I got a bunch of review copies from Tactic. They are probably the biggest board game publisher in Finland and as far as I know a fairly big in European level as well — certainly bigger than many of the hobby publishers we cherish, like Hans im Glück.
Their games are fairly mass-market, with occasional interesting titles from a gamer’s point of view.
- Rrrats! is a push-your-luck game, designed by Reiner Knizia (not the first Knizia title from Tactic). Nice bits: large wooden chunks of cheese. Gameplay less nice… The game has three variants, first of which is pure lottery with no decisions to make. The other versions add a standard push-your-luck element to the game. Roll for cheese, but if you roll blanks, you’ll lose everything collected on the current turn. I’m surprised if it took Knizia more than ten minutes to design this game. The one unusual element is that one of the symbols on the dice lets you steal a piece of cheese from another player.
- Jishaku is a game where you put magnetic hematite stones on a foam board. If the magnets click together, you must take them in your hand. First one to lose all stones wins. It first appeared there’s very little game beyond the initial wow factor of the magnets, but once you get a bit creative, this turns out to be a decent game. Nothing earth-shaking, no, but considering the game looks wicked cool, can be taught in two sentences and plays in about five minutes, it’s actually not a bad filler.
- Abalone is a classic abstract from 1987, now available in Finland in a new edition. I’ve been passively avoiding Abalone, as I’ve had a vague feeling that it’s not a very good game. Turns out it is — it’s not a great game and not a game I particularly like, but as an abstract game, it’s fine. I just found it a bit dull, as it’s so defensive. Starting with the Belgian Daisy setup did help a bit. If I didn’t have the Gipf games to compare to, I would probably like Abalone more.
- Offboard is a new game from the makers of Abalone. It’s very similar to Abalone, but tries to fix what’s wrong in the first game. Now instead of pushing any six balls of the board, you need to collect six points by pushing the balls to scoring areas worth 1, 2, or 3 points. Each scoring area can only be used once, which is a nice touch. The game still feels like Abalone, but perhaps a bit more dynamic. Then again, it loses some of the elegance of Abalone.