Tak, Tested

Posted: May 16, 2016 in Ancient, Books, Fantasy & Sci-Fi, Gaming

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Tak was, until recently, a fictional, abstract strategy game depicted in The Wise Man’s Fear, the second book of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicle, the other series that fantasy fans are desperately willing the author to finish, someday…please.

Well now, while you wait for The Doors Of Stone you can sit down in a tavern with your friends and get to grips with a real world version with Tak, A Beautiful Game, produced by the author in collaboration with Cheapass Games. While the game was described loosely in the book, Rothfuss initially refused an offer to develop the game, believing that it wouldn’t be possible to recreate what was in his head, and also be actually fun to play. However, his mind was changed on being presented with the prototype of the game, which impressed him with it’s elegance and simplicity while still maintaining strategic depth.

Physical versions of the game (there are multiple variations, from a basic set of pieces up to a super fancy board and game box made of bloodwood,) are available from the Kickstarter, which is still open at time of writing, but an early version of the rules is available to download..

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My improvised Tak set: LEGO bricks for the regular pieces and Gandalf and The Balrog from a The Lord of the Rings boardgame as capstones.

Tak is the Kingkiller Chronicle equivalent of Chess, or Go, and has been developed with the intent to convey the same sense of history of being a traditional game, with optional and variant rules, and a distinct flavour to games, depending on who is playing (the decorum of court players vs the cut and thrust of tavern Tak). The fact that the rules are already freely available is a smart move by the designers, as they are now effectively common property, with many players crafting their own Tak sets, which has very quickly given the game some borrowed legitimacy, allowing it to stand alongside truly ancient games as if it really were just as old.

The game itself helps with that, too. The rules are simple, you’re placing or moving pieces (called stones) to try and make a road across the board, while blocking the other guy,a bit like noughts and crosses, though I prefer to compare it to Blockbusters.

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Bob Holness is my Spirit Animal.

But things start to really hot up the first time someone stacks his stone on top of another, as these stacks can then be moved, depositing stones across the board as they go in a move similar to one of those brilliant moments in draughts where somebody skips over multiple pieces. The addition of placing blocking pieces called walls, or the single, all-powerful capstone, makes for a game that is easy to learn, yet is possessed of massive depth.

This would be a great game to play with friends at a party, or take with you to a bar, particularly if you have to teach them all the rules, as when learning, games seem to go very quickly. Though as players become more experienced and confident they can hold each other in a tense deadlock for much longer periods.

The rules and a printable board for Tak are available here [http://cheapass.com/games/tak], and a selection of lavish physical products are available on the Kickstarter. [https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/cheapassgames/tak-a-beautiful-game]


Article by Spike Direction.  You can follow Spike on Twitter @BigBeat1985.

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