Friday, June 24, 2005

Toscana, Polarity, Ubongo, Master Thieves, The Bridges of Shangri-La, and Terra

I'm going to interrupt the Harrisburg Games with last night's session.


This is a quick tile laying game for two. Each side gets a stack of tiles that cover a two by four rectangle on the game board. One player is the roofs on the pieces, and the other is the walkways. They place them on the board making sure it touches another tile on the board, and that their piece (roof or walkway) touches another like piece. Players build like this continuing to lengthen their territory while blocking their opponents. Since each piece contains both roofs and walkways, it can be pretty tricky to completely block someone. Once no one can play, you count the biggest grouping for each player. Whoever has the most connected tiles of their pieces wins.

Final Comment:
Simple, quick, and to the point. Reminds me of playing Oceania or The Very Clever Pipe Game. Nothing amazing, but just fun and quick to play.


This bizarre game is all about magnetism. This is one of those that is pretty tough to describe without seeing it in action. Of course, that makes this a great spectator game as the visual part is just as interesting as the playing.

Rules were pretty vague, but what I gathered is that players are trying to get stacks to score at the end. The game starts with just five of each player's pieces on the mat and about ten pieces for each person that aren't in play. To make them turn into stacks, players will place more pieces on the board without disturbing the existing pieces. Biggest problem is that you can't lay a piece flat after the initial five are on the board. To place a piece, you have to balance it next to another piece of yours in such a way that it is sticking off of the mat a little because of the magnetism between the pieces. On your turn, you can also use one of your unplayed pieces to force one of these hanging pieces to lay flat.

This is where the game gets interesting. When players are placing or trying to force one to lay down, they might cause pieces to touch each other. If they jump up into the magnet you are holding, you take all the pieces that come along with it. If you cause your pieces to react with themselves forming a stack, you take them as well. If you cause your opponent's pieces to react, then the opponent can attempt to convert those into points by removing them from their spot and then placing them elsewhere on the board. If that player causes any more to react when taking up the reacted pieces, then that player takes them as penalty.

Players trying to get their pieces closer to their opponent's pieces in hopes that they will force their pieces to react giving you a tower. So what you have after a few turns is a mess of these magnets on the board balancing on one another. One false move and stuff will be snapping and flipping every which way. Like I said, entertaining to watch, especially when the pressure is on.

Final Comment:
Definitely an interesting game. Not something to take too seriously, I suspect. I do see the strategy, and there is a lot of dexterity involved, but too much hinges on the chaos presented when you have a pile of magnets together. I'd like to try it again and see if it is more fun if you know what you are doing.


Ubongo is a game of speed tiling puzzles. Everyone gets a card depicting the area they are to work with. A die is rolled and then you get the pieces that are shown on the card that match the symbol rolled. With timer going, you then attempt to put those pieces into the area on the card without any gaps or pieces hanging outside the border. When you are done you get to grab two gems off the board. Even last place gets some gems as long as they finish and can get the gems before the time runs out (of course he is much more limited in which to take).

So, it's a lot of hectic building and then gem taking since if you wait too long the next player can take the gems you had your eye on... Or maybe you wanted the next gems in line. At the end of the game, whoever has the most of one color wins.

I really like the puzzle part. Racing against the others to finish it is what the game is about. The gems just add unnecessary messiness to it, in my opinion. And in the end, you could win even if you come in last most of the time, as long as you get it done before the timer and there are gems to take where you are sitting. Maybe that is good for a family type game, but if I were to play this again I'd suggest some tweaking to the gem grabbing.

Also, I'd prefer to see all players getting the same puzzle to work with each time. Some are incredibly simple while others I couldn't figure out at all. With everyone having the same card it would be more interesting as you couldn't complain at getting a hard one. My only reservation is then when someone is done, unfinished players could glance at their card to see the solution.

Final Comment:
If you like tiling puzzles, and can handle the pressure of the sand timer, this can be a lot of fun. Some people don't mind the gem grabbing, so that might not be an issue for you.

Part 2 is on its way!


At Sat Mar 17, 10:46:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

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