This chess game will cut you to the quick!

chess

When it comes to games, chess is a certified classic, the benchmark against which many tactical games are still measured to this day.

We’ve discussed chess several times in the past here on the blog, whether we’re talking products inspired by chess, like All Queens Chess and Scrimish, or tackling puzzles using chess boards, like knight’s tours or other chess-based brain teasers.

In today’s post, we’ll be looking at a new variation on chess, one meant to dissuade players from careless gameplay by use of a historically appropriate method of enforcing the rule of law: the guillotine.

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Fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers, say hello to Tour De Force chess.

According to the creators:

Tour De Force chess entices the players to strategize and invest more thought into the game by introducing consequence in the form of a guillotine that beheads captured pieces. Based on early testing with a rough and ready model we confirmed that this game addition makes the prospect of losing a piece unsavory enough to motivate more careful strategy.

You see, in Tour De Force chess, a captured piece isn’t gone immediately. It goes into the stockade until another piece is captured. There are two stockades, which means that once your opponent captures a third piece, that first piece goes to the guillotine, loses its head, and is gone for good.

Not only is this meant to enhance the feeling of loss that comes with having a piece taken, but it introduces an interesting mechanic to the game: saving pieces from a nasty end.

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According to the official rules, “a player can save a captured piece that has not yet been beheaded by taking a higher value piece with a pawn. That pawn is then substituted with the piece closest to beheading.”

Although the higher-value rule means that there’s no saving your captured queen (unless you capture the king, which of course, ends the game anyway), it is an intriguing wrinkle to standard chess that could definitely alter your gameplay. Do you continue to play as you always would, immediately accepting the consequences when a piece is lost? Or do you try to rescue that piece, diverting temporarily from your primary goal of capturing your opponent’s king?

What do you think, PuzzleNationers? Is Tour De Force chess a welcome variation to the game, or an unnecessary twist on a classic? Sound off in the comments below!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Slideways

One of the most popular forms of puzzle gaming involves placing four game pieces in a row on a board. Four-in-a-row games like Connect Four are rooted in the tactical simplicity of Tic-Tac-Toe or three-in-a-row solving, but take it a step further.

We’ve explored several four-in-a-row puzzle games before. ThinkFun’s All Queens Chess added a wrinkle by employing the rules of chess in four-in-a-row solving. Quarto used pieces of varying heights, colors, and shapes to create a more complex game play experience.

And now, Tricia McLaughlin and R&R Games bring us another evolutionary step in four-in-a-row puzzle gaming: Slideways.

At first glance, Slideways offers a simple 4×4 play area, where the blue squares can be rotated to reveal a gold or red square claimed by the player in a given turn. Each play claims one square per turn.

In this picture, two squares each have been claimed by the players. But Slideways allows the player to manipulate the play area itself by sliding a row one square in either direction, adding another dimension to the game.

So now players can claim blue squares or shift the rows to give themselves the best opportunity to not only get four in a row, but to thwart an opponent’s efforts to do the same. (Be careful, though, as the sliding feature can be a little clunky.)

But that’s not all. Slideways has one more trick up its sleeve.

Players also have the option of changing claimed squares to their own color! In this case, one player rotated a gold-claimed square into a red-claimed square.

And honestly, this is the feature that really separates Slideways from other four-in-a-row games, because it requires the player to constantly assess and reassess the game every single turn. You can’t take it for granted that a claimed square will stay claimed, or that the three squares you already have lined up will stay lined up.

There is one exception to this rule: you cannot reverse a square a player has just claimed. You have to wait a round before doing so.

So the red square claimed in the top row this turn cannot be immediately turned into a gold one. The other player has to wait until the next round, so instead, the other player changes one of the red squares in the third row into a gold one.

All of these possible moves — claiming a square, shifting a row, or taking an opponent’s square — make Slideways the most complex and controllable four-in-a-row puzzle game I’ve ever seen, and it can make for a fun and nerve-wracking playing experience, especially against a skilled opponent.

Plus games move so quickly (usually lasting less than 10 minutes) that you’re sure to play multiple rounds without giving up a huge chunk of your day. My opponent and I played 11 or 12 games in about half an hour, and each one felt new and different because of the many play options available to us.

(Plus there’s a three-player variation that starts with some squares flipped to red, others flipped to gold, and the third player uses blue as their color.)

Simple to learn, but tough to master, Slideways is a marvelous addition to the four-in-a-row puzzle game field, one that ensures you’ll take no move and no turn for granted. Portable and self-contained, this one is a treat.

[I discovered Slideways at the Connecticut Festival of Indie Games. You can pick it up on the R&R Games website for $11.99.]


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It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day Eve edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 30, is the fourth annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles…anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow — making today TableTop Day Eve — we celebrated early! The PuzzleNation Crew got together with our friends from Penny Dell Puzzles for a few hours of TableTop Day fun on Tuesday! Games were played, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

[The spread of games available for the event. Can you name them all?]

As usual, the event started with people picking out their favorites and introducing new players to the game. This was the case with Just Desserts (a card game all about serving desserts to hungry customers; guaranteed to make you hungry) and Timeline (a card game about history where you don’t need to know what year things happened, just if they happened before or after other important moments).

One attendee opted to tackle the challenge of Puzzometry (a diabolical jigsaw puzzle) while I played a few rounds of Geek Out! and tested the pop culture and trivia knowledge of my fellow puzzlers.

[The conference room is abuzz with TableTop Day energy and fun, players strategizing deeply.]

I started recommending some new games to the players at this point, and the hit of the day was easily Red Flags, a Cards Against Humanity-style game all about building the perfect dates for other players.

The uproarious laughter inspired by the game was constant background noise while I explained the ever-changing rules of Fluxx to some curious players.

[Forgive the lack of further photos. I was so busy explaining games that I neglected to take more pictures. As a small gesture of apology, please accept this picture of me beneath a half-collapsed puzzle fort.]

We then closed out the event with two terrific card games for smaller groups: 12 Days and Loonacy. (12 Days is a lowest-card-wins wagering game based on the 12 Days of Christmas, and it has the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen; Loonacy is a pattern-matching card game that rewards quick reflexes.)

The day was a total success, and it was a wonderful break in the middle of the day, allowing for a fun way to interact and recharge before returning to a thoroughly puzzly workday.

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own in-house session of Schmovie running all day.

I gave participants five What? cards (Undercover, Magical, Teenage, Flying, The Last) and five Who? cards (Barista, Chef, Princess, Pro Wrestler, Spy) to combine as they saw fit, and then challenged them to come up with the funniest Schmovie titles for those subjects.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Undercover chef: The Tsai Who Loved Me
  • Teenage barista: Latte to Class
  • Magical barista: Starbucks: The Foam Awakens
  • Teenage princess: Medieval Times at Ridgemont High
  • Flying spy: The Airborne Identity
  • Undercover princess: Leia Confidential

Are you celebrating TableTop Day? Let us know your plans in the comments! We’d love to hear about it, see photos, and share in the fun!


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PuzzleNation Product Review: Quarto

Tic-Tac-Toe is probably the first strategy game a child encounters, and it’s a simple concept: get three in a row. Other games expand on this idea, like Connect Four, which increases the pattern to four in a row and adds the vertical play aspect to the game. ThinkFun put their own spin on the idea with All Queens Chess, adding the rules of chess to that Connect Four aesthetic.

And Quarto ups the ante significantly, adding elegance and variety to this particular corner of the puzzle-game genre.

You have a board with sixteen spaces laid out in a 4×4 grid, and your goal is to place four pieces in a row. Sounds simple, right? Sure. But when you look at the playing pieces, it gets a little more involved.

As you can see, across these sixteen differently-shaped pieces, eight different characteristics are possible: light, dark, round, square, solid, hollow, tall, and short. Each piece represents four of these characteristics.

So you have to make a row of four pieces with at least one characteristic in common. It could be four hollow pieces (meaning shape, color, and size don’t matter), four dark pieces (meaning shape, size, and solid/hollow don’t matter), or any of six other possible common factors.

And to add a little more challenge to the gameplay, your opponent chooses which piece you play each round. You have to strategize on the fly, because you never know which piece you’ll be placing next!

For example, here’s a game in progress. There are three dark pegs in a line, so naturally, your opponent picks a light-colored piece, preventing you from taking advantage.

But wait! They accidentally chose a hollow piece, allowing you to complete a line of four hollow pieces in a row! But remember to yell “Quarto!” when you do, or it doesn’t count!

There’s so much strategy wrapped up in such a simple mechanic. Quarto can be explained in a few seconds, but it offers a massive amount of replayability. Especially when you consider how much of the gameplay is happening in your mind as you try to figure out not only what piece to choose for your opponent, but what you might do with whatever piece you’re handed next.

Quarto is a wonderful variation on a classic style of puzzly gameplay. The beautiful playing pieces are well-made and offer plenty of possibilities, and it’s quickly become a favorite in my house as a palate cleanser between longer game sessions.

Quarto was created by Blaise Muller, is published by Gigamic Games, and is available from Marbles: The Brain Store and Amazon.


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TableTop Day: PuzzleNation Style!

The third annual International TableTop Day was last Saturday, and according to reports across the Internet, it was the most successful and joyous TableTop Day yet! Games were donated by some of the top companies (our friends at Looney Labs and Steve Jackson Games among them) as well as by the folks at Geek & Sundry, and the puzzle game community came together once again to prove how amazing and warm puzzlers and gamers can be.

For the second year in a row, we at PuzzleNation had our own little TableTop Day event with our friends at Penny/Dell Puzzles, and it was great fun! Games were played, an insane amount of sugary treats were prepared, snacks were consumed, and fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers were introduced to some terrific games.

I raided my personal puzzle and game collection to provide some choice offerings for my fellow puzzlers, and readers of the blog will no doubt recognize several items from previous product reviews!

Here’s the full rundown of games we had:

(Sadly, a lot of personal favorites had to be excluded because they would take more than 30 minutes to play, like some of the offerings from Cheapass Games and other great companies, and it was a work day. I promise, this is a fraction of my full puzzle and game collection.)

Timeline proved to be one of the biggest hits of the day, because it’s so simple to play and offers endless replay value. (Especially with seven different editions of the game to choose from!)

I also managed to win my first game of Jenga in what seems like a decade!

There was plenty of switching between games as well. Here, a game of Just Desserts immediately followed a round of Bananagrams Wild Tiles!

But that wasn’t all! To include fellow puzzlers who couldn’t attend the event in person, we had our own Hashtag Game running in-house all day. Inspired by both @midnight hashtag games and our friends at Schmovie, we had a contest to create “Penny/Dell Puzzle Movies.”

I’ll be posting ALL of the entries on Friday, but here are a few favorites:

  • The Scarlet Letterboxes
  • Schindler’s List-A-Crostic
  • Double Trouble Indemnity

All in all, it was an awesome time. Hope everyone enjoyed!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!

It’s Follow-Up Friday: TableTop Day edition!

Welcome to Follow-Up Friday!

By this time, you know the drill. Follow-Up Friday is a chance for us to revisit the subjects of previous posts and bring the PuzzleNation audience up to speed on all things puzzly.

And today, I’d like to return to the subject of puzzly holidays!

Saturday, April 11 is the third annual International TableTop Day, a day that has been set aside for family and friends to get together and play games. Board games, card games, role-playing games, puzzles… anything that involves gathering in person and having fun around a table fits the bill!

Although the actual holiday is tomorrow, we’re celebrating early around here! The PuzzleNation Crew is getting together with our friends from Penny/Dell Puzzles for a few hours of TableTop Day fun this afternoon!

[A few of the games we’ll be partaking in today.]

I’ll be posting pics on social media throughout the day, and there will be a full recap in Tuesday’s blog post!

Not only that, but we’ve added two new collections to our library of puzzles for in-app purchase for the Penny Dell Crosswords App! The April 2015 Deluxe Set has 35 puzzles to challenge you, and Collection 5 has a whopping 150 puzzles to choose from! Just in time for TableTop Day!

 

Will you be participating in tomorrow’s festivities, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers? Let me know! I’d love to hear about your plans!

Thanks for visiting PuzzleNation Blog today! You can share your pictures with us on Instagram, friend us on Facebook, check us out on TwitterPinterest, and Tumblr, and be sure to check out the growing library of PuzzleNation apps and games!