A Beautiful Game

I am not a competitive person most of the time. I tend to avoid most board games because I invariably get into a match with someone who thrills at the sound of competition. Then, more often than not, the game dissolves into bickering and arguing. They accuse me of not taking the game seriously, I shoot back that they are sucking all the fun out of everything. A lot of the time the match gets abandoned, the pieces shoved back into the box just to make it all stop.

So. That’s a reason I don’t play a lot of board games.

Another is the rules. Frequently there are so many rules. How to move, when to move. There are loopholes in the basic rules that a casual gamer isn’t going to know. I’m trying to relax and enjoy my time in the friendly company, not memorize an entire rulebook (possibly written by the Devil’s own contract writers).

With all that being said, you will understand when I say that I have a new game that I love: Tak. Beautiful in both simplicity and versatility, Tak is something that I hope will grow in popularity, if only so I have more people to play with. Depending on how it is played, it can be either the most casual and social of games, where one barely competes with the other player, or it can become bloodthirsty and require the mind of chess master and the nerves of a veteran poker player.

The objective is to build a road from one side to the other. That’s it. The goal is that simple. The complication to that simple goal is the other player, who wants to do the same. Who can do it first, and how will you get in each other’s way? Mildly reminiscent of chess and checkers, without the rigidly set moves of chess, Tak encourages twisty, sidewise thinking for getting to your goal. There are many paths to victory, but the real challenge is to play a beautiful game.

Originally conceived of as a detail in The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss, the description of Tak in WMF captured not only my imagination but that of James Ernest, who was in a position to do something about it. After meeting Rothfuss at a gaming convention, Ernest convinced Rothfuss to let him try to bring the game from the books into our world, via Ernest’s company, Cheapass Games.

As those who have read my blogs in the past know, I am a fan of Rothfuss’ writing. The ability to experience his books in such a tactile way immediately appealed to me, but I was worried it would be impossible to replicate the feeling of playing that the main character/narrator conveyed. When it proved to be a pleasure to play, with simple but nuanced rules, I was pleasantly surprised. These days I am always up for a game when time allows, which my older son has taken advantage of. His is a mind at times almost as twisty as Kvothe’s, and he is a past master of many board games, so he acquits himself quite well. I think we stand about even in winnings lately.

The rules are available for free online, and it can be played with improvised pieces, but if you want the actual board and pieces, you can find them here. Would you be interested in trying to play Tak? Have you already played? What other games do you like? Let me know below in the comments. Maybe a learning session or mini-tournament can be arranged after the Winter Holidays!

Daniel Holl
Daniel is a student in his junior year who splits his time between campus and his home in Swarthmore with his wife and children. When he somehow manages to get caught up on his school work, Daniel likes to relax with a fantasy novel or take his dog Mac for a run in the woods.

One thought on “A Beautiful Game

  1. Tak sounds like a pretty interesting board game! I definitely would not mind learning how to play. For me, I’m a fan of this game called Mancala–a turn-based game where you have to gather more stones than your opponent. Pretty relaxing with the potential for strategy. It’s always nice to break away from playing video games and sit down for a nice tabletop game with friends or family.

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