Posted by: gschloesser | March 27, 2013

Match Point

Design by:  Madelief & Hans van Tol
Published by:  The Game Master
1 – 5 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review:  Greg J. Schloesser

Match Point 2

My wife and I have been empty-nesters for nearly three years, which has given us the opportunity to do more together, including playing two-player games.  My wife is not a fan of deeper strategy games, and prefers games that can be played in less than an hour.  Thus, I am always searching for lighter games that still offer some strategy and interesting decisions.  Match Point by designers Madelief and Hans van Tol, fits that recipe quite nicely.

Unlike many games, Match Point does not contain a plethora of components.  Instead there are only thirty-seven square tiles, each divided into four different colored sections.  Each section depicts a number of pips (as on a die) ranging from 1 – 5, with a few sections depicting a star symbol, which serves as a wild card.  One tile is placed to the table to begin the free-flowing board and each player receives two tiles.

Game play is exceedingly simple.  A player’s turn consists of playing a tile to the table, recording the points earned, and drawing a replacement tile.  A tile must be placed so that one side completely adjoins a side of a previously placed tile.  Thus, no holes will be formed in the growing board.  There is no requirement that like numbers and colors must match, but that certainly is the goal.

A placement is scored differently based on the version being played.  As mentioned, a player is attempting to place a tile so that as many matching numbers as possible are aligned.  The more like numbers he is able to get aligned, the more points the player will score.  In the basic version, the player simply adds the value of all of the pips on the tiles wherein like numbers are grouped.
For example, refer to this illustration:

A ten-point bonus is scored if the player is able to form a square consisting of four like numbers.

In the advanced version, there is a further incentive, as the more different groupings of like numbers that can formed, the more points the player will score.  For example, if the placement of a tile forms separate groups of numbers valued at two, three and five, the player adds the pips in those groups, then triples his score (since he formed three separate groups of like numbers).  So while players are still trying to match numbers, there is an added emphasis on forming multiple groupings of numbers.

The only other item to explain is the star symbols.  When placing a tile with a star, the player declares the value of the star.  It retains that value for the remainder of the game.  If it doesn’t score when placed, it possesses no value and will never generate a score.

The game continues until all tiles are placed.  The player with the greatest cumulative score is victorious.  Note that a pad and pencil must be provided, as there are no charts or tokens to track scores.  A typical game plays to completion in 20 – 30 minutes.

There is nothing terribly deep or strategic about Match Point.  Rather it is a game of spotting opportunities and taking advantage of them with the proper placement of a tile.  While having the right tile at the right moment will yield significant points, there are usually multiple scoring opportunities each turn no matter what tiles are held.  The goal is to spot the placement that will earn the most points.  When playing with two players, chances can be taken in an attempt to prepare for a future turn, but this type of advance planning is not very effective when playing with more than two players.

Like many games, care must be taken when placing a tile that an opponent is not set-up for a handsome scoring opportunity.  Sometimes due to the board configuration, a player is forced to play a tile that will allow an opponent the opportunity to place a tile that will align with multiple tiles, thereby increasing the odds for a very good score.  When this occurs, it could be wise to play and align a tile that will place low-valued numbers in the scoring positions, thereby reducing the points an opponent can earn.

Match Point can be compared to games such as 24/7, Zatre and Qwirkle.  It requires the same type of thinking and spotting of optimal placement options.  It is characterized by easy-to-understand rules, fast turns and high re-playability.  In spite of its simplicity, it still gives players a sense of satisfaction when they make a high-scoring placement.  Winning feels like it was earned rather than being determined by luck … even if that may not always be the case.  It is an excellent choice when playing with non-gaming spouses or friends and, marketed properly, could be a very successful mainstream game.  My wife certainly enjoys it, so we’ll be playing it for years to come.


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