Kosmos, 2014

Dimension is a fast-paced puzzle game where each player has three balls each of five different colors. Six rule cards are dealt into the center of the table, then all players must attempt to build a stack of balls on their player board that follows all of the rules on the rule cards.

Rules may be: Certain colors of balls must or must not be touching other colors, you may need to use a specific number of balls of one color, or colors may or may not be stacked above or below others. Players have one minute to complete their stack of spheres. Once time runs out, each player receives a point for each sphere they used, and a bonus token if they met all the rules and used at least one ball of each of the five colors. You lose two points for each rule you didn’t follow correctly.  Bonus tokens are very important becuase you receive negative points at the end of the game if you have less than two bonus tokens. Players play six rounds to determine a winner.

This is a fun, fast-paced, brain burner of a puzzle game. It’s best for quick thinkers. I really like puzzle games and enjoy this, but have some difficulty with keeping similar card types straight when trying to build quickly. The rule cards are symbols and I am most often tripped up by the above/below cards.





In the example on the left, blue must not be placed below any other spheres, so all blue spheres must be placed on a top layer. In the example on the right, orange spheres must not be placed above any othere sphere, so is only placed correctly if placed on the bottom layer. The white triangle in the background makes sure that you know which way is “up” on the card. I find it takes me extra precious time remembering which rule I am looking at. Players who play this game a lot will probably overcome this. I see this problem a lot since I am usually playing with people unfamiliar with the game.

Also, it is very difficult to watch the timer and play at the same time. I wish they could have included more of an egg timer, rather than a sand timer. I tend to use my phone’s stopwatch feature instead of the included timer. So quick play makes this game exciting, but very similar looking rule cards make it somewhat thinky and frustrating. If you like puzzling fast-paced games, give Dimension. Recommendation: not for everyone.

Gigamic, 1991

Quarto is a beautiful abstract strategy game along the lines of tic-tac-toe. In Quarto, you are trying to get 4 in a row of any of the characteristics of the pieces, which are either short or tall, light or dark, round or square, solid or hollow.

The first player picks a piece and hands it to their opponent who places it on the 4×4 board, then picks out another piece and hands it back for the first player to place. This adds a layer to the strategy as you have to not only concentrate on where to place your piece, but to also be careful about which pieces you are handing to your opponent.

Quarto comes in several different variations including a full size game, a mini game (about 4″ wide) as well as travel and magnetic versions. Quarto Mini is the newest iteration, from Gigamic games. It has elegant packaging, beautiful real wood pieces and is handy to throw in a suitcase or bag to have as a filler for when you have a few minutes to kill. It plays quickly and is accessible to many ages.

I was taught this game many years ago, and liked it quite a bit, but never seemed to get around to picking up the full size game. When I saw the mini version come out, I was quite excited by the smaller size, which will be much easier to carry around with me. This game would make an awesome gift for a gift exchange or would make a good stocking stuffer (if you have a slightly larger stocking). A nice addition to any collection. Versions with plastic pieces can be found for around $15. I would recommend spending the couple extra dollars and picking up the Mini version with the real wood pieces for $25 (Note that the board is made of composite wood) for a better tactile experience. Especially if you intend to give it as a gift.

Recommended in any version.

The Rose KingThe Rose King
Thames & Kosmos, 1997

Originally published as Texas by Ub-Spiele, Thames & Kosmo brings this great two-player game to the United States with a War of the Roses theme. The Rose King is an abstract area control game. It is simple to learn, but like most good two-player abstracts, harder to master.

The game consists of a square grid board, a small deck of direction cards, a bunch of two sided wooden discs, with white roses on one side, and red on the other, and 4 “Knight” cards per player. A Crown pawn starts in the middle of the board, and each player is given five direction cards, which are played out face up in front of them, with both players using the same orientation. (Most games the cards face “up” to each player. In The Rose King, the crown on the card will match the orientation of the crown on the board. So if the crown is closest to you on the board, then the crown on the card will be closest to you when played in front of you.) Each card has a sword pointing in a direction, and a number (I, II or III) indicating how many spaces the crown will move and in which direction.

Each player in turn will take one of three actions. 1: Play a card and move the crown, placing their color disc in the empty space that the crown now occupies. 2: Draw a new card. (You may never have more than 5 cards in hand) or 3: Play a card with one of your one-shot “knight” cards to move the crown to a space occupied by the other players piece, and flip it to your color.

That’s it. Three possible actions. Easy to learn and yet, so hard to master. Knowing which cards your opponent has to choose from, as well as knowing that they also know your cards gives a deceptive amount of depth to this simple game.

Scoring is based on the number of adjacent spaces you control, and you count all your pieces. A piece alone (not adjacent to any other of your color) counts one point. Two adjacent counts four. Three adjacent counts nine and so on. Breaking up your opponents “sets” or adding to your own is key to scoring high points.

I have shown this game to many people and every single one has been impressed with the depth of play that The Rose King offers, while being easy to learn. It is engaging, fun, and plays easily in a half-hour to 45 minutes.


When this post goes up, we will be happily gaming away at Gamicon. If you read this before the 28th, come join us at the Sheraton Hotel in Iowa City!

This year we received a ton of games for our Play-To-Win effort. I would really love to play all of them, but don’t have enough time. We did, however, get to play Gobblestones. Check it out…

R&R Games, 2015

Gobblestones is a simple, abstract tile placing game. You are playing a hungry goblin who is trying to eat up the most gemstones.

The board consists of 9 square double sided tiles. There are 25 small colored, numbered squares on each side of each tile. The board is made by placing the tiles in a 3×3 grid which will make a total playing surface of 225 colored, numbered squares.

The playing pieces consist of 100 colored surface tiles that are placed into a bag and drawn randomly. The object is to play a straight line of tiles and score the values of the squares on which the tiles were played. You can’t make a 2×2 block of tiles, and can’t turn corners, but otherwise can play as many or few tiles as you want as long as they are all on the same straight line. The more tiles you play, the fewer you draw, so you need to balance your play so you can always make some type of play.

Gobblestones is very easy to learn, but isn’t by any means a “simple” game. Trying to achieve the highest score with your tiles, while managing to keep enough to keep constant play can be a delicate balance. Trying to make a good score without leaving great plays for your opponents can also be quite tricky. Because each tile is two sided, and the game board configuration has lots of different play possibilites, giving the game a good amount of replayability. There are several different possible strategies and an intriguing amount of possibilities for each play.

We did have some difficulties because the tiles have a mirror-like surface, and with our lighting and surroundings, sometimes the colors were difficult to differentiate (gold reflecting a red sweater looks remarkably like the red tiles). There wasn’t any consideration to color blindness either. A simple pattern on each color tile would have easily taken care of this. There are also gray squares which aren’t mentioned in the rules. After playing, we figured out online that the gray squares are wild, but are 0 points.

Overall, this is a quick, light, fun strategy game. I very much enjoyed it and recommend it to fans of games like blokus.