It’s the Sun God versus the Rain God in a mash-up of checkers, memory, and Stratego with TacTiki.
TacTiki is a game for 2 players, ages 12 and up, and takes about 30 minutes to play. It’s currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, with a pledge level of about $32 for a copy of the game.
TacTiki was designed by Gábor Incze and published by Drawlab.
New to Kickstarter? Check out our crowdfunding primer.
Note: My review is based on a prototype copy, so it is subject to change and may not reflect final component quality.
Inside the box, you’ll find:
The components are, of course, fairly straightforward. The board is a 5×5 grid of spaces. It’s nicely one so that the spaces resemble stones.
The miniatures are pretty cool. They resemble the pieces that might make up a totem pole. The Tac miniatures are reddish, and Tiki light brown. Both renderings fairly closely resemble each other, with one big exception: Tiki has his tongue sticking out. The bottom of each piece has an indentation that matches the tab sticking out of the top, allowing the pieces to easily stack on each other. The back of each piece has a nice big number–1 through 5–showing the rank of that piece.
Note that according to the Kickstarter page, the game will also include a foam insert to store the pieces, but that was not included in the prototype I was sent.
You can download a copy of the rulebook here.
The goal of the game is to be the first player to create a stack of five pieces on one of the squares on the opposite side of the board.
Setup is very quick. Place the board between the players. Each player takes their ten miniatures and sets them up on one of the five starting squares on their sie of the board, so each space will have two pieces stacked on each other. Players need to be sure that the number on each piece is facing them and not visible to their opponent. Any piece can be stacked on any other piece; how the player sets them up is the first strategic element of the game.
The Tiki player goes first. On each turn, each player can either move one piece two spaces, or two pieces one space each. Every piece can move forward, left, or right, but not diagonally, and importantly, not backwards.
Any time a piece enters a space occupied by another piece, regardless of the owner, they stack the moving piece on top of the other piece or pieces. If the top piece of the stack belongs to the current player, then nothing happens–those pieces just remain stacked. However, if the top piece belongs to the other player, a battle occurs.
Battling is, like everything else in the game, elegantly simple: the player rotates the two pieces in the battle stack so that they can see their opponent’s number, and their opponent can see theirs. Most of the time, the higher numbered piece wins the battle, with the lower numbered piece being removed (for now) from the game. The one catch, though, is that a 5 piece can be defeated by the 1 piece. So, the powers basically wrap around: 5 beats 4, 3, and 2; 4 beats 3, 2, and 1; 3 beats 2 and 1; 2 beats 1; but 1 beats 5. Thus, the five is the most powerful piece on the board, but has a weakness in needing to avoid the lowly 1. (This system also ensures that the 1 isn’t a worthless piece.)
If, however, the two pieces are tied, the defending piece–the one that was there to begin with–is stuck and cannot move until the attacker is either moved or defeated by another piece.
When pieces are removed from the board, it’s important that they be placed so that the number is hidden.
Any piece that has been removed can be reincarnated by a player. To do this, they skip their entire movement phase, and instead can take any previously-defeated piece and place it back on the board in any open starting space, with the number facing them. But there’s an important caveat there: reincarnated pieces cannot be stacked on any other piece, so if the current player has pieces on their start row, those pieces in essence block their own reincarnation. But at the same time, the opponent may have gotten some pieces into that last row, which will also block those spaces from being used to reincarnate.
The game ends when one player manages to create a stack of any five of their pieces on one of their opponent’s starting spaces.
Like its ancient predecessors, TacTiki is beautiful in its simplicity: twenty pieces moving around a grid with 25 spaces.
But what the game adds to chess and checkers is the memory element. Unlike chess and checkers, where every player knows the power of every piece, in TacTiki you start off with no idea at all where your opponent’s power pieces at all. So initially, attacks are basically like a blind dice roll. However, with each of those rolls, you gain that important data … as long as you can remember it. You attack a piece, your opponent reveals what number it is, and you know what piece you need to move to defeat it. But wait–is that piece the 3 or the 4? And, as you defeat pieces, you gain information as to what pieces are gone and what the opponent still has the on the board. But unfortunately, when they are reincarnated, you won’t know precisely what piece they brought back until you either attack it or it attacks you.
The other interesting twist is the inability to move backwards. With some careful planning and strategic movement, you can slip your pieces past your opponents, and there’s not a lot they can do about it. So if you know where their 1 pieces are, you need to try to maneuver your 5 pieces so that they can get past the 1s. But then, you also need to try to not defeat those 1s, as they will then be able to return to the start row (assuming the opponent reincarnates them).
For such a simple-looking game, TacTiki involves an enormous amount of strategy. It definitely has the feel of a game that takes the old Othello motto: “five minutes to learn, a lifetime to master.”
For more information or to make a pledge, visit the TacTiki Kickstarter page!
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this game for review purposes.
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