Monday, March 27, 2017

Ramses - an abstract that the world forgot

Ramses is a game that has bounced back on my radar. I think it's a game that falls under a lot of folks' radar. For one thing, it's an abstract which isn't everyone's thing. For another, it had a very limited publication, although making your own copy is super easy. 

The board, which is small enough to fit on one page, consists of three rows of spaces. The middle row has twelve pieces while the top and the bottom have five, the last space long and stretched out. Plus, five of the spaces have Egyptian hieroglyphs on them.

Both players get four pawns. On your turn, you first move one of your
pawns and THEN one of your opponent's pawns. A pawn must move the number of spaces as the number of pawns in either its column or row, which ever one is greater. You can zigzag but you can't move diagonally or backtrack.

The game ends when either someone has pieces on three of the hieroglyphs and wins or when someone can't complete a move and loses. 

Trust me, if you have the board and pieces in front of you and can show examples, Ramses is super easy to teach and learn. My explanation may have been too complicated.

And Ramses is a head cracker.

The real brain burning part of the game is having to move one of your opponent's pieces and it always has to be after you move your own. Ramses isn't the first game I've played where you move your opponent's pieces. China Moon burned that bridge long ago.

But China Moon has a simpler board (since it's basically a track), simpler movement rules and allows you to move your opponent first, letting you set up moves for yourself. It's still a shockingly deep game for its rules, Ramses is just deeper. 

You have a claustrophobic board that is very dynamic. Every move dramatically changes what moves can be made. And it's all open information so you can see exactly how every move will affect the board. 

I have had a lot of fun with Ramses. It's definitely an interesting game and I have not played it nearly enough to get good at it or figure out some of its tricks. It's a game that keeps me wanting to come back for more.

And, while it's hard to get a manufactured copy, making your own is easy. Heck, you could draw the board freehand and use pocket change for the pieces. I have seen pictures of people making boards out of Carcassonne tiles with meeples for pawns.

And there are plenty of files online that you can use to print off your own board. When I first discovered Ramses, I printed off a board and used glass beads for pieces. When i recently remembered it, I printed off a nice board and laminated it for longevity.

Really, if you're interested in abstracts, there's no excuse not to try Ramses and you owe it to yourself to try it. Of course, if you decided to read this, you probably already have.

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