July 18, 2006

My Top Five Abstract Games

by Susan Rozmiarek

I did want to jot down my top five favorite abstract games, which is the requirement for entering the latest Dice Tower contest for a free copy of the game Darter. This was hard to narrow down to just five. Youíre a cruel man, Tom Vasel; this should have been a top ten list. Iím also going to leave off the list entirely the obvious choice for the #1 spot: Go. Go is an incredible game and one that could suck me right in to its black vortex never to be seen at another gameís table again. Its simple beauty contains astonishing depths of play. I love to read about it and study problems. However, I rarely actually play it against an opponent and it feels so serious that I hesitate to call it ďfunĒ. I definitely have to be in a certain mood to even approach it. In contrast, the games on the following list are much lighter and more fun and are ones that Iím always willing to play.

1. Blokus/Gemblo: These games, which are so similar that Iím lumping them together, are simple, play quickly and are a good choice to pull out for non-gamers and family. The plastic bits are gorgeous and the colorful board by the end of the game is quite striking. The game doesnít require a great deal of thought, but it does stretch my meager spatial skills and always feels tense. We just bought the new Blokus Trigon but we havenít had a chance to play it yet.

2. Zendo: It flops with the wrong group, but I could solve these puzzles forever with other fans of this induction game. And it uses those lovely, lovely pyramids!

3. Dvonn: My favorite of the Gipf series. I love how the board collapses on itself. The endgame never plays out how you think it will, providing a neat challenge.

4. Volcano: This is another excellent Icehouse game.

5. Hyle 7: Betcha haven't heard of this one! This is quite the odd, little obscure gem. There are lots of opportunities for clever moves in this game. Players that are good at spotting patterns will do quite well. Too bad Iím not, although I enjoy trying!

Posted by Susan Rozmiarek at July 18, 2006 12:46 AM

Comments

Hi Susan! Actually, I HAVE heard of Hyle 7 and I agree with your assessment of it. I played an earlier, American version of it called Vis-ŗ-Vis in the seventies and found it to be an interesting, strikingly different kind of game. I used to have a lot of fun playing this with my Mom.

I much prefer the original induction game (Robert Abbott's Eleusis) to Zendo, as I find the relationships much easier to grasp. But your comment about lovely pyramids makes me realize that you'll be a Zendo girl for life!

You and the guys have a great time at Gulf Games. I'm sorry that I won't be joining you, but I look forward to reading your reports when you get back.

Posted by: Larry Levy on July 18, 2006 9:41 AM

Hmm...

Gipf, Dvonn, Zendo, Set, Coloretto

with Yinsh, Punct, Ingenious competing for spaces. Does Code 7 count?

I play Zendo with my niece and nephew. She is 10 and very good at it, he is 5 and just replicates the master's koans to be sure that he gets something right.

Posted by: Friendless on July 19, 2006 8:18 AM

Hey, I've heard of Hyle 7, too! :-) Got it my last game order, and enjoyed my first playing quite a bit. Tomorrow night I'll finally be getting Make Five, which is another abstract that might have some similarities to Hyle 7. The color patterns make the game enjoyable rather than brainburning, but the randomness of drawing from a bag is what really keeps the game from bogging down.

Posted by: Mark Johnson on July 21, 2006 12:58 AM
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