Monday, 23 July 2012

For The Win

Plays: 2Px5.

The Game

For The Win is a Hive-like abstract game, with ninjas, monkeys, aliens, zombies and pirates. Seriously. The base game is a 2-player game, but it can be expanded to be played with up to four. Every player has 10 square tiles, two of each type. The objective of the game is to create a chain of connected tiles which contain all five types. On your turn you can add a tile into the play area, move a tile, push a tile, use the special ability of a tile, or reactivate a tile. When adding a tile into the play area, it must not touch any of your own existing tiles (which is the opposite of Hive), not even diagonally, because diagonally adjacent tiles are considered connected. When moving a tile, you move it one step orthogonally or diagonally. When pushing a tile, you can only push it orthogonally, but you get to shove the whole row (or column) of tiles next to it. When using a special ability, you flip the tile to the deactivated side. The alien attracts any other tile to a space next to it. The pirate picks a tile next to it and moves it anywhere on the board. The ninja moves anywhere. The naughty monkey flips all tiles adjacent to it (including diagonally, of course). The zombie converts one adjacent tile into a zombie (possible even your opponent’s zombie), but if all zombies are already in play, it just deactivates the target tile.

The turn order in For The Win is a little unusual. There are rounds, in which each player starts with 5 action points. One player is the start player. On your turn you can spend 1 or 2 action points before passing the initiative to your opponent. If you run out of action points, you can’t do anything until the end of the round. In a two player game, it is possible to get 5 actions in a row. Let’s say your opponent is the start player for a round, and he keeps spending 2 action points on his turn. By the time he uses up his 5th action point, you still have 3 action points left, which you’ll use consecutively. After that, a new round starts, and you are the start player. You can choose to use 2 action points on your first turn. That’s a total of 5 actions in a row.

The tiles showing the red sides are the deactivated ones.

The player reference card, which is also used to track action points used. The black pawn at the top is to indicate the start player of the round.

Like Hive, there is a no-breaking-up- the-play-area rule. All tiles must be connected at the end of your turn. However due to the possible 2 actions per turn, you can temporarily break this rule after your first action. This creates new opportunities.

The game ends immediately when one player creates a connected chain of tiles which contains 5 tiles of different types each being in an active state.

The Play

Michelle wasn’t so keen on this, but I managed to convince Shee Yun (7) to play easily. She already knows how to play Hive. She’s not exactly a formidable opponent, but at least I get to experience what the game is like. The special abilities of the tiles allow many interesting plays. They are powerful both offensively and defensively, but of course the drawback is your tile becomes deactivated. The monkey can be very powerful, because of its ability to flip many opponent tiles at once. Don’t go near your opponent’s monkey. The zombie is handy in the early game. By biting an opponent tile, you can remove one of his tiles and add one of your own. That’s a 2 tile difference. The tactic of hanging at the edges to tie down an opponent piece in Hive is very much applicable here too. If you make an opponent tile the only tile connected your tile to the rest of the tiles, this opponent tile will be effectively immobilised because of the can’t-break-the-play-area rule.

Like most abstract games, there’s the feeling of needing to be effective with every move. It often comes down to how few moves you need to reach the winning condition. You need to look for opportunities to make moves that serve multiple purposes, e.g. one that links up your tiles and also blocks your opponent from linking up his.

I (black) have won. All my tiles are in one chain. Although one of my monkeys are deactivated, I do have one other active monkey.

The Thoughts

For The Win is certainly full of possibilities, especially considering the special abilities and the push action. The action point system also allows for powerful consecutive moves, with the risk that your opponent may pull the same on you. It is very dangerous to allow your opponent many consecutive moves, so this is something you need to keep in mind. I’m not a particularly big fan of abstract games and have not played that many of them. I keep comparing For The Win with Hive because that’s the only other abstract game I can think of which is similar. I think For The Win has more possibilities, although I can’t say for sure whether that’s necessarily better. Some may prefer the simpler (but definitely not simple) Hive. I can see some would prefer the more interesting special abilities in For The Win. For playing with children, Hive is better because it is more straightforward.

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