(Sid Sackson began “Sid Sackson Says”, an exclusive column for Gamers Alliance Report readers, back in the Fall 1990 issue of the Report and the column appeared in every issue (but for one) with the final installment appearing in the Winter 1998 GA REPORT. Sid always looked for an intriguing game or two or three to interest devotees of games such as himself. And he found them! A tasty baker’s dozen of his many reviews are reprinted below.)
FROM THE FALL 1990 GA REPORT
(With the Fall 1990 GA REPORT, Sid began his tenure with Gamers Alliance. His first “Sid Sackson Says” column featured three games. The review below was the first of the three, making it the first game he reviewed for us and, as he frequently did in our pages, Sid offered ways to improve the game play!)
TETRIS (Milton Bradley)
Tetris, 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.
Copyright © 1990, all rights reserved.
FROM THE SPRING 1991 GA REPORT
(In this installment, Sid uncovered a clever card game that went on to be named GAMES Magazine’s Game of the Year.)
TRUMPET (International Games, Inc.)
Trumpet has nothing to do with music, but much to do with which card can be superior to another. The cards are divided into six suite – Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Stars and Crowns – with eleven of each, number 1 to 11. Three Trumpet Wild cards complete the deck. A tray is provided to hold the deck and the discards as played.
The board has a track consisting of a Start space, a run of eighteen spaces, six Home Stretch spaces, and the final Winner. Along the run, four of the spaces are marked “Choose Trump” and two more are so marked in the Home Stretch. The board also has a section where the six suits will be displayed in ascending order, using colored Chips with symbols.
From two to six can play, each choosing a marker to move along the track. Seven cards are dealt to each player. The player to the left of the dealer starts by leading any card. The other players must follow suit if possible. The highest card of the suit led wins the trick, unless a Wild card is played. If more than one Wild card is played, the last one conquers. The winner of one trick leads the next. When the hands are finished, new ones are dealt by the player to the left of the previous dealer. When the deck is exhausted, the discards are shuffled to form a new one.
For winning a trick, a player moves his/her marker to the next vacant space along the path, hopping over any enemy markers immediately in front. A player landing on a Choose Trump space takes the desired Suit Chip and places it in the lowest available position on the board. Once all six Suit Chips have been placed, a player landing on a Choice space switches the positions of any two suits. When different trumps are played on a trick, the highest one naturally prevails; but Wild cards are still supreme.
When a player is in the Home Stretch and at least one opponent has also reached it, a player winning a trick has a choice. He/she can move forward as usual or can move an opponent in the Stretch backwards to the first available vacant space. Reach the Winner space and your are the conqueror.
Trumpet is an absorbing game for any group but it is particularly great for the family. Its playing time of about an hour is just right.
Copyright © 1991, all rights reserved.
FROM THE FALL 1991 GA REPORT
(Always on the lookout for something different, Sid set his sights on this one – and offered a few suggestions too!)
SET (Set Enterprises)
Although the rules are quite simple, Set can set your mind to spinning as you frantically struggle to determine what matches and what doesn’t. The problems all arise from a deck o f821 cards, each marked with a unique combination of four Categories; each Category having three forms.
The Symbols can be ovals, diamonds or squiggles. The Colors of the Symbols can be red, green and purple. The Shading of the Symbols can be open, striped or solid. And the Number of Symbols can be one, two or three.
A Set consists of three cards in which each Category is the same or completely different. As an example, oval/red/open/two, oval/red/striped/two, and oval/red/solid/two are a valid Set. Also valid is oval/purple/striped/one, diamond/green/solid/two and squiggle/red/open/three. But diamond/green/ solid/one, diamond/purple/open/one and diamond/red/open/one is not valid; the two open and the one solid being the telltale flaw.
In general, players (and any reasonable number can participate) study a layout of twelve cards, in search of a Set. The first to call “Set” picks up the three cards. If correct, they are kept and score one point. If incorrect, they are returned and the player loses a point. This continues until all of the card have been placed and no further Sets can be found. After each player has had a chance to deal through the deck, the game ends and the player with the highest total points is the victor. How long this takes depend, of course, on how many players have to deal. But a game with four players should take under half an hour.
You’ll have to come up with some house rules, such as whether someone can yell “Set” while the layout is still being dealt. And we have made a minor change in the rules. Instead of losing a point, a player with an incorrect Set is simply barred from participating until new cards are dealt to the layout.
Copyright © 1991, all rights reserved.
FROM THE WINTER 1992 GA REPORT
(At one time, Sid was actually working on a “new Clue” game that would use the original characters but put them in a different situation. I actually did some playtesting with him. It was an interesting concept with Colonel Mustard involved in atmospheric treasure hunting. Maybe treasure hunting wasn’t the theme of the moment or maybe not enough of the other Clue characters were involved in the game. For whatever reason, Parker decided to go in a different direction and came up with the game Sid reviewed for us in the Winter 92 issue.)
CLUE: THE GREAT MUSEUM CAPER (Parker Brothers)
The further adventures of the crusty Colonel Mustard, the mysterious Miss Scarlet and all the other familiar characters continue in Clue: The Great Museum Caper. You get right into the action as you take their name (and their color) in an attempt to stop the dastardly Thief from escaping with priceless masterpieces from Mr. Boddy’s private art museum. The museum is an attractive three dimensional plastic board, with entrance doors, windows and corridors leading to eight rooms.
From two to four can play. In each round, one player is the Thief while the others are Characters cooperating to trap him/her. When two play, one is the Thief while the other separately takes the part of two Characters.
At the start of a round, eleven locks (6 with “L” for locked and 5 with “O” for open) are turned face down and randomly placed at the eleven doors and windows. The Characters then agree on the placement of nine paintings, six numbered security cameras, and their colored movement pawns.
The Thief now takes a sheet with a diagram of the museum, secretly records an entry point, and then maps a movement of from one to three spaces. In entering, the Thief does not check the lock at that point. After the first Character moves (as will be explained shortly), the Thief again moves from one to three spaces and so on, the Thief taking a turn after each Character’s turn.
If the Thief ends a move on a camera, it is put out of commission. If his moves ends on a painting, the Thief grabs it. On his/her next turn, after moving, the picture is removed from its stand.
Characters in their turns throw two dice. One, with numbers from 1 to 6, allows the movement of up to that number of spaces. Four faces of the second die have an eye. When this shows, the Character can ask if a specific camera is operating and whether the Thief is in its line of sight. The Character may instead ask of he/she can see the Thief. If yes, the Thief becomes visible and enters a gray pawn on its space. One face of the die indicates a “scanner”. The Thief tells which cameras are out of commission and which of the remaining cameras, if any, can see him/her. The final face indicates a “motion detector”. The Thief tells which room he/she is in, but is allowed to disconnect it twice during a round.
When a Character and the Thief are on the same space, the culprit is immediately captured. If the Thief makes it to an exit, he/she checks the lock. If open, he/she escapes with the loot. If locked, he/she can try to make it to another exit.
Generally, a game consists of each player being the Thief for one round and the one successfully stealing the most paintings is the winner. If only one round is played, the Thief wins if he/she escapes with at least three paintings; otherwise the Characters are collective winners.
The rules don’t specify whether a painting blocks the line of sight. We have agreed that it does in all cases, even if just the stand remains in place.
To give the Thief the opportunity to run a little wilder, we often use one or both of the following variations. The Thief can move up to four spaces a turn, rather than three. If the Thief is caught because of an exit being locked, he/she still scores half o the paintings he/she has grabbed.
And, finally, if you have an early copy of the game you may find an error in the Thief plotting pad. The entrance to the purple room is in the wrong position.
(Ed. Note: I was the one who spotted this error when Sid, Bernice, my wife (Lynn) and I first played the game.)
Copyright ©1992, all rights reserved.
FROM THE FALL 1992 GA REPORT
(European style games had gradually been infiltrating the American game market when Sid turned his eye towards this English language edition of Paternoster also known as Comings and Goings.)
Some excellent German games have been making the transition into English, a number of them with a feature of particular interest; instead of players taking turns; all participate at the same time. Vanished! fits nicely into this category.
The action takes place on a “paternoster lift” which is found in old European hotels. It consists of open compartments moving slowly in an endless chain. Passengers enter a compartment and then leave it at the desired level.
The lift is formed from 9 cardboard Elevator cards, each showing a compartment with various occupants. These are mixed and placed face down in a column of 5 cards, and an adjoining column of 4 cards with an empty space in the center. A wooden pawn is placed in the vacant space.
Each of the players – from 2 to 4 – gets a set of 9 Character cards. These match the occupants of the lift, but not exactly! For example, a monk is on a Character card but all you see on the Elevator card is the bottom of hi robe, a cleaning lady simply has left her vacuum cleaner in the compartment.
A die is thrown and the pawn is moved that many cards in a clockwise direction. Each player chooses a Character card and places it face down before him/her. Then the Elevator card is exposed. Matching Character cards remain on the table before the players; other go back into the players’ hands. The Elevator card is placed, face down, in the space vacated by the pawn. The die is then thrown to move the pawn again. Etc….
If a player believes that a card he/she has on the table matches the card under the pawn, he/she can use that card instead of one from the hand. If correct, the player earns a Tempo Chip; if incorrect, the card must go back to the hand. After the pawn is moved for the die throw, one or more players may use Tempo Chips to move the pawn one card in either direction for each chip used.
The first to get all nine Character cards on the table wins. In case of a tie, the player with the most Tempo Chips is the victor.
Copyright © 1992, all rights reserved.
FROM THE FALL 1993 GA REPORT
(Probably Sid’s most famous game is Acquire, a brilliant financial game of hotel mergers and stock buying and selling but Sid was quick to recognize other quality games of the genre. In this installment, Sid noted a financial game from Europe and, again, offered ways to make it better.)
SHARK (Flying Turtles Games, distributed by Mayfair Games)
This very different financial game started in Belgium, then spread throughout Europe, and now Mayfair has brought Shark to the US.
The playing field consists of six separated zones (5×4 grids) numbered from 1 to 6. Also on the board is a table to chart the price of four different stocks – red, yellow, blue and green; these run from $0 to $15,000. And finally, there are spaces for storing stock certificates of the four colors.
20 markers of each color are provided. (Actually, our copy had only 18 but it didn’t seem to matter.) There is also a pair of dice, one with the standard six numbers and the other with one face of each color and two blank faces. Money and stock certificates complete the equipment.
From 2 to 6 can play and all start with no money or stock. The playing field is empty. Markers are placed at zero for each stock.
On a turn, a player throws the dice and then paces a marker of the color thrown on a space in the zone of the number thrown. With a blank, the player can choose any color. If the marker is placed by itself (not horizontally or vertically connected to another marker of the same color), the player collects $1000 from the bank. If the price of that color is at zero, it moves up to $1000. If, however, the stock is above zero, an isolated marker does not cause it to rise.
As the game progresses, groups of connected markers of the same color are formed. The total number of markers in one or more groups of a color sets the price for that color. A player causing the price of a color to rise collects a bonus equal to the new price.
On his/her turn, a player may buy stock in any color either before or after throwing the dice. Stock can similarly be sold. When the price of a stock goes up, all players holding that stock collect a dividend for each share, equal to the amount of the rise.
A player can place a marker so that it is connected to a group of its own color and to a marker or group of another color, provided that the group of the color played is now larger. The piece or pieces of the other color are removed form the board, reducing the price of that stock. Players, except for the one causing the fall, must pay the amount of the drop for each share they hold in that color. A player short of money must cash in shares at half their value.
The game ends when one stock reaches $15,000, or when all the markers of one of the colors have been placed. Stocks are sold at their final value and the player with the highest total of cash is the winner.
Too many times we found problems with the rule giving a bonus of the entire value of a stock to a player causing it to rise. As soon as one color was ahead, it kept growing since it gave such a healthy bonus and since the color had a 50-50 chance of being thrown. To remedy this, I changed the bonus to 3 times the amount of the rise in the stock’s price (the equivalent of the dividend for 3 shares of that stock). What at it, I came up with a few more changes which you can try or ignore.
To give more choice of zones, throw two numbered dice instead of one. If a double is thrown, any zone can be chosen.
To make the game more cutthroat, allow a player to place a marker connected to its own color and to another color so that each group has the same number of markers. The player can then choose which color to remove. And, in the cutthroat vein, limit the size of a group to 5.
Copyright © 1993, all rights reserved.
FROM THE SUMMER 1994 GA REPORT
(Sid always paid attention to games from the small and lesser known companies. Here he discovered an unusual sports game.)
SPORTS DYNASTY (Sports Dynasty Inc.)
You’re not in the slight interested in any sport, so Sports Dynasty is definitely not for you. Think again! As the owner of a baseball, football, hockey, and a basketball team, you will be involved in the business aspect of signing – and holding onto – enough Superstars to gain fame and fortune by winning Championships.
The Superstars are on cards, 12 each for each sport. Although the Superstars have nicknames, they are all of equal value. At the start, each of the 2 to 6 players is given one card from each sport, followed by 3 more randomly dealt. And players receive $8.2 million from the bank as working capital.
The board has 32 spaces along the edges (and more on these later). Inside there are areas for indicating which of the 4 sports is in season, for placing Lucky Break and Tough Luck cards, and for the Championship Prize Pool.
High dice throw determines the first player. He/she chooses which sport to start with and places the Current Season Marker on it. All players pay $300,000 to the Prize Pool for each Superstar held in that sport. The bank contributes $700,000.
Players, in turn, throw 2 dice, move along the outside path, and follow the instructions in the space landed on. When the “Championship Trophy” space is landed on, or when the dice throw is a double, the current season is over and the Championship Playoff takes place. Each player with a least one Superstar in the sport takes part. Who plays who in Wildcards, Semi-Finals and the Championship Game is indicated in a Matchup table. (The table is not definite when 6 players are involved but coming up with house rules is no problem.). In a Game, each contestant throws one die for each Superstar and high total wins. The victor in the Championship Game walks off with a Trophy and the money in the prize pool. The Current Season Marker is moved clockwise to the next sport and the Prize Pool is refilled.
The object of the game is to be the first to win 3 Trophies from one sport or 2 Trophies each from 2 sports.
Much happens as players move around the track. Some spaces allow a Superstar to be purchased by the players. Others allow him/her to pick a Superstar to be sold to the highest bidder. With “Free Agent Offer”, a player can put a price on an opponent’s Superstar. To keep the Superstar, the opponent must pay the amount to the bank. If he/she doesn’t, that player must honor his own price and pay the bank that amount – and then claim that Superstar. With “Career Ending Injury”, a player must (with much moaning) return a current season Superstar to the bank. With “Players Strike”, the present season is aborted. And there is a great deal more than can happen.
A player at the start of a turn may attempt to buy, sell or trade Superstars. Many of the Lucky Break and Tough Luck cards instruct the player to hold them for later use. Any of these can also be a part of a negotiated deal.
Copyright © 1994, all rights reserved.
FROM THE FALL 1995 GA REPORT
(This game would later go on to win GAMES Magazine’s Game of the Year Award.)
SHARP SHOOTERS (Milton Bradley)
If you are intrigued by how the dice fall, Sharp Shooters is made for you. 32 of the captivating cubes are provided and, to enhance the casino flavor, they are rolled onto a tray with a green felt surface and a semicircular backboard.
The objectives for the rolls are found on a set of 12 two-sided cards, each face having six rows of scoring combinations. These rows can call for one or more of a specific number, from “1” to “6”. A row of green stars is “wild” and the die number placed on the first star must be followed for the remainder of the row. Three black stars followed by two red stars is a “full house” and calls for one number on the black stars and a different number on the red stars. A “straight” consists of four, five or six dice in numerical order.
As an example, one card face has the following rows: six green stars, for a value of 100 points; 4-3-2-1, for a value of 50 points; 4-4-4-4 – but colored black rather than white – for a value of -40 points; three green stars, for a value of 40 points; 6-6 for a value of 20 points; and three black stars followed by two red stars, for a value of 80 points.
To start, the dice are divided equally between the two to six players, each player gets 100 points in attractive, generously sized chips, and the shuffled cards are placed in the card holder so that the top face shows through the transparent cover. The cover has recessed spaces for placing dice above the card markings.
On a turn, a player throws five dice or the remaining dice if some were previously placed. The player then must, if possible, place at least one die to start a new row or to continue one already started. The player may place additional dice, either on the same row or on new ones. The remaining dice may then be thrown again under the same constraints. The turn continues until either no die can be placed from the roll, the player decides to stop rolling or the players runs out of dice to roll.
A player placing the last die in a row collects its value in chips from the bank. If forced to complete a black row, the player must pay the value to the bank.
When all the rows on a card are complete, the dice are removed and returned to the players so that each has the number originally issued, the card is moved to the bottom of the pile, exposing the face to be used for the next round. Six rounds constitute a standard game but more or less can be agreed upon. The player with the most points is the winner. In case of a tie, all players compete in another round.
Copyright ©1995, all rights reserved.
FROM THE WINTER 1996 GA REPORT
CATCH PHRASE! (Parker Brothers)
Just about everyone remembers the childhood aversion to being stuck with the “hot potato”. Now, with Catch Phrase!, much new meat has been added to the pastime. To get rid of “it”, a word or phrase must be transmitted to a partner.
The “it” in this case is a disk player into which a word/phrase disk is inserted. Around the edge of the disk, 72 “words or phrases” (for simplicity, just to be called “words” from now on) are printed. A magnifying opening shows one word. Pressing a button brings the next word into view. 16 disks are provided, each with words on both sides.
There is a timer that randomly beeps for up to 60 seconds. (To operate the timer, you will need two AAA batteries and a Phillips screwdriver to get them into place.) A game board with a seven space path and two movers complete the equipment.
Four or more players are required. They are divided into two teams with at least two players on a team. On a turn, one player from a team presses for a new word. He/she then tries to convey the word to his/her team. Any physical gesture can be used and any verbal clue except the following: a word that rhymes, giving the first letter, saying part of the word (such as “shoe” for “shoehorn”). The timer is activated as the player starts.
Team members call out words as quickly as they can. If they get the word, the disk player is passed to an opponent who pushes for a new word and works on getting it to his/her team. This continues until the timer buzzes. The team not holding the disk player moves one space along the path. This team also has one chance to guess the word. If successful, they move another space along the path.
Copyright © 1996, all rights reserved.
FROM THE WINTER 1997 GA REPORT
(As great as he was in designing abstract games, Sid was quick to recognize other abstracts of quality like this one. And also quick to offer suggestions to improve the game play!)
AVALAM BITAKA (Great American Trading Company)
How would you like a strategy game where you can freely move your opponent’s pieces? Well, with Avalam Bitaka, a new abstract game created by Philippe Deweys, two players can enjoy the privilege.
The wooden board has 49 hollows. These are arranged so that 24 light and 24 pattern. (The center hollow remains empty.)
The object of the game is to end up with more towers (which can consist of from one to five pieces) with your color on top.
Players in turn move a tower belonging to either player onto an adjoining tower in any direction (horizontal, vertical or diagonal). A tower can never be moved onto an empty hollow or so as to form a tower of more than five pieces.
Play continues until no possible moves remain. (And a player may be forced to make moves that hurt.) The player controlling the most towers is the winner.
A variant is included where, instead of starting with the fixed pattern, players take turns in placing their pieces in any empty hollow.
After playing a number of games that ended in draws, I came up with a variant that helps reduce this problem. It introduces a configuration I call a “sandwich”. This is exactly two of a player’s pieces that are next to each other in any tower. (For example, the following towers score one point for Dark: D-D-L;-L-D-D-L; D-L-D-D-L. The following towers score two points for Dark: D-D-L-D-D. The following towers do not score for Dark: L-D-D-D-L; D-D-D-D-L. The following towers score one point for each color: D-D-L-L-D.) if the points for control of towers are tied, the player with the most points for sandwiches is the winner.
The pleasure of this novel game is enhanced by the attractive wooden equipment. The board is reminiscent of an artist’s palette and the pieces are shaped so as to stack neatly.
Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved.
FROM THE SPRING 1997 GA REPORT
(Sid’s love for games spilled over into delight at clever puzzles. He was the first person to show me this offering and I agreed it was well worth a review.)
RUSH HOUR (Binary Arts)
How about a Rush Hour that instead of hating, you can really enjoy? Well, here is what you have been waiting for, a very attractive and challenging puzzle that will give you hours of pleasure. Did I say “a puzzle”? Actually, there are 40 puzzles, ranging form beginner’s level to expert.
The top of the platform has squares in a 6×6 array. The depressions between the squares and around the edges form tracks through which vehicles can be moved, forward and backward, from one edge to the opposite edge. Trucks (and four are provided) take up a space of 3 squares along a track. Cars (and 12 are provided) take up a space of 2 squares along a track.
There are 40 cards, one for each puzzle. On one side is the starting arrangement for the vehicles used and on the other side is the solution. The object in every case is, by shifting the vehicles back and forth, to clear a path so that the red card (yours of course) can be moved out through the one opening in the edge of the platform.
To add some excitement to the search for a solution, we have tried the following variation. During a game session, players solve puzzles, recording the time it takes! In future sessions, the same puzzles are cracked by other players. Comparing the amount of time used give us a “winner”.
Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved.
FROM THE SUMMER 1997 GA REPORT
(Sid always showed great respect for other designers. He once remarked to me that he particularly admired Reiner Knizia’s prolific output of quality games.)
QUANDARY (Milton Bradley)
Quandary is a very clever Reiner Knizia design that originally appeared under the name Flinke Plinke and published by Amigo in Europe. Now, Milton Bradley gives it an upscale treatment with two very attractive sets of colored tiles, the quality of which would make them blend right in with the best chips Monte Carlo has to offer. One set of tiles is the Number Squares – five runs of six tiles numbered from 0 to 5. The other set is the Quandary tiles, six each of the five colors. A double fold board has five paths for the colors, each six spaces long.
The squares are placed face down and mixed. When 2 or 4 play, two Squares are removed without showing the faces. When 3 play, three Squares are removed. The remaining Squares are then distributed (from 14 when two play down to 7 each with the full complement of our) and are placed on the players’ racks.
Players, in turn, choose a Square and place it face up n the path of its color. The player then takes a Quandary tile of ANY color and places it where all of the players can see it. This continues until all of the spaces of ONE of the path are filled.
Each Quandary tile a player has scores for the top number in the path of the matching color. (For example, if the last number played in the red path is “3”, each red Quandary tile is worth 3 points.) New rounds are played until each player has had a chance to play first. High score wins.
On the box, they say that Quandary is “a nice little game of scheming and plotting”. They’ve got it just right. You will have no quandary on how to have fun with Quandary.
Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved.
FROM THE WINTER 1998 GA REPORT
(Sid’s final installment of Sid Sackson Says included a review of the third game of the then newly released Inventor’s Collection which included Quadwrangle by Maureen Hiron and Sid’s own Upthrust [both of which were reviewed in the very same issue.])
OSKA (Great American Trading Company)
Here we have Oska, a game invented by Bryn Jones, a coal miner, who used it to pass the time during ground breaks. As with the other games in The Inventors’ Collection, the game comes in a light box (red in color this time). However, also in keeping with the series motif, the sturdy and attractive board is completely constructed from wood. Even the playing pieces are wooden rather than plastic.
Along each of the two long edges, there are four spaces. Next to each of these, there are three more spaces, diagonally positioned to fit into the outside rows. Finally, there are two more spaces in the center that bring all 16 spaces together.
Two play, each using a set of four colored pieces. These are started on the row of four spaces in front of each player. Movement is one space diagonally forward. Captures are made by jumping over one enemy piece, landing on an empty space immediately adjacent to the captured piece. Only one piece can be captured during a turn.
The objective is to move all of your remaining pieces (which can be as few as one) across the board onto the opponents’ starting row. But if you lose all four of your piece, you have had it. For a longer game, several variations are included that give point values to pieces that have made it across the board.
With such a small playing field and so few pieces, there is a tendency to feel that it should be easy to find a sure win. But we haven’t found it yet!