring 1989 issue of Gamers Alliance Report – Ed.) and Regatta.

The game is for 2, 4, 6 or 8 players – divided into teams of 2. Each team uses a colored market to indicate its progress along the board’s 48 space track. 400 message cards provide the challenge, and four 12-sided letter dice provide the means for trying to resolve a challenge. A special die with number 1 to 4 and two *s, and a two-minute timer complete the equipment.

Looking at a typical message card, you’ll find the following:

1 – Person – fan; 2 – Place – dress shop, 3 – Thing – bugle; 4 – Event – war; * – Place – sidewalk

Now let’s get on with the game.

On a team’s turn to play, one member is the Sender and the other the Receiver. On their next turn, the positions are reversed. The Sender draws the top card from the deck, throws the special die, and announces the result. (If with the above card a 2 is thrown, the Sender announces “Place – 2 words”.) If a * is thrown, the Sender can choose any one of the five messages, the one with the * earning a bonus is correctly received.

The Sender shows the card to all the other players, throws the letter dice, and sets the timer. He/she now comes up with a message cue of one to four words, each starting with a letter showing on a die. (A * face can be used as any letter.) The Receiver takes one guess. If incorrect, the Sender rethrows all four dice and gives another clue. If time permits, a third throw and message cue are permitted.

(As an example, let’s say that the Sender chooses “sidewalk” as the message and throw P-F-W-*. The message cue cannot be “Place for Walking” since “walk” is part of the message. Using the * as another P could result in “Pedestrians’ Place” as a permissible cue.)

A successful team moves 4 spaces for guessing on the first attempt, 3 for the second attempt and 2 for the third. Guessing a one word message cue on the first try is a “One-On-One” and hits the jackpot for an 8-space advance. Guessing the bonus message adds 2 spaces to any of the above.

A somewhat different, but quite playable, variation for 3 players is included.

You’ll discover that playing a full game takes well over an hour, but you’ll be so engrossed in finding just the right message cue that the passing of time will be completely forgotten.


 

ASAP

 

asapASAP, as I am sure you know, is the acronym for “As Soon As Possible” – and that is the way you’ll; have to react if you want to have any chance of winning this alphabetic challenge.

The board has a Start space, a Finish space, and 46 Category spaces in between. These Categories run from Fruit, TV Show, Flower to College, Company Name, Beer – with Nonsense Word, Disease and Word Ending in K, among those along the way. A deck with the entire alphabet is shuffled and placed face down next to the board.

From 2 to 8 can pay, using colored markers to move along the path. The player chosen to start throws the standard die and moves that many spaces. The Category landed upon is announced and an alphabet card is faced. The first player to call out an acceptable object matching the Category and beginning with the letter takes possession of the de. That player then throws the die and moves to a space to set the next Category (which could actually be a repeat).

When a player reaches the Finish, she/he chooses any Category on the board and turns a letter. If successful in beating the opposition, she/he is the winner; if not, the game continues and the player must be first after another player’s move in order to get another chance.

There are provisions for what happens when no one can come up with an acceptable object. A booklet gives one each for each combination, except where none could be found. (Incidentally, there is an error in the rules which is easily remedied. Simply switch the last two sentences in Rule 4 to the end of Rule 5.)

The company previously published a variation called ALVA which used a deck of Category cards instead of the board. But ASAP is much more fun.

 

Reviewed by Sid Sackson


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