I’m a sucker for board games with what I will call morphic geographies. A game like Settlers of Catan or Kingdom Builder will always draw me in because small changes in the game’s geography (the board, the pieces, the initial set-up) lead to interesting changes in strategy. My favorite tiling games and resource management games often do a good job of balancing elegant rules with clever, variable geographies.
This is often difficult to achieve for games where you capture pieces, but Blindside succeeds spectacularly at creating a strategically deep capture game with components that can be manipulated in all kinds of interesting ways.
Before I get in to a description of the game, I need to emphasize just how easy the game is to learn despite the malleability of the components. The rules take up only a few short pages, each of which are clearly illustrated. You will be able to set up the board and the pieces in just a few minutes, and you’ll learn the movement rules in just a few more. It will probably take you longer to read this review than it would take to learn to play.
The playing board is a hexagonal grid that is constructed by linking together four smaller groups of hexagons. The instructions suggest that you start with a box-like configuration for your first game, but the four sections can be linked in many ways, some of which will create strange pathways and empty spots that players would have to navigate.
The playing pieces are hexagonal pawns which are grooved on top. The grooves are cut to hold up to six arrows. Each player starts with seven of these pawns and 23 arrows. If you are playing the most basic game then the rules show you how to arrange the arrows on the pawns. The direction the arrows point show you which directions your pawn can move while the number of arrows tells you how many spaces you are allowed to move (in a straight line). Once you have mastered the basic game, the rules encourage you to set up the pawns as you see fit.
Finally there are 12 action spaces. These spaces allow you to change the direction of your pawn OR change the facing of the arrows. Blindside suggests where the action spaces should go for your first game, but this can change too.
To sum up: you can change the board, the pawns, and the action spaces. You don’t have to. The starting game is fun, surprising, and strategically deep. But if you need more, if you are one of those adventurous sorts who wonders what it would be like to wage strategic warfare on a long, thin isthmus rather than a blocky island, then you can knock yourself out.
The game ends when one player captures 17 of the opponent’s arrows. You capture an arrow by either jumping over a piece or landing on top of it. This means that simply jumping over a pawn is not enough to eliminate it from the game. A pawn with 4 or 5 arrows might lose an arrow and still be a dangerous piece. As the game progresses and pawns lose their arrows, the pawns become increasingly limited in how they can move and what spaces they can defend. You are constantly looking to see where your opponent has a “blindside” so that you can sneak up and steal more of their arrows.
There are a lot of decisions to make and a lot of angles to cover. Watching them all and ten swooping in to exploit them is Major Fun.
For 2 players, ages 10+
Blindside was designed by James D. Muntz and is © 2011 by Talicor.