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Create Triads, Spin Marbles, Line Blocks on a Mountain, and Get Vikings on BORD

by W. Eric Martin

The originalOne of my favorite stops each year at SPIEL is the Clemens Gerhards booth. This German publisher releases a few beautiful games each year that are (mostly) made of wood and (mostly) abstract strategy games.

With that intro out of the way, here are Clemens Gerhards’ new titles for 2023:

Triad is a two-player game by Klaus Nehren that was first released by Italian publisher WBS Games in 2018. The winning condition mirrors that of Kris Burm‘s YINSH, but with gameplay all its own:

With 3, you are in – and 3 is omnipresent in the game Triad.

Each die shows the number values I, II, and III. On each turn, your action consists of three parts: Choose one of your dice, turn it onto a side with a different value, then move it that many spaces.

Your objective is to create triads. A triad consists of a line of three dice with the same number value or of three dice with different values; the line needs to contain at least one die of each color. When you create a triad, you must remove one of your dice in the just-formed triad from the board.

Clemens Gerhards edition

The first player to remove three dice from the board wins.

Andreas Kuhnekath‘s two-player game Flügelrad appears to be an original design for this SPIEL season, and like many Clemens Gerhards titles, manipulating the pieces seems like part of the game’s appeal:

The game board consists of seven hexagonal spaces, each of which has a hole in its center for the impeller wheel. The game is played with marbles; each player has their own color. On your turn, you reposition the impeller wheel, then rotate it as far as you like, thus moving up to six marbles at the same time.

The first player to form a contiguous cluster of at least six of their marbles wins — but you can easily move your opponent’s marbles as well…

From the image above, I would guess that the starting situation for Flügelrad has all of the marbles on the perimeter of the board, with players bringing them toward the center as the game progresses.

Triad doesn’t mention the starting set-up either — and Clemens Gerhards hasn’t posted rules for either game — but my supposition is that players roll their dice, then place them in their starting line from low to high. (Note that the starting lines in the image at top are not identical.)

Not sure why I feel compelled to speculate about such things, but I guess it’s just a love of abstract strategy games and a desire to put myself in the designer’s shoes for a minute.

• The final Clemens Gerhards title will already be familiar to many people: Crokinole, with an official title of “Crokinole to go” as the game measures only 49×49 cm (approx. 19×19 inches). Should you be looking for a smaller-than-normal Crokinole, you now have this option. (What’s the smallest Crokinole board you’ve seen? Could one be made that’s only, say, six inches across?)

• Other creators release wooden board games, of course, as with London-based Gorm Shackelford‘s BORD, which is the first release from his own Turnabout Games. I think this title debuted at UK Games Expo in June 2023 and is currently available only from the publisher’s website.

What’s the game? Well…

BORD is a two-player game of area control and dice battles between viking armies. BORD is also a viking word that meant “the side of a ship” (as in “starboard”) or “a plank of wood” (literally a board, as in “board games”).

BORD is played on four hex boards. These hex boards have a grid of half-hexes (shores) and whole-hexes (high ground or low ground), and they are used to set up one or more islands (different set-ups for different games). The eight objectives — grassland, marsh, woodland, and stronghold — are then placed on those islands. Each objective has two sides: light or dark. One player is light, and the other is dark. You control an objective when your side (light or dark) is face up. To take control of an objective, you must have the most armies adjacent to it at the end of a turn, after which you flip it so that your side (light or dark) is face up. You score victory points at the end of each season (summer and winter) for each objective that you control. At the end of the second season (winter), the player who has the most victory points wins.

Each of your armies has an objective shown on it: grassland, marsh, woodland, or stronghold. If your army is adjacent to that objective, you get the bonus shown on that army: dice, action points, or victory points. Dice are used in battle. Action points are used to land, move, and battle. Victory points are used to win the game. You can choose to settle (discard) an army to earn a victory point. (This represents a viking becoming a farmer.) You get a new army at the beginning of your turn, but only if you have fewer than six armies. Thus, settling an army when you have only six will get you a new army next turn, but you might leave an objective unguarded in the meantime…

Battles are won by rolling dice (one die for each army on, or adjacent to, the battleground). You roll additional dice if those armies are on high ground or adjacent to their stronghold. If the attacker gets the highest roll, the defender flees to sea and cannot land again until the next season, but still counts as one of that player’s six armies. If the attacker does not get the highest roll, nothing happens, so the risk of attacking is that you might waste your turn. To win the game, you might not need to battle at all, but winning the right battle at the right time might be the difference between winning and losing.

• Another such wooden title is Yama, which designer Khanat Sadomwattana Kickstarted in August 2023.

Image: MHaag

“Yama” (山) is the Japanese word for “mountain”, and in this two-player game you will collectively build a mountain will trying to achieve the victory condition: making a line of four-in-a-row in your color.

On a turn, place a cube into an available space on the game board. The cubes initially sit in a triangular recess in the game board, which means that three sides of it can be seen should you rotate the board — and however you place the cube, at least one face of each color will be visible…sort of. You can place cubes next to one another, so perhaps you will hide the opponent’s cube face behind another cube.

The same board as above from a different perspective (Image: MHaag)

Once three cubes are next to one another, you can place a cube in the recess they create, climbing to a higher level. As soon as a line of four-in-a-row is created, the game ends…even if you finished a line in the opponent’s color. (Suggestion: Don’t do that.)

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