Menu

PROJECT KELLS

Reviewed by Herb Levy

(Tailten Games; 2 players, ages 9 and up, 30-45 minutes; about $40)

 

Inspiration comes from many sources. For Murray Heasman, inspiration from Ireland’s Celtic heritage and the patterns found in the Book of Kells has yielded Project Kells, a beauty of an abstract game.

Project Kells comes with a board, 6 kings, 6 variant cards, an illustration sheet, a rules booklet and 146 hand painted plastic parts in red and blue further divided into two types: “ringforts” and “bridges”. Ringforts are basically squares; bridges link two adjacently placed ringforts. Within that booklet are the rules for TWO different games (Sacred Hill and High Kings of Tara) using the same pieces and a variation on the basic ideas.projectkellsbxIn Sacred Hill, players, in turn, begin by seeding the open board by alternately placing ringforts on empty spaces. Once the first piece of each player is placed, additional pieces are played with the following restrictions: a piece may only be placed away from another of that player’s piece at a “knight’s move” (as in chess) and such placement may not leave a new piece less than a knight’s move away from another friendly piece. (A piece MAY be placed close to an enemy piece.) When such placement is no longer possible (for one player or both), the battle phase of the game commences.

During the battle phase, ringforts may be placed anywhere with a different restriction. They may only be placed adjacent to a friendly piece, linking pieces together. Once a link is created, the linking pieces are joined together by the placement of bridges. Should one ringfort be isolated and surrounded by enemy pieces, that ringfort is considered besieged. On the next turn, your opponent MUST capture that ringfort by substituting his piece for that one and linking it to his forces. In no case may a player pass his turn. When no further moves are possible and the board completely filled, we score.

Scoring is based on the variation chosen. You may score by counting “kingdoms” or “knots” as determined before play begins. The variant tiles are used to indicate which game and scoring mechanism is in play.)

A kingdom is simply a group of the same colored ringforts linked together. A knot is a little trickier. A knot is a continuous loop (or strand) within a kingdom. Whichever method is used, the scoring is the same. The player with the LEAST number of kingdoms or knots wins. He scores 2 points for the victory plus the difference in the number of kingdoms or knots. (So, for example, if blue has 2 kingdoms and red has 3, blue wins and scores 2 points for the win plus 1 additional point for having one less kingdom.) If there is a tie, then territory (spaces occupied) is counted. The player with the most occupied spaces wins and gets 2 points PLUS the difference in occupied spaces. Whoever has accumulated the most points after two games is the winner.

With High Kings of Tara, the king pieces come into play. The game is similar to Sacred Hill but, after placing a ringfort, the active player also places one of his three king pieces on top of it. This is done until all six kings (3 for each player) are in play. From that point, the king moves (as a knight in chess) to a vacant area, placing ringforts underneath the space he occupies. (The same movement restrictions as in Sacred Hill apply.) When no legal movement is possible, players move onto the battle phase.projectkells

The battle rules, particularly as they apply to capture, change in High Kings of Tara. Now, kings (still moving as knights) may build friendly ringforts adjacent to each other, When NONE of your own kings can move legally (termed as not being “in play”), the kings get the added powers of backtracking and/or capturing enemy pieces (powers lost once legal movement is again possible).

Backtracking enables a king to move to ANY space on the board. This allows a player to capture an enemy ringfort (if already besieged) by moving onto the enemy piece, replacing – and linking it – with one of your own. Backtracking may also result in a capture of an enemy king. Should a king be standing on a single ringfort that is or is about to be surrounded, the king is captured and removed from the game! (Passing is possible if BOTH players have all their kings not in play.)

Once the last empty hill is occupied or two enemy kings captured (or both players pass), the game ends and we score.

Each captured king is worth 1 point so with 2 enemy kings captured, the winning player will score 2 points. If that game-ending condition is not met, then the player with the least kingdoms (or knots) receives 2 points PLUS the difference in the count. If tied, the player with the largest territory receives 2 points plus the difference in the count. If still tied, each player scores 1 point. Again, the player with the most accumulated points after two games is the winner.

Both of these games are considered Level I. Plans for Level II rules are in the works and have been announced for publication at the company’s web site (www.projectkells.com).

Project Kells is the start of what seems to be a series of games using similar components and basic rules. In this goal, it seems a little like Kris Burm’s Gipf (Spring 1998 GA REPORT). The games are challenging. Since there are no dice here, planning and skillful movement is completely at your discretion and luck is not a factor. The player who makes the best moves will win. For maximum effect, you should try to maneuver to as to split your opponent’s holdings so that you link a large kingdom and the opposition is splintered. You should also try to move into the battle phase quickly. Once in the battle phase, movement is less restrictive giving you more flexibility in attacking and limiting your opponent’s options. The linking of ringforts via bridges creates a “woven” effect, a virtual board tapestry that emerges from the game play, that is both clever and attractive. On the other hand, the swirling effect caused by these linkages, especially when playing the “knot” variations, can cause a real headache for those sensitive to spatial distortion.

As abstract games go, Project Kells offers something new and different in a package that works well as both a quality abstract game and as an attractive conversation piece for your coffee table. Project Kells is certainly a game that fans of this genre of play would do well to check out. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


 

Have feedback? We’d love to hear from you.


Fall 2005 GA Report Articles

 

20 Questions: AN INTERVIEW WITH AL NEWMAN by Herb Levy (Al Newman is a game designer with an impressive resume. He's done computer designs, board games, card games and more. He's even graced the pages of GA REPORT with his own brand of insightful game reviews. As part of our 20th anniversary celebration, I played 20 questions with Al to get some of his insights ...
Read More
Reviewed by Frank Branham (Fantasy Flight Games, 1-8 players, ages 12 and up, 2-3 hours; $49.95 ) Fantasy Flight is on an interesting tack. Not only do they create their own totally non-Euro massive adventure games, but they have started on a journey to resurrect a lot of classic 80's and 90's adventure games. This is the sort of stuff that people are paying literally ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2 players, ages 12 and up, 30-90 minutes; Starter set - $24.99; Booster Packs - $14.99 each) Back in the 1970s, Milton Bradley produced a few mass market wargames. (Anyone here remember Chopper Strike? Or Tank Battle?) Without a doubt, they are best remembered for their nicely molded plastic pieces. With the success of Memoir 44 ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Eagle Games, 2-6 players, ages 10 and up, 3-4 hours; $59.99) Over 20 years ago, Milton Bradley unveiled its GameMaster Series. These big beautiful games consisted of three titles: Axis & Allies (a game that has maintained a large following and spawned several spin-off editions), Broadsides & Boarding Parties (a game of pirates and plunder that did not find such great ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Patch Products, 2-4 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes; $22.95) In our world, there are two kinds of people: those who play games and those who do not. The question for many of the first type is: How do you get the non-gamers over to our side? Despite the wealth of games out there, the push from non-gamer to ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Asmodée Editions, 2 players, ages 11 and up, 45 minutes; $29.99) I hate to admit this but I am one of those old enough to remember when Dungeons & Dragons was new. One of the pleasures of those old adventures was what became known as a "dungeon crawl" where a band of stalwart heroes (often accompanied by some of the less ...
Read More
Reviewed by Kban (Jolly Roger Games, 2 players, ages 10 and up, 30-60 minutes; $21.95) If this were a court of law, I’d have to recuse myself for being friends with the author. Al Newman, along with GA President Herb Levy and I, are the heart and soul of LI Gamers, the playtesting arm of GAR. But truth be told, I hate playtesting any game ...
Read More
20 and Counting It really is hard to believe. I mean, after all, where does the time go? Can it really be TWENTY YEARS since Gamers Alliance Report published its first issue? Yes, it can. I was always interested in games. Some of my earliest memories involve receiving a big Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley game as birthday presents. We played boardgames a lot in ...
Read More
(In this issue, we feature Conquest of the Empire, a revised edition of the classic Milton Bradley GameMaster Series game. The edition features TWO versions of the game, one of which leans heavily on the game design of Struggle of Empires. Here is the game as we saw it in the Spring 2005 issue of GA REPORT.) Reviewed by Herb Levy (Warfrog, 2-7 players, ages ...
Read More
FLASHBACK: TETRIS [No celebration of our 20th anniversary would be complete without acknowledging the contributions of legendary game designer Sid Sackson. Sid joined Gamers Alliance as a Contributing Editor quite early in our run and contributed regularly for years. (For more details, check out the GA Timeline.) His first column (titled "Sid Sackson Says") appeared in the Fall 1990 GA REPORT. Sid did THREE ...
Read More
GAMERS ALLIANCE GAME CLASSICS Hall of Fame One of the popular features that appear in Gamers Alliance Report is our Game Classics series. In this series, we feature quality games that, for various reasons, sunk into relative obscurity. These games were deserving of a better fate. Here are the 20 games (listed in alphabetical order with publisher, dates of publication and GA REPORT issue in ...
Read More
(Reiner Knizia has carved out a reputation for quality game designs and plenty of them. But not all of them have made a big splash in the marketplace as they missed out on the recognition some of us believe they deserve. In this installment of Game Classics, Larry Levy sets his sights on one of the lesser known Knizia card games: Ohio. ) OHIO (Jumbo, ...
Read More
GAMERS ALLIANCE TIMELINE by Herb Levy 20 years is a long time to be publishing a magazine - ANY magazine. Given the track record of publications centering on games, in all modesty, 20 years is incredible! In looking back, we thought it would be interesting to see how we got from Point A to Point B. So, here is our timeline of events that have ...
Read More
by Paul Sauberer I am not a game designer, publisher, or developer. Now, however, I am a “Game Historian”. What unlikely series of events led to the creation of this term, much less my actually becoming one? Let’s start by turning the clock back to circa 1979-1980. Disco is dying and polyester leisure suits are mercifully falling out of fashion. Yet amid this cultural upheaval, ...
Read More
(In this issue, we are pleased to welcome Paul Sauberer to our pages. Paul grew up in Annapolis, Maryland and was a fan of Avalon Hill games back in the 1970s, when he first got 1776 at a local toy store. Once he got his drivers' license, he made frequent trips to the AH offices in Baltimore to buy games directly. Paul also played sports ...
Read More
Reviewed by Greg. J. Schloesser (Goldsieber, 2-4 players, ages 11 and up, 45-60 minutes; about $30) Stefan Dorra may not be as prominent as more famous designers such as Reiner Knzia, Wolfgang Kramer or Klaus Teuber, but through the years, he has quietly been producing some wonderful games. Included amongst these titles are such games as Tonga Bonga, Medina, For Sale and Zum Kuckuck (aka ...
Read More
Reviewed by Frank Branham (Avalon Hill/Wizards of the Coast, 2-4 players, ages 12 and up, 60-90 minutes; $45) "Sparkly!" That was how I greeted the demo kit Avalon Hill sent out at my local game haunt. In reply I received a forest of groans. When you look at the production of this hardcore s/f sort of mining colony outpost wargame is all looks quite...precious. The ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Tailten Games; 2 players, ages 9 and up, 30-45 minutes; about $40) Inspiration comes from many sources. For Murray Heasman, inspiration from Ireland's Celtic heritage and the patterns found in the Book of Kells has yielded Project Kells, a beauty of an abstract game. Project Kells comes with a board, 6 kings, 6 variant cards, an illustration sheet, a rules booklet ...
Read More
(In this issue, we welcome Rob Schwartz to our pages. Rob enjoys gaming in general and "game breaking" in particular. Rob has the knack of finding the holes in the system that enable him to either show why a game doesn't work or romp to victory or BOTH! In his first contribution to GA REPORT, Rob rallies around this new release from the new ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Queen Games/Rio Grande Games; 2 players, ages 8 and up, 30-45 minutes; $24.95) For some reason, there has been a flood of two player games appearing lately. Whether this trend is just an anomaly or the start of something big, only time will tell. In the meantime, one of the more interesting entries in this recent deluge comes from Stefan Feld ...
Read More
Reviewed by Herb Levy (Rio Grande Games/ Ravensburger, 2-6 players, ages 8 and up, about 30 minutes, $29.95) Sometimes a game surprises you. That's Life (aka Verflixxt in its original Ravensburger edition in Europe) arrived as a dice game. But a dice game with only ONE die?!?! Seems strange. But in the talented hands of Wolfgang Kramer & Michael Kiesling, the game takes on more ...
Read More

If you enjoy games, then Gamers Alliance is right for you!