There are many games where the goal is to achieve four-in-a-row with your pieces.
Convert is a new offering in the long line, released this year through Yodeo Games from designer Ian Reed.
Convert is a two player abstract strategy board game, which of course in my books is a good starting point. I love the challenge of perfect information games.
Two opposing players each have a set of 10 differently shaped wooden blocks that are played on a 4x4 board with alternating black and white squares.
Players manipulate/place pieces to fit on the board attempting to score rows of four while claiming spaces on the board by converting them to their color.
When a players piece completes a row of four squares that player scores one point. When all pieces are played, or when neither player can play a piece, players add the points they scored during game-play to the amount of squares they have claimed on the board. The player with the most points at the end of the game is the winner.
It’s a pretty straight forward game concept, yet within the rather tight confines of a 4X4 board, there is some ability to develop strategy.
That said, the small board size is limiting, and what usually happens is something of a dance. A player reacting to the previously played piece while attempting to limit his opponent’s next turn options.
The ability to influence Convert two, or three turns further into a game by a single placement are not usually apparent, or possible. There is not the longer term strategy of chess, for example.
The inspiration for Convert is one which proves that we humans can see a game in just about anything.
“Well, I was working for UPS loading trucks at the time, and the action of stacking boxes was similar,” said Reed. “Sometimes packages would go to a bookstore, other times to a hardware/automotive store. Keeping similar boxes together was a big help to the drivers, so stacking had to be done logically. To make a true ‘game’ out of it, we knew we needed to add a little bit of a Tetris element to it.”
Of course an idea is not a game.
Reed said Convert actually formalized rather quickly.
“Originally we didn’t have an endgame scoring, so the basics of creating a row of four squares came very quickly, that is, once the shapes of the blocks were figured out,” he said. “After a couple of run throughs (yes, a couple) we determined that the endgame squaring was necessary, and we were very satisfied with how that rule evened everything out.
“To answer your question more directly though, it only took a couple of days. We did get very lucky with that though, as some of our current projects have been very challenging through the design process.”
So is there an element of Convert its designer is proudest of?
“Ya know, it’s not really in the rules or anything, but the ability to ‘reclaim’ rows quickly is a very interesting dynamic,” he offered. “Players ask themselves ‘Should I play this piece here? They can just build on top, score again, and mess my plan up if I do!’ It is a very interesting emerging dynamic that I love the most.
We have had many Jurassic Park-esque ‘Clever Girl!!’ moments.”
But with the game coming together rather easily, Reed said other challenges presented themselves.
“The greatest challenge was to create the wood into a shape that could be packaged easily,” he said. “To do that effectively we had to build a puzzle. The compact shape allows for a small package, but once all the pieces are laid out, it definitely seems a lot larger. We included instructions to get everything back in the box, however many people love to try their hand at assembling it without them.”
Reed said Convert has found a following, including generating launch funds through Kickstater.com.
“We’ve actually been getting great response with this title,” he said.
“Of course, every now and again people will compare it to another game like Blokus, Cathedral, The Climbers, etc. We love hearing this because those are all great games too, and to even be part of that conversation is wonderful.”
As a gamer I can see the similarities between Convert and the games Reed mentions. Comparisons are natural. But Convert stands up well, if you are looking for a quick, puzzle-like; game. Its strength is in its quickness, allowing multiple plays in a short session.
That is of course the shortfall in a sense too. The size of board and quick play, constrain the overall depth of play available.
The result, it’s a solid, nice looking all wood game, which fills a niche for gaming, but ultimately will not make a ‘best’ list often.
Still worth having for those ‘filler’ game times we all have.
Check it out at www.yodeogames.com