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GAME CLASSICS: VECTOR

reviewed by Herb Levy

    [Being born and raised in Brooklyn, New York has given me fond memories of that wonderful place. So, it’s a pleasure to present, in this installment of Game Classics, a game produced by Plan B Corporation, a company situated in that beautiful borough, and their intriguing game of force and direction: Vector]

Plan B Corporation, 1970, 2-4 players, less than an hour; out of print

   The borough of Brooklyn is well known for many things. As a vibrant port for the vast influx of immigrants in the early 20th Century, Brooklyn was an entryway into New York City and points beyond. The Brooklyn Bridge has become an iconic landmark and the source for many illicit “sales” between con men and the naive. And, of course, Brooklyn was home for those lovable Brooklyn Dodgers in the Golden Age of Baseball. Brooklyn was also the home of a short-lived game company called Plan B Corporation which managed to come up with quite a clever game in Vector.

Vector came in a square box that held a mounted board, two decks of cards, a bunch of scoring sheets, a small rules booklet and a large wooden piece known as the Vector. The board was a 21 x 21 grid. On the perimeter were four “goals”, denoted as North, South, East and West and there was a variety of symbols on the grid’s squares. Each player sat behind his goal and had a dual objective. Get that Vector into your goal and score as many points as possible along the way.

The Vector starts in the center of the board. The board not only displays the four goals (North, South, East and West) but also has polar directions (North, South East, West, NE, SE, SW and NW) designated on its black border. The squares on the board come in four varieties: black, point, penalty and directional. Forty-eight cards come with the game, divided into four sets with each set containing directional cards (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW) and numbers (0, 1, 2 and 3) used to exert force and direction on that contested Vector. Each player begins with one set.

Players may act alone or in concert with their directional opposite as a team. The player in the North position begins the first round by deciding in which direction he wishes to move the Vector. He plays any of this directional cards FACE UP. Now, the East player plays one of his directional cards FACE UP, followed by the South and West player. Now, ALL players play a number card FACE DOWN. Only then will the Vector move.

The North player now moves the Vector the number of spaces shown on his number card in the direction of his played directional card. (If a 0 is played, the Vector does not move.) This procedure is repeated by the rest of the players. When the round is over, played cards go back into each player’s hands where they may be used on a subsequent round. While the goal of this movement is to get the Vector into the desired goal, the other effects of this movement depend on the squares that the Vector will land upon.

A player moving the Vector to a square with a number on it will score that amount of points. A square marked with the direction of a particular player will result in that player gaining or LOSING the specified number of points. (Landing on a square with TWO directions on it, enables the active player to choose WHICH player will feel the effects of that square.)

Yellow squares have directional properties but these properties do NOT go into effect until AFTER the first move of each round. At that point, when the Vector lands on a yellow square, it IMMEDIATELY moves in the direction specified the number of spaces indicated. IF that puts the Vector on a point-scoring space, those points get scored. Should the Vector land on an X square, the player noted on the X LOSES his next turn. This is the same fate awaiting the player who unluckily moves the Vector into the board’s border. The Vector cannot “wrap-around the board”; instead it is relocated to the nearest board corner where play resumes.

Points scored as the game goes on are cumulative. The game ends in one of two ways: at the end of the 12th round of play OR when the Vector is moved into someone’s goal. Maneuvering the Vector into the goal has another effect: the player whose goal it is gets to double ALL of his points! The player (or team) with the most points wins!

Two interesting footnotes to this game. Plan B had big plans for Vector. A Vector tournament was planned for January 20, 1970 in the New York City vicinity with a grand prize of $500 to be awarded to the winning team and other prizes too. Outside of chess, checkers, Go and other classics, this may have been the first (or certainly an early) example of tournament promotion for a proprietary game. (The first Origins wargaming convention was still years away.) Whether or not this tournament ever came off remains shrouded in the mists of time. Second, Eric Naiburg is credited with the Vector design. Mr. Naiburg became better known in popular history as the attorney of record for Amy Fisher, the notorious “Long Island Lolita”, who went to prison for attempting to murder her lover’s wife.

Vector is a tug-of-war game of bluff and counterbluff that works brilliantly for both individual and team play.  The core of the game is to anticipate your opponents’ actions so you can set yourself up to score points. You know the directions that the Vector will travel but you don’t know how far. Going first is a big advantage but since turn order shifts each round, everyone has a chance to use this advantage wisely. When you’re not going first, it’s a good idea to consider what the player who will be going first next round wants to do so you can shift the Vector into a position that meets YOUR needs and frustrates those of the next first player. By keeping track of scoring totals, you can better judge whether to prolong the game (by moving the Vector towards the board’s center and away from goals) or abruptly end play (if you’ve managed to rack up a considerable lead so that a doubling of enemy points will still leave you with a lead).

This game was one of the first instances of ALL players competing over the control of a single piece. The tug of war aspect of play has been done. Maureen Hiron’s Quadwrangle, for example, featured in the Winter 1998 GA REPORT, is a good example but Quadwrangle dates back to 1983; Vector appeared over 10 years earlier.

Vector is an abstract game classic managing to combine elements of tug-of-war with bluff and board positioning and what wargamers would call “limited intelligence”. These well integrated facets to the game play earns Vector an honored place in our Game Classics series, well deserving to be remembered for its originality of design.  – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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