If it was a case of choosing a 10-best games of the current millennium, while it is a field deep in potential choices, Tak would certainly vie for a spot in my list.
The game is an interesting one as it grew out of a mention in a fantasy novel; the Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss.
From that inclusion in Rothfuss’ book, the author teamed with James Ernest, a game designer with a long resume to create an actual set of playable rules. The result was Tak.
The game was frankly a surprise.
Ernest, while a prolific designer, had never exactly created a game that extended beyond fun to be considered great no matter what parametres put on the definition of greatness.
Rothfuss as a writer had no track record either.
Yet the pair found something special in their collaboration.
Interestingly, Tak, which was released in 2017, has garnered some rather rabid fans, as befits a great game.
A handful of those fans even went as far as to create the US Tak Association in hopes of promoting and growing interest in the game.
Bill Leighton is one of those involved with the Association, and a fan of the game.
Via email I had the opportunity to pepper him with a few questions regarding his passion for Tak, starting with how he was initially introduced to the game, and as a follow-up, what is it about the game that has managed to keep him obviously keenly interested in it?
“I became aware of the game similarly to a lot of the players: through the Patrick Rothfuss Kingkiller Chronicles in which the game is conceptualized/described,” he said. “I was checking his blog one day and came across a post about Cheapass Games developing it into an actual board game. Even though it wasn’t out yet, an online simulator had already been developed at playtak.com, and early players were busy figuring out strategies and meeting like-minded Takkers.
“From there I was hooked.”
The hook was that “Tak is a simple to learn, yet challenging and deep” game, said Leighton, adding “Tak has held my interest because of its versatility. I can play with my kids, I can play a casual game over a pint, I can play in an intense tournament, or, when life gets busy and I don’t have time for a game, I can solve the daily puzzle posted on Reddit (r/Tak).”
And Tak allows some inventiveness in terms of sets to play with.
“There is also the crafty side to Tak. Some players enjoy making boards and pieces almost as much as the game itself,” said Leighton.
There are of course commercial versions from the designer’s company, but the tale of Tak in Rothfuss’ book really does lend itself to homemade sets being created, although even as an avid bodger of game boards and pieces I have opted to buy a set, although I appreciate Leighton’s sentiment.
“And then there is the community,” said Leighton, continuing his thoughts on why he loves Tak, calling it “very supportive and welcoming. On the Discord or Reddit, you can get advice on the many aspects of the game, or seek out an individual or group to play with.”
But why an association, with the work that effort requires.
“I believe it’s the desire to offer that community I mentioned above, as well as making sure that there are opportunities for players to test their mettle against others within a structured setting,” said Leighton.
I was curious how the Internet has played a role in popularizing Tak too?
“Online play of any sort is a balancing act,” said Leighton. “It offers access to players that otherwise would be out of range, but it does take away from the social feeling of an in-person gathering.
“That is why we try to encourage both. The USTA offers support to those wishing to start a physical club, as well as organizing online tournaments. Except for this year (due to the pandemic), we also hold educational sessions and tournaments at GenCon and PAX Unplugged.”
So are player numbers growing for Tak?
“Numbers have been steady,” said Leighton. “We see spikes in interest after conventions and expect to see a large increase when the Kingkiller Chronicles develops further. That being said, marketing has never been our forte.”
From a Canadian perspective it’s a slightly different dynamic.
“We are a US-based organization, but are open to everyone,” said Leighton. “I know of a couple Canadian members and we also had some Canadian participants that made the trek south last year for GenCon.”
So, ultimately, why play Tak?
“I would say Tak is truly for everyone,” said Leighton. “The rules are simple, the game is adjustable to fit your time available, and you decide your level of involvement. Try it online for free, buy a set, build a set, attend a tournament, organize a club or tournament, or run for election to the Board.”
And, check out the Association at www.ustak.org