Image Games, £10
Designed by David Welch
and Paul Whitehorn
2 players, 5 to 20 minutes,
Reviewed by Richard Breese

Of the games on display at the 1994 British Toy and Hobby Fair at Olympia in January, Ko-An gets my vote as the best new board game. Ko-An is the second game from David Welch and Paul Whitehorn of Image Games. Their first game, Politician, was published in 1992. Ko-An is apparently Japanese for 'the source of the riddle' and the rather garishly coloured artwork of the prototype reflects this oriental theme. The decision to give the game an oriental flavour is intriguing, particularly as I have also recently reviewed the game Chikara, a similar but slightly more complex strategy game, where the creator also decided that an Eastern theme was required - a ripe subject for an in depth investigation by Mr. Siggins perhaps?

The Ko-An board comprises of thirty six octagonal green spaces, interlinked with twenty five square yellow spaces and surrounded by a red border. Each player has six octagonal and five square playing pieces and plays with either the black or the red pieces. To start the game each player's pieces are placed on the nearest two 'rows' to that player, on the spaces the same shape as the pieces. The object of the game is, like Chikara, to get any one of your own playing pieces onto the opponent's back row.

All the playing pieces can move onto either the octagonal or the squared shaped spaces, however they can only move forward, not sideways or backwards. It should be noted that as the squared shaped spaces do not touch each other, a player cannot move directly from one squared shaped space to another. In addition, octagonal shaped pieces can capture any of the opponent's pieces standing on octagonal shaped spaces and squared shaped pieces can capture any of the opponent's pieces standing on square shaped spaces. Considering its simplicity, the game can develop in a surprising variety of ways. For example, pieces of both players may bunch up on one side of the board, several 'skirmishes' may occur all over the board, or a large stand off may arise across the centre of the board. This variety adds to the attractiveness of the play.

Of the two types of playing pieces the octagonal piece is stronger and this factor probably explains why in most games it is a octagonal shaped piece which makes the winning break through. This strength arises from the situation where an octagonal shaped piece confronts a squared shaped piece. As the square spaces do not join each other it is necessary for all pieces to move onto the octagonal shaped spaces - the spaces on which the octagonal shaped pieces can capture. Consequently an octagonal shaped piece is much more likely to be able to capture a square shaped piece than vice versa.

This is an excellent little game, which is to be sensibly priced at around £10. It takes a couple of games to get used to the movement of the pieces and after that it is really quite fun. I found it easy to play a quick best of seven in a lunch hour although I think David anticipated it should take a little longer. As mentioned above, Ko-An was displayed at Olympia in prototype form. The game's subsequent availability will depend to a large extent on retailer demand resulting from the game's appearance at the show. Hopefully this will be sufficient to result in an early production run as, now that the game has been created, it is simply to good not to hit the streets. David advised that if the initial demand was sufficient then a magnetic pocket version may follow, for which the game would be ideally suited.

Richard Breese

On to the review of Quest for the Faysylwood or back to the review of Die Hanse.

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