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24/7 the Game (Sunriver and Funagain Games, 2006 – Carey Grayson) may very well have one of the thinnest themes I’ve seen in a game. Yes, the numbers “24” and “7” nicely match up with the theme of time, but that’s about it; 24/7 is mostly a numerical math puzzle-type game. There are many ways to describe the game, but I certainly feel as if “mathematical Scrabble” comes fairly close.
I’m someone who enjoys numerical games such as this, and 24/7 scratches my itch fairly well – it’s interesting enough to keep my attention, yet not so much of a brain burner that my mind paralyzes mid game. Players attempt to find the best combinations; and while there is some luck of the draw, future planning and logic come into play, enough that I’m convinced the better player will win most games. Puzzle enthusiasts may have a more enjoyable time than most with the game, but it’s light enough to have family appeal.
The board consists of a seven by seven grid of squares, and each player takes a rack, drawing five tiles (six in a two-player game) from a bag. There are forty tiles in total, four of each number from “1” to “10”. One tile is placed face up in the middle space of the board, and three are secretly removed from the game. One player is given a score sheet, and a pile of “Time Out” stones is placed near the board. The player whose age is closest to twenty-four goes first, and then play proceeds clockwise.
On a player’s turn, they simply play a tile adjacent to any tile on the board, and then draw a new tile back into their rack. Every time a tile is placed, it forms a line of tiles (quite possibly more than one line). These lines are immediately examined to see if the player scores any points. Players receive points for completing one or more of the following combinations.
- The sum of all the tiles in the line equals exactly “7” or “24”
- Three or four of the same number are in a row
- There is a “run” of tiles (“2”, “3”, “4”, etc.) of three, four, five, or six tiles.
Each combination scores a player from twenty to sixty points. If the tile the player places covers a “double time” space on the board, then they score double the points for combinations they make at that point. Players can also get a bonus if they get the “24” and “7” combination using the same tile, or if they form “24” with exactly seven tiles.
No line can ever have a higher sum than “24”. When a line reaches “24”, then time out stones are placed in the spaces on both ends, since no tiles can be played there any longer. If players see a space during the game that can no longer be legally played upon, then time out stones are placed there also.
The game continues until either all players have used all their tiles, or there is nowhere else to place tiles. At this point, players total their scores, and the game ends. The player with the highest score wins (ties broken by the amount of tiles left, but I’ve never seen a tie).
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The game comes in a large square box, possibly larger than is necessary, but the pieces fit inside easily. The board is a medium-sized board and has some nice background graphics that bring out the minimilistic theme, yet aren’t too intrusive. The tiles themselves are satisfying to hold – with a nice, chunky, almost domino like quality about them. When played on the board, the entire game has an almost austere quality about it, giving off vibes of high quality. Once again, I will point out that the theme of the game is fairly non-existent; while I know that it matches the numbers, it doesn’t mean too much to me. And there’s really no way I’m telling people they just scored 50 minutes instead of 50 points. Still, it’s better than no theme.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is only three pages long, but they are large pages with a large, easy to read font. Color illustrations and examples are shown, and I was able to figure it out in about two minutes – and explain it just as quickly. Some things need to be emphasized, such as the fact that a run or set can be part of a longer line, or exactly when you score bonuses, but for the most part it’s an easy game that can be understood by anyone who can do multiple addition in their heads.
3.) Players: The game works with three or four players, but I find that it is at its best with two (or possibly using the variant of teams of two players). With two players, you have more control, and the draw of tiles is less important. It’s also easier to set up a run or set, without the fear that another player might steal it before you have the chance to play a tile. I’m not saying that a four-player game isn’t fun – it is; but it’s more of a casual, light game, while the two-player game can really be a battle of wits.
4.) Comparisons: The game immediately reminded me of Scrabble, in that you are forming rows of tiles, and there are “double score” spaces on the board. I was also reminded of the game Kingdoms, in which players are placing tiles for numerical rows and columns on a grid-like board. But, even though these comparisons come to mind – and I’ve seen them printed in other places on the ‘net -- I don’t think they are overly accurate. 24/7 is its own game, and as simple as it is, it feels fairly unique in its scoring and game play.
5.) Luck vs. Strategy: One can watch all the tiles that have been played and use them in comparison to the tiles on their rack to set themselves up for future plays. Obviously there is some luck to the game; if you are the only person to get the four “6” tiles, it’s a good day for you. But players can still mitigate the luck of the opposing player by playing more aggressively, placing tiles simply to block their opponent. Even when I’ve lost the game, I felt that it was because of poor tile placement on my part, rather than luck of the draw.
6.) Fun Factor: As much as I enjoy the game, I also realize that a lot of people may not like the math involved, even though I think it’s fairly simple. For me, the fun of the game comes from that “aha!” moment, when you can place the last tile into position that finishes two rows and scores the big bonus. I also get a kick out of proving which spaces can no longer have a tile legally played in them. Some folks aren’t up for this, and some folks can drag the game out past the thirty-minute mark that most of mine have fallen into – simply by belaboring each choice. The choices are simple and not as varied as one might think - actually increasing the value of an abstract game such as this.
7.) Ending: One minor negative point about the game – it tends to peter out rather than end enthusiastically. In the last fourth of the game, tile options are rather limited, and the game play isn’t nearly as intense as the middle. Usually the winner is somewhat obvious about 4/5 of the way through, although we always play out – just in case.
If you are looking for a nice two-player game (with the option of going up to four) that is slightly abstract, yet is a fun, beautiful looking mathematical game – 24/7 is for you. I laugh as I look back on that statement, because it tends to sterilize the game more than I intend – 24/7 is a light fun game that actually holds a bit more strategy behind the surface than first obvious. Make no mistake – it will never be considered a classic on the lines of Chess or Go, but it is a pleasant diversion and one that may have considerable staying power.
“Real men play board games”