Acuity – a game of visual gymnastics

The first thing that struck us about Acuity was how well-made it was. Seventy large (2-3/4″), surprisingly thick, square cardboard tiles; each colorfully illustrated with a selection of 4 images: green diamonds, yellow stars, blue circles and red squares, all lovingly presented in a plastic tray with 9 compartments. It made you think that someone believed this game was destined to become a family treasure.

Then we read the rules – a single, two-sided sheet, well-illustrated, succinctly written, that explained not only the game, but 5 variations and some hints for engaging young players (the game is recommended for 2 to 6 people, 6 and older). Clearly, Acuity had been played, and tested, and refined, and loved – a lot.

To play Acuity, you arrange 36 of the tiles in a 6×6 grid. You stack the remaining face-down in a pile of any degree of neatness you find sufficiently pleasing. The game begins when the first player turns over one of the face-down tiles. Everybody immediately begins scanning the array, looking for a match. Here’s the thing: the match that you’re looking for is not on any one tile, but on two (the “edge match”), or maybe four (the “corner match”) adjacent tiles. And here’s the other thing: just in case you can’t find a match, you can conceptually turn a tile (1/4 turn only, clock or counter clock-wise, please). Which means that to find a match you not only have to look for the match, in all four possible orientations, but also imagine what the result would be if an adjacent tile were turned!

The first person to find the match gets the tile. If no one has found the match, anyone can call out “challenge” – indicating that she believes there is no match to be found regardless of one’s visual dexterity. Everyone else then has 30 seconds. If no match is found, the challenging player gets the tile. If someone else finds the match, he not only gets the tile, but gets to take one of the challenging player’s tiles. O, the humanity!

Acuity is what you might call exquisite fun. The challenge to perception and imagination is engagingly, delightfully deep. Variations include solitaire and cooperative versions, playing for points or competing head-to-head by distributing the tiles evenly to the players and their racing to see who can match all their tiles first.

Acuity, from Fat Brain Toy Co. is available from and local specialty toy stores.  The game was designed by BlueMatter Games.

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