# PuzzleNation Product Reviews: Takat and Noueni

In today’s product review, we look at two card games that are all about matching colors, identifying patterns, and scoring points, but in very different ways. Today, we put Takat and Noueni under the PuzzleNation Blog microscope!

A card game for 2 to 4 players designed by Tyler Kilgore, Takat is different from most pattern-matching tile games or card games because it’s not about maximizing points…it’s about scoring as few points as possible as you place cards and create different colored shapes on the board.

The game starts with each player secretly drawing a card that reveals that player’s color for this game. Not only are you trying to conceal your color from your opponents, but you’re trying to guess what color they have, based on how they place cards and build shapes on the board.

[Some of the multicolored tiles. There are only two legal plays represented here: the second and third tiles in the top row, and the third tile in both the top and bottom rows.]

The multicolored patterns on the cards allow for all sorts of placement options. When you place a card, you can either neighbor a card on the board or partially overlap it, but you always have to make sure the colors match. If the edge of a card is red and blue, the card you place beside it must also be red and blue.

Since the goal of the game is to score as few points as possible, the strategy quickly becomes a mix of bluffing and deduction. You have to complete shapes in your opponents’ colors without revealing your own. (For instance, if you keep building red, blue, and yellow shapes but not green ones, you’ve told your opponents you’re purposely avoiding green, which will only encourage them to build green shapes and give you more points.)

In this game in progress, the players have mostly avoided completing any shapes; there’s the mostly-round yellow shape on the top right as well as the pointy red shape below it (which is partially formed by two overlapping tiles, unintentionally obscuring the black line at the bottom right of the yellow shape.) Those two are the only shapes completed, which means those shapes are worth more points than shapes that aren’t enclosed by black lines.

But since you can score points on neighboring tiles as well as completed shapes, you have to pay as much attention to who placed a tile as you do to what tile they placed.

For instance, on the bottom left, there’s 2 points for the neighboring red tiles, 3 points for the blue shape above it, and 2 points for the yellow rectangle beside the blue shape, despite none of those shapes being closed by black lines.

The game ends when all cards have been played. Then the players reveal their colors, and the points on the board are tallied up, based on how many shapes were made (and how many were completed), as well as how many cards were used in making each shape. The lowest score wins.

The game play of Takat is pretty easy to pick up, but the scoring is a bit more esoteric and takes some getting used to. It does, however, make for a fun variation on the usual tile-placement scoring game, and as a fan of games like Mafia and other bluffing/concealment games, it does make for a more tense playing experience than your average round of Qwirkle.

Now let’s take a look at Noueni.

Designed by 263 Games, Noueni is also a card game for 2 to 4 players that involves pattern-matching, color-based scoring, and cards that can either overlap or sit next to other cards. But there are some important distinctions between Noueni and Takat.

For example, each player chooses their color at the start of the game, and there’s no attempt to conceal it from your opponents. Also, like many pattern-matching games, highest score wins. In this game, your score is determined by how many of your scoring orbs are on the board by the end of the game.

Each card has two colored scoring orbs and a pattern of black lines emerging from them. Those lines are the connectors, and they determine how the cards placed on the board line up. Any card played must link up with the other cards on the board, whether there’s zero, one, two, or three connectors along that neighboring edge.

As you can see, the green scoring orb on the upper left connects to the red orb by three connections, but the other red orb connects to a yellow orb with only two. So far, there have been no overlapping cards played, so all four players are tied with two scoring orbs showing apiece. (The connections aren’t part of the scoring; they’re just the mechanism for lining up cards.)

A few moves later into the game, the yellow (upper right), red (upper left), and blue (middle) players have all added to the board using those matching connections, but the green player has overlapped half of a blue card, using those connections and obscuring the blue scoring orb.

Overlaps allow you to cover your opponents’ scoring orbs and claim those spots for yourself, but you have to exactly match the connections they left behind. (You can only overlap half of a card already on the board, so even if the green player had a card exactly matching BOTH of the blue card’s connections, that’s an illegal play. The green player could, however, overlap half of one card and half of another, if the connections lined up.)

And that’s where the strategy aspect of Noueni comes into play. It’s a mix of expanding the board and placing as many scoring orbs as possible, but also seizing the opportunity to hide your opponents’ orbs and match those same connection patterns.

The game ends when all cards have been placed, and the player with the most visible scoring orbs wins.

Noueni is more straightforward than Takat, which will make it more accessible to new players, but it also lacks the tension of hiding your color and ferreting out your opponents’ colors. On the flip side, Noueni does maintain that ever-present paranoia that at any point, someone might drop a card on top of yours and steal a key scoring orb at a crucial moment in the game.

Both are terrific games that build on the pattern-matching color tile game format in interesting ways, requiring more from a player than simply outscoring their opponents. You need to outthink them too.

Takat and Noueni are both available from The Game Crafter.

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# A puzzly British Christmas card!

One government agency in England celebrates Christmas a little bit differently than most.

The GCHQ — Government Communications Headquarters — provides security and intelligence services for the British government. Back when they were known as GC&CS — Government Code and Cypher School — they were responsible for funding the Bletchley Park successes cracking the German “Enigma” code during World War II.

And for Christmas this year, they’ve released a puzzly Christmas card that’s sure to challenge even the staunchest puzzlers.

Step 1 of the puzzle is a logic art puzzle where you have to deduce where to place black squares on an open grid in order to form a picture.

Each column and row has a series of numbers in it. These numbers represent runs of black squares in a row, so a 1 means there’s one black square followed by a blank square on either side and a 7 means 7 black squares together with a blank square on either side.

Once you’ve solved this puzzle, you can use it to unlock the next puzzle in the chain.

From an article on GCHQ.gov.uk:

Once all stages have been unlocked and completed successfully, players are invited to submit their answer via a given GCHQ email address by 31 January 2016. The winner will then be drawn from all the successful entries and notified soon after.

Players are invited to make a donation to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, if they have enjoyed the puzzle.

This is one majorly challenging Christmas card. After you’ve conquered the logic art puzzle, you’ll confront brain teasers, palindromes, pattern-matching, deduction, number progressions, codebreaking, cryptic crossword-style cluing, and more.

I would highly recommend teaming up with another puzzle-minded friend (or more) and trying your luck. Let us know how far you get! (And you can hit up this article from the Telegraph for aid as well.)

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# Patriarchy, Hanks Thanks, and a Brain Teaser to boot!

It’s the holiday season, a time for giving. So, what better way is there to celebrate the holidays than to link you to some great puzzles and give you a chance to keep your brain busy?

Master constructor Brendan Emmett Quigley has cooked up quite possibly the most condescending crossword you’ve ever seen! This Buzzfeed-featured tongue-in-cheek take on the patriarchy is great fun but still offers some challenging entries. Check it out!

And while I’m recommending timely crosswords to solve, there’s also a terrific holiday-fueled crossword from constructor George Barany and friends titled “Giving T.Hanks for the Holidays!”

But if crosswords aren’t your puzzly cup of tea, how about a brain teaser?

Give me the next letter in this pattern: D, D, P, V, C, C, D, ?

I borrowed this puzzle from our Thursday post, but there’s nothing wrong with Christmas Eve coming a little early, is there? =)

Enjoy, fellow puzzlers and PuzzleNationers!

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# PuzzleNation Product Review: Retro Loonacy

It has been a banner year for the folks at Looney Labs. They’ve already released Just Desserts, Fluxx Dice, Batman Fluxx, and Adventure Time Fluxx, all to excellent reviews, as well as announcing the upcoming Nature Fluxx (a redesign of their environmentally conscious Eco Fluxx) and Firefly Fluxx (for all the Browncoats in the puzzle/game audience).

But, somehow, that’s not all. They’ve also launched a companion game to their pattern-matching game Loonacy, which brings us to the subject of today’s product review. Let’s take a closer look at Retro Loonacy!

Retro Loonacy replaces the wacky, more cartoonish illustrations of the original with a more subdued assortment of images, evoking sentimental stirrings for trappings and technology of the past (Polaroid cameras, rocketships and rayguns from Golden Age science fiction films, etc.).

It almost feels like looking through one of those old issues of Popular Mechanics that purported to predict the future. Everything is hard angles and earth tones, carefully repackaged nostalgia given form.

Now, I am focusing quite a bit on the art instead of the gameplay, and there’s a reason for that. Unlike each new version of Fluxx, which seems to bring something new to the table — whether it’s a new type of card like the creeper or simply a few clever innovations in the rules tailored to that specific brand — Retro Loonacy is played exactly the same as Loonacy. You’re still trying to empty your hand of cards as quickly as possible by matching one of the two images on your card with one on the board. There are no new wrinkles or variations. This is a repackaging, plain and simple.

[Retro Loonacy side-by-side with the original Loonacy.]

And, quite honestly, it’s for the better. Retro Loonacy‘s artwork is charming in the extreme, and the game feels more suitable for adults than the bright, silly, madcap images you must match in Loonacy. It presents itself as a game for adults, even if the frenetic gameplay might appeal more to younger players.

The style and execution elevate Retro Loonacy above many contemporary card games, placing it in the same aesthetic upper echelon as 12 Days (which features the most beautiful cards I’ve ever seen in a card game) and some of the more ambitious decks of Pairs offered by our friends at Cheapass Games.

In short, Retro Loonacy is a strong pattern-matching game with oodles of style. Another terrific offering by the game masters at Looney Labs.

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# One Letter Makes All the Difference

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about the power of words, and rightly so. Words are the foundation of civilization. They’re how we communicate, how we express ourselves, how we interpret and process and quantify the world around us.

And playing with them is a cornerstone of entertainment. Jokes and puns depend on wordplay, as do riddles, brain teasers, and so many puzzles. Whether they’re being crossed, anagrammed, or shared with friends on an online Scrabble board, words are puzzle power.

That’s true even of letters. A single letter can not only speak volumes, it can be the key to unlocking an entire puzzle.

For instance, let’s talk crosswords. Knowing one across entry is a plural often allows you to place an S, giving you an anchor for the down entry that crosses it.

Cryptograms often offer a single letter as a hook to get you started. In addition, anytime you see a lone letter in a quote, you know it’s an I or an A.

Numerous anagram puzzles involve adding a single letter to a word, anagramming the result, and getting something new and unexpected.

That sort of letter addition reminds me of a brain teaser:

There’s a word in the English language in which the first 2 letters signify a male, the first 3 signify a female, the first 4 signify a great man, and the whole word signifies a great woman. What is that word?

In all of these examples, single letters are part of a greater puzzle. But what about puzzles composed entirely of single letters?

Easy. I can think of two.

In the first, single letters are the first letters of words forming some sort of pattern. Can you deduce the pattern AND provide the next entry in the series?

• O, T, T, F, F, S, S, E, ?
• J, F, M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, N, ?
• S, M, H, D, W, M, ?
• M, V, E, M, J, S, U, ?
• D, K, P, C, O, F, G, ?

In the second, the single letters are still the first letters of words, but we’ve added numbers and it’s up to you to deduce what the letters represent.

• 3 F in a Y
• 366 D in a LY
• 12 S in the Z
• 4 Q in a D
• 13 C in a S

All of this, sprung from a single letter. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? No wonder we can accomplish so much with words, given building blocks like these.

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# PuzzleNation Product Review: Holiday Fluxx

The hallmark of any great card game is replayability. Unless you’re playing an epic-length game of War, you’re bound to be playing multiple rounds of a given card game. But how do you keep the gameplay from stagnating?

Simple. You change the rules every game. Or sometimes, every hand!

That’s where Fluxx comes in. Fluxx is one of the flagship brands of Looney Labs, a company dedicated to wildly interactive, adaptable gameplay that offers high replay value. In Fluxx, everything can change by employing a single card. The number of cards you draw, or the number you discard, or the number you’re allowed in your hand… even how to win the game can change with ease.

Not only does this require constant attention, but it keeps the game from ever getting boring. One round, everyone had to pass their entire hand to another player and use their opponent’s cards!

There are numerous variations on the Fluxx design offered by Looney Labs — including Star Fluxx, Pirate Fluxx, Monty Python Fluxx, and a board game version, among others — but in today’s review, we’re taking a look at the latest version: Holiday Fluxx!

The mechanics of the game are the same as any other version of Fluxx: collect Keeper cards and be the first to match a pair of Keeper cards to the current Goal card. Since Goal cards can easily be changed (along with all of the other changes inherent to the game), this is more difficult than it sounds.

While most of the action cards will be familiar to Fluxx players, the new holiday-themed Goals and Keepers (representing Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwaanza, and even a touch of Halloween and Thanksgiving) are bright and colorful, adding seasonal charm to the gameplay. There are also new rules cards (many involving “gifting” cards to others) in keeping with the holiday theme, as well as surprise cards that can be played at any time. Every game is festive chaos.

Holiday Fluxx is a solid card game for puzzlers, mixing pattern-matching and strategy elements to keep you on your toes, employing rule changes to your advantage. And the game’s tendency to shift suddenly will definitely challenge solvers more accustomed to slower, steadier card games.

[To check out reviews of other Looney Labs products, click here and here!]

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