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Ender Wiggins
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Introducing Take It Easy!

Not everybody likes puzzle type games, or abstract strategy. But for some gamers, these are just the kind of games that stimulate their brain cells with pleasure! If you're one of the people in that category, then you owe it to yourself to check out Take It Easy! But even if you aren't normally a fan of those types of games, there's something about Take It Easy that makes it appeal even to people who normally don't enjoy puzzle games or abstract strategy.

Consider Take It Easy's impressive pedigree. It was designed 1983 by Peter Burley, pictured here with an earlier edition:



It's a mark of its success that Take It Easy has been put out by a variety of publishers over the years. It was initially published by British manufacturer J. W. Spear under the title "Hextension". When German publisher F.X. Schmid picked up the game in 1993, "Take It Easy" even made the Spiel des Jahres list in 1994, and was named Best Family Strategy Game of 1997 by Games Magazine. Sales of the game especially boomed when publishing giant Ravensburger took it on. And that brings us to today, where it's now being published for the first time with an all-new look by Gryphon Games. The fact that it is still coming out in new editions today, says something about it: in today's world where the cult-of-the-new often dominates, for a publisher to want to pick up a game that's over 25 years old is a positive testimony to that game's staying power!

This is what you'll find on the box cover of the current edition:



Over half a million copies folks! That's impressive! To put that number in perspective, compare it to Ticket to Ride, which has sold around 800,000 copies. Selling over 500,000 copies is uber-impressive for a board game from the modern era, and gives Take It Easy some solid credibility. It's standing the test of time, and it also appeals to people of all ages, even young children:



Clearly, we need to find more about Take It Easy! This review is of the new edition published in 2009 by Gryphon Games.



Components

The box cover of the current edition introduces us to the lovely colourful hexagonal tiles of Take It Easy:



Let's turn the box over and see what we can learn from the reverse side:



There's also a short synopsis of the game: "A terrific game for groups, families, or two players, Take It Easy combines the accessibility of Bingo with a splash of color and strategy to make a game that is great for everyone. Place your tiles when they are called to form as many complete, continuous-color lines as you can for the highest score. While it may seem easy at first, the choices get tougher! All players have the same tiles, so placement is everything as you fill your board and try to outscore your opponents. You can also play solo and try to beat your own best score!"

Sounds great! So what do you get with the game? Here's what we find when we open the box:
● 6 player boards
● 6 sets of 27 tiles
● rules

Let's just walk through the components and check them out a little more closely.

Rulebook

The rulebook consists of only a couple of pages, because there's not much to the rules!



You could sum up the entire game as follows: "Each player gets a board with places for 19 hexagon tiles to place in a hexagon shape. Additionally, players get identical sets of tiles which have different types of colored/numbered lines crossing in three directions. One player draws a tile randomly and then tells the others which he drew. Each player then puts their matching tile on their board in any available spot. This is repeated until the board is filled. The object is to complete same colored/numbered lines across your board, which will score points; the player scoring the most points is the winner!" Easy, right?

Admittedly, the rule-book also includes some variants, information about solitaire play, and a scoring example, but the actual rules take up less than a page - making this game perfectly suitable for teaching new players! A scan of the rules from the Ravensburger edition can be found here.

Components: Player boards

There are player boards for up to six players, in six different colours:



Each board has a grid with 19 hexagonal spaces, onto which tiles will be played during game play:



Components: Tiles

Each player gets 27 different tiles that match the colour of their board. They look great when they're unpunched:



All 27 tiles are different, featuring every possible colour combination, as can be seen from the nine tiles with yellow "9s" on them:



Notice how the numbers on the tiles correspond consistently with the same colours:

Vertical lines:
1 - black
5 - silver
9 - yellow

Diagonals up:
2 - white
6 - red
7 - green

Diagonals down:
3 - pink
4 - blue
8 - gold

This is important because it's by creating continuous rows of the same colour/number, that you earn points corresponding to that number.

Each player gets exactly the same 27 different tiles:




Here's an example of the 974 tile in each of the 6 colours:



The sun and moon icons on the tiles are used only for a variant, and can be ignored at this point.

Game-play: Box insert

When the tiles are unpunched, they can be stored systematically in the great box insert:



This is well designed, and makes cleanup and storage easy.



Game-play: Set-up

One player will be the "caller", and this player has all his 27 tiles face-down, from which he will draw one randomly and indicate to the other players what it is:



The other players should put all their tiles beside their board, in three groups, the 1s, 5s, and 9s, to make it easier to find the same tile that the "caller" has called:



If you'd like all players to be able to see the tiles available, to help them with their planning (this way it's easier to keep track of which colour combinations are still available, and plan accordingly), you can have the caller draw tiles from a different coloured set of tiles that isn't being used - this is usually the way we play.

Game-play: Flow of play

The "calling" player selects a tile at random, then reads out its numbers so that the other players can get the same tile. Players place this tile on their board (with numbers upright), trying to match lines of the same colour/number, since only completed lines of one colour will score points at the end of the game.



Here's an example, from the start of a game - note that tiles don't have to be placed adjacent to one another, but in this case the tile draw made this the optimal placement of the first five tiles:



Once placed, tiles may not be moved! As a result, it becomes more and more difficult as the game progresses, and you'll find yourself forced to make touch choices, because not all the tiles will match perfectly. Here's where the tension kicks in, as you find yourself begging for a particularly well-matching tile to be turned up!



When you place the 19th tile, you will have eight tiles left over, and you are ready to move to scoring!



Scoring

Only unbroken lines of the same colour/number count towards scoring. The values of these numbers are added together.

Scoring example #1



Vertical row scoring: (black/grey/yellow)
Three yellow-striped tiles: 3 x 9 = 27
Four black-striped tiles: 4 x 1 = 4
Five grey-striped tiles: 5 x 5 = 25
Three black-striped tiles: 3 x 1 = 3

Diagonals up scoring: (white/red/green)
Three white-striped tiles: 3 x 2 = 6
Four green-striped tiles: 4 x 7 = 28
Five red-striped tiles: 5 x 6 = 30
Three white-striped tiles: 3 x 2 = 6

Diagonals down scoring: (pink/blue/orange)
Three pink-striped tiles: 3 x 3 = 9
Five orange-striped tiles: 5 x 8 = 40

Total score: 178 points

Scoring example #2

In the example below, a player scored 172 points:



Vertical row scoring: 3+20+45
Diagonals up scoring: 6+28+30
Diagonals down scoring: 16+24

Score sheets

In most cases you'll need a paper and pen, or a calculator, to score the points. There are some custom score sheets for download on BGG - I particularly like the one created by Nick Danger, which can be found here.



Rating your score

So what's a good score in Take It Easy? Anything over 150 is a good result, and scores over 200 are rare.



The highest possible score

The highest possible score is 307 points, and although it's possible to achieve in 16 different ways, it requires the perfect set of tiles, and perfect placement. Here's what one of them would look like:



In fact, using symmetry, we can come up with four similar solutions, all which score the maximum 307 points:



If you're up for a challenge, try coming up with the other 12 solutions here:
High score challenge: Can you get the maximum 307 points? http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/399114
It's a fun challenge to try choosing and rearranging the tiles as you see fit, and come up with the highest score you can!



Example game

To help illustrate how Take It Easy works, I played a solitaire game, and took pictures as I added each tile to the board, along with a brief explanation of some of the considerations for deciding the placement. You'll find the pictorial illustration of game-play here:

Pictorial Illustration of Game-play: A sample game of Take It Easy
http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/400261



It turned out to be my best ever score of 199 points!



Alternative ways of playing

Variants

The rules come with several variant methods of plays. For example, the "Adjacent Placement" variant requires players to place tiles adjacent to ones that are already in play.

There are also several variants that use the sun and moon icons on the tiles. The "Sun/Moon Adjacent Placement" variant requires tiles to be placed dependent on these icons. There are also two scoring variants that give bonus points for Sunrays (when you form a continuous row of sun tiles) and Moonbeams (when you form a continuous row of moon tiles).



Most people will find these additions unnecessary, because the simplicity of the original game is part of its appeal - but for puzzling heavy-weights, these might be worth exploring.

Added tiles and complexity

Take it Easy was reimplemented as Take it to the Limit! in 2006. This introduces a larger "Nexus" board and more tiles (64 all together), to make a longer and more complex game.



For most people, the simpler and lighter game-play of Take It Easy is a better and more accessible choice, but serious puzzle-loving gamers might want to check out the big brother.

Solitaire Play

The beautiful thing about Take It Easy is that it's almost as fun playing solitaire as it is against other players. In fact, there are even two possible ways of playing solitaire:

1. Regular solitaire

You draw tiles randomly, one by one, and see what score you get. The challenge is to beat your own score, and this is already satisfying and fun! If you want to compete in a solitaire challenge and compare your scores with others, try these two puzzles:

a) Game #1: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/235804
This uses the following tiles, in the order that they are drawn and played:
964, 564, 574, 978, 174, 528, 928, 173, 563, 178, 568, 123, 924, 973, 128, 578, 963, 164, 923

b) Game #2: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/400190
This uses the following tiles, in the order that they are drawn and played:
164, 124, 968, 563, 128, 974, 964, 523, 528, 924, 123, 564, 963, 573, 524, 923, 928, 578, 568



2. Optimal solitaire

With this variant, instead of playing the 19 tiles in the order drawn, you can rearrange them as you please, in order to try to obtain the highest score possible. Draw 19 tiles, and challenge yourself: what is the highest score you can achieve using these 19 tiles? You should be able to score over 200 points this way! If you want to compete with others, here are two solitaire challenges I've posted:

a) Solitaire Challenge #1: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/398295
Tiles: 123, 128, 164, 173, 174, 178, 528, 563, 564, 568, 574, 578, 923, 924, 928, 963, 964, 973, 978
Since there are 27 tiles in all, simply remove these 8 tiles: 124, 163, 168, 523, 524, 573, 968, 974

b) Solitaire Challenge #2: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/thread/400192
Tiles: 123, 124, 128, 164, 523, 524, 528, 563, 564, 568, 573, 578, 923, 924, 928, 963, 964, 968, 974
Since there are 27 tiles in all, simply remove these 8 tiles: 163, 168, 173, 174, 178, 574, 973, 978.

Software

The designer Peter Burley also has the solitaire version available on his website for online play:
http://www.burleygames.co.uk/game/takeiteasy.asp
Another web application of the game:
http://www.gamereport.com/games/takeiteasy/takeiteasy.html

Several freeware programs exist that have also implemented the game (some under the original name "Hextension"), so if you want to try it, they might also be a good place to start:
http://www.wolf-fuerth.de/tewin_en.htm
http://holderied.de/hextension/
http://free-game-downloads.mosw.com/abandonware/pc/strategy_...



What do I think?

I don't mind abstracts, but I have to confess that abstracts are not my all-time favourite genre of games, especially if they are a particularly brain-burning meeting of minds, with no luck or random element whatsoever. But there's something about Take It Easy that makes it stand apart from the regular abstract, and gives it more of a broader appeal than most abstracts have. People of all ages can do it, even young children - here's my four year old thoroughly enjoying herself:



So how can we explain the appeal? And what are the strengths of Take It Easy that make it so outstanding?

Multi-player solitaire: I know, normally this is a bad thing. But in the case of Take it Easy, it's a strength, because you're primarily challenging yourself! This means that you can play with people of wide-ranging abilities, and everyone can have fun and try their best. I know this sounds crazy... but somehow with Take It Easy it works! It has its own unique brand of interaction, because along with the other players you'll find yourself begging the "caller" to pick a certain tile you need!

Solitaire: You can play on your own! Believe me, I'm not normally the kind of guy who enjoys doing games on my own, and it has to take an awfully good game to get me to sit at a table playing it solitaire by myself! Take It Easy is one of those games, and more than once I've caught my children, my wife, or even myself, sitting at the table alone for a quick puzzle challenge!

Randomness: People have all kinds of opinions about the value of randomness in games, and I don't want to start a debate about that in a review! But the fact that the tiles are drawn randomly, means that each game you'll get a different set of tiles, and draw them in a different order. This is great for replayability, and adds a certain fun element that's not always present in an abstract game. Did you do lousy? You can always blame the tile draw at the end of the game!

Tense: The final tiles you draw will be critical in determining your final score - often you'll find yourself desperately hoping for a certain key tile to be drawn - and so will everyone else! This makes the closing stages of every game very exciting! And rather than causing frustration, it actually adds a fun element, and often you'll find yourself wanting to play again! In that regard the game is Bingo like, a number is called, and will be met with whoops of joy or cries of disappointment, and there is increased tension as the final tiles are drawn!

Skill: Although there is a random element in the game, the biggest element is skill - can you try to place your tiles in a way that maximizes your point scoring? And can you correctly assess the probabilities to try to get the best results possible? To succeed, you need to carefully evaluate the risks and possibilities, play the odds of drawing certain tiles, and plan carefully. Even though your skill may at times be trumped by luck, more often than not, the more skillful player will win.

Quick: A game can be finished within 15 minutes, whether you're playing with 1 player, or 3, or 6! That makes it perfectly suitable as a quick filler, or for squeezing in a game during the middle of a day.

Easy rules: The rules can be explained in just a minute or two. If there is any negative, it might be that you'll usually need a calculator or pencil and paper to quickly do the math for scoring.

Colourful: The components are good quality, and the bright colours of the tiles and the lines offer an instant appeal.

Time-tested: It's been around since 1983, and has sold over half a million copies - surely that is worth something!



Bingo? So how does the comparison with Bingo work? You'll have one person calling out names of tiles, e.g. "163! ... (add Pause while all players find this tile and place it) ... 762!" and meanwhile the players are quietly working on placing the chosen tile, and patiently hoping for a good draw. Especially as tiles are drawn in the crucial closing stages of the game, the numbers called will be met with squeals of excitement or cries of anguish!

Brains? So where do the brains fit in? Unlike Bingo, you're not just crossing off numbers, but carefully planning and placing your tiles - in that respect it's more a game of skill than luck.



Take It Easy seems to have a perfect blend of luck and skill: the luck and tension of Bingo, combined with the skill of puzzling and assessing the odds. Along with quick play time, easy rules, and tense game-play, even many people who don't care for logic or puzzles seem to enjoy it. If you're looking for a deep euro game with lots of interaction and can't stand anything to do with puzzling, you'll want to give this a miss - but most people will find an audience for this game in family settings, or even as a filler for gamers.



What do others think?

Here are a few representative comments to give you an idea what other fans of Take It Easy are saying about it:

"I'm not normally an abstract fan but this works for me. Plus you can play solo going for those high scores." - Richard Harding
"Given my extreme dislike of abstract games and puzzles, it is hard to imagine how this makes a 9." - Mike Siggins
"Surprisingly enjoyable for what is a fairly abstract game." - Louise Holden
"Fun. Fun fun fun. Harder than it first appears. It's a great 15-minute game." - Steve Zamborsky
"As my game collection continues to increase in size, I find that I have more and more appreciation for the rare game that doesn't resemble anything else I own. Take It Easy definitely falls in that camp, and as an added bonus, it scales beautifully to 7 or 8 players without increasing play time." - Jason Richards
"A very endearing puzzle game. Surprisingly conversational despite total isolation of players that gets kind of loud as players are calling for a particular tile. Fun!" - Daniel Kearns
"Addictive little tile laying game with more than its share of agonizing choices." - Nataline Viray-Fung
"Extraordinarily brilliant piece of design simplicity that you wish you'd thought of. Plus the weird combination of adrenaline rush and stress tension as the final few tiles arrive is hard to match in any other game." - David Brain
"Teachable to non regular gamers in minutes, and very playable." - Alan How
"One of the best games to introduce to casual gamers. Easy to learn and quick to play, it nevertheless offers a challenge to any gamer. Like bingo with probability calculations that change with each draw. An excellent game." - Tim Thomas
"Outstanding family game." - Daryl Anderson
"Good game for a big group of people. Sort of like a thinking-man's bingo. " - Terrence Fleury
"This may be the best filler game in my collection. This is the best multiplayer solitaire game I've ever played.The best thing is that it works with any number of players" - Steve Wagner




The final word

Is Take It Easy for you? As always, that's going to be a matter of taste. It will primarily appeal to people who enjoy puzzle type games, and is almost certain to be a hit with this niche of gamers. But the quick play time and tense game-play of this time-tested abstract makes it surprisingly successfully with a broad range of people, even those who don't usually care for puzzle type games. Recommended!



------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
The complete list of Ender's pictorial reviews: http://www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/37596
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Dan Rivera
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Yep Geek Bingo is a fun game that is very non gamer friendly
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James Bentley
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Ender, as always, a GREAT review.

But c'mon, don't hold back - couldn't you give us a few more details?

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Alan Reeve
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And you can also try a nicely done, online, solo version of the game here:

http://www.gamereport.com/games/takeiteasy/takeiteasy.html

Edit: Sorry... I see this was already listed in this rather detailed review. But for those that skim...
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James Bentley
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adreeve wrote:
And you can also try a nicely done, online, solo version of the game here:

http://www.gamereport.com/games/takeiteasy/takeiteasy.html

Edit: Sorry... I see this was already listed in this rather detailed review. But for those that skim...


This doesn't work for me at all....I get just an outline for the board and the only button that works is the Restart button, but still no board. Is it allergic to Firefox?
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Jim "git yer stinkin' themes offa my mechanic" Puccio
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Outstanding review. Bravo.

I hesitate to nitpick after such a command performance, but it would have been nice to present Take it to the Limit! at the same time, in a kind of compare & contrast way.

Well, maybe that's another review for another time...
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Miguel
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I haven't played the game, but from your description I don't see what prevents every player from playing the exact same layout. Is that correct?
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Ryan Olson
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agent easy wrote:
I haven't played the game, but from your description I don't see what prevents every player from playing the exact same layout. Is that correct?


Sure it can happen, but then nobody wins...

I can't imagine everyone playing each piece in the same spot. I have noticed that sometimes my family and I will have similar boards at the beginning, but after 3 or 4 pieces, we usually have some differences.
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Tony Allen
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jrbentley wrote:
adreeve wrote:
And you can also try a nicely done, online, solo version of the game here:

http://www.gamereport.com/games/takeiteasy/takeiteasy.html

Edit: Sorry... I see this was already listed in this rather detailed review. But for those that skim...


This doesn't work for me at all....I get just an outline for the board and the only button that works is the Restart button, but still no board. Is it allergic to Firefox?


It's allergic to Chrome, also.
Works in IE.
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Rifkin Habsburg
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If you're in Second Life, you can play Take It Easy there as well: http://playprocyon.com/sl/takeiteasy/
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Raiko Puust
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Raiko & Agnes Forever! Feel the Love and Feel the Warmth. Happiness is 2 hugs plus 3 kisses every hour...:D (http://mrboardgames.wordpress.com/)
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Addicted Estonian gamer with big heart and direct winning attitude. Need any help with something, just ask. Need some GG for something, just ask. Need something to be translated, just ask. Meanwhile, behave! :D (http://mrboardgames.wordpress.com/)
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Serious review! I liked it very much! Keep it up, man!
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...game pleasure in wood
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Many people compare Don Quixote to this game. I haven't played either one, so I can't say how accurate the comparison is....
 
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