Sequence

Despite my declared prediliction for “games that make people laugh,” every now and then I come across a “serious” game that is so unique, so playable, and so readily invites adaptation and variation, that I just can’t let it go by without giving it a Major FUN Award– a game like Sequence.

Sequence is based on the Japanese game of Go-Moku – a kind of tic-tac-toe in which it takes five-in-a-row in order to win. Go-Moku is a classic strategy game, and you’ll find a great deal about it on the Internet. This site discusses strategy and interesting variations of the game. There’s a site devoted to Go-Moku and it’s variations including the classic games of Renju and Pente. Here’s the International Internet Go-Moku Foundation. And, for your immediate gratification, here‘s an online version.

Basing any game on Go-Moku is a fortuitous choice. It is an easy game to understand, even for a seven-year-old. And is strategically deep enough to attract adult play. An even more fortuitous decision is to introduce an element of luck. Suddenly, this game of pure strategy is as much about chance as it is about skill. Which levels the playing field even further, making it an ideal game for a very wide age range. It’s a difficult line to straddle, the line between chance and strategy. Sequence not only crosses that line, but arrives at a uniquely playable game.

The Sequence board is a 10×10 grid. A playing card, with the exception of jacks, is depicted on each square in the grid. Jacks are wild. Also included are two decks of cards and three sets of playing pieces. Two to three players or teams can play. Cards are dealt, the squares available for play being determined by the cards that player is holding. Two-eyed Jacks are wild, allowing the player to add a piece anywhere on the board. One-eyed Jacks are called “anti-wild,” and are used to remove any piece (the famous “screw-you factor”). The wildness of the Jacks is a prefect touch, adding an extra layer of luck, strategy and interaction.

Given these elements, it is easy to see how readily we can generate new variations and modifications. In addition to the classic Go-Moku variations, we also have cards to play with – cards that can be used to level the playing field (winners have to start the next game with fewer cards), cards that can be declared wild – with all sorts of wild possibilities (reposition one or more of your or your opponent’s pieces, reverse direction of play, exchange colors…).

Sequence, designed by Doug Reuter and published by Jax Games, is an ideal family game. Even for a very large family. The board is well-made, the pieces sturdy, the cards easy to shuffle and hold. And the game is deep enough to withstand hours of play, variation, exploration and invention.

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