Although I’ve been pretty horrible about reviewing games, I’ve played quite a few (as you can see from my revised to-review list below). It has been supremely awesome. Some of the games seem like they would review well together, so here’s a three-in-one of what I think of as ‘easy-yet-hard’ games: Tsuro, Quoridor, and Repello!
All of these can be learned rapidly, the rules are simple and straightforward, and they are rather quick to play (~30 minutes, give or take). But they are all excellent and are deceptively difficult! As is usual, I tried each game with only two players, but you can play with more. (Tsuro is 2-8 players, Quoridor is 2-4, and Repello is 2-4.) Also as usual, the first time my boyfriend and I played I won handily, and haven’t won since. D:
Here is a brief run-down of each game!
Tsuro is a game of tile placement, and depending on the tiles you play, you move your token along different paths. The goal is to keep your token traveling along a path (without hitting either the edge of the board or your opponent) longer than anyone else. Tsuro tiles look like this:
You have a secret hand of tiles, and each turn you place a tile on the game board, and then move your token as far as it can go along its path. Each token starts at the edge of the game board, and moves as each new tile is placed. In the image below, you can trace the routes that have been taken thus far by each piece.
So… you pretty much already know enough to play, but if you want to watch a cheesy how-to video, you can do that right here. In addition to being a pretty great game, I also really like its aesthetics. It evokes a sense of old Japanese art (at least to me).
This game is surprisingly easy, but also strategically challenging and lends itself to playing multiple times. 4 stars!
Next up, I want to talk about Quoridor. Quoridor also falls into this lovely category of easy to learn, yet deceptively difficult to play well. It’s an abstract strategy game in which you try to take your pawn from one edge of the game board to the other. You are also simultaneously trying to stop your opponent from completing this goal, and can do so by placing little walls to block their path. However, on each turn you can only take one action: move your pawn OR place a wall. The board looks like this:
That is what the start of the game looks like. From then on you are allowed to move your pawn or place a wall, so long as you don’t entirely block all possible paths for your opponent. Here’s an example of a game in progress.
This game can be a little heart-breaking depending on when and how your opponent uses their walls. Or a lot heart-breaking if you get really invested in your games. Not that I know anyone like that. (Disclaimer: I’m totally like that.) Lots of fun to play, and can be surprisingly dramatic! 3 stars.
Last but not least: Repello. I would say Repello falls into this ‘games based on abstract strategy that are easy yet hard’ category. That’s a mouthful, but I’m not sure how else to describe it. (Other games like this include Hive and The Duke.) Repello is maybe slightly more onerous to learn than Tsuro and Quoridor, but is certainly not that difficult compared to most board games. The overall goal in Repello is to score more points than your opponent(s). You score points by knocking black, silver, and gold tokens off the board (worth 1, 3, and 5 points, respectively). Each player starts with a stack of black tokens, and some black, silver, and gold tokens are laid out on the board. Each turn you move your stack some number of spaces in any direction, dictated by the game board. Here’s an example:
Now ignore the mysterious blurry finger moving a black token in the picture. The stack of black tokens on the clear plastic stick is the blue player’s stack. All around the stack are numbers, and these are the numbers that dictate the number of spaces the stack moves in each direction. The blue stack can go 2 spots to move “down” in the image. Or 3 spots to the left. 4 to the lower left, etc.
Each time you move your stack you leave behind one black token from the stack in the spot the stack started. This is where things get interesting! Every piece on the board repels each other. (Hence the name Repello!) So if your move results in two tokens being adjacent to each other (including diagonals), one of them must be moved.
Below is a small example of a section of Repello board. If it were red’s turn, and red moved two spots (down and to the right in the image), it would end up next to blue. But they can’t stay like this because they repel!
So either red or blue would need to move one space away from each other to resolve this repulsion. (And since it was red’s turn, red makes that decision). What you see above is a simple example, but when you have a whole game board with many different tokens you can create this fantastic chain reaction of repulsions that has far-reaching effects. It makes you feel all powerful! (Or maybe that’s just me.)
Anyway, super fun game. I’m actually really excited to try this with more people; I imagine play would progress differently with more tokens being left all over the place. Overall 3.5 stars!
Lastly, mostly for my own reference, here is my increasingly long to-review list!
1911 Amundsen vs. Scott
Carcassonne: South Seas
Dominion (original, seaside)
Le Fantome de l’Opera
Kittens in a Blender
Settlers of Catan
Ticket to Ride