Tuesday September 02, 2014

So many games, so little time


One of the neat things about about PrairieCon, the annual board game convention held in Brandon, is the game auction.

It’s a great chance to move along those games you no longer play to someone who will appreciate them more, and of course make a purchase, or two yourself.

I had my eye on a couple of games on the auction tables last year, although I did not get what I was watching for.

I did however, take notice when a nice all wood edition of Gobblet came up.

Gobblet was created by Thierry Denoual and the edition I snagged was released in 2000 by Blue Orange Games Co.

Two things drew me to bid on the game.

The first was that it is a two-player abstract strategy game. Those are always of interest to me since I like the no-luck games which pit players in head-to-head action.

The second was the wood components. I always feel wood harkens back to an earlier time in board games when games were made to last, and to look nice too.

In the case of this edition of Gobblet the box is wood. The top slides out and on the reverse side in the four-by-four game board. It is painted on the wood.

The box holds the game pieces which are, yes you guessed it, gobblets, which are nicely tactile made of wood as they are.

There are 12 pieces per side, in four different sizes. The pieces nesting inside each other in stacks of four.

The object of the game is simple enough, align four gobblets of your colour in a straight row, either orthogonally, or diagonally.

The gobblets begin play in stacks off the board, with only the three largest gobblets showing.

Game play offers players options.

“In turns, players can either put a new gobblet on the board, move one of their gobblets already on the board to any empty space or gobble up any smaller size gobblet with a bigger gobblet already in play,” explains the simple 8X10 rulesheet. You are allowed to ‘gobble’ your own pieces with a larger piece. “You can gobble up any smaller size gobblet; it does not have to be the next size down.”

When placing a new piece onto the board generally it must go onto an empty space.

“However, there is one exception to this rule; if your opponent already has three gobblets in a row on the board, you may gobble up one of the three pieces in the line with a gobblet taken directly from one of your external stacks.”

Since pieces are covered, there is a memory aspect to Gobblet some will excel at, and others will cringe over.

“You can move any gobblet on the board whether it is covering another gobblet or not. However, if you uncover one of your opponent’s pieces, and this move reveals a line of four of your opponent’s pieces, you lose unless you can place your gobblet over a different piece in this same line of four,” declares the rules.

Since memory is a factor, Gobblet utilizes the rule whereby a touched piece must be played, which of course is necessary to ensure players do not peek at what piece is nested under another.

“If you touch a gobblet that cannot be played, you automatically lose that game.”

There are a rather large number of piece alignment games out there. Most of us have probably played Connect Four where you drop pieces into a grid seeking a line.

Another game in the family I rather enjoy is Teeko, a game which enjoyed some significant tournament play when launched way back in 1937.

Gobblet is a game that has it’s own flavour thanks to the nesting aspect, which requires some memory to be very good at the game.

The depth of Gobblet is not that of chess, or even checkers, but it does play quickly, and you can get in several games in a short session, which is often a plus.

The nice wood components of the Blue Orange edition are also a huge bonus. The board travels nicely, looks good and in the end is a rather fun offering accessible to even those not ready to commit to heavier abstract strategy games.

I’ll throw in a plug for this year’s PrairieCon to be held in Brandon June 6-8. For a look at the games being demo’d and tournaments held, or for registration information check out www.prairiecon.com

If anyone is interested in any of these games feel free to contact calmar...@sasktel.net



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