Monday, September 21, 2020

A R&W from 1965... don’t get excited

 When I saw 6 Steps, a roll and write game from 1965, I had to make a copy and try it out.

Spoiler: it’s... meh.

The game consists of six rows, each one marked one to six, staggered so they form a set of six steps. You will also need two six-sided dice and something to write with.

On your turn, you roll the dice and use them as coordinates. One die has to be the row and the other die is the number in the row. If you can, circle a number. If the possibilities have already been circled or crossed off, you have to cross off an unmarked number.

The game ends when you either fill up the board or circle all of a row, number or the one column that has six spaces. Scores are based on completing diagonals or rows or that one column.

Clearly, this game scared Reiner Knizia at a young age.

Okay, 6 Steps mechanically works as a game but it has some issues.

First of all, it is so dry. And that’s coming from me! I like abstract games but 6 Steps is so dry that even I think it’s boring. Playing with numbers can be interesting but this is so basic that there’s just not enough to engage me.

And the actual ‘interesting’ choices are what numbers to cross out. Any given combination of dice rolls gives you a choice of two circles at best. Doubles just give you one option. As the game goes on, it quickly becomes crossing numbers out. You hope for points but you’re really doing damage control most of the game.

What 6 Steps really does is make me appreciate other games :D It fails the Yahtzee test. I would rather be playing Yahtzee. I could easily draw a 6 Steps board freehand but I can draw a 30 Rails board free hand and I’d much rather play that. 

Since you have variance in what numbers you can cross out, you could play it Take It Easy style with everyone using the same rolls, which would at least speed the game up. (Yes, it’s dry enough that I want to speed up a ten-minute game) But why would I not play Take It Easy instead? Or Wurfel Bingo or 30 Rails or Criss Cross or 13 Sheep or Karuba or... 

You get the idea.

Okay, I’ll give it this. In a multiplayer game, the game ends when one player fulfills one of the endgame conditions. That can add some tension to the game. That’s still not enough to make me recommend the game.

6 Steps is an interesting historical footnote of a game. It was actually published and decades before Roll and Writes were a ‘thing’. But the fact that someone like me who is into games like this had spent years never hearing about it speaks of how much it deserves its obscurity.

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