Walls is a challenging new game currently seeking funding on Kickstarter. A $35 pledge gets you a copy of the game. It can be played by 2-6 players, and is recommended for ages 8 and up, although the designer notes on the Kickstarter page that his 5-year-old enjoys playing. When I’ve played it, games have generally lasted about 30 minutes.
Walls began as a Boy Scout merit badge project, but after designing the game the Scouts involved liked it so much that they decided to see if they could make it into a real project. As someone who has been involved in Scouts pretty much my whole life, I think that is pretty cool, and was why I initially contacted them about reviewing the game. But I should stress something here: I wanted to take a look at it because it’s a Scout project, but I’m reviewing and wholeheartedly recommending the game because it truly is a great game.
- 1 board
- 100 walls
- 6 pawns
- 1 red die
- 1 green die
Note: I was sent a prototype of the game for review purposes.
The prototype I got had the board printed on a piece of form core, with pawns that I’m guessing were raided from other games. The walls were all 3D printed and painted, which was cool, but I’m guessing that the final version of the game may look quite different from the one I played.
Walls relies on a simple board with a 12×10 grid with holes punched into the junctions of the grid. To set up the game, you place small plastic walls into the grid. Each wall has a small peg on one end, allowing you to insert it into the board, enabling it to rotate. The setup should be semi-random, since the point of the game is that the board will change as you play.
Players decide who goes first by rolling the two dice, with the highest roll starting. All player pawns are placed in the Start space in the upper left corner. That player then rolls both dice again. This time, however, the colors matter. The player moves up to the number of spaces indicated on the green die. Then, she can move (rotate) walls based on the roll of the red die. A roll of 1 means you do not get to move a wall, and a roll of 6 means you get to move 2 walls. The number of walls on a roll of 2-5 varies based on the number of players, but there’s a handy table printed directly on the board to indicate this so you don’t have to keep going back to the rules.
There are some special rules involving doubles, and if you roll a 1 on the green die you can jump over a wall. Again, these are printed on the board. Play passes to the left, and continues until someone reaches the finish spot in the lower right corner.
That’s pretty much it; one of the great things about the game is that it’s wonderfully simple.
For a simple game, though, there’s a surprising amount of strategy. You always must move your pawn before you can move any walls. Often, this will force you into a choice when you’re blocked: you can choose to move less than what you rolled and rotate walls out of your way, but then have to hope that one of your opponents won’t move those or other walls back into your way before your next turn, or you can backtrack, moving away from your goal in the hopes of finding a clearer path.
The game has a few nice mechanics to keep everyone in the game until the end. One of the choices on a doubles roll is to switch places with another player, so someone who got trapped and fell behind and easily jump into the lead. Even towards the end, the winner will often not be clear: a lucky roll can suddenly cause someone who looked like they were basically out to race past everyone for the win.
Walls is beautiful in its simplicity and yet has quite a bit of strategic possibilities. Obviously, as a dice-based race game, there’s plenty of luck involved as well. It’s a game that can be explained in a matter of minutes, plays quickly, and yet with its almost infinite setup possibilities is a game that is unlikely to get old anytime soon. It’s already become a family favorite. I’ve backed the project on Kickstarter and can without hesitation recommend that you do the same. I sincerely hope it meets its funding goal, because I’d love to see the final version. I’d also love to see this idea, originally conceived by a bunch of boys trying to earn a merit badge, become a real game. How cool will it be for these boys to be able to go to a store and see this thing they created on the shelves?