Capsule Reviews


Published by Don & Co.
Designed by Kris Burm.

I have been putting off writing this review for too long and you can be sure that I will write more about this wonderful game. It has rapidly rocketed to being our number one favorite two player game. The only thing holding up the full blown review is that we still haven't made it past the basic game - we're having too much fun!

GIPF is an abstract game that is a bit of a blend of Pente and Abalone. The game board is a large hex divided up into a series of triangles by lines cutting across between opposing faces. Playing pieces are pushed onto the board along one of the lines starting at any edge. The game is lost when it is your turn and you have no piece to push onto the board. Pieces can be retrieved from the board by forming a row of four or more of your pieces. Any of our opponents pieces that are adjacent to your pieces along the same line as your row of four pieces are captured and removed from the game. Your pieces return to your store and can be placed on the board once again.

There are so many ways to go wrong! If you start to play the game like Pente, laying out elaborate patterns in an attempt to surprise and confuse your opponent, you will suddenly find yourself short of pieces and short one victory! If you storm ahead with a frontal attack, trying to bash your opponent into oblivion, they will whittle away at your forces until you have nothing to play.

As intriguing as GIPF is, Mr Burm has a grander plan in mind. In his grand scheme GIPF will serve as the centerpiece but, by dropping out to other boards and winning at other games, the players may introduce onto the board new pieces with new powers and abilities far beyond those of mere mortal GIPF bits! It sounds a bit like the game in Iain M Banks' Player of Games.

Speaking of the bits, the GIPF playing pieces and board are top notch. The playing pieces could have easily been simple draughts pieces. Instead, they are cleverly sculpted to fit together into tidy stacks and they are made of a nice plastic that feels very nice to the touch.

Can you say, "Recommended!" Sure. I knew you could.

Survival of the Witless

Published by Avalance Games
Reviewed by Brian Bankler

Survival of the Witless is a game about gaining tenure at a university. It's basically a card game with some boards to keep track of how the tenure committee looks on you. You get randomly dealt your race, gender, class and sexuality and then take turns with the rather formulaic 'draw a card, play a card' scene.

But the real joy in the game isn't in the mechanics, which are very old. The game is in the color. You sleep your way to the top, have office window politics and churn out the articles while waiting for the elusive book contract. The rules are, hands down, the funniest read I have ever seen in a game. You will laugh quite a bit reading them and playing the first game or two.

Unfortunately, if you are like me, the game will then quickly get put on the shelf. It just doesn't have the replayability. But the first few times are quite fun. Survival of the Witless lists for about $30 (the first printing, which I got, was sold at $20, I'm not sure why the price increased). I'd call this a try before you buy, but if you happen to currently be in grad school (or a recent escapee, such as myself) you'll probably get your money's worth showing it off to the others...


Published by YSK
Reviewed by Brian Bankler

Zankapfel is a few years old, but I played it again recently and thought it worthy of comment. The basic idea is, well, honestly I have no idea. It involves apples. Players move a farmer around an apple orchard which is represented as a 5x5 grid then play a card that shows how they will score the grid.

For example, on the West side of the grid (which is, say, green) the points start at the top with a 2 then increase as you move down the board to end at 7. Blue scores bottom to top. Or you can score left to right, or right to left. Of course, in order to play scoring cards you must first buy them (although you do get a few at the beginning). Each turn you have a choice, play a secret card or buy the top card from the deck. After everyone has gone, the farmer moves around the grid. The first player moves the farmer, but he can't visit the same square twice and can only take single steps (unless he has visited all adjacent squares). All the players then reveal. In standard fashion for these games, if you are the only player to choose a color, you score the appropriate points, otherwise you have to 'duel it out.' Each player gets 10 cards (1-10) and you both play a card and then can purchase up to three dice (going back and forth in a game of possible bluff). High total wins. The outside of the board keeps track of totals, and the game is over when someone makes a lap or the orchard is all farmed out.

All in all, Zankapfel is one of those games that critics like to point out is a pure abstract game with some random theme slapped on. In this case, they are absolutely 100% correct. However, it's a good game, as long as you have enough players. With three players, there just isn't much conflict (since there are four possible choices for how to score a square). With four players it's better, but since a player or two may purchase a card, there still isn't too much conflict. With five or six the game is solid. Not one of the best games, but it has solid gameplay. It also comes with a big wooden apple (actually, it looks like a cherry on steroids to my untrained eye) to mark who is the first player, which is a plus.

The Game Cabinet - - Ken Tidwell