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After my review of the Out of the Box game CoverUp, I was deluged by comments and emails that pointed me to Gobblet (Blue-Orange Games, 2001 – Thierry Denoual), a game that was remarkably similar. Some even went as far as to say that CoverUp was a clear copy of the original game – something I’m not certain of, or even really care about. I actually received a copy of both games within a short time frame of each other; and after a few plays, immediately enjoyed CoverUp more.
However, having played Gobblet more than a dozen times since, I find that it is growing on me to become one of my treasured short but tactical abstract games. With extremely high production standards and a quick playing time Gobblet takes the idea of Tic-Tac-Toe, adds a bit of memory to it and produces a fascinating game that I can play time and time again.
A board that consists of a four by four grid is placed on the table, and each player takes twelve gobblets in four sizes – placed in three stacks with the largest covering the next largest, etc. One player is chosen to go first, and then play alternates between the players. On a player’s turn, they may
- choose one of their gobblets from the TOP of one of their stacks, placing it on any empty space.
- move one of their gobblets on the board to any other empty space.
- move one of their gobblets on the board to gobble a smaller gobblet of either color on the board.
- choose one of their gobblets from the TOP of one of their stacks to “gobble” a smaller gobblet on the board – however this may only be done if the opponent has three gobblets in a row.
Gameplay continues until one player gets four of their gobblets in a row – at which point they win the game. When a player touches a piece on the board, they MUST move it, because ofttimes they will reveal a piece – perhaps a piece from the other player underneath. If a player uncovers an opponent’s piece that gives them four in a row, their opponent will win unless the player can place the touched piece in another spot to stop the row of four. Draws are also possible if players do three identical moves in a row.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: Gobblet is a real work of art, coming in a wooden box with a lid that is actually the game board. The gobblets themselves are “white” and “black” according to the rules, although in reality it’s different shades of wood color. The gobblets easily fit around each other – with the smallest simply being a cylinder of wood. The entire setup looks really good and would make a nice coffee table display. All the pieces are quite large and easy to handle.
2.) Rules: The rules come on a single large sheet in two-toned color, quickly and easily explaining the game. There are examples and illustrations, as well as notes on play to cover all situations. The game is extremely easy to teach – anyone who’s played any kind of “x-in-a-row” type games will have no problem at all. The only rule that is slightly unusual is the ability to “gobble” a gobblet when the opponent has three in a row. This happens rarely, however, as most wins are accomplished by a player placing one of the two middle spots.
3.) Memory: The game heavily relies on a player remembering which gobblets they have covered up with their pieces. This seems easy at first, but pieces are moved around quite a bit, and the penalty for forgetting is often the game. Some people might object to this element in the game; and I can understand that it might detract from the experience, although I found it great fun. Many times I’ve been in a position where the opponent has three in a row, and I need to block with a piece on the board; but I can’t remember what is under each of my pieces. This creates a neat tension that would be annoying in a long game, but thrilling in a short one.
4.) Time: One of the best features of Gobblet is how quickly it plays. Players can knock off a game in about ten minutes – longer if they agonize over their choices, shorter if a player makes a foolish move. Still, a quick game nonetheless – it’s always nice to have an abstract game that can be explained and played within fifteen minutes.
5.) Fun Factor and Strategy: For me, the enjoyable aspect of the game is the variety of moves a player has even within the confines of the sixteen spaces of the game. Because gobblets can cover each other up, players have more strategic moves than they might suspect – even covering up your own piece is a neat idea, if uncovering it later on in a game can surprise your opponent. Quick, fast gameplay, memory elements and more combine to make this a very enjoyable experience.
6.) CoverUp: I have to compare the two games, since they are awfully similar. At first, I was prepared to say that CoverUp was the better game, since it had more restricted movement and a large board. But Gobblet has a better level of tension (not to mention nicer components). I’m not sure that it’s worth owning both of them, although I could live with either one. But in the final decision I’d have to go with Gobblet, even though the price point is certainly higher.
Gobblet is a nice looking game, with short, simple gameplay that masks a decent amount of strategy. Tic-Tac-Toe this is not, as players who come in flippantly will find themselves decimated by a careful, wiser opponent. Some people may not like the memory element – and indeed, if you don’t you should probably steer away – but for those who like a game that really meets the requirements of “a minute to learn, a lifetime to master”, then this one certainly meets the requirements.
“Real men play board games”