I was in the process of reviewing Stomple from Spin Master – an inspired use of the multi-hued marvels of marbles – when I was reminded of a fascinating video on how marbles are made. I know, I know. The game itself is what I should be telling you about, because it’s at least as marvelous as it is marbleous.

Nevertheless, before I go on, I find myself having to share this video with you. The hand-made marbles are exquisite, but I was struck by the mechanized marble production. Early in the process, the molten glass is cut and little blobs of glass fall into the interlocking grooves of long, cast iron screws. The blobs cool until they are recognizably glass marbles which then roll down through the chutes of sorting device: part Rube Goldberg and part Dr. Seuss. The machine makes thousands at a time. All those marbles. Where do they go?

Perhaps Stomple is their ultimate destination and purpose – a unique strategy game that pits 2 to 6 players against each other as the players stomp marbles off the playing board in order to trap their opponents.

The game consists of 49 marbles (7 different colors), 6 stompers (playing pieces shaped like a pawn with a marble on top), and the playing board. The board is what makes the game possible. Lots of marble games rely on rolling the marbles, but Stomple must hold them in place until a player can stomp them out of play. The marbles are randomly spread across the board. The board consists of a wooden box with a wooden lid. The lid is perforated by a grid of 49 holes, but the marbles don’t fall through the holes because there is a rubbery ring that cradles each marble in each hole. The marble doesn’t fall through the hole unless someone punches it down with one of the stomper pieces.

This game mechanic is so satisfying that many people will just want to set up the game and then punch the marbles through the holes. Forget the rules and the strategies. Forget winning and losing. This is like a sheet of bubble wrap (the kind with big bubbles) that you can replenish.

Luckily, the game itself turns out to be even more fun. The rules are quite simple. On your turn, starting with any marble on the outer rows, stomp any marble you choose. If there is another marble of the same color adjacent to your stomper, you must stomp that marble too. On your next turn you may stomp any marble adjacent to your stomper OR stomp any marble of your color anywhere on the board. This lets you jump around but it eliminates one more marble of your color. If a player cannot move (no adjacent marble and none of the player’s color), that player is eliminated. Play proceeds until all but one player is eliminated.

It is important to keep in mind that if there is a path of marbles of the same color, you must stomp the entire path once you start. Incredibly satisfying when you stomp someone else and heartbreaking when done to you.

The rules are easy to learn and there is a good deal of strategy that goes into your decision of what color to stomp and when to jump to your own color. The game proved at least as Major Fun for 2 as it was for 5 players. You play the game for score (or not) – the winner getting one point for each colored marble, and three points for each cat’s-eye marble left on the board. Everyone wanted another go, anyway, so those of us who like to carry a grudge to the bitter end found playing multiple rounds most satisfying. And setting the game up for the next round was as easy as pouring marbles from the Stomple box back on to the Stomple board. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. Fun. Fun. Major Fun.

Stomple by Greg Zima. © 2010 Spin Master Ltd.

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