When I ask you to identify a board game that is a strategic puzzle game for two players that also involves dexterity, what game pops into your well-informed head? Would it, perhaps, be Batik?

You know, Batik, that lovely, wooden, puzzle-looking game in the Gigamic collection – yes, that collection of wooden strategic games available in the US from Fundex Games.

Batik, the puzzle game designed by Kris Burmin, in which two players take turns dropping two different colors of wooden, tangram-like pieces into a wood and plexiglass frame.

One of the most self-explanatory games around, especially for those who’ve played Connect Four. Even those who’ve played with Connect Four, just to see what happens, like a checker-dropping 3-year-old.

See, when it’s your turn, especially in the beginning of the game, it’s not just a question of dropping any old shape into the frame. First of all, you have to pick a strategically significant shape (big? pointy? tiny? smooth?), and you have to get it to land pretty much just where you want it to land, somewhere preferably snug, or not, ’cause you often win by taking up more, rather than less space. And there’s just a tad of luck, too. Taking turns, using any piece you want (unless you’re playing the official “use only your own piece” version), making sure that you’re not the player whose piece doesn’t fit ertirely within the frame.

Not that I’m recommending you should, but nonetheless gleefully noting that Pete Hornburg figured out how to get all the pieces to fit perfectly inside the game frame, thereby demonstrating the puzzle-likeness of it all, while more than hinting at the possibility of the perfect game and the observation that you’re playing in a game frame.

Lovely, the whole thing. Easy to learn. Short games (maybe 10 minutes). Fun for a remarkably wide range of players. There’s the dexterity and luck part, so it’s not necessarily the smartest who always wins. Which inevitably makes for more fun. Unless you get too serious about the game. On the other hand, it’s good to know you can get serious about it if you have to – just in case.

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