Gobblet

Gobblet is a four-in-a-row game. What makes it unique is the use of Russian-nesting-doll-like pieces. Each player has a collection of three sets of cylinders. Each set consists of four nesting cylinders, all but the smallest being hollow to accommodate (or Gobble) the smaller.

Players take turns putting their pieces anywhere on the 4x4 board. A piece, once placed, can be moved anywhere on the board, even (and here's where the unique aspect of this game comes in) over another (narrower) piece.

It's strictly a two-player game, though when Jim and I played, we both looked to Matt for constructive kibbitzing. Our big discovery when playing Gobblet was how easy it is to be stupid.

The idea of gobbling up another piece is new enough to be hard to remember, and the strategic implications are far more profound than you would think. It's also hard to remember that when determining four-in-a-row, size doesn't matter. The widest cylinders are impervious to being gobbled, and hence of the most strategic value, and also hence, they tend to get moved around a lot. However, when you move a cylinder, you may very well uncover a piece you've previously gobbled, inadvertently giving your opponent a four-in-a-row victory.

At $30, Gobblet is not a cheap game. But neither is it cheaply made. The whole thing is constructed of birch, and self-contained in a wooden box. You play on the reverse side of the lid. If you put the lid back on the box to play, you can, when needed, make a very satisfyingly loud bang as you expressively place your pieces on the board.

Though the rules are simple and well-written, we found it took a while for us to understand them - probably because of preconceptions. There's a rule about when you can use "external stacks" that requires a bit more explication than one might think - if thinking is what one is doing at the time. The manufacturers suggest that the game can be played by kids as young as 7. We play-testing adults found Gobblet to be a most significantly mature experience.

Gobblet is the first two-player strategy game to be granted a Major FUN Award. It broke ground for us, demonstrating that there are game companies capable of producing quality, innovative games of lasting play value. We salute you, Blue Orange, and look forward to reviewing your next games.

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