Gridopolis

Gridopolis

 Gridopolis |  BGG |  Buy

Designer: Dave Schultze
Publisher: Gridopolis Games 
2-4 players 20-60 minutes ages 8+
MSRP $50
Time to teach & learn: 5-6 minutes

text-the concept

Gridopolis is a game of construction and capture. Players build a multi-level modular board and then use pawns and kings to jump and capture their opponent’s pieces. Teleporters and blockers present challenges and opportunities in equal measure. And the game board itself will shape every decision you make, because each player has a chance to add new elements to it as the game unfolds! 

text-the components

Gridopolis has a wonderful set of basic building components that snap together to create multiple game boards. There are pads that make up the spaces the pawns and kings will move on. There are links that join pads together. The links have little nubbins that connect to posts, so game boards can be stacked together to form a three dimensional play space.

gridopolis components

Gridopolis is aptly named, because you’ll feel like you’ve created a small cityscape each time you play. 

There are suggested layouts for your first few games, but once you understand the basic concept, the sky’s the limit – each game board in Gridopolis can rise from the imagination of the players.

Gridopolis board set up and ready for play

Each player has six large colorful pawns to begin the game. The pawns can be flipped over to become Kings during the game. There are Kingerizer pieces in each player color; they nest into the pad spaces along the edge of the board to indicate a player’s home row.

There are also Hyper-pads and blocker tokens that will create different patterns of movement on the board when they are in play.

Once the Gridopolis board is built (including Hyper-pads), pawns are placed on opposite sides, separated by a neutral unoccupied area. Now you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

You’ll find many echoes of classic, almost universally known, games like Checkers and Chess in Gridopolis.

Your turn consists of selecting a pawn to move one pad (one space) in any direction, including diagonal movement AND including moves up or down! Every pawn has a home row marked by the Kingerizer pieces. A pawn’s move can never be backwards toward its home row.

people playing gridopolis - young and old

Jumping is not only allowed in Gridopolis, it’s the essence of the game. You can jump over your own pieces to extend a pawn’s movement. If you jump over an opponent’s piece, you capture it and remove it from the board. And just like it’s classic cousin, you can chain together multiple jumps to capture multiple pieces in a single move. You can even sacrifice your own piece by jumping off the board in order to make a capture! Your opponent gets the Kamikaze piece, so this move is one of desperation, usually.

If you can maneuver a pawn to the home row of an opponent, it flips over and becomes a King. Kings move just like pawns EXCEPT they get an optional bonus move after the first. This extra move gives you a ton of flexibility and adds new decisions and strategies to every turn.

If you land on a Hyper-pad, your piece beams immediately to another space with an empty hyper-pad on the board. The Gridopolis board may look big, but with even just a few hyper-pads, no space is safe… or very far away!

Envisioning and anticipating possible jumps across multiple levels makes Gridopolis a lovely dance between aggression and safety. Can you extend your pawn’s reach without risking a capture or exposing your home row, allowing other players to create kings?

excited kids playing the game

For a longer game, you can play until only one person has a piece remaining on the board. For a shorter game, you play a set number of turns and score based on how many pieces you collect and how many you have remaining on the board. High score wins. 

text-apart

Planning for the unknown sets Gridopolis apart. 

Instead of moving a pawn or king on your turn, each player has two additional options: 

you may place a blocker token on the board 

OR 

you may add a new space to the board. 

A blocker token is played to an unoccupied pad. That space is eliminated from play for the rest of the game. 

To add a new space to the board, you select pieces from a mini-construction kit each player starts with at the beginning of the game. You have three pads (with connector links) and two posts. You can add a space to any level. You can even add a level to the board with a post! 

gridopolis board built up

These options blow the game wide open.

The board is not a static thing in Gridopolis. You have to account for and anticipate not only where your opponent might move but what your opponent might do to change the very landscape of the game!

If the board was too sprawling, this could lead to brain-lock. By keeping the spaces of the game board limited, Gridoplolis encourages players to consider their options from different angles and perspectives in a very literal and fun way!

text-final

It’s a tricky thing to build a game on the back of such well known classics. There are so many poor examples floating through the world of games. They invite comparison with the greats and almost always are found wanting. 

What Gridopolis accomplishes is special and noteworthy. It strikes a lovely balance between familiar and new elements. It offers players a fun remix of the original. The classic is still recognizable in some form, but Gridopolis sings to new generations of players with a voice that is distinctive enough to rise up from the chorus of wannabes. 

Gridopolis combines the Lego-like joy of building with a meditative fun akin to a game of 3-D chess versus Mr Spock on the Enterprise. And, as Gridopolis is the first in a series of games using these same components, it’s encouraging to imagine many new paths to Major Fun building from this common ground.

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Written by: Stephen Conway

Pocket Ops

Pocket Ops   Grand Gamers Guild  |  BGG

Designer: Brandon Beran  Artist: Josh Cappel
Publisher: Grand Gamers Guild
2 players  15 min. ages 8+  MSRP $15

text-the concept

Cue the James Bond music….

In Pocket Ops, you are a spymaster, infiltrating a secret facility with a team of agents to steal a doomsday device. Unfortunately for you, a rival agency has sent their own spies on the very same mission. Using the tools and skills available, you must position your agents in key areas so you can grab the device before your opponent.

text-the components

Pocket Ops is a game that could almost fit in your pocket. They’d have to be big pockets, yes, but it’s worth noting this is a game you can take anywhere and play anywhere. The entire game fits in a box that is 4 inches square.

Inside this bite sized box, there’s a board, a set of blueprint cards and wooden agent tokens for each player. There’s also a cardboard key card plus the dreaded doomsday device and its 2 power crystals.

The board is a three by three grid depicting the secret base. Each grid space is lettered A through I.

The nine Blueprint cards match the lettered grid spaces on the board, so each player has a card lettered A-I.

The agent tokens come in two forms – regular spies and specialists. You have 7 regular spies and 8 specialists. The general spies look like ninjas and the specialists have an icon depicting their special skill.

And the doomsday device and its crystals are how you keep score. Collect the device and a crystal and you win!

To play, each player takes their cards and general spies. Flip your specialist tokens face down and mix them up. Draw two and secretly decide which one to keep. Reveal your selection to your opponent and you’re ready to play!

text-the mechanics

Pocket Ops draws its inspiration from a game almost everyone already knows: tic-tac-toe.

The goal remains exactly the same: arrange your pieces on the board in a row of 3, vertically horizontally or diagonally.

In the classic game you draw an X or an O to claim a space. In Pocket Ops, you’ll place a spy or a specialist.

How your spies and specialists get onto the board is a much more tricky proposition in this game!

Each turn, one player will try to place a piece and the other player will try to predict where that piece is being played. The player with the Keycard token will be the Placer in the first turn and his or her opponent will be the Predictor.

Each turn in the game has three parts and goes like this:

1. The Predictor selects one of the 9 Blueprint cards and places it face down. This letter card is the Prediction.

2. The Placer selects either a regular spy or a specialist token and places it on a grid space on the board.

3. The Prediction card is then revealed. If the Prediction was correct, the token is removed from the board. If the Prediction was wrong, the token remains on the board. If the token was the Specialist, that token’s ability kicks in.

So, as the Placer on any given turn you may not actually get to play a piece if the Predictor can get in your head!

When the turn ends, the Keycard passes to the other player and roles are now reversed. The new Predictor selects a card. The Placer selects a token and places it on the board and the Prediction card is revealed.

And the game continues back and forth – predicting and placing (or not!) – until one player maneuvers three tokens into a line on the board. The first win, you grab a power crystal, The second win, you grab the doomsday device and celebrate your victory. So it’s best 2 out of 3.

text-apart

The Specialist tokens really make Pocket Ops shine.

Each player has 8 of them and each one has a unique ability that will trigger if the token is played to the board.

Each Specialist’s ability changes the way you look at the board and the options available to win.
So let’s take a closer look at them.

Most are played to empty spaces on the board.

The Sniper eliminates a foe (an opponent’s token) from a space that is in a straight path (no diagonals).

The Mole allows you to switch two pieces adjacent to the Mole – one must be friendly and one a foe.

The Ninja eliminates an adjacent foe (including diagonals).

The Pusher travels into an adjacent space on the board and pushes other tokens into the next space or even off the board.

The Grappler swaps places with a foe in a straight line (no diagonals).

The Hacker allows you to play TWO prediction cards as the Predictor from now on until you make a correct Prediction.

There are two Specialists that are played to spaces already containing a token

The Courier is played to a space with your own spy. The Courier pushes that spy into an empty adjacent space (no diagonals).

Last but not least the Assassin is played to a space with an opponent’s spy. The opponent’s spy is eliminated.

These abilities, taken on all at once, might seem like a lot to keep track of, but keep in mind you will only ever have one Specialist in play during a round. Each ability is really quite easy to grok, so you only really have to keep track of one at a time (Even so, I created a simple quick reference sheet for the Specialists you can download here – it even fits in the tiny box).

The effect these Specialists have on the game is tremendous. From a seemingly straightforward game, the board becomes a very strategic battleground. No token is safe and no token can be guaranteed to stay put!

As the Predictor you have to think beyond the obvious 3 in a row tic-tac-toe strategies to see how and when and where your opponent might be tempted to use his or her Specialist. LIkewise, as the Placer you have to be cagy about when to use your Specialist. Select an obvious spot and you might not benefit from its ability at all!

There’s already plenty of cat and mouse in this game, move and countermove, trying to make the less obvious choice each round so you can just get a piece ANY piece on the board. Adding Specialists makes this game cat and mouse chased by a rhino through a hedge maze filled with angry porcupines.

text-final

If I started out this review by saying “I’ve got this great new take on tic-tac-toe” you might have clicked away or at the very least rolled your eyes a bit.

After all, tic-tac-toe, played amongst skilled players, is a game that cant be won. It’s a great discovery and lesson in life when we learn this. But it pretty much kills much of our interest in ever playing the game. The game isnt fun enough since the outcome is all but ordained.

It takes real moxie to look at a classic like this and say, I can make it relevant, strategic and fun to a modern game playing audience. But that’s just what designer Brandon Beran has done.

And even if the game comes to a draw, like the original, its not a draw. The player with the Keycard (the Placer) loses the round! Which adds another layer of thinking when the board begins to fill up.

What I love most about Pocket Ops is how it takes something so familiar and uses that foundation to do something interesting and challenging, while still preserving the essential simplicity and speed of the original. Despite all these extra layers, a typical game takes no more than 10 minutes to play.

When is a game more than just a variation? When does a game rise up out of the primordial soup to evolve into its own animal?

This might be a question for the ages but I’d argue that a game makes this leap when it finds a way to build something new atop the foundation of the old. Adding deduction and bluffing elements to the basic 3 in a row goal of the original allows Pocket Ops to make that leap.

This isn’t tic-tac-toe on steroids. It’s Pocket Ops. It can and does stand on its own two feet. You can see its family heritage but you shouldn’t be too quick to judge based on from which branch of the great game tree it grows.

If you’re looking for a quick game that you can take practically anywhere and teach to practically anyone – a game that’ll provide a challenge after hundreds of plays – and a game that’s just plan fun – stop looking. You’ve found it in Pocket Ops.

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Release Date: 3/13/2017 Download:  Enhanced  | MP3
Running Time:  51 min Subscribe:  Enhanced  | MP3 | RSS

“No one wins a dance. Why would I want to win anything other than a beautiful game?”

– Bredon  The Wise Man’s Fear  by Patrick Rothfuss

Tak comes to us from two beautiful and beautifully different minds.

First from writer Patrick Rothfuss. In his epic fantasy series The Kingkiller Chronicles, Kvothe, the protagonist, learns the game of Tak from a courtier named Bredon. The game becomes the basis for their friendship and the foundation for understanding Bredon’s worldview.

Second from game designer James Ernest. Inspired by the novels, James brought Tak from the page to reality. But creating a game that is supposed to be on par with the likes of Chess or Go is no small task!

And yet Tak is just that. A game that feels universal, simple, elegant and accessible. A game that you can play anywhere and with anyone. A game that is beautiful because HOW you play matters as much as winning or losing.

And a game that is worthy both the Major Fun and Spiel of Approval Award!

Listen in to explore Tak – it’s backstory, the game itself, and why we think it deserves an honored place on your table, too.

Tak: A Beautiful Game

Cheapass Games  |  BGG  |  Worldbuilders

Designer: James Ernest & Patrick Rothfuss

Publisher: Cheapass Games

2 players  15-20 min.  ages 8+  MSRP $9,$55,$90

Music credits include:

Tinker, Tanner   by bluedanbob   |  the song

The Name of the Wind   by Ken Bonfield  |  the song 

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