Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Review of Mosaix...

A new breed of games has come out since the classic Take It Easy (which I still play when I'm with a larger group of people).   I like to think of as, well,  'Nu-Bingo' - 'Bingo' because everyone plays the exact same randomly drawn pieces at the same time and 'Nu' because there is actually some strategy involved. The game FITS has been a big hit with us and falls into this category as does the recent release Cities (which I have yet to play but have read very good things).

So when I heard Mosaix described as Take It Easy with dice instead of numbers, it definitely piqued my interest. Even better, when the game showed up in a lovely tin case and at a very cheap price point, well, you can see my reaction here. The great thing now that we've played it a few times is that this little game, described as a "brain-teaser" in the rules, is actually quite a fun little brain-burner despite the quick play-time.

 Components and Rules

Well, I've already gushed about the tin case.  But the great thing is the boards and dice inside are just as nice.  Four wipe-off boards, markers, and special dice all fill the little tin.  And the rulebook is easy-to-read, clearly laid out, and LOADED with examples.    
Verdict:  Simple, colourful components.  Excellent rulebook.  Great value.

Gameplay and Strategy

The game itself is pretty simple.  Each player has a 7x7 grid to fill in with one of the three symbols on the dice.  One at a time each players takes a turn to roll the four dice and then position the dice in one of seven possible connected 'Tetris'-like shapes.  Once the rolling player has fixed the shape, everyone including that player must write those symbols on the board in that shape.  You are not allowed to cover spaces that are already filled but you can write some symbols off the edge of the board, effectively ignoring them.  This continues around and around until one person has filled their grid or can't legally add any more symbols.  The game then ends and each player works out their score.

The key to the game and the challenge is in the scoring.  Each player circles all connected groups of the same symbols and then crosses out any symbols in groups of 4 or less.  Then, for each symbol the player scores the number of different groups of that symbol times the number of that symbol still on the board.  Aha.  So 1 group of 17 only scores 1x17=17 points but 3 groups of 5 symbols (only 15 symbols) will score 3x15=45 points.  So now each player is trying to maximize the number of groups of each symbol whilst still trying to get each group to cover at least 5 squares.

So how does it play?  It sounds simple but it's actually surprisingly tricky, especially when you are the dice roller.  Once players boards begin to fill up, your choice of how to arrange the dice becomes very important.  You want to arrange the dice to your benefit but not to the other player's.  Okay, it's not chess, but it will you give you a slight headache trying to work out the arrangements.  And it's also hard to try and figure out when to stop growing a group of circles and instead start another group of circles on the other side of your grid.  I actually did okay my first game and then lost horribly on my second game (see the green board in the bottom picture).  Why?  Because I was careful and wrote a lot of symbols off the edge of the board trying to set everything up right.  Unfortunately, my fellow players pushed on and finished the round quickly leaving me with a lot of empty spaces and crossed out groups of 3 or 4.  Grrrr...
Verdict:  Simple and quick to play, but puzzling enough to have you scratching your head.  Great!

Conclusion

Oh yeah, you gotta buy this one if you like puzzles, interaction and/or dice.  Especially for the price.  The game is fun, short, and great exercise for the brain.  And it works great with 2, 3, or, 4 players (haven't tried the solitaire rules yet).  Before you even finish scoring your first game you'll be grabbing the paper towel to wipe the board so can play again to try for a better score.  That's a good sign...

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