Stomple

Filed Under (Family Games, Thinking Games) by Will Bain on 08-05-2011

I was in the process of reviewing Stomple from Spin Master – an inspired use of the multi-hued marvels of marbles – when I was reminded of a fascinating video on how marbles are made. I know, I know. The game itself is what I should be telling you about, because it’s at least as marvelous as it is marbleous.

Nevertheless, before I go on, I find myself having to share this video with you. The hand-made marbles are exquisite, but I was struck by the mechanized marble production. Early in the process, the molten glass is cut and little blobs of glass fall into the interlocking grooves of long, cast iron screws. The blobs cool until they are recognizably glass marbles which then roll down through the chutes of sorting device: part Rube Goldberg and part Dr. Seuss. The machine makes thousands at a time. All those marbles. Where do they go?

Perhaps Stomple is their ultimate destination and purpose – a unique strategy game that pits 2 to 6 players against each other as the players stomp marbles off the playing board in order to trap their opponents.

The game consists of 49 marbles (7 different colors), 6 stompers (playing pieces shaped like a pawn with a marble on top), and the playing board. The board is what makes the game possible. Lots of marble games rely on rolling the marbles, but Stomple must hold them in place until a player can stomp them out of play. The marbles are randomly spread across the board. The board consists of a wooden box with a wooden lid. The lid is perforated by a grid of 49 holes, but the marbles don’t fall through the holes because there is a rubbery ring that cradles each marble in each hole. The marble doesn’t fall through the hole unless someone punches it down with one of the stomper pieces.

This game mechanic is so satisfying that many people will just want to set up the game and then punch the marbles through the holes. Forget the rules and the strategies. Forget winning and losing. This is like a sheet of bubble wrap (the kind with big bubbles) that you can replenish.

Luckily, the game itself turns out to be even more fun. The rules are quite simple. On your turn, starting with any marble on the outer rows, stomp any marble you choose. If there is another marble of the same color adjacent to your stomper, you must stomp that marble too. On your next turn you may stomp any marble adjacent to your stomper OR stomp any marble of your color anywhere on the board. This lets you jump around but it eliminates one more marble of your color. If a player cannot move (no adjacent marble and none of the player’s color), that player is eliminated. Play proceeds until all but one player is eliminated.

It is important to keep in mind that if there is a path of marbles of the same color, you must stomp the entire path once you start. Incredibly satisfying when you stomp someone else and heartbreaking when done to you.

The rules are easy to learn and there is a good deal of strategy that goes into your decision of what color to stomp and when to jump to your own color. The game proved at least as Major Fun for 2 as it was for 5 players. You play the game for score (or not) – the winner getting one point for each colored marble, and three points for each cat’s-eye marble left on the board. Everyone wanted another go, anyway, so those of us who like to carry a grudge to the bitter end found playing multiple rounds most satisfying. And setting the game up for the next round was as easy as pouring marbles from the Stomple box back on to the Stomple board. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Fun. Fun. Major Fun.

Stomple by Greg Zima. © 2010 Spin Master Ltd.

Ratuki

Filed Under (Family Games, Kids Games) by Bernie DeKoven on 02-07-2013

Ratuki

Happen to know a card game called “Spit“? You know, that competitive solitaire-like game, only for two or more players. Where you don’t take turns, and you have to keep very alert, because sometimes the very pile you were hoping to play on gets played on first by the other player.

Well, Ratuki isn’t Spit. It’s Spit-like. But faster, with a unique set of cards that adds a challenging perceptual/conceptual twist that makes it into something very much like a new game entirely.

The object of the Ratuki is to capture the most cards by being the first to complete a set of 5 cards, again and again and again. Players begin with a hand of 3 cards. There can be as many piles in the playing area as there are players. Each pile has to start with a ONE. Actually, there are five different kinds of ONEs: roman numerals, bilingual number names, fingers, faces of a die, and your regular Arabic-numeral type numbers. In a similar vein, there are TWOs of 5 kinds, each of which can be played on top of a ONE of any kind.

So, yes, you’re racing to build stacks of up to 5 cards, and equally yes, they can be of any kind, and even moreso, you have to constantly switch your expectations of which kind of number actually comes next.

Major Fun AwardThen there are the Ratuki cards, which you can use to capture a stack at any time. Sadly, there are only two of these wild delights. When you play your Ratuki card, you’re supposed to say “Ratuki.” Turns out to be almost as much fun to say that silly word as it is to play the card. Let’s say it together now, for the fun of it: ra-tooooo-kee! See what I mean?

And so the game goes. Speaking of which, if you can’t play, you can always discard one or more of the cards in your hand and pick up a new card from your draw pile. Which in one way is good, in another, not so – because after the round is over and you’ve counted all the cards you’ve won, you have to subtract every card left in your discard and draw piles from your score.

From time to time, no one has any cards they can play (unless they discard). And, since nobody wants especially to discard, you get these stand-off moments, where the game is stopped until someone confronts the fates, and discards, for the sake of keeping the game going. This results in a semi-profound meta-moment where the fun of the game actually takes precedence over the fun of winning.

There are many reasons to add this game to your library: the “educational” value, the appeal to children and adults, the ease of learning, the brevity of rounds, the quality of the cards, and, most of all, the sheer, intense fun of it all.

Designed by Greg Zima, designer of the Major Fun award winning Stomple and Party Gras and  made available by USAopoly.