Posted by: gschloesser | September 18, 2012

Connections

Design by:  Reiner Knizia
Published by:  Ravensburger
1 – 4 Players, 15 – 20 minutes
Review by:  Greg J. Schloesser

Peter Burley’s Take it Easy has been a perennial favorite, one that I play regularly at conventions and other gaming get-togethers.  It is also a favorite of my wife.  Shortly after acquiring the game, I arrived home to find my wife playing it solitaire, striving repeatedly to improve her score.  When my wife gets hooked on a game, it is destined to become a staple on our game table!

This experience repeated itself when my wife played Connections at the recent Gulf Games convention.  She was enthralled, and immediately instructed me to “get a copy.”  When it arrived, we played it five times in succession … and I feel we’ll be playing it a LOT more.  That is just fine with me, as the game is challenging and addicting.

Designed by Dr. Reiner Knizia, Connections has many similarities with Burley’s Take it Easy, as well as the classic Parker Brothers game Waterworks.  Players must play tiles to their board, attempting to keep their paths connected, eventually connecting them to the path ends located along the edges of the board.  While the rules call these “paths”, to me they more closely resemble pipes, so I find it easier to explain the game to others in those terms.

Each player receives a board depicting a 5×5 grid.  The center square is pre-printed with a starting tile consisting of two types of crossed paths – one wide and one narrow.  Along the edges of the board are sixteen “end caps” where paths should terminate.  Only four spaces along the edge do not contain these end caps.  End caps are valued at 1 – 3 points, and players should strive to terminate their paths at as many of these end caps as possible – preferably the more valuable ones.

Each player receives a set of 28 tiles, each depicting one or more paths.  As mentioned, paths are either narrow or wide, which are colored differently for ease of identification.  Some tiles have paths exiting at all four sides of the tile, while others exit at only two or three sides.  There are also two tiles that depict only an end cap, so the path will not continue beyond that tile.  Each tile has a symbol – heart, circle, square, triangle, pencil, etc. – that is used to easily locate the tile for placement.

As in Take it Easy, all but one player will place their tiles face-up next to their boards.  One player will mix his tiles face-down, then randomly draw a tile and announce the symbol upon it.  All players will locate their matching tile and place it onto their board, following some simple placement rules:

* All tiles must be placed adjacent to the center tile or a previously placed tile.

* A pathway must be extended with a matching path – wide or narrow.

* A tile may not be placed so that a pathway leads to an empty edge of another tile or empty edge of the board.

Remember that the main goal is to connect the pathways to as many of the end caps as possible – ideally all of them.  So, the challenge is to orient and place tiles so as to accomplish this goal.  Once placed, a tile cannot be moved.  If a player cannot or desires not to place a tile, he may invert it and place that tile on any open space on his board.  The backside of each tile displays a hypnotic spiral graphic.  Inverting a tile will cost the player one point at the end of the game, but it does allow other pathways to flow into that space and terminate without violating placement rules.  This can be quite handy, and also provides a method of placing a tile that would otherwise be extremely damaging to one’s plans.

The game ends once everyone has placed their last tile, which will occur on the same turn.  Players then lose points for each end cap they failed to connect, as well as one point for each inverted tile on their board.  The player losing the least points is victorious.  Zero would be a perfect score, but that is exceedingly difficult to achieve.  Games can usually be played in 15 minutes or so.

Connections is extremely addicting.  It has that puzzle-like quality wherein you want to immediately play it again, hoping to improve your score.  The main challenge comes in placing your tiles so as to keep the pathways flowing.  There are placement choices to be made each turn.  Ideally you want to keep as many paths flowing as possible, but you also want to assure you can make connections to the end caps.  So, do you place a tile to complete a connection immediately, or do you place it at another location to make sure another pathway continues?  Astute players should keep a close eye on the remaining available tiles to make sure that a type that is needed is still available in the mix.  However, there is no guarantee that a particular tile will be selected, as four tiles will remain after a board is filled.

The game contains components that allows for up to four players.  However, similar to games such as Take it Easy, Finito or Mosaix, the nature of the game really doesn’t limit the number of players.  It could easily be played in a party or classroom setting with dozens of people playing.  Indeed, I have acquired two sets so we can play with a larger group.  I have played the game with gamers, family members and friends and it has proven popular in all settings and with just about all ages.  It is easy-to-understand, challenging to play, fast and addictive.  All of these qualities make the game a big winner, one that will not gather dust on my shelf as it is destined to be played repeatedly for a long, long time.

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Responses

  1. Good 2 to ? game, if you have enough copies. Everyone plays at the same time. Pretty challenging puzzle to maximize your score each time. 6/10


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