Monday, August 09, 2004

Review: Take It Easy!

In this country, Ravensburger has a reputation for publishing high quality puzzles and games for children, typically with an educational slant. Take It Easy is a game that certainly does nothing to alter that perception. It's all of those things rolled into one. It's part mathematical puzzle and part game. It's accessible to children and yet quite enjoyable for adults.

Take it Easy is playable by one to four players in under an hour. While it can be rewarding as a solo effort; it's definitely more fun with a little competition. In fact, the game scales quite well to any number of players. If you want to play with more than four, just add more copies of the game. Since all players play simultaneously on their own board, adding players doesn't add any time to the game.

Each box contains four game boards, each with a hexagonal grid that makes up the playing surface, and four sets of 27 hexagonal tiles. Each hexagonal tile is bisected by three numbered and color-coded lines: one vertical and two diagonal. The object of the game is to place your tiles on your board in such a way that you have unbroken lines along as many rows as possible in all three directions. For each line that crosses the board from one side to the other without interruption, you score that number times the number of tiles. For example, if you manage to get a line of five nines running from top to bottom, that line would be worth forty five points. But if instead you had four nines and a five, that line would be broken and therefore worth nothing.

To play the game, one player draws a tile from his set at random. He then announces which tile he's drawn to the other players and all players must place that tile somewhere on their own board. This is repeated until there are no more spaces on the board. Not all of the tiles will be used so each round will end up using a different set of tiles. Once the boards are full, each player totals up her score and the scores are recorded. Play continues for a predetermined number of rounds and whoever has the highest score at the end wins. Since all players are placing the exact same tiles in the exact same order, no player has an advantage.

Placing your tiles seems to be quite easy at first. For the first five or six tiles it's going to be easy to place them so that none of your lines are broken. But pretty soon you're bound to get a tile that just doesn't fit. That's where it gets tricky. If you're clever and lucky you might be able to complete three or four lines in each direction (five in each direction would be perfect). You inevitably have to decide which lines you're going to sacrifice and which one's you're going to try and complete.

If there is one flaw in this game it's that scoring your board after each round is quite a mathematical chore. It's just simple addition and multiplication but there's quite a lot of it and it would be very easy to make a mistake. With nineteen spaces on the board, it's not uncommon to be summing around thirty different numbers while scoring a round. This would be a fantastic game for grade school math students. You're going to get in a lot of practice. Just try adding all of those numbers up in your head. Even adults who consider themselves strong in math will find that a bit difficult. But don't let that scare you off. The reward is worth the effort.

In summary, Take It Easy is a very entertaining and well balanced mathematical logic game for virtually any number of players. It plays quickly. It's challenging. And it's quite a lot of fun. I heartily recommend it.


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