Games with Olli: Gipf, Zèrtz, Crystal Code, Celtica

Olli made a quick visit yesterday for some games. We started with Gipf. Now, played face-to-face with a real board and the correct rules, I think the game’s actually pretty good. My play-by-email experiences didn’t do the game justice, I suppose. Now it was definitely fun. I think I’ll be playing more of this, especially as the game has possibilities for handicapping.

OIli hadn’t tried Zèrtz, so we tried that one as well. Here my experience showed, as I won both games. The second one was interesting: as Olli realised the danger of eating pieces, the game took a typical route, as both players placed marbles far from each other. Of course, this is unstable and has to break down at some point, typically resulting in lots of marbles captured. I was quite satisfied when I was able to stabilise the situation in my benefit. Zèrtz is a great game, but the lack of handicapping and the strong effect of a skill difference between players make it hard to play.

Crystal Code is a new speed puzzle game from Tactic and the designer of Ubongo. Players try to form chains of pentagons by matching a total of six similar symbols on the edges. Fastest player scores two crystals and two cards, while everyone else who manages to complete the chain gets one and one.

Then players must play cards to form a machine, where the crystals are placed. After a number of rounds, the player with the biggest closed machine (most crystals in it) wins. If you have a big machine, but it’s not closed, a smaller machine will beat you if it’s closed. So, there’s a bit of a push-your-luck, too, you can take risks.

The game has few problems. Not all of the chains are solvable. In our game, one of us didn’t solve the chain on almost every round. However, only two or so of these failures were caused by unsolvable chains. That’s because some chains are a lot harder than the others. Also, I wasn’t quite satisfied with the scoring. I suppose it works, and in some way it makes the game meaningful, you don’t have to win every speed challenge to do well, but I don’t know, it isn’t great or even very good.

In the end, I think, the game is ok, but for most people, I’d rather recommend Ubongo. If you have Ubongo and want more, then maybe — and that’s a big maybe — get Crystal Code, but be prepared, it’s not nearly as good as Ubongo.

We ended the session with a quick match of Celtica. It’s a good two-player filler, definitely.

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