MANDALA STONES

Reviewed by Herb Levy

MANDALA STONES (Board & Dice, 2 to 4 players, 30 minutes, ages 10 and up; $40)

 

Abstract games are a game category unto itself. While many gamers prefer “themes”, abstracts distill game play to its streamlined essence. Such is the case with Mandala Stones, a new abstract designed by Filip Glowacz, where tranquility and beauty are the goals as players gather stones and, by how they “harvest” them, create a colorful mandala board earning more points than their fellow players to win

The main board of the game consists of circular spots. The 96 “stones” of the game (hard plastic disks in yellow, blue, pink and purple) are tossed into the included bag with four of them randomly placed on each of those spots. All stones have a pattern on them: either a “starburst” or a design enclosed with a white circle. Four “artists” (cylindrical pieces) are placed in their assigned circular spaces on the board. Like the stones, these artists display the same designs, 2 with the starburst, 2 with the white circle. All players get their own board which will be where scores are tracked and where picked stones will be placed. They also get 2 end of game scoring cards which offer a point bonus for achieving an end game goal – but only 1 of those cards will be scored.  On each turn, you either pick or score. 

To pick, one of the artists is moved to an open space.  That player will now harvest ALL of the stones bordering that artist with the following exceptions:

  1. Only stones matching the pattern of the artist may be collected and…
  2. Stones bordering ANOTHER artist may NOT be taken no matter what!

Collected stones must be taken in clockwise order and all stones that can be taken MUST be taken. (NO skipping!) These stones are then placed in one of the five empty scoring areas on that player’s board. (Adding stones to an occupied area is NOT allowed.)  

Scoring is allowed when at least TWO of the scoring areas on a player’s board have the same color stone on top. (In this case, patterns do not matter.) Each of the five areas scores a bit differently and are scored from left to right.

The first area will score 1 point for each different height of stones in all scoring areas. (In this case, top stone color does not matter and an empty area counts as “0” in height.) The second, third and fourth areas score based on how many stones are in each area with varying point totals. (Sometimes having only 1 stone in an area is more valuable than having more there.) The final scoring area rewards the player with 1 point for each different color in that space (plus an additional 1 point bonus). Points collected are noted on that player’s board and the top stones of each scoring column are removed and placed on the big mandala board. As this is done, the stones will create a colorful pattern; they will also cover +1 or +2 bonus spaces giving those extra points to the player whose stones cover them. This continues until the stones reach a space with a number of “hands” equal to the number of players. At that point, the game will end when all players have had an equal number of turns. (Alternatively, if a player cannot either pick stones OR score, the game ends immediately!) Now, end game cards are revealed and the player with most points wins!

The challenge of the game is to find scoring opportunities on the board that match available spaces on your player board. Your choice of end game goals (thanks to having 2 cards to choose from) will shape your moves as well. Being unable to add stones to a column could have potentially crippled scoring opportunities but, fortunately, Glowacz has provided a “safety valve” of sorts. Rather than scoring as normal, players may simply skim off the top stone of any or all columns, regardless of color, scoring 1 point for each (unless, when placed on the mandala board, +1 or +2 spaces are covered). Although you are settling for a small point payoff by doing this, you may unlock a potentially higher score next time around by exposing multiple towers with the same color that had been hidden. 

Component quality of the game is quite good as the stones are nice quality plastic and the cylindrical artists are solid and a bit heavy. The patterns used are nice but a little similar so you need to concentrate a bit more to make sure you don’t confuse the two. (The white circle definitely helps although white on yellow disks can be a strain.) The main board and mandala board are of a suitable thickness which, for some reason, is not shared by the noticeably thinner player boards – but that’s a minor quibble. 

Mandala Stones is a strong game of positioning where you not only build points but construct a winding mandala of color which makes it a bit of tasty eye candy too.  Nicely done! – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy


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

 

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