Design by: Bruce Whitehill
Published by: HUCH! & Friends
2 – 3 Players, 20 – 30 minutes
Review by: Greg J. Schloesser
NOTE: “Talat” is the Arabic word for three, from which designer Bruce Whitehill apparently drew his inspiration for the game.
Abstract games are not normally my preferred genre of gaming. While I usually admire the clever design and appreciate the depth of thinking involved, I find them, by nature, completely devoid of atmosphere and extremely dry. I generally prefer immersing myself in a game that is rich with theme and atmosphere.
That being said, there are several abstract games I thoroughly enjoy. Twixt was one of the first strategy games I purchased, and I still enjoy the occasional play. Dragons of Kir, Gipf and Dvonn, along with several others, are all abstract games I enjoy playing. Indeed, many of the European-style games I adore are, at their heart, abstract games upon which a thin theme has been lightly pasted.
I can now add Talat to list abstract games that I admire and enjoy. Designed by Bruce Whitehill, Talat is unique in that three players compete for dominance across three different boards. Each player has pieces on two of the three boards, requiring them to keep a careful eye on each. The same situation exists when playing with just two players, but one set of pieces is neutral, which can be moved by either player.
Players begin with a collection of nine geometrically shaped towers, three each in three different shapes: triangles, squares and pentagons. Within each shape there are three sizes. This is important as a tower can capture any other tower that is one level smaller. If towers are the same height, the one with more sides has dominance. The only exception to these rules is known as the “David and Goliath” rule, wherein the small three-sided tower can capture the largest five-sided tower. These are the basic rules of capture.
Players take turns placing towers along the edge of the two boards where the starting spaces match their player color. Each board has a five-by-five grid that is used for placement and movement. When finished placing towers, players will have their towers on two boards and will be matched against a different opponent on each of those boards.
A player’s turn is quite simple: move one tower one space, either forward or diagonally. Backwards and sideways moves are not allowed, nor can a tower jump or occupy the same space as another tower. If you maneuver a tower across a board and onto one of the opponent’s starting spaces, the tower remains there unless it is captured by a sideways capture. An important goal is to move as many towers onto opponents’ starting spaces as possible as they will each score three points at game’s end.
Capturing involves moving a tower one space either forward, diagonally or sideways onto an opponent’s tower. Note that the capture rules described above must be followed. Capturing is the only time a sideways move is allowed. If the height and size rules are in order, the player may capture the opponent’s tower, which is removed from the board and maintained by the aggressor. Each captured tower – regardless of size – will be worth five points at game’s end.
A board can become frozen if no further legal captures are possible. This takes a bit of vigilance and effort to recognize, as not only must the size and height of remaining towers be considered, but also the potential movements of those towers. Players must keep a careful eye on all of the boards to determine when this occurs. When a board is frozen, no further movement or captures are allowed. It is important to make sure you maneuver your towers to the opponent’s starting spaces or make those critical captures before a board becomes frozen.
When two of the three boards become frozen, the game is instantly over. This can occur at the most inopportune moment, just when you are in position to capture an opponent’s tower or move a tower onto their starting space. It is also a wise tactic to drive the game to an end by forcing boards to become frozen … provided, of course, you are winning! Players tally their points – three points for towers on opponents’ starting spaces and five points for captured towers. The player with the most points is victorious. Ties are broken in favor of the player who has captured a tower that ranks higher than those of the other tying players.
Talat is a very clever game that requires considerable thought, careful planning and constant vigilance. One must constantly assess the tower relationships, as well as the potential movement of opponents’ towers. Attempting to maneuver one’s towers into positions wherein capturing opponents’ towers is possible is critical, while at the same time avoiding situations where your towers are threatened. Of course, one must perform these tasks on two different boards, which makes the job doubly difficult. Often it is important to move a tower on each board, but only one can be moved per turn. So, assessments must be made as to which tower should be moved and which one potentially sacrificed. The game is filled with these types of tough choices.
Surprisingly, for the amount of planning, thinking and adjusting that is required, games generally move along at a fairly brisk pace. Most games play to completion in twenty-to-thirty minutes, which is just about the perfect duration for a game of this nature. Adding to the enjoyment is the quality production value of the game, including the sturdy plastic towers. Talat is a fine design that has quickly joined the ranks of the handful of abstract games that I enjoy playing.
Thoughts of Other Opinionated Gamers:
Lorna: As a three player game, Talat provides an interesting challenge. You have to balance your moves over the two boards, sometimes sacrificing a move on one side to make gains on the other. At times, one player may feel “ganged up” on if both other players are making moves against them. I think 3 player abstracts are difficult to balance but I think Talat does a reasonable job.
Dale Yu: I usually like the abstract games as a change of pace, and this fills an interesting niche as a 3-player only game. In my three games, each time one player has essentially been eliminated when the other two simultaneously attacked the remaining player. This was certainly not a pre-planned maneuver, but it didn’t leave me with a great feeling. The production quality is very good, and the short length of the game makes the potential for ganging up on one player a bit less painful as games usually are less than 30 minutes. I’d probably still prefer to play Carolus Magnus when having only three players, but this is certainly something I’d try again.
4 (Love it!):
3 (Like it): Greg Schloesser, Lorna
2 (Neutral): Dale Yu
1 (Not for me):