(From time to time, Sid Sackson games were reviewed in the pages of GA REPORT. Here are some of the reviews of gaming gems from the master that appeared in our pages.)


From the Winter 1987 GA REPORT

(Sid Sackson’s versatility at game design was nowhere more evident when he applied himself to the (then) new technology of video cassette recorders as they applied to games. As usual, his game design rose above the technology.)

doorwaysaWe live in an age of great technological advances. The Video Cassette Recorder has been an advance that has changed the leisure habits of millions. Now, the impact of the VCR has been felt in the world of gaming. Doorways to Adventure (DTA) and Doorways to Horror (DTH) are examples of this.

In DTA, the object of the game is to amass the most wealth by collecting the greatest amount of Treasures (Art Objects, Jewelry, Property Deeds and precious Metals). These treasures are represented by graphically appealing cards. Also included are Power Cards, Bid cards, a Key, Money and a “Colorscan” die.

Each player begins with money ($25,000 to $50,000 depending on the number of players). The Treasures are divided into stacks by type, the Power and Bid Cards are separated and each player is dealt 5 Power Cards and 3 Bid Cards. With the Key placed in a central location, the cassette is loaded into the VCR and play begins.

The Colorscan die is rolled. This is Pressman’s trademarked name for its color die which directs you to a particular color-coded “Doorway”. Based on which color is rolled, the VCR tape is advanced to the matching color Doorway.

Before viewing what is behind the Doorway, the tape is paused and players must satisfy a ransom demanded by the voice on the tape. Power Cards may be used for this purpose. Without the necessary Power Cards, cash must be paid instead. Once done, players now bid for the available treasure by using Bid Cards. High bidder receives the Treasure. A clever feature here is that more than one Treasure can be own per turn through skillful (and lucky) use of the Cards.

Another unique feature of the game is the Key. The Key is taken with a Steal the Key Card. It is a useful item to have since the Key satisfies all ransom requirements. But is can be stolen away by another player during the play causing a shift in fortune.

The more Treasure accrued of the same type, the greater the value of the Treasure. For example, one precious Metals Cards is worth $6,000 but two are worth $15,000.

When the end of the tape is reached, the game is over. The player with the highest amount of Treasures and cash wins.

In DTH, the components are of similarly high quality and include a card deck consisting of Magic Spell Cards, Capture Cards, Strength Change Cards, Creature Figure Cards with stands, Strength Chips, Gold Certificates and a Colorscan die.

In DTH, the object of the game is to accumulate the most Gold Certificates while trying to avoid losing your Strength Chips.

doorways2Each player starts with a hand of 7 cards and Strength Chips (from 20 to 10 depending on the number of players). Players draw for creatures from Creature Selection Cards. Creatures drawn are now under the control of that player. With the VCR cassette inserted, play begins.

As in DTA, the Colorscan die is rolled to determine which color-coded Doorway is used.

There are two basic parts to gameplay. Each time a film segment shows a Main Creature (and the two lesser creatures on the tape), the player may place a numbered Spell Card against the figure in the hope of collecting Gold Certificates for a successful spell. At the same, time, opposing players may capture those creatures by playing appropriate Capture Cards. During the pause segment of play, Gold Certificates are awarded for successful spells to the players controlling the creatures.

After Gold is awarded, players may bid for control of the Main Creature by using one or two Spell cards. Highest bidder takes control. Lowest bidder risks losing Strength Chips. Once a player loses all his Strength Chips, his is out of the game. (Player only lose and never gain Chips.)

In both games, be prepared for penalties behind Doorways. Penalties may result in loss of Chips, Treasures, Cards etc.

As in DTA, the game is over when the end of the tape is reached. The game will also end when all but one of the players has lost all of his Strength Chips. The surviving player with the most Gold Certificates wins.

Doorways to Adventure and Doorways to Horror are two enjoyable games which make use of the VCR. While the constant pausing of the tape does tend to slow down play, this is counterbalanced the the undeniable fascination and strong nostalgic pull of all those great and not so great monsters and B-movies. Doorways to Adventure and Doorways to Horror are fun games for the whole family. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

(The VCR boom in games burst and sales did not meet expectations. As a result, the third planned entry in the series, Doorways to Mystery that Sid had already designed did not appear in the marketplace.)



From the Winter 1988 GA REPORT

(In GA REPORT, we have a series on Game Classics, great games that, for one reason or another, are no longer published. Although back in 1988, that series had yet to start, this was one of the games which would certainly have fit and might have led off the series had Discovery Toys not decided to resurrect one of the better entries in the 3M line of adult games: Sid Sackson’s Bazaar.)

BAZAAR (Discovery Toys)

Far too often, great games fade from the scene. That is why it is such a pleasure to welcome back Bazaar, the classic game of abstract strategy from the prolific and immensely talented Sid Sackson.

bazaar2Bazaar comes boxed with 10 Barter Cards, 45 Merchandise Cards (plus 4 Star Cards), 100 “jewels” (in 5 colors), a color die and scorepad. The Barter Cards establish relationships between the different colored jewels (e.g. one blue jewel may equal a yellow, white and green). Two of these Barter Cards are randomly selected and placed face up on the playing area. They become the “trade terms” for the rest of the game. The 4 Star Cards are placed to start 4 piles of “merchandise” with the remaining Merchandise Cards shuffle and dealt to make 4 stacks of 5 cards each. (Remaining Merchandise Cards are placed aside until later.) Players roll the color die (which shows a Star and the colors white, blue, green, red and yellow) and play begins.

On the first turn, the die is rolled and the player takes the jewel of the showing color. (A “Star” lets the player choose any color.) On subsequent turns, players may roll the die to obtain another jewel or trade a jewel they possess for other jewels based on the trade terms on the Barter Cards.

After a die roll or trade, a player may exchange his jewels for one of the displayed merchandise cards provided the jewels exchanged are an identical match to those depicted on the card. To claim the card, the matching jewels are handed in and a new card is exposed.

Each merchandise card has a point value based on the number of jewels a player has remaining in his possession after purchase and the “star value” of the card claimed. Most cards have no stars on them. Once a stack is depleted exposing the bottom Star Card, the remaining Merchandise Cards are added equally to the remaining stacks and, from that point on, all cards are scored as if they had 1 star with starred cards scores as if they had 2. Points values of claimed cards can range from 1 to 12 points! The first player to total the required number of points (20 when 6 play to 50 when 2 play) wins. (Rules for solitaire play are included as well.)

Bazaar is an attractive and challenging game which belongs in every gamer’s library of games. Highly recommended. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

Copyright © 1988, all rights reserved.


From the Winter 1997 GA REPORT

(Once our Game Classics series of out of print gaming gems was up and running, Sid had a few in our pantheon. This is one of them)

CAN’T STOP (Parker Brothers, 1980)

When a French company was unable to obtain a license for Obsession, a then popular dice game, Sid Sackson’s agent suggested that he could do something just as good. As it turns out, Sid, one of the world’s great game creators, could not. He did something better! The French turned it down but Can’t Stop became a best seller for Parker Brothers, one of the top selling Sackson designs and a family game classic!

cantstopCan’t Stop comes boxed with a game board, three white markers, four six-sided dice and 44 colored squares (four sets of 11 in four different colors). For 2 to 4 players, ages 10 and up, Can’t Stop takes less than an hour to play.

Each player begins with a set of colored squares. (If less than four are involved, the remaining squares are placed out of play.) Players roll two dice. High rollergets to start.

The red plastic board displays all of the possible number combinations available when rolling a pair of six-sided dice. Each number has its column. The length of the column varies. The “2” column is only 2 spaces tall but the columns increase in size until you get to the “7” column (which is 12 spaces long). The columns then symmetrically decrease as the numbers increase ending with the “12” column (which is also only 2 spaces tall).

In his turn, the player rolls all four dice. The roll is split to create two numbers. For example, on a roll of 1-4-5-6, you could create a 6 and 10 (joining the 1 and 5, joining the 4 and 6), 5 and 11 (1+4, 5+6) or 9 and 7 (5+4, 1+6_. The pair of numbers determines marker placement on the board.

After choosing how his roll will be split, the player places the white markers into the appropriate column(s). For example, if the player chooses the 6-10 combination, one marker goes in the 6 column, one into the 10. (When first placing a marker into a column, you start at the bottom). Your job is to move your marker to the top!

The roller may continue to roll. If he chooses to do so, he again splits the roll and moves the markers. (If he already has a marker in a column, the marker simply moves up a space.) Spaces may be occupied by more than one player’s piece. On the other hand, the roller may decide to stop. In that case, he replaces the white marker with a square of his own color to show his column position. So far, so good. But watch it if you can’t stop!

Should you roll and find yourself unable to place a marker or move one up, your turn is over! Keep in mind that there are only three markers available for player use each turn. So, if you have already placed them on the board, only numbers rolled that match that column can be placed! For example, if you have placed your white markers on the 6, 7 and 9 columns, a dice roll of 1-1-4-4 does you no good because no two of these numbers make a 6, 7 or 9! What’s worse (for the roller) is that all of the markers that have been placed or moved that turn are removed from the board! (Fortunately, all already placed colored markers stay.)

The first colored square that makes it to the top of a column gives that player control of the column. At that point, the column is “dead”; no more markers may be placed in it. The first player to gain control of any three of the the columns wins!

Strategically, you need to keep in mind that 6, 7 and 8 will come up more often than 2 or 12. (That accounts for the column length differences.) It’s also beneficial to “double up” numbers. For example, a roll of 2-3-4-5 offers many choices. But the best would be 2+5 and 3+4 for several reasons. First, it gives you two “7”s and moves your marker up two spaces instead of one. Second, the roll only uses one of the three markers giving you a little more flexibility in choosing which numbers to play off your next roll.

Can’t Stop is a highly addictive dice game skillfully blending strategy, luck and fun. Although a European company originally turned it down (they couldn’t stop rolling and never finished a game!), ironically, Franjos (a different European company) currently markets the game – but not in the USA! Are you American game companies listening out there? – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved.


From the Summer 1997 GA REPORT

(One of Sid’s best designs, in my humble opinion. I told Sid he was like baseball great Willie Mays, MVP in 1954 and MVP in 1965 who maintained high quality for over such a long span. Sid created Acquire published back in 1962 and this one, which was nominated for Spiel de Jahres in 1994, 32 years later!)

KOHLE, KIE$ & KNETE (Schmidt Spiele + Friezeit)

kohleIt’s a shame that America’s finest game designer, Sid Sackson (Acquire, Bazaar, Can’t Stop, Domination, Executive Decision, Sleuth, Venture, etc.) can only get his recent designs published overseas in boardgame-crazed Europe – where the designer actually gets his/her name on the game box. Kohle, Kie$ & Knete (loosely translated as “Boodle, Buck$ & Bread” and referred to hereafter as KKK) is a very American game in content (deal making) but with a mechanism that is a very Germanic in execution. KKK is highly interactive, with 3 to 6 players (best with 5 or 6) constantly and simultaneously involved in frenetic card play and negotiation.

KKK’s board shows 16 deals waiting to be completed. The game has a variable ending after the tenth deal has been concluded, which adds tension and uncertainty. Dividends on deals increase as more are concluded. Each deal requires the participation of a different combination of investor cards (or their greedy relatives) to be concluded. If a deal can be put together by the current “boss”, the participant must agree to the distribution of the dividends that result.

The mechanism that makes this wheeling and dealing so entertaining is the influence cards. Players are dealt five of these cards to start the game and can’t have more than 12 at any time. The influence cards are a volatile mix of Clan cards (relatives of the investors), Travel cards (sending investors or clan on vacation and unable to deal), Recruitment cards (played in triples to steal investors from other players), Boss cards (to take control of current negotiations) and Stop cards (to negate Travel, Recruitment and Boss cards).

On a player’s turn, he must first decide to either open the current deal (board space the marker is currently on) or draw three influence cards and pass to the next player. If a deal is opened, the Boss must try to recruit the investors needed to earn the dividends. Other players can cooperate or sabotage the deal by playing their influence cards out of turn. This results in a wild free-for-all that leaves most gamers exhausted by game’s end. This interaction makes for a variety of strategic options that require clever timing, negotiating and cooperation among the participants.

Most multi-player games bog down with the addition of a fifth of sixth player. Not so with KKK which flows effortlessly with six for an exhilarating 60 minutes. There is never a lull or any dead time between turns in this contest of savvy and guile. This game is definitely not for the passive or timid gamer.

The components – board, deal tiles, money and colorfully cartoonish cards – are all top notch. Finding a copy of KKK, part of Schmidt’s “Bestselling Authors” series, can be difficult but is well worth the effort. KKK has become one of our playtesting group’s all-time favorites. Highly recommended. — Steve Kurzban

Copyright © 1997, all rights reserved.


From the Winter 1998 GA REPORT

(Noted game designer Maureen Hiron whose designs include 77, Duo (both featured in the Winter 1995 GA REPORT) launched “The Inventors’ Collection” in late 1997/early 1998. The premise was to package some quality game designs by leading game creators in a similar format. The initial releases included Maureen’s own Quadwrangle (in a slim blue box), Sid’s Upthrust (in a matching green box) and Oska (an abstract designed by Bryn Jones, a miner who devised the game to while away long hours underground, in a red box), all three featured in the Winter 1998 GA REPORT.

UPTHRUST (Great American Trading Company)

Upthrust is yet another brilliant abstract game from the fertile mind of Sid Sackson. Packaged similarly to Quadwrangle (although this it’s a green box), Upthrust is of low complexity and is for up to four players. Playing time runs about 30 minutes.

upthrustThe game consists of a wooden board and four set of four colored pegs. The pegs are placed (in a diagonal formation to give all colors an equal start) at the bottom of the board. The goal is to move the pegs upward (hence the name of the game) into the upper scoring rows. Movement makes the game.

No dice are used. Pegs move according to the number of pegs in a row. A peg may move exactly as many spaces upward as there are pegs in the row. The exception here is that the most advanced piece of a color, if alone in a row, may not move. Only one piece may occupy a space and, on any of the lower six rows (the non-scoring rows), no two pieces of the same color may occupy a row.

The five scoring rows carry values of 60, 40, 30, 20 and 10. Once entering the scoring zone, pieces may continue to move upward according to the basic movement rules (and here, two or more pieces of the same color may occupy the same row).

The game ends when either no legal move is possible or only two pieces remain outside the scoring zone. Then, points are tallied. High scorer wins!

Upthrust lends itself to team play and rules for two and three players are also provided. Rounding out the package is a “puzzle challenge” where a solo player tries to move ALL pegs upward into the scoring area to a maximum score.

Of the three games in the first installment of The Inventors’ Collection, Upthrust is the most serious abstract. But it is still a whole lot of fun! In Upthrust, players must rely on their skill and not the dice. The person making the best moves wins – and this game is a winner too! – – – – Herb Levy

Copyright © 1998, all rights reserved.


From the Fall 1999 GA REPORT


One of Sid Sackson’s earliest published games was High Spirits with Calvin & The Colonel (Milton Bradley, 1962), based on a short-lived American TV cartoon show. In 1992, German game published FX Schmid changed the theme of High Spirits to tabloid journalism and released it as a small boxed card game, Das Superblatt.

buriedtreasureDas Superblatt was a game I always wanted to like but ultimately traded not once but twice. Why such ambivalence? Das Superblatt had many things going in its favor – easy rules to teach and learn, clever use of changing trend cards, and a quick resolution each round that built to a crescendo by the third and final round. There was, however, a fatal flaw. Toward the end of each game year, the choices became pre-programmed – the dreaded “Nim” syndrome (i.e. if I make this move, my opponent will take that move and so on to a predestined conclusion).

Fast forward to 1999. FX Schmid USA reissues Das Superblatt with a pirate makeover as Buried Treasure. In fact, card for card, the basic game is Das Superblatt, warts and all. What saves the day are the new advanced rules, elevating Buried Treasure to “keeper” status.

The 54 game cards (12 red cannons, 13 green treasure maps, 14 yellow pirates and 15 blue pirate ships) of Buried Treasure are shuffled together and divided into three equal stacks of 18 cards. Each game year, one of the three stacks is laid out onto the table as an overlapping four column tableau of 6-5-4-3 game cards. One of the four score cards is displayed, indicating how many points can be earned by the player collecting the most (and second most) of each color of game cards.

A turn consists of selecting one of the exposed cards from the tableau’s four columns and displaying it, face up, in front of the player. For each color, there are three types of cards – plain, “Extras” and “Pirate Flags”. Selecting an Extra card allows the player to pick another exposed card of the same color (if available). Special actions for the “bonus” card are ignored. Selecting a card with pirate flags allows the player to steal as many displayed cards of that color from any one opponent. Play continues in this fashion until the entire 18 card tableau has been exhausted.

Each color then gets scored according to that year’s score card. For example, let’s say that for year one, green map cards are worth 10 points to whoever has accumulated the most map cards (and 5 points to whoever has the second most). If two players have the same number of cards displayed, they cancel out with neither scoring! As a result, there are actually times when players with large holding of a color may get nothing (when tied) and a player with a single card or two comes up big! For the second and third rounds, the player with the fewest points goes first and everyone keeps the cards displayed from previous rounds!

In the advanced game, there are 22 additional “starter cards” (5 plain cards of each color plus 2 skull and crossbones wild cards which may be used for any color.) The three to four players of the game are dealt an equal number of starter cards at the beginning of the first round with the leftover starter cards returned, sight unseen to the game box. Each players cache of starter cards are one-time use cards that are never replenished. Instead of picking a card from the tableau , a player can place a starter card from his hand to his display or to an opponent’s display! A round continues after the tableau is exhausted with players having the option of either playing a starter card or passing, Once you have passed, you are ineligible to play more starter cards for that year. Once everyone has passed, the round ends. Starter cards remaining in your hand at game’s end are worth 1 point each with the wild cards worthless for point scoring but valuable for adding to either your display or to an opponent’s.

Buried Treasure’s advanced game is a pleasure to play. The decisions concerning the starter cards alter the tempo of the play sequence, eliminating most of the Nim-like ending for each round. There is a feeling of being more in control than in the basic game. The rounds of starter card play can be quite tense and very strategic. Play your cards too early and you’re at your opponent’s mercy by game’s end. Pass too soon and you’ve lost control of the tempo. There are interesting choices considering this is a simple game that plays in under a half hour.

It’s a break of fresh air to see a broken game fixed and very much improved by its publisher. FX Schmid USA has made Buried Treasure a treasure worth digging up at your game retailer. – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Steve Kurzban

Copyright © 1999, all rights reserved.


From the Spring 2000 GA REPORT

ACQUIRE (The Avalon Hill Game Company/Hasbro)

content_acquire_pic1In the impressive array of gaming gems designed by the legendary Sid Sackson, Acquire stands as the jewel in the crown. It was the star of the 3M series of games and, when The Avalon Hill Game Company bought the 3M line, Acquire became a success for them as well. After a long run of over 30 years, Acquire had, regrettably, gone out of print. Now, this large vacancy on game store shelves has been generously filled as Hasbro, under its new Avalon Hill banner, has released a spectacular and very welcome deluxe version of Acquire.

As originally conceived, Acquire was a game of hotel mergers. In this new version, hotels give way to corporations as the theme gets modernized as does the presentation which is simply stunning. There is a molded plastic grid upon which the 108 corporate tiles are placed. In addition, there are seven plastic buildings (to represent the corporations in the game), stock certificates for the corporations, information cards for each player, play money and a tray to hold everything in place. For 2 to 6 players, ages 12 and up, a game session takes less than an hour to play.

To begin, the color-coded stock certificates are placed in their respective slots in the tray where the plastic buildings also fit as they await their appearance on the playing grid. A nice touch is that the values of the corporations are mirrored in the size of the plastic buildings. The larger the building, the more valuable (potentially) it is. And it is nice to see homage paid to the creator. Not only is Sid given designer credit on the box but one of the new corporations has been christened “Sackson”.

All players begin with $6000 and an information card. The 108 tiles are mixed and placed face down. Each player draws a tile and the one getting the tile closest to 1-A goes first with the drawn tiles placed on the grid to “seed” the area. Players then draw six tiles (keeping them hidden) and the game begins.

One a turn, a player must first place one of his tiles on the matching space on the grid. He may then purchase up to three shares of stock in any corporation in play. Finally, he replenishes his cache of tiles by drawing another from the face down pile.

Should a tile connect with a tile already on the board (horizontally or vertically, not diagonally), a corporation is formed. That player may then name the corporation (as one of the seven corporations in the game not already in play) and receives a share of stock as a “founder’s bonus”. Should tile placement link two corporations on the grid, a merger occurs. Mergers are the key to generating the profits needed to win.

In a merger, the larger chain (the one with more tiles) survives and the smaller one becomes defunct. (If two chains are equal in size, the active player can decide which chain is eliminated.) The players with the most and second-most stock in the defunct corporation receive stockholder cash bonuses. Stockholders in the now larger chain do NOT receive a cash bonus. However, the value of their owned shares in this bigger chain tends to increase in value. After bonuses have been collected, the holders of the shares in the defunct corporation must decide what to do with their shares. They may hold the shares (in the even that the corporation restarts at a later date, sell the stock back to the bank (at its former value) or trade two shares of the defunct corporation for one share in the surviving corporation . (Any corporation that consists of 11 or more tiles is considered “safe” and may not merge.) Although it can be played with money and shares hidden, we recommend playing the game with all money and stocks exposed.

Play continues until one player, during his turn, announces that all corporations are “safe” or until one corporation consists of 41 or more tiles. At that point, majority and minority shareholders’ bonuses are paid out and all stocks are sold back to the bank at current prices. (Stock of corporations NOT on the board held by players have NO value!) The player with the most money wins!

Acquire is a rarity, a game classic truly worthy of its reputation. The elegant design, like a fine wine, only improves with age and this new edition, with its superior presentation, enhances the pleasure. Even if you already own a copy of this game, this new edition is well worth “acquiring”. Highly recommended. —————————————————————————————– Herb Levy

Copyright © 2000, all rights reserved.


(And yet another entry in our Game Classics series)

From the Winter 2001 GA REPORT


Travel and sightseeing seems like an ideal theme for a family game. It certainly has been the theme for many. But it took someone with the creativity of Sid Sackson to take a well worn theme and make it truly unusual and fresh.

HolidayHoliday was one of the games marketed by a New York based company, RGI. RGI was probably best known for their line of sports simulations with real personalities in the titles (Vince Lombardi’s Game, Gil Hodges Pennant Fever, Oscar Robertson Pro Basketball Strategy etc.) although they did market games of other genres (including two WAR games by Sid Sackson: Major Battles and Campaigns of General Douglas MacArthur and Major Battles and Campaigns of General George S. Patton). Holiday was one of the their forays into family gaming – and it was exceptional!

Holiday came in a large, flat, square box that held a map of the world, a deck of 64 “sightseeing” cards, play money, a small model plane, a “day of the week” dial, score sheets and a die. For two to eight players, Holiday was suitable for family play with a playing time of about 90 minutes.

Players began with a bankroll of $10,000 and a hand of sightseeing cards, from 10 (if up to six were playing) down to 9 (with seven players) to 8 (with eight players). Sightseeing cards contained three vital pieces of information: the name of the city you wanted to visit, the day that was best for visiting and the number of points that visit was worth IF you arrived on that best day. Getting to that city on that best day (or, at least, CLOSE to that best day) is the crux of the game.

On the first turn of the game, play begins with an auction for control of the plane. The plane is NOT owned by any player but is CONTROLLED by the high bidder for ONE turn. Bidding is open and continues until only the high bidder is left. The high bidder pays his bid to the bank and moves the plane to any city anywhere on the board. He then determines the day of the week – and that’s where that clever “day of the week” dial comes in. To determine the day, the controlling player rolls the die. With the wheel on Sunday, the dial is rotated one day per pip on the die. So, for example, if a six is rolled, the day is Saturday. (This is the only time the die is used in the entire game!)

ANY player who has a card for that particular city may discard the card and get the points for the city on that day. Only one card may be played by each player per turn. If the plane lands in a city on the day specified on your sightseeing card, you get 7000 points. If you are a day EARLY, you get 6000. Two days early, and the card is worth 5000 – and so on, down to 1000. Once everyone has played any card they wish to, the wheel on the dial is shifted to the next day and the next turn begins. From this point on, the game becomes a game of nerves, bid and bluff.

Now, the plane may move from the city it is on to any city linked to it by a solid black line. Players, again in an open auction, bid for control of the plane with high bidder moving the plane to its next destination and, once the plane arrives, all players may play one matching city sightseeing card. When someone has successfully discarded his last sightseeing card, the game is over and scores are tallied.

Players add up the total of sightseeing points accumulated from the play of their cards. To that is added any unspent money they may have at the conversion rate of 1 point per dollar. The player with the highest combined total wins!

Holiday has some brilliant touches. The “tug-of-war” between players who want to go in different directions can lead to some big bidding wars. There’s nothing sweeter than watching your opponents run up the price, pay a high fee for control of the plane and pleasantly discover that the plane has been moved to a city YOU wanted! Remember: you can play a card even if you do NOT control the plane! You need to control your high bidding instincts. Keep in mind that money is extremely valuable. Not only does it convert to victory points at the end, it is irreplaceable! Once you place a winning bid and spend it, that’s it! There is no way of getting any more funds! Money in reserve is a key consideration. Otherwise, you will find yourself buffeted about the world, going to cities in which you have no interest, unable to wrest control of the plane from the opposition and left with a hand full of unplayable cards! And how many games can you think of that can handle 8 players flawlessly?

Unfortunately, there were some drawbacks. The map of the world (a wonderful opportunity for graphic excellence) is, to put it charitably, bland. Worse, reading the cities and mapping out the routes, well worth the effort, is more difficult than it should be. Ironically, these faults were addressed in “improved” European remakes of the game such as Das Erbe des Maloney (Maloney’s Inheritance) and Shanghai. Unfortunately, these remakes added a significant luck element to the game play which served to only spoil an elegant design.

Sid Sackson is justifiably well known for Acquire, Can’t Stop (another Game Classic), Kohle, Kies & Knete, Venture, Sleuth – the list goes on and on. But his Holiday deserves to be on the short list of his very best creations. – – Herb Levy

Copyright © 2001, all rights reserved.


From the Fall 2002 GA REPORT

(Back in the Winter 1997 issue, we lamented that Can’t Stop was no longer available on American game store shelves. That problem was rectified, sort of, with this new variation.)

CAN’T STOP THE TURTLES (Winning Moves; 2-4 players; about 30 minutes; $10)

Although it may be hard to believe, Sid Sackson’s best selling game (at least, according to Sid) is not Acquire, not Bazaar, not Kohle, Kies & Knete, not Venture nor any of the games from the fabled 3M line. Sid’s bestseller is a clever little dice game called Can’t Stop (featured in our Game Classics series back in the Winter 1997 GA REPORT)). Regrettably, Parker removed this gem from its line over 20 years ago. But the good news is, Can’t Stop, albeit in a new guise from a different company, is back as Can’t Stop the Turtles.

cansturCan’t Stop the Turtles comes in a small, hard plastic case that holds a deck of cards, four dice, score pad, a supply of chips, pencil and rules. Evidently inspired by the European penchant for bizarre themes for games, the abstract nature of the original Can’t Stop is exchanged for the oxymoron of racing turtles!

To begin, the deck of cards is spread out. Each card contains a number, from 2 through 12. The player on turn rolls all four six sided dice. From the roll, players may combine two sets of two dice to make a number, placing chips on the matching turtle cards. For example, if a roll of 2, 3, 3 and 4 is rolled, a player may combine the 2 and 3 (to make 5) and the second 3 and 4 (to make 7) and place a chip on the 5 and 7 turtle cards respectively. An even better play would be to combine the 2 and 4 and both 3s to earn TWO chips on card number 6. A player may continue to roll and place chips as long as he is able to combine at least ONE combination that is still viable. When it a number not viable? When the matching number card is won and out of the game!

As a player rolls and chips mount on cards, a player may choose to stop and mark on the score sheet the number of chips he has placed on a particular card or cards. Should a player place the required number of chips on a card (an amount that varies from only two for cards 2 and 12 up to seven for card number 7), that player claims that card and both that card and number are now out of play. Should a player be unable to place a chip on a card on his turn, his turn is over and all chips placed on that turn are lost! The first player to successfully claim three cards wins the game!

Can’t Stop the Turtles makes some changes to the original to make the game more forgiving. Now, there is a “Wild Turtle” on one of the dice (replacing a “1”) that can be used to represent ANY number. This allows combinations to be more easily created. Also, it is generally easier to “win a race”. In the original game, the 7 column was 12 spaces long. Here, only seven 7s are needed for the win. Presentation is a trade-off. The original edition used a beautiful hard plastic board and nice colorful plastic pieces. This edition is easier to transport and the hard plastic case certainly can survive the hard knocks of travel. For those die-hards who prefer the older style of play, it really is no problem to adjust the game to the original standard.

Any time you get the opportunity to play a Sid Sackson game, it is a golden opportunity as Sackson games never disappoint. Now, gamers get a second chance at enjoying a terrific dice game that has, unfortunately, disappeared from American game store shelves for two decades. When you race to the game store to get Can’t Stop the Turtles, everybody wins! – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – Herb Levy

Copyright 2002, all rights reserved.



TEMPTATION POKER (Western, 1982)

temptationpokerWhen I first learned of the fact that games were designed by specific authors as opposed to companies I immediately began to learn who the authors of my favorite games were and what other titles they had produced. My thinking was that, much like the books I read, I would probably tend to like works by the same author. Of course, the first designer I started tracking down information on was Sid Sackson. A number of years later, this would ultimately lead me to the game Temptation Poker by Western Publishing which was released in 1982. A game which I consider to be a true Sid Sackson lost classic.

The game comes attractively packaged in a smaller version of the standard family style game box. The game includes a surprisingly high quality deck of playing cards. Additionally, there are “poker chips” which are actually Tiddly Wink size plastic chips in the standard denominations of white, red and blue. Finally, the game’s main feature is a large felt “game board” which is divided into individual playing areas for up to six gamers. The rules are included in a small 6 page pamphlet.

The game play itself is stunningly simple and elegant. The poker chips are divided evenly amongst the players and follow the normal denominations of whites being ones, reds being fives and blues being tens. The game is played in a number of rounds. A round begins with each player anteing five. There is a location on each player’s section of the game board for them to place their ante chip(s). Players are then dealt five cards that make up their initial hands. This will be the starting point from which each player will try to construct the best poker hand possible. The ranks of the poker hands are conveniently printed on the board for those players unfamiliar with the ranking. Play then begins with the player to the left of the dealer.

On a player’s turn they may do one of two things. They may stand, at which point they place the five cards that make up their hand in front of them and pass for the rest of the round. If they decide not to stand, they draw a card from the top of the deck. After looking at the card, they may either fold or buy the card for the amount indicated on their play area. By purchasing the card, they remain in the round. The player indicates that they are purchasing the card by placing the indicated number of chips on their area of the board. This placement of chips on the board serves two functions. First, it marks how many cards the player has purchased and what the next card will cost them on their next turn. Second, it adds the chips to the winner’s pool. Play then passes to the next player.

The card purchasing mechanism is the key to the entire game. A player may purchase up to six cards, one per turn, during the course of the round. The trick is that the cards get more expensive as you buy them. The first card costs only one but, the scale creeps up rather dramatically from there with the progression being 3, 5, 10, 15, 20 and, ultimately 25. The temptation part of the game is that you actually get to look at the card before you buy it. As a result, it is very easy to get sucked into spending those more exorbitant prices for the later cards. I have seen people pay 20 for cards more times than they reasonably should have.

The round ends when all of the players have either stood or folded. The standing players all reveal their five card hands and, the player with the best hand wins the pool. The pool is made up of everyone’s ante of five and all of the chips spent by all of the players to purchase cards. So, spending 20 for a card becomes a real gamble as you may very well be giving away chips that you really can’t afford to. After, the winner collects their chips, everyone antes five again, the cards are shuffled and five new hands are dealt. The game ends at the beginning of any round in which a player can not ante. The winner is the player with the greatest value in chips.

Temptation Poker is a very aptly named game. It becomes far too easy to pay huge numbers of chips for “just one more chance” to take your hand from mediocre to a winner. The more skilled player will be better able to judge hands that are worth fighting for and hands that are not. This is an especially important skill in this game as any chips you use to buy cards will be going directly into your opponent’s score at the end of the game. Unnecessarily feeding your opponents chips is a swift path to defeat. Ultimately, one most develop a reasonable sense of self-control in order to be competitive in the game. This is much harder to do than it sounds once you start buying cards.

My only complaint with the game is purely on a component issue. The Tiddly Wink style chips provided with the game do it a huge disservice. They are hard to handle in addition to looking less than attractive. Fortunately, they can easily be replaced with readily available substitutes if one finds the small size annoying. Also, while the felt board is nice it is kind of large and makes the game need a bigger playing space than it really does. I understand why it was done because, the publisher is clearly trying to create a casino style atmosphere for the game. However, if a future reprint where ever to be done, I would rather see individual place mats for the players.

The above complaints are minor ones and, do not take away noticeably from the game’s play. The game’s card purchasing mechanism creates a marvelous “know when to hold them” vs. “know when to fold them” tension. Since games only take about half an hour to complete it is easy to fit multiple games in the the same session. It’s truly unfortunate that this game slipped into obscurity as I feel that it is an excellent game for family as well as regular gamers. Hopefully, with Sid’s passing someone will take the opportunity to bring Temptation Poker back into production. – – – – – – – – – Nick Sauer

Copyright © 2002, all rights reserved.



INTERSECTION/CORNER (Aladdin, 1974/Ravensburger, 1980)

intersecTwo player abstract games are one of the hardest design challenges for any game designer. The reason for this is that, unlike multiplayer games, two player games are much more easily subject to rigorous mathematical analysis. This is especially the case in our current computer intensive era. This can lead to a such a game being “solved” before it is out for very long. Of course, a solution to a game isn’t something that will destroy game play unless the solution is a trivial one that is easy to remember. Unfortunately, for a large number of abstract games the solution does turn out to trivialize game play. I have seen a number of games, which I enjoyed at first, later being rendered unplayable as a result of this.

Among Sid Sackson’s incredible and prolific designs are a number of two player abstracts. His excellent Fields of Action is probably the most famous of his abstract designs. In addition, I would argue that Intersection published by Aladdin in 1974, and later released as Corner by Ravensburger in 1980, is another such game that demonstrates Sid’s mastery of abstract game design.

Unlike other games published by Aladdin, Intersection came in a large box (measuring roughly 17″ x 14″) which contained a semi-sturdy mounted cardboard board, 25 colored cardboard discs and four plastic arrows (two red and two black, although only one of each is needed for play).

Corner, the re-issue of Intersection by Ravensburger is different on just about every level. First, the game comes in a small size family style game box. The game itself uses marbles in a specially molded plastic game board with a felt playfield. The field edge has slots that hold specially molded plastic arrows which point into the play area and slide smoothly along the edge of the board. Overall, Corner is a very attractively packaged version of the game.

In Intersection, the game is played on a five by five square game field and the 25 discs are randomly placed on the grid. Corner begins in a similar fashion but, in this remake of the game, play is done on a six by six square game field with the random placement of 36 pieces. In Intersection, the pieces come in five colors from a low of three of a color to a high of seven. In Corner, the pieces come in seven colors with a low of three (there are two such colors) to a high of eight pieces. Once the pieces are set into the grid, both games begin the same with one player placing their arrow on either the horizontal or vertical edge of the field. The arrow, once placed, will point at a specific row or column of pieces on the playfield. The second player then places their arrow along the axis that the first player did not choose. Similarly, their arrow also has to point at a specific row or column. Once placed, both arrows will now point at one particular piece on the board. The second player removes that piece and keeps it for scoring at the end of the game. From this point on, players now take alternating turns sliding their arrow along their edge of the board and claiming the piece at the intersection point. The only restriction is that the players must claim a piece on their turn so, once a piece is removed it creates a void in the play area. These voids are blocks to future moves since a player must claim a piece on their turn. Also, in Corner, one of the two color sets that include only three pieces can not be claimed and act as blockers as well. Eventually, one player will be left without a move (i.e. their are no pieces left, or the only pieces left are the blocker pieces, in that column or row for them to claim). Once, this happens the game ends and the players calculate their scores.

cornerThe scoring chart (conveniently printed on the board in both Intersection and Corner) is fairly simple. The more pieces of the same color that you claim, the more points you get. In Intersection, scores increase the more pieces of a color you have (from 1 point for 1 piece of a color to a high of 28 points if you managed to capture all seven of a color’s pieces). In Corner, the curve levels out at the four level so, while claiming a fourth piece of the same color will add four to your final score, a fifth piece of the same color will only add three more. It’s an interesting scoring dynamic that obviously has an influence on how one attacks the game.

Intersection’s game play is simple and, yet very deep at the same time. A player has to take a long term view of the game board to prevent their opponent from setting them with a series of moves that will lead to their defeat. Since claimed pieces are open for both players to see and the scoring system is fairly simple, it is easy to keep track of who is in the lead at any given moment. So, conversely a player in the lead can try to force their opponent into a game ending series of moves to secure their victory. It is a game with a unique system of play that also rewards the player with good long term vision.

So, what more could one want in an abstract game? Well, there is one small problem with Intersection/Corner that is, fortunately, fairly easy to correct. The problem is that the game’s total number of possible moves (or state space) is too small. This concern was addressed with Corner by expanding the original five by five play area to a six by six. However, with only a six by six grid, the game is still a little too easy to analyze too quickly. I would imagine that an experienced player could easily start to recognize patterns and intuitively know how to play the board as a result. The state space is also small enough that it comes dangerously close to allowing for the construction of a perfect AI that could examine the entire game tree (total possible set of game outcomes) upon set up and, thus, give a human player precious little chance for victory. As I said, the fix is a fairly easy one but, it would be a touch labor intensive for someone who wanted to use it immediately.

The fix involves taking the game up to a seven by seven grid. This would increase the game’s state space enough to prevent this real-time analysis problem. It would also overwhelm (at least by today’s standards) a computer’s ability to run the perfect AI described earlier. With a seven by seven grid you would have to increase the number of pieces but, there is an obvious way to do this by using Corner’s number of colors but having the most common piece color start at ten and working your way down from there. Similarly, the scoring system would have to be modified to make five the “sweet spot” for scoring purposes. If the game were to be re-issued (which I feel it richly deserves to be) then I would strongly recommend these changes to any future publisher.

For the casual gamer the above problem may not be much of a concern. In my, admittedly limited, experience it hasn’t diminished my enjoyment of the game yet. So, it could be that one would have to become a serious student of the game before it did. In any case, Intersection/Corner is a beautifully unique abstract design that really should be returned to print for game starved abstract game fans. – – – – – – – – – — Nick Sauer & Herb Levy

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