Rukshuk, a.k.a. “The Game of Rock Balancing,” is, as you might infer, a game about balancing rocks. Well, not actual rocks, but cunningly contrived, highly rocklike pieces, in 5 different colors. Highly rocklike – hefty, and irregularly shaped rocklike. There are long, flat white “bridge rocks” (each player gets two of these to be used as required). The collection of building rocks includes smaller white pieces, which only count for one point, but all have somewhat flat, and most accommodating surfaces. Thus one can easily imagine oneself building white rock towers and things. Whilst the blue rocks are only flattish on one side, so the idea of stacking one on top of another appears to be, shall we say, not such a good one. Then there are the green rocks (rated as “difficult”), and the highly irregular, 4-point-scoring red rocks (candidly rated “impossible”) and of course the high-scoring, but extremely rare gold rocks. None of which is actually a rock.

Then there are the 25 challenge cards, each depicting rock constructs of various difficulty and geographic significance. The Pinnacle formation, for example, is purportedly found on the Galapagos Islands, whereas the Pigeon Rock configuration is somewhere near the city of Beirut.

Players each draw seven rocks from the rock bag, thereby randomizing the scoring potential and challenge, since you really can’t tell what color rock you’ll be getting until you actually get it. Got it? A Rukshuk card and the sand timer are then turned over to reveal the challenge for the round and to start the rocky contest. Players can build and rebuild their rock construct, attempting to place whatever higher scoring color rocks they have in their indicated multiple-point positions, or not. Once all the sand has fallen, all construction ceases, and the scores are calculated accordingly.

Rukshuk is a surprisingly well-balanced game, if you excuse the expression. It can be played as a solitaire, or with as many as five players. The pieces, the fantasy, the challenge cards all work together to make the game intensely involving, even for the nimble-fingered few, with just enough chance and strategic depth to entice the less-than-dexterous many.

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