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PHOENIX

Reviewed by Herb Levy

PHOENIX (Eurogames; 2 players, less than 30 minutes; $19.95)

 

There has been a surge in the amount of two player games released from a variety of European publishers. Surprisingly, many of them are quite good. Astonishingly, the curve of quality continues to rise. And that curve continues with Phoenix, the latest release from Eurogames.

Phoenix is designed by Zach and Amanda Greenvoss and comes brightly boxed (the use of yellows, oranges and reds almost forces you to wear sunglasses when playing!) with a bunch of wooden tokens, 6 larger wooden blocks and a deck of cards. The object of the game is simple: get your pawns to match the rainbow represented by the six large blocks in the center. From such simple goals, good times can be had.phoenix

To begin, the board is placed between the pair of players, the six cubes are randomly placed in the center six spaces. All pawns are placed in the bag and each player randomly draws 10 of them and places them on the line closest to each player as drawn. The deck is shuffled and each player draws five cards as his starting hand.

Game turns follow a specific pattern. On turn, each player MUST either play a card OR discard a card from their hand. (In either case, the card is placed on the discard pile.) Then, the player draws a new card to keep his hand at five. The cards are the engine that drive the play.

The 50 cards in the deck come in five varieties:

There are 9 Move cards. These cards allow the player to move one pawn in his own line of pawns (2, 3 or 4 spaces depending on the card) in either direction, shifting the pawn (and other pawns nearby) in the direction of the space vacated by the moving pawn.

23 Switch cards allow pawns to swap positions, with pawns (either 1, 2, 3 or 4 spaces away, depending on which Switch card is played).

Five Rotate cards allow you to move the pawn at one end of your line with the pawn at the other end.

The three Modify cards allow you to move the CUBES in the center of the board, either one or two spaces in either direction.

Finally, 10 Exchange cards allow you to exchange one of your pawns with an ENEMY pawn located directly opposite!

When a player manages to match the color arrangement of the center cubes with his line of pawns, the round if over and points are tallied.

The player to be the first to match all of his pawns in order gets 5 points. Note: if you are missing a color in the spectrum, you can still win and score if the colors you DO have are in the correct order. The missing color is simply “skipped”. However, if you do manage to have ALL of the colors represented in your pawn line, you receive 4 points. Should you have 3, 4 or 5 pawns of the SAME COLOR in a row in your line, you receive a bonus of 2, 3, or 4 points respectively. After three rounds of play, the player with the highest point total is the winner!

Strategy in the game is straightforward: get your colors in line. The “danger” to this is that you can find yourself focused on solitaire play and ignore your opponent. But that would be a mistake! The 10 Exchange cards compel you to be aware of the opposition in plotting your own moves. It can be frustrating when your pawn, in just the right position, is snatched out from under you by the untimely (for you!) play of an Exchange card. But it is also very satisfying when you counter with your own Exchange card to liberate your piece from enemy hands! (Best to hold one of these in reserve for defense until you need it for a win.)

With its easy to follow rules and rainbow good looks, Phoenix has appeal to gamers looking for something light as well as non-gamers who might be scared away by those “brain burners” many of us tend to look upon fondly. To put it succinctly, Phoenix is fun. – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

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