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Svarog's Den - Board Games

Stack Number Tiles Anew, Revisit Zooloretto, and Build a Town Seven Houses Wide

by W. Eric Martin

• In February 2017, I previewed NMBR 9, a delightfully simple game by Peter Wichmann and ABACUSSPIELE, that challenges you to stack number tiles in a meaningful way. You’re playing against other people (usually), but the challenge is mostly internal as you’re all just doing your thing side by side, trying to score as much as possible and looking at what others did only at game’s end.

SPIEL ’23 will see the debut of NMBR 9 ++, which includes four sets of numbers 0-9, as well as twenty number cards (0-9 twice), so with this box you can play NMBR 9 with only two players. Alternatively, if you already have NMBR 9, you can now play the game with up to six players at once.

NMBR 9 ++ also includes expansion components that you can use with this box or with the original NMBR 9 game or with both combined. You have six different starting tiles, for example, with each player taking one at random before the game begins, which makes it impossible for players to build in the same patterns as one another.

You can give each player two “gap filler” tiles — one that is a single square and a second that is two squares long. You can use one or both at any point in the game when you’re placing a number tile.

You can deal out two of the six “rule breaker” cards, then give each player two cubes in a different color. During the game, if you want to use a “rule breaker” card — e.g., move a tile previously placed, place the current tile upside down, or reserve the tile for placement later — place one of your cubes on the card, then use its power. You can use each card only once.

Some of the components

Finally, NMBR 9 ++ includes variant rules that can be used with 1-4 players. In “2 out of 3”, you create a deck of thirty cards (0-9 thrice) and put all of the number tiles on the table. Each round, you reveal three cards one by one. Each player can place the first number tile revealed or refuse it; if they refuse it, they must place the next two number tiles; if they place it, they must refuse one of the next two tiles. In the end, everyone will place twenty number tiles, as in the basic game.

In “Level to Level”, shuffle all forty cards into a deck, place all number tiles on the table, and lay out new tokens numbered 0-4. For the first two turns, draw a card and placed it under 0; each player must place this number tile in front of them following the usual rules. For the third turn, flip a card into both the 0 slot and 1 slot; the tile showing under 0 can be placed only on the ground level and the tile under 1 can be placed only on the first level. You can refuse to place either or both tiles.

Once a player has two tiles on the first level, next turn flip a card under slots 0, 1, and 2, with the latter number tile being placed only on the second level. Continue play until the deck runs out or you can’t flip enough cards to start a turn.

• Among other releases at SPIEL ’23, ABACUSSPIELE will have a new edition of Michael Schacht‘s 2007 Spiel des Jahres-winning Zooloretto featuring art by Michael Menzel.

In case you haven’t played, here’s a short description: On a turn, you either draw a face-down animal tile and place it in one of the available trucks (each of which can hold three tiles) or you take one of the trucks, exit the round, and add the tiles on it to your zoo. Once everyone has claimed a truck, you start a new round.

Each player has a zoo with a few enclosures, and once you place an animal in an enclosure, only more animals of the same type can be added. If you run out of enclosures, you’re penalized for other animals you take. If you place a male and female animal in an enclosure, an infant will magically appear, which can be good since you want to fill enclosures to score. You can also place concession carts next to enclosures to score more points. Money actions allow you to move animals and gain a new enclosure.

• Another new-and-improved version of a game is Town 77, which Oink Games will debut at SPIEL ’23.

Gameplay is identical to Town 66 from Christoph Cantzler and Anja Wrede, except that the game includes an additional color and shape, which results in more tiles and a game that now supports up to five players:

The residents of Town 77 — located just down the road from Town 66, mind you — can’t stand it when houses with the same shape or color are lined up with each other. Try to build as many houses as you can while keeping in mind which houses in your hand can be built at the end.

In Town 77, each player has a hand of tiles, with each tile showing one of seven house styles in one of seven colors/patterns. (The color/pattern of a tile also shows on its reverse side.) The game has 49 tiles in total, one of each possible combination. Each player starts with a hand of random tiles.

The first player places a tile in the upper-left corner of an imaginary 7×7 square, then on each subsequent turn a player adds a tile to a row or column in this square so long as this tile is adjacent to at least one other tile and the color/house style isn’t already present in this row and column. After playing a tile, a player can choose to draw a new tile or not. Once you lower your hand size, you can’t increase it again. If you can’t play on a turn, you’re out of the game, and once everyone is out, whoever has the fewest tiles in hand — or who played latest in the event of a tie — wins.

If you play your final tile, you win, but if you don’t draw new tiles, you might find yourself unable to play!

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