Designer: あかさたな (Akasatana)
Artist: あかさたな (Akasatana)
Publisher: サークル713 (Circle 713)
Playing Time: 5-20 minutes
Times Played: 4 with a purchased copy
Here’s a sign I saw outside my favorite corner bar one day.
When I say favorite corner bar, uh,… I’ve never been inside. It is now closed and I’ll never go in the bar that I loved. I loved it from a far. From traffic. I would drive by it with some frequency and send pictures of the sign to my friend Katy who had moved to Nebraska.
There’s so much to digest here. Madness is spelled with one S. Also, the A is an inverted V. March is spelled with a cent sign for the C. “All” is spelled with a dollar sign and 2 backwards Js. Buckets uses an upside down and backwards L for the T. Something is off with the Ts in Pat and Party, as compared to the T in St, but I’m not sure what. Also, the phrase is “March Madness”; what is Madnes March? How much are $JJ Buckels? When is this St Pat Party?
That place brought me so much joy. This may be an extreme example, but it isn’t atypical of what you’d find on the West Side Cafe sign. Katy and I used to run a bookstore together and now that we don’t, we share many eye rolls over retail minutiae, like the details of inconsistent signage. Before that, she also used to alphabetize for me. I paid her full-time to make sure everything was in the right section and in the right order.
Get Connect is an odd duck. A Japanese game about collecting alphabetically consecutive letters, but the English alphabet. Also, the N and Z are interchangeable.
The box is small. As with most doujin games, everything is compact and there’s little unused volume in the box. Also, components have been sourced economically.
The game revolves around the “Alphabetboard”. It shows the letters A-Z, and, well, back to A. It makes a loop. Your goal will be to score the most points, and you’ll do so by collecting letters that you place on your board and trying to collect those that are consecutive in alphabetical order.
For a single letter without anything adjacent, a player loses 1 point. Otherwise, 2 points for a pair, 4 for 3 in a row, and 6 for 4. If you are able to make more than that, you combine the previous values (5 letters ends up being 6 again, but 6 letters is 8).
There is an “@” piece which is wild and can be placed anywhere. Each player will have been secretly given one letter at the start of the game that they’ll add to their board once the game is over.
Right, when does it end. When the number of available letters on the board is down to a certain number, all players pass consecutively, or no pieces are taken off of the board for a certain number of consecutive turns.
There are also 2 bonus tiles, one secret and one open, which while they aren’t added to your board, add 2 points for collecting the letters on either side of them.
The hexagonal lattice includes 3 types of vertices: open dots, filled dots, and double-ringed dots. The open dots and filled dots are identical other than setup, with the filled dots being where the letter tiles are placed. The double-ringed dots are “warp” locations.
On a player’s turn, they can either pass or move the heart shaped piece to an adjacent vertex. There is a smaller shadow block that follows the heart piece–both marking where it last was and preventing it from moving back to that location. If the heart shaped piece moves onto a letter, the player collects it. If the heart moves onto a warp location, the player immediately moves to another warp location and then to an adjacent vertex.
Points are tracked on the side of the board with miniature clothespins. The rules suggest playing two rounds for a 2 player game, alternating going first, and combining scores from the two rounds.
For 3 player games there is a separate Alphabetboard for the 3rd player. For 4 players, there are two sets of team rules. My game came with four Jacks, one of each suit (and I imagine someone else’s copy has the 2s, and someone else’s the 3s…). Deal one to each player and those are the teams. Sit A-B-A-B. “Variation 4” has the teams not reveal their cards until the end of the game, but the standard team variant has them revealed right away.
Variation 4 must mean there are at least 3 others and there are. Variation 1 has the players reveal the secret bonus piece at the start of the game, and Variation 2 has the players roll dice at the start of the game to determine the value of the bonuses (rather than being a static 2).
Variation 3, well, as if things weren’t quirky enough. The box, in English, is titled Get Connect. The game board shows the “Alphabetboard” label in English, the score chart, the labels for the bonuses, the alphabet you’re working with…all English. But the publisher could not provide me with English rules. Variation 3, which is labeled as being recommended, is about making English words with the letters you’ve collected. The rule sheet has a chart to show the points based upon the length of the word and the designer has clarified that you can make as many words as you are able with the letters from your Alphabetboard.
I wasn’t crazy about the team game, and that was without Variation 4. I wanted control. Each of us having our own hidden letter may have been too much unknown information.
But I’ve been enjoyed it well enough with 2. It’s not great and it may not even be good, but it’s undoubtedly one-of-a-kind. Two-player abstracts are something that I enjoy trying, but are not something I’d expect to see extended play. That probably applies to word games also.
There can be an interesting situation with the initiative, as one player seems to be consistently in a position to use the warp locations exclusively, but soon enough, they’ll find a letter they need that doesn’t necessitate them, or find that they want to pass, and then the faux-initiative will be handed to the other player.
We play with Variation 3, as it was recommended, and it adds a nice twist, as in addition to collecting letters for the purpose of adjacency points, you must be cognizant of what is the most helpful lexilogically.
The FAQ for GET CONNECT includes questions about if the players can use the A/V substitution that the West Side Cafe folks use, or M/W. (The answer is if the other players agree ahead of time.) The West Side Cafe is closed now, but when I visited Katy earlier this year, I took Get Connect with me.