Posted by: gschloesser | August 12, 2011

Gaudi

Design by:  Oriol Comas and Jep Ferret
Published by:  CASA Consultors
2 – 6 Players, 1 hour
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser
 

In early February 2003, I received an e-mail from a Spanish game designer informing me about a new game based on an intricate pattern of tiles that formed designs in front of the Passeig de Gràcia in Barcelona, Spain.  The designer of this functional artwork is architect Antoni Gaudi, who also designed several buildings in Spain.  I was offered a copy of the game for play with our Westbank Gamers group. 

The game arrived while I was out of town in Birmingham attending Gulf Games 11, so I didn’t have the opportunity to read the rules and play the game for a few weeks.  Truth-be-told, I wasn’t overly excited to give the game a try for several reasons: 

1)      To my knowledge, I’ve never played a game designed in Spain and don’t think I’ve ever heard of one.  So, I was skeptical. 

2)      I’d never heard of the designer, Oriol Comas & Jep Ferret.  More skepticism. 

3)      A game based on tilework in front of a building doesn’t exactly shiver my timbers.  Yet even more skepticism. 

Still, a game is a game and I felt an obligation to at least give it a try.  Plus, the components were attractive – thick, sturdy hexagonal tiles depicting a portion of three strange patterns on each tile.  Another big plus was that the rules were extremely short, less than a full page of print.  So, if I didn’t enjoy the game, it didn’t appear as though a lot of time would be invested in making that discovery.

In addition to the 84 sturdy tiles, the game also includes 12 cards, six of which depict a color (orange, green or blue) and six of which depict an animal (starfish, conch or jellyfish).  Of course, we immediately invented our own names for these patterns:  octopus, shell and amoebas!  The game also includes 150 tokens in six patterns, one for each of six possible players.  In addition to the rules, which are printed in six languages (including Japanese), there is a booklet describing the history of Antoni Gaudi and his his creations, including the one on which the game is based.  Spain is in the process of celebrating the 150th anniversary of Gaudi’s birth and the game is one of the results of those festivities.  Everything comes packaged in a clever hexagon-shaped box that matches the shape of the tiles.  

Before the game begins, each player is dealt a color and an animal card.  It is the player’s objective during the course of the game to form as many patterns as possible that match either his color and/or his animal.  Each time he accomplishes this task, the design is marked with one of his tokens.  These tokens will earn either 1 or 2 points at the end of the game, depending upon whether the pattern matches one of both of the player’s cards.

The tiles are then mixed face-down, with one being drawn and placed in the center of the table to begin the design.  Each player then draws three tiles from the face-down mix and the game is ready to begin. 

On a turn, a player MUST place 1, 2 or 3 tiles to the developing board.  Tiles must touch at least one tile already on the table and be placed in such a fashion that the animals and colors depicted on a tile match or align with any tile or tiles that it touches (similar to the placement rules as Carcassonne).  As mentioned, if an animal is formed that matches either the color and/or animal of the cards the player possesses, he marks this animal with one of his counters. 

If a player opts to play more than one tile on his turn, he must follow the following rules: 

1)      The two or three tiles placed must touch each other.  However, when three tiles are placed, they must not form a compact block.  A compact block is three tiles that roughly form a triangle. 

2)      If a player places two tiles, then at least one animals MUST be formed.  If a player places three tiles, then at least two animals must be formed. 

After a player finishes playing his tile or tiles, he then draws enough tiles from the mix to return his hand of tiles to three.  The next player then takes his turn. 

The game ends when one player completely runs out of tiles and there are no futher tiles remaining in the mix.  At that point, each player examines the animals he formed as marked by his counters.  Players receive 2 points for each animal that matches BOTH his color and animal cards, and one point for each animal that matches either his color or animal cards, but not both.  The player with the most points wins. 

Simple rules and simple mechanisms, yet filled with interesting choices and decisions.  I’ve used this phrase several times in the past, but it certainly fits here.  Players must analyze the board layout and decide where is the best location to place a tile or tiles.  Often, a player must choose to play just one tile and save his other tiles for a potentially more lucrative location later.  However, that situation may not develop, so the decision must be made whether to place the tiles now for one point, or hold off and hope for a 2 point score later in the game.  

Further, players are free to form animals that don’t match ANY of their cards.  This prevents opponents from finishing that pattern and scoring points.  As the game progresess, it is wise to attempt to discern the identity of the animals and colors possessed by your opponents.  Armed with this knowledge, you can block scoring opportunities for your opponents, especially when you are unable to complete an animal pattern that will score for you on your turn. 

With three tiles in your hand, it is usually possible to play one or more tiles that will either complete an animal pattern for you, or at least possibly set yourself up to complete the pattern on a subsequent turn.  Of course, there is always the chance that an opponent will scurry in and complete the animal pattern prior to your next turn, but that’s part of the risk (and fun) involved in the game.  And, yes, there is some luck involved, as it is possible that none of your tiles will prove beneficial, but that is a rare occurence.  

I’ve now played the game three times with both gamers and some casual gaming friends (including my wife!) and it has proven very popular.  This is one of those rare hidden gems that come around all-too-infrequently.  I’m not sure if the game is available through the usual game shop channels, but I’ve written the designer to find out as I feel it is a game well worth tracking down.  Currently, it is available through the designer’s website at:  

www.gaudipanot.com 

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