Manik Games, £4
Designed by Nick Fletcher
2 Players, about 15 minutes
Reviewed by Richard Breese

I have played and enjoyed this little known game well over a hundred times. Hence my motivation to spread the word whilst a few copies remain obtainable. I should add that the unusual manner in which I was introduced to the designer has not influenced my recommendation of this game to any Sumonite / Fluffy Gamer who enjoys strategy games. In 1989 I took a days holiday from my proper job to make my annual pilgrimage to the British Toy and Hobby Fair, held then, and until this year, at Earls Court. I usually leave my favourite part until last, and for me this means Death Row. To my great surprise I was greeted on one of the stands in Death Row by a Geisha girl, intent on interesting me in her wares. To my even greater surprise that girl was in fact my secretary, who had been on sick leave for a couple of days! Her wares on this occasion were stocks of her boyfriend's, Nick Fletcher's, new game, Chikara.

Chikara at this time was at the mock up stage and packaged, like the stand, in a simple Japanese style. The boxed game sadly never met with a full production run, unlike some of Nick's other games which include Covered Up, Trailblazer and Dirty Devil (the latter is a regular seller in Ann Summers does this make it a 'Fluffy' game?). Fortunately Chikara was not completely lost to the world. Nick produced a range of 'card board' games of which Chikara was one. This novel idea was to combine a greeting card with a board game. Each card board game consists of a cellophane wrapped card, 11" by 23.5" (which folds twice down to approximately A4 size) and an envelope. For games which require only flat or small playing pieces this provides a convenient and extremely inexpensive form of packaging.

In the game Chikara, each of the two players has twenty six plastic sticks. Each stick is about the size of a match stick, in one of the two colours, white or red. The board, which is plain but for ten rows of thirteen small black diamond shaped dots, looks like it has been designed with the familiar pencil and paper game of boxes in mind. The space between adjacent dots is equal to the length of a stick. The dots on the first and tenth row are joined up and represent each player's defensive line. The object of the game is to be the first player to place a stick horizontally on his opponent's defensive line in a manner similar to the more contrived game of September.

To start the game, each player places ten of their sticks on their own defensive line, either horizontally or vertically. These first ten sticks do not have to touch each other. Each player then alternatively places one of their remaining sticks onto the board, these sticks must however be connected to a stick of the same colour already in play. After all fifty two sticks have been played, a players' turn consists of repositioning a stick or sticks already played. A repositioned stick must always connect with a stick of that same colour.

If the sticks played form an enclosed area a 'stronghold' is created. The smallest stronghold possible is a four stick square, however strongholds can be of any regular or irregular shape or size. The advantages of creating a stronghold are twofold. Firstly, any sticks forming the wall of a stronghold, or any sticks inside a stronghold, cannot be taken. Secondly, the sticks inside a stronghold can be repositioned in addition to the single stick that the player is normally entitled to move. If, for example, a player has four sticks inside a stronghold, that player has the option of moving between one and five sticks during their turn. These strongholds provide many interesting tactical alternatives. There is also a good balance between the advantage of building up significant fire power by way of a large stronghold containing, say, ten reserve sticks, and the subsequent disadvantage of having to break down the empty stronghold. The disadvantage arises because any stick which does not form part of a stronghold and which is touched by an opponent's stick is immediately and permanently removed from the board. A large, partly dismembered stronghold, can therefore be taken in its entirety if an opponent is able to reach it with one of their own sticks.

Unless a player has sacrificed material for a positional advantage, an experienced player will usually be able to convert a one stick advantage into a victory. As a result, I have seen various movement sequences developed which limit the number of vulnerable sticks (those not forming part of a stronghold) at any given time to one. Because the sticks once taken are not returned to the board the playing time is limited naturally. A game tends to last between ten to fifteen minutes and I have not yet known a game to be drawn. In the game an initial jostle for position is often followed by a single strike, using several reserve sticks. If the strike fails then the attacker's defence is often too weak to survive. An alternative to a single strike strategy is to advance one or two mini strongholds in order to try and stretch your opponent's defence, but without losing any sticks.

My only quibble with the game is with the production. Being in the 'card board' format Chikara is not built for posterity, however this is reflected in the price. Hopefully a second edition with a wooden board and bamboo sticks will be available one day. Subject to this, as mentioned above, strongly recommended to the strategy gamer.

In the probable event that the 'usual stockists' have long since sold out, the few remaining copies of the game are available from Manik Games, Flat 11, Paper Mill Wharf, 50 Narrow Street, Limehouse, London E14 8BP at £3.99 including postage.

Richard Breese

On to the review of Pro Action Football or back to the review of WizWar.

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