Rhumb Line

rhumb-line-gameThere are oh so many significantly playworthy variations of Tic-Tac-Toe (a.k.a. Naughts and Crosses, a. also k.a. Three-in-a-Row) that one would think it a nigh impossible feat to create a completely different, but similarly significantly playworthy, most definitely Tic-Tac-Toe-like game. Apparently game designer Martin Samuel thought it possible, and his game Rhumb Line is proof of the tastiness of this conceptual pudding.

As you know ever so well, Tic-Tac-Toe is about getting 3, or maybe 4, or perhaps even 5 of your marks, or pieces, in a row. But what, wondered Rhumb Line designer Martin Samuel, would it be like if the row were on a circle, like the circle of a compass? Why, you’d not only have rows (radii, one might say), but you’d also have arcs, and even spiral-like configurations. And there in would lie the rub – a visual, perceptual kind of tickly rub, because it’s different from the way we look at things when we look at Tic-Tac-Toe.

thinkingThere are a couple more significant departures from everything you thought you knew about Tic-Tac-Toe. When you manage to make your four-in-an-arc, or radius, or spiral, the game doesn’t end. You record your score (using the conveniently located score lines), and continue. Thus, as the game continues, the board becomes more complex. More pieces. More possibilities. Then, when all but the last piece has been played, yet another newness transpires – you get to remove any one piece and place it anywhere else on the board – opening up yet other possibilities just when you thought there were no more to be found. And how very fun would that be? Major FUN.

The game is played on a rubbery fabric mat, lovingly illustrated like the dial of a mariner’s treasured compass. The board lies most satisfactorily flat, and yet curls up with ease to line the sides of the of the cylinder that houses the game, the polished pieces, and their velvety drawstring bag. And is now (as of Dec 16, 2009) available for the iPod Touch and iPhone.

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