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Nowhere to Go

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Educational Insights, 2 players, ages 8 to adult, 10 minutes; $19.99)

 

There are a lot of games out there competing for your attention and leisure spending dollars so it helps if you can make your game stand out. Nowhere to Go, a Hank Atkins design, certainly achieves that goal with its eye-catching hexagonal box and its striking orange and black motif. But what do you find when you open the box?

nowhereNowhere to Go belongs in the genre of blocking and isolation games. There is an orange plastic grid with 19 spaces linked by “bridges”. Each player starts his piece (called a “spy”) on one of the raised spaces and then each player places five “blockers” on any bridge on the board (except for the three bridges leading out from each start space). Now, taking alternate turns, each player MUST move his spy at least one space. Movement is, theoretically, unlimited; any number of spaces may be travelled through on a turn provided that the moving piece doesn’t encounter a blocker OR the other spy. (The enemy spy acts as a blocker too.) Once stopping, though, a player ends his turn by placing a blocker on ANY unblocked bridge. (At this point, blockers may be placed on bridges leading from the original starting spaces.) Once a blocker is placed, it may not be moved. Your spy, of course, has to keep on moving because when one player’s spy is unable to move at least one space, the other player wins!

Nowhere to Go has the unquestioned advantage of being easy to learn. The rules take up barely a sheet (and that includes illustrations) and you can, literally, learn the game in minutes. Speeding your piece around the grid and watching as your possible routes diminish is strangely fascinating too. Your main goal should be to make sure you have at least two escape routes when you stop moving to prevent your opponent from trapping you but that will become more of a challenge as the game progresses.

The orange grid is sturdy and the “men” serve their purpose. But the choice to make both spy pieces virtually identical in color (one has an orange shirt and one a gray shirt) makes you wonder. Why? It can’t be due to the color scheme. Black, white and orange are the colors used. Black and white pieces (ala the Spy vs. Spy series popularized in MAD Magazine), for example, would have worked well or even pieces completely in orange and black would have been better.

There have been many blocking and isolation games issued over the years with most (all?) being purely abstract. Admittedly, this too is an abstract game but the effort to give it more appeal by calling the pieces “spies” and the heavy use of black to further develop a noir feel begs the question: Why not follow through? It would have been great to have a fuller story to heighten the atmosphere. Stickers on the grid with exotic foreign names would have enhanced the ambiance too. Why not give each player a “mission” to fulfill (capture stolen documents or retrieve a lost codebook) by capturing the other player? That would have given a reason behind the game and heightened excitement. It might be that the game was targeted for younger gamers or non-gamers and the feeling was that such “chrome” was unnecessary or would have been “wasted”. Buy why limit a potential market when gamers could find this enjoyable too?

While more could have been done to “dress up” an essentially solid game mechanic, Nowhere to Run remains an attractive abstract game that is easy to learn, fast to play and, most importantly, fun to play.

 


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