Triangles are cool. They invite choice in matters of symmetry and lead to all kinds of complex designs once you link more than a few of them together. I find there is something a bit unsettling about geometric patterns that are based on triangles if the pattern is left incomplete, but I experience a rush of satisfaction when the last piece is placed and the figure is finished.

Zenith, a strategic tiling and stacking game by MindWare, tapped into this fascination I have with triangles. The game demonstrated how robust and fun a competition can be with only a few simple rules and some thoughtfully designed game-pieces.

In keeping with the magic number, I’ll break game-play down into three parts: the goal, the tiling, and the stacking.

The goal: Be the last player to place one of your triangular tiles.

The tiling: Each player has a set of colored, wooden triangles (58 in a 2-person game, 29 in the 3- or 4-person games). They take turns setting their triangles on the game board which is patterned with white triangles that indicate where players may place their pieces. The game comes with four boards, each with a slightly different pattern and named after a mountain (Mt. Fuji, Pikes Peak, Twin Peaks, and Krakatoa).

The stacking: Moving up makes things interesting. A player can place a tile on top of three lower tiles IF the player’s color is one of the bottom tiles. Here’s where the triangle’s unique symmetry creates complexity and strategic choices. Players try to block their opponents, but they must also make sure that they leave plenty of options as lower levels fill up and the upper levels get smaller and smaller.

Not only is Zenith a joy to play from a competitive point of view, I found a lot of satisfaction in simply handling game-pieces that are so thoughtfully crafted. The triangular game tiles are solid, colorful, double-sided, finished wood. They invite a lot of creative, careful manipulation and building while your opponents are debating their next move. (One of our Tasters was a little frustrated at how careful the manipulations had to be, in particular, how easy it was to dislodge pieces as they were stacked one on the other, but the game proved too absorbing for any of us to remain bothered by the extra care required.) The game-boards are double-sided and the edges are inscribed with interesting facts about the namesake mountains. For instance, I did not know that “Krakatoa continues to increase in height 16 feet (5m) every year…”

I especially appreciate the efficient packaging and use of space that MindWare employed in the game’s design. Nothing is wasted and it’s all major fun.

Zenith was designed by Nicholas Cravotta and Rebecca Bleu of BlueMatter Games. © 2009 MindWare.

Will Bain, Game Taster

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