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Subject: Elegant little push-of-war game rss

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Christopher Earley
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The girlfriend and I just played the travel version of Siam for the first time, and it seems like a winner. Very elegant little 5x5'er once you understand it, and with its combination of quick play and pretty components, it's definitely the one you leave on the coffee table when you host a party.

We played a few games in quick succession, she won the first two and I won the third. The pattern seemed to be (1) a somewhat arbitrary couple of opening moves, since you can't make any real plans until you know what the other player is up to, followed by (2) mid-game execution of your own plan and containment of the other player, ideally doing both things with one move, and finally (3) a sudden "doh!" moment when the soon-to-be loser realizes the other player is going to win in two moves and cannot be blocked in time.

Number of pieces and grid size seems very well balanced, as there always seems to be a satisfying exit of a piece from the board when it is no longer useful just when I really want a new piece to enter the board from another square.

Since you can read about the basic rules elsewhere, I won't go into them. I will, however, agree with other comments concerning the lucidity of the English rules that come with the game. I had a hard time convincing my girlfriend that any number of side-facing animals could be pushed as if they had no weight, so I had to prove it by showing her the sentence "An animal can push as many animals as possible is these aren't orientated to the opposite direction". Likewise, the fourth action choice had a title of "Bring out one of animal and place it on an outside space" but the text below it seemed to indicate that the two parts of that sentence had to happen on two different turns. I felt the latter interpretation made for a better game so we went with walking animals off the board on one turn and re-introducing them on the next.

All in all, the game is a quick and satisfying play on first blush, one we immediately wanted to try again, and it looks to be trivial enough to teach to casual players for a few moments of diversion in a non-gamer setting. Interest in the game is augmented by its aesthetic appeal as well--it's certainly one of the prettiest "let-me-touch-that" games I own.

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