Tak Review

Tak is a game by James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss, published by Cheapass Games. It is for 2 players. In this game, players will enter the world of Patrick Rothfuss’ novel, The Wise Man’s Fear. Based on the abstract strategy game from the novel, players will try to use their pieces to create a road that connects two opposite sides of the board. The player that is best able to create this connection will be declared the winner.

To begin, the players choose which size of board to play on. This can be anything from a 3×3 to an 8×8. They then choose which side of the board to use and place that side face up on the table. Players then decide who will take the dark pieces and who takes the light ones. Each player then receives the set amount of stones and capstones as determined by the size of the board played on. For more information on piece counts, check the rulebook. The first player is chosen . Beginning with the first player, each player then takes one of their opponent’s stones and places it flat on an empty space on the board. Play now begins.

The game is played back and forth with each player taking a turn. On a player’s turn, they may perform one of two actions. They may either place a piece in an empty space or they may move one of the stacks under their own control. First we’ll discuss placing a piece. As just stated, the player can place a piece on any empty space on the board. If there are no more empty spaces or the player places a piece on the last empty space, the game ends immediately. There are 2 types of pieces that may be placed; flat stones and capstones. Flat stones can be played in 2 different ways. Normally they are played flat. These types can be stacked up and will count as part of the player’s road. A flat stone may alternatively be placed on it’s end. This is known as a standing stone. Nothing stacks on a standing stone and it will not count as part of the player’s road. These are usually used to block the opponent with, which is why they’re sometimes called walls. Capstones are the other piece that a player can play. These count as part of the player’s road and can not have another piece stacked on top of it. However, a capstone can flatten a standing stone, but it must be by itself to do this. I’ll explain how this works a little bit later.

It should be noted that a piece is never placed directly on top of another piece. Only when moving will stacks occur. More about this in just a moment, as I explain the second action a player may take, moving. To move one or more pieces, the player must first have control of the stack. That’s to say that one of their pieces is on top of the stack. A stack can be any height, even just a single piece. The player then can take any number of pieces off the top of the stack up to the carry limit. The carry limit is equal to the width of the board. So if players are playing with a 6×6 board, the carry limit is 6. The player then take the pieces and moves them in straight line, dropping at least 1 piece from the bottom of the stack on each space that it moves across. These dropped pieces will form stacks. A single piece would only be able to move 1 space. Of course the more pieces that are picked up, allows the player to move farther. Since standing stones can not be stacked on, they will block movement, as will a capstone. Earlier I mentioned that a capstone can flatten a standing stone. If a capstone moves by itself, it can move onto a standing stone and flatten it back to a flat stone. If it moves as a part of a stack, the capstone can still flatten a standing stone, as long as the final step of the movement is the capstone landing on the standing stone.

The game continues until a player runs out of pieces, the board is completely full or a player has created a road connecting opposite sides of the board. If either the player runs out of pieces or the board is completely full, the player with the most flat stones on top of stacks wins. If a player creates a road connecting the opposite sides of the board, then they win. The road does not have to be a straight line to count. However diagonal spaces do not count as connecting. It should also be noted as mentioned earlier, standing stones do not count as part of the road but capstones do. Also of note, sometimes in very rare cases a player will create a winning road for both themself and their opponent. In this case, the active player that made the move is the winner.

COMPONENTS
This is a really beautiful game to look at. First off there’s the double sided board. On one side is the Tavern board that looks like an old wooden tavern table with all the wood grains and bumps that you’d expect in something like that. On the other side is the Selas Flower board. This side is especially pretty with all the vine and flower patterns and the beautiful red colors. I really enjoy playing on this side as it just looks so pretty. There are also the different game pieces for both the dark and light colors. They both have flat stones and capstones. The darker pieces have flat stones that look like a half circle, while the light pieces look like a trapezoid. Each of these are made of wood and are quite thick and sturdy with a really nice finish on them. Each color also has capstones that remind me of cabinet or drawer knobs. Just like the flat stones, these also have a nice finish and are really sturdy. Once you start playing and laying these pieces out on the board, the game really comes to life and looks so beautiful. Each piece is really high quality and looks amazing. I’m extremely thrilled with the look and feel of the game. When I look at it, it reminds me of some of those other wooden abstract games like Quarto or Quaridor. If you like the look and feel of those, then you’ll really enjoy this one too.
10 out of 10

RULEBOOK
The rulebook for this game looks very nice. There are lots of great pictures and examples throughout the book. There’s even a beautiful pencil drawn illustration of two players playing the game. I’m guessing that maybe it might be some characters from the book. I’m not really sure. Each aspect of the game is explained in very good detail. There are also some basic strategy tips as well as how to score when playing multiple games, as well as variants for scoring. I really like the look of the rules. Everything is really easy to read and there’s nothing difficult or hard to understand. Overall, I think the designers did a nice job with the book.
9 out of 10

GAMEPLAY
First off let me state that I’ve never read any of Patrick Rothfuss’ novels. However, I will admit that I’ve read the first couple of chapters from the Amazon preview and am quite intrigued. Yes, playing this game has made me want to read the book. Is that wrong? In any event, this game is an abstract strategy game, think Quariodor or Quarto. It even has that look and feel to it with all the beautiful wooden pieces. Playing the game reminded me, in a way, of games like Tsuro and Chess. I’ll admit, I’ve not played a lot of these types of games since I was younger when I played Chess all the time. To me, this is a lot better and definitely prettier than that. I really enjoy moving the pieces around the board to create large stacks of stones. When you play with boards smaller than a 5×5 you don’t get to use any capstones. It’s really recommended for the first game or two to play something smaller like this so that you can get a feel for how the pieces move and how to use the walls to block your opponent. I really like the capstone piece and how it can crush those standing stones. However for just a quick simple game, the smaller boards are perfect. I’ll admit, I’m not big on the scoring aspect of the game. I’m pretty much a win/loss kind of guy. I prefer to go best of 3 or something like that if you plan on playing more than 1 time. Of course you can go with the points scoring and that’s fine. I’m glad that there is that option available for those players that like to play that way. Much like Chess, I find myself planning several moves ahead as I play. Of course, your opponent will most likely not do what you hope they will so all that planning is for nothing, but it’s still fun to do. In any case, the game is quite enjoyable, as if you couldn’t tell. I really like it. This is one that abstract strategy game fans will thoroughly enjoy. I highly recommend it.
9 out of 10

OVERALL
Tak is an abstract strategy game that is as much fun as it is beautiful. It’s not a very long game to play. Most game sessions last around 30 to 45 minutes or so. There are the occasional game that will go a bit longer, but that’s for when you’re using the larger size board. The components for this game are amazing. I really love all the wooden pieces. They’re high quality and have a nice finish to them. The board is also lovely and looks great when playing the game. The rules are really easy to read and pretty much straight forward. The game itself is really enjoyable. Playing it makes me think of games like Chess and Tsuro. However the look makes me think of abstract strategy games like Quarto and Quaridor. This is one of those games that you could set up on your coffee table as a conversation piece. It’s one of those that I could see people playing in a coffee shop, or old men playing in the park. It’s just that versatile and interesting. This is one of those games that I’d expect to see lined up with all those high quality wooden games at Barnes & Noble. The best part is that the game is actually fun. I’ve never read Patrick Rothfuss’ novels, but playing the game has made me want to. Fans of abstract strategy games should really enjoy this one. This is one that I would highly recommend. It’s a piece of artwork that you can play.
9 out of 10

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For more information about this and other great games, please check out Cheapass Games at their site.

http://cheapass.com

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About Gaming Bits - Jonathan Nelson

I'm a happily married man with 2 wonderful kids. I love my family very much. I'm a big fan of board, card and RPG games and have been playing for over 20 years. As a board and card game reviewer, I'm hoping that this blog will inform, educate and entertain you. If you like it, please tell your friends and have them join in on the conversations. Thanks and GAME ON!!
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