On a Venn diagram of games and toys, dexterity games fall in the intersection. There are rules of play and winner and losers. But they also require manual interaction with physical objects — and your skill in aiming, flicking, balancing, or throwing makes all the difference. I love a good, thoughtful strategy board game, but over the past few years I’ve discovered that I’m a sucker for dexterity games: Catacombs was my 2011 Game of the Year, but I’ve also really enjoyed Caveman Curling, Cornerstone, and Knock Your Blocks Off, among others.
If you love dexterity games as much as I do, here are a few currently on Kickstarter. It’s too late to get Disc Duelers by itself (an add-on stretch goal for BattleCON: Devastation, which successfully reached its funding goal on Sunday), but you still have time for these three.
First up, with about 2 weeks left to go in its campaign, is Get Blue! This one probably has the weirdest name but also has something that none of my other dexterity games include: magnets! (Or, as the Kickstarter page puts it, “Magno Force Battle Action.”) The little stand-up tiles have magnets embedded in them, and the discs have metal cores.
The goal of the game is to flick the discs so that they attach to the tiles and knock them over. Missing scores no points, knocking a tile down without sticking to it means you stand the tile back up, and sticking to a tile without knocking it down costs you points. The blue tile is worth double points, which is why the name is “Get Blue!” and there’s a story about the Karumkai, the seven Battle Houses of great warriors … Eh. I just like flicking things and magnets, and the artwork is pretty fun, although the big Ivan the Hun cover image might scare some people away who think it’s a wrestling game of some sort.
$16 gets you a single disc and tile, $22 gets a whole set, and there’s even a Sword of Fargoal–themed set. Or there are options for getting blank tiles and discs for making your own, though those are a bit pricier options. I’ve already pledged for a set, but there’s a way to go before Get Blue! hits its funding goal, so go check it out now!
Up next is one of the grand-daddies of dexterity games, Crokinole. A game that dates back as far as the late 1800s, Crokinole has a few variants but is something like shuffleboard on a round surface. You try to get your pieces in the hole in the center or as close to it as possible, and if opponent’s pieces are on the board you must hit one or your piece is removed.
Mayday Games has been producing boards for the past few years — their boards are significantly cheaper than some of the handmade ones you’ll find online, though some have complained about quality issues in the past. Their current Kickstarter campaign includes a couple of different things: the board itself, for $95, a carrying bag for $50 (so if you’ve already got a board, you might want to check this out), and a clock accessory ($20) so you can hang it on the wall when you’re not playing rather than trying to find a storage spot for a huge round wooden board.
I’m still on the fence on this one – like Pitchcar, I’ve heard wonderful things about Crokinole but the price still presents a barrier. I imagine at some point I’ll give in and buy one … I’ve got just over two weeks to decide. Check out the Kickstarter page for more info.
Finally, here’s one that just launched this week: Storm the Gate. It’s an implementation of a French game called Table à L’élastique (or Le passé trappe) which has undergone several versions, mostly unavailable in the United States. Blue Orange Games makes a version called Fastrack which is about 14″ x 9″. Matthew and Mark McLachlan have created a larger, classy-looking version with slightly different rules that looks more like something grown-ups would have on a coffee table than a kids’ toy.
Storm the Gate is about 23″ x 15″. It’s a shallow wooden tray that has elastic bands (sort of like bungee cords) near each end. A wall in the center has a small “gate” cut out of it, and your goal is to shoot all of your wooden discs through the gate. Each player starts with eight discs on their side, and the game ends when all the discs are on one side of the board.
The McLachlans have made some sets by hand, but are hoping to raise enough funds to ramp up production. They sent me a prototype to try out (pictured at the very top) and I’ve had a lot of fun shooting the discs back and forth. It’s a whole lot of fun, though it can get dangerous if your fingers are in the wrong spot when a disc comes shooting through the gate at you. The construction is solid and it looks nice, but I can tell that the discs and the wood right around the gate are going to take a beating. (If you shoot too hard, the disc tips up a little and smacks the top of the gate.)
At $59 a board (including domestic shipping) or $99 for two, it seems like a pretty nice price for what you get. I did quiz Mark about the potential Kickstarter pitfalls — can they really make a ship a board for that much and that quickly? He assured me that they do have a plan for making the boards, plus a local woodworking shop lined up as backup. Matthew has run two successful Kickstarter campaigns and is committed to delivering the product on time. What they need now, of course, is backers. Check out the Kickstarter page for more info.