Ridere, ludere, hoc est vivere.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Losing "For The Win"

Kathy (black) wins second game
of For The Win.  Can I blame it
on the martini?
I recently received my copy of For The Win (designer Michael Eskue, artist Eric J. Carter, publisher Tasty Minstrel) from its Kickstarter campaign.  I was intrigued by early reviews that compared it to Hive!, which I enjoy but which my wife dislikes.  Something about FTW struck me as different - a lighter theme, a more approachable mechanic, not sure what - different enough, at least, to kick in and see what Michael E. had put together.

I hadn't bothered with the pre-release print-and-play version because, to me, the appeal of FTW as it was for Hive! is the physical domino-quality tileset.  Yes, the gameplay is important, but as with 24/7 and Confusion: Espionage and Deception in the Cold War, there's a tactile gratification to handling the bakelite-style game pieces.  And FTW does not disappoint.  In fact, somehow I had the mistaken impression that the tiles would be significantly smaller.  I had envisioned something like 7/8-inch (22mm) squares, but they are in fact 1 1/4 - inch (31mm) square, a very comfortably sized playing piece.  
Bakelite-quality square tiles make for a gratifying tactile experience.

We played our first two rounds of FTW at our customary cocktail hour this afternoon.   We found the game to be easy to understand but tricky to strategize, as I suppose any good two-player abstract game should be.  It is also a rather quick play.  I think it took Kathy less than 45 minutes to learn the game and beat me twice at it.  Now, to be fair, the first game we were taking a rather ad hoc approach just to get the feel of the game and the mechanics of the rules.  It was in the second game that we each buckled down and tried to exercise some real tactics.  (And, yes, she won that game, too.)

As it happens, Kathy and I misinterpreted (that is, I misread the rule and misled my wife) the behavior of the monkey's banana.  We assumed that the monkey's banana action renders all tiles adjacent to the monkey face down (inactive), regardless of original state.  Instead, a closer reading of the rules shows that "tiles that were face up are now face down and vice versa [emphasis added]."  So now I see the monkey in a whole new light.  The monkey can be used to activate multiple friendly pieces in a single action.  <Bwa-ha-ha-HAH>  I make no claim that this rule misinterpretation was in any way a factor in my losing the game twice in a row.  I just wanted to point that out.  

All kidding aside, we really like FTW as a two-player abstract short game with simple rules, no luck, and considerable potential for depth.  I'm reluctant to call it a "filler" only because we don't know just how tactically challenging it might prove.  I have to say, I'm very pleased with this Kickstarter discovery.

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