Tavener's Treasure Trove
Well, it looks like my 'regular column' that I mentioned last time is going to be once a year - I have too many games to play these days, let alone write about. Anyway, I though I'd share a couple of old partnership games with you, that deserve a better fate than the obscurity that seems to have swallowed them up...
Produced in America by the aptly named Plan B Corporation, Vector is a fight for control of a single playing piece. The game is for exactly 4 players, and lasts for twelve rounds or less. The board is marked with North, South, East, and West along its sides, with the North and South players competing against East and West to score the most points by the end of the game.
At the beginning of the game, the playing piece (an elegant wooden pawn, which towers over the board) is placed in the centre of the board. The board itself is a 21 x 21 grid of squares, mostly blank but with a scattering of special squares, which can: score points for the player moving the pawn, score points for another player (specified by the square), cause a player to miss their next turn, or send the pawn careening off to another square. Each player is given a set of 8 direction cards (N, NE, E, etc.), and 4 number cards (0, 1, 2, 3).
The game begins with the North player playing a direction card face-up in front of him/her, then every other player does the same in turn. Now, each player secretly chooses a number card - the distance the pawn will move in the direction they have indicated. Once all players have chosen their cards, the first player reveals their number card, and moves the pawn accordingly. If the pawn lands on a special square, then the square is dealt with, and players' scores adjusted, before the next player's cards are turned up. Once all four players have moved the pawn, a new rounds begins, with the second player in the last round becoming the first player in the new round.
As only the first player in each round can guarantee where the pawn will end up, other players are required to anticipate their opponent's and partner's moves. This is may seem obvious from the directions chosen, but there is plenty of potential for bluffing, and for creating devastating sequences of moves with the unwitting cooperation of the opponents! The special squares on the board are cunningly placed, so that a good partnership can often guarantee themselves a good score regardless of their opponent's actions. All in all, an excellent game, with an exciting mixture of skill and bluff, and one which tends to change in character depending on the players involved.
5ive Straight was originally produced in 1968 by Straight Line Products, but is produced in the US at the moment by Stillmore Products, Inc. It plays with 2 or 3 individual players, but it really comes into its own as a partnership game. The game components are very unassuming - just a black plastic board with squares numbered from 0 to 99, a deck of cards - also numbered 0 to 99, and pegs in three different colours.
Each player (partnership) takes one colour of pegs, and attempts to make - you guessed it - a straight line of 5 or more pegs, horizontally, vertically or diagonally across the board. At the beginning of the game, players are dealt 4 cards each. On subsequent turns, players may either draw a card from the deck (but may never exceed 4 cards), or may play a card and place a peg in the square indicated, or in any higher numbered square. This is what introduces the strategy into the game - low numbered cards are much more versatile than high numbered cards, and can be vitally important both offensively and defensively. The board is arranged with low numbers in the centre and high numbers around the outside, so with strategic play, a player (partnership) can form the threat of a line with a few high cards, and force the opponents to play a low card to block the line.
As a partnership game, a couple more elements of strategy and confusion creep in - the key now is watching where your partner is playing, trying to help them form lines, knowing when to defend, and when to leave the defense to your partner. It also becomes vital to keep your hand near 4 cards at all times - if you ever drop to 0 cards, then your opponents get two consecutive plays, which is almost invariably fatal.
Playing time is around 5-10 minutes a round, and even with 5-7 rounds, to even out the luck of the cards, it makes an excellent filler game. I enjoy it so much, I find myself automatically dropping it into my bag whenever I go to a club or convention.