Now that all those Mayan and Aztec apocalypses are over, we can get back to building pyramids for recreation instead of in an attempt to stave off the end of life as we know it.
An early adopter of this new recreational approach to Mesoamerican architecture is Blue Orange Games and their fantastic stacking/tiling game Aztack.
The game consists of 60 rectangular tiles that resemble dominoes. Instead of pips on each side of the tile, there are Aztec glyphs—images that represent important symbols in Aztec culture. The four glyphs (flower, water, deer, and flint) are combined in many ways and in five different colors: green, orange, grey, blue, and burgundy.
To start play, 12 tiles are arranged in a 2×6 rectangle in the middle of the table. Each player draws 12 tiles. On your turn, you place one of your tiles on the base of the pyramid or pass if there is no space for a legal move. If you pass, you can jump in later. Play proceeds clockwise until everyone must pass. The winner is the one with the fewest remaining tiles.
The rules for placing the tiles are simple and well-illustrated by the rules. You must place your tile so that it bridges two tiles beneath it. The tile you place must also match both of the glyphs OR both of the colors. If it matches all colors and glyphs you get to discard an additional tile from your hand.
The simplicity of the rules belies a wonderfully complex and shifting matrix of choices. There is a great balance between making moves that will limit the choices of your opponents and those that will keep the board open for your future placements. Luck plays a sizable role but there is enough choice to develop strategies in order to manage the random elements.
Aztack is well made and beautifully illustrated. It is fascinating to watch as the pyramid rises from the base. Each one is unique and really very beautiful.
And Major Fun…
2-4 players. Ages 7+
Aztack was designed by Brad Ross & Jim Winslow and is © 2014 by Blue Orange Games.
MindWare’s Staxis is like playing a game of pick-up-sticks in reverse. And I don’t mean that way you start the game by dropping a handful of long toothpicks in a pile, but rather imagine having to carefully place each stick so that they stand on end or balance against each other without touching the table.
The game comes with a base structure that looks like a Soviet era satellite has come to rest in your home. Once you have Sputnik assembled on your playing surface, players divide the 50 long stacking sticks between them. The first player to get rid of all their sticks is the winner.
Before you balance one of your sticks on the Epcot Spaceship Earth you have to roll a die. This tells you how many points of contact your stick must have with any wooden part of the structure. A single point basically means that you have to balance your stick horizontally across another stick. A double point means that your stick must touch two other sticks.
Although the two-point option seems easier and more stable, it proves very tricky as the game proceeds. Sticks balanced on two points generally form angles that make the single-point rolls even more challenging. The double-point sticks also seem to cause the weight to shift in unexpected ways.
A player must successfully balance one stick on his or her turn, but any sticks that fall off are collected by that player. This encourages players to take chances in order to leave their opponents with increasingly unstable configurations.
Staxis takes a steady hand and a keen eye. The tension builds steadily which lends itself to a lot of good natured trash talking and goading. The rules are barely necessary and that’s only for the first time you build the base Tesla Tower. The game is well constructed although you should be careful with the wooden stacking sticks. They do lend themselves to splinters.
Our kids had a blast with Staxis and it made for a great game with mixed ages. Major Fun game for dexterity, balance, and show-boating.
2-6 players. Ages 6+
Staxis was designed by Paul Wickens and is © 2013 by MindWare.
We have a soft spot for speed games here at Major Fun. That soft spot is generally the tips of our fingers and we will gleefully bruise those soft spots if it means that we get a chance to slap a card down just before our neighbor does. Speed games are loud and frenetic and there is never any down time.
Granted, this kind of fun isn’t for everyone and speed games can often be unforgiving to those who are inexperienced. Or lack hand-eye coordination. Or are too old. Or are too young. Or have a heart condition. Or play nice…
…but they are fun!! And Talicor’s Stop ‘n Go does a great job of providing us with a slappy shouty speedy game that pauses every so often to give you time to regroup.
Players are dealt 15 cards (the rest are placed to the side for later) and the object is to get rid of all cards in your hand. The cards are held face down. Each card has a combination of four basic colors: red, green, yellow, and blue. Each player turn one card face to the table in front of them. When the dealer yells “Stop and Go” each player flips over a card and tries to match it to one of the cards already face up on the table. When a player sees a match, he or she rushes to slap their card on top of that pile and flip over another.
It’s all very intuitive. Speed color matching.
There are also three special cards: Zap is yellow, Pass is blue, and Stop n Go is green and red. When one of these is successfully played to a pile, everything stops and the special card takes effect. Zap allows the player to give each opponent 2 more cards (from the ones set aside). Pass forces everyone to pass their hand to the right or to the left. Stop n Go allows the player to play 3 cards while everyone else has to wait.
This is not a highly strategic game. There is a good deal of luck involved. But the pace is fast and the interruptions due to special cards allow everyone to regroup and prepare for the next onslaught. The game rules suggests that at the end of the round (when someone goes out) you count your cards and record that number. When someone reaches 30 the game is over and the lowest score wins.
We had a blast just playing to see who would go out each round. And betting on who would walk away with a broken finger.
The rules are short and largely intuitive. The cards are well designed. We were laughing and shouting and bruising our fingers like a rock n roll bassist. It’s Major Fun.
2 – 6 Players. Ages 4+
Stop ‘n Go was designed by James D. Muntz and © 2012 by James Games Design. Manufactured and distributed by Talicor.