Dale Yu: Review of Hashi

Hashi

  • Designer: Jeffrey D. Allers
  • Publisher: NSV
  • Players: 1-4
  • Time: 20 minutes
  • Ages: 8+
  • Times played: >10 with prototypes in multiple stages of development as well as review copy of finished product provided by NSV

hashi

Hashi is one of a growing number of popular pencil puzzles – many of which originate in Japan.  Other examples would be Sudoku, Nonograms, Kakuro and Futoshiki.  All of these puzzles require the solver to use logic to figure out the solution.  I know that these puzzles are also very popular in Germany, as each year when I travel there for SPIEL, I see many different magazines featuring these puzzle varieties in the train station news-stands.  

In Hashi, you start with a grid filled with circles, each of which has a number inside them.  Your job is to draw lines or Bridges between these islands, following a few rules.  The rules are fairly simple:

  • There are no more than two bridges in the same direction.
  • Bridges can only be vertical or horizontal and are not allowed to cross islands or other bridges.
  • When completed, all bridges are interconnected enabling passage from any island to another.

Here is an example of an “easy one” – if you like, you can play it online at https://www.conceptispuzzles.com/index.aspx?uri=puzzle/euid/01000000da834cde1dd6f526403103205a6dc80047d246278b288eb25ba726fa1a2282545905033f7917261207c096fa76f8ed73/play

hashi bits

One of our own, Jeffrey D. Allers, has taken this idea and made a fun competitive game out of this puzzle.  Also called Hashi, the box subtitle says “Game – Challenge – Puzzle”.  And that’s exactly what you get.   Each player gets a board (double sided with an easier “A” side and a more complex “B” side) that has 18 islands on it, all of the possible bridge placements, and one set of blue flagged islands and a set of red flagged islands.  

The game also has a deck of 18 cards, each of which has a top part with an numbered island shape and a bottom part with one to three bridges depicted on it.  To start the game, this deck is shuffled and one card is secretly placed in the box, never to be used in the current game.

PXL_20210416_015919242

The players mutually agree on which side of the board to use, and then each player marks a 3 or 4 on any non-flag island and hands the board to the player on their left – in this way, everyone starts with an unpredictable (and likely different) board at the start!.  Then play begins with the top card of the deck being flipped over.

Each time a card is flipped over, each player may perform the two actions on the card, always in the same order.  First, a player may enter the number shown on the top of the card onto any island on the player sheet  An island without a flag can always be used here; but an island WITH a flag can only be used if it already has at least one bridge leading to it.  (Therefore, the number on the first card can only be placed on an island without a flag as there aren’t any bridges on the board yet!)  If a bridge already has bridges leading to it, the number written on that island must be as large as the number of existing bridges (though it could be higher).  The player can also choose to simply not use the number.

Then, the player can draw bridges as shown on the bottom of the card (well, I’d recommend drawing lines than the actual curved bridges…).  Bridges follow the paths of the dotted lines on the board.  At least one end of a bridge must emanate from an island which is numbered.  Bridges may never cross.  You may draw up to two parallel bridges on the same dotted line.  The maximum number of bridges on any island is 6.  An important difference in this game (from the paper puzzle) is that you do not have to create a single network of islands by the end of the game.  It is perfectly legal to have a small network on its own, separated from the rest of the islands.

PXL_20210416_015912707

As you place bridges, check your board for A) Mistakes and B) Finished Islands.  The game asks players to check their boards (and their opponent’s) each round to make sure that all the rules have been followed.  If a mistake is caught early enough, and can be fixed, it is OK to fix it.  Otherwise, the error just has to remain.   While you are checking the board, also look to see if any islands are finished – that is the number on the island exactly matches the number of bridges on it.  If so, the island is finished, draw a big circle around it.  You can no longer draw any more bridges to/from this island.

Now check to see if you have any bonus scoring.  If you have finished all four of the red flagged islands, you score bonus points.  9 points to the first player to do it, 5 to all players who do it later.  If you have finished the three red flagged islands, 7 points for being first, 3 points for later.  Finally, if you are able to make a network of 6 finished islands in a row, score 8 points for doing it first and 4 points if you are not first.

When the round is done and all players have done all their tasks, the next card is flipped up and the process is repeated. Continue this until all 17 cards have been revealed and resolved.  It is highly recommended that you cross off the cards at the bottom of the player board as they are revealed so that you can see what is still coming for the rest of the game (remembering, of course, that one card was discarded to the box in setup).

At the end of the game, you get 2 VPs for each finished island, and add this to the three bonus scoring opportunities that were scored during the course of the game.  The player with the most points wins. There is no tiebreaker.

My thoughts on the game

Hashi is an interesting take on the puzzle/roll and write game.  Games can move along quickly, though there are often a few turns each game where someone needs to take a bit of time to figure out where to place the numbers/bridges.  From what I’ve seen so far, gamers that have had experience with the paper Hashi puzzles will take to this quite easily, and they will have an advantage over the first few games; but I think this evens out after just a little bit of experience.

That being said, I have found myself working too hard to make a full connection of islands (i.e. trying to get a single network) – and that is clearly not necessarily in your best interests.  You are rewarded for a network of at least 6 consecutive islands, but other than that, it is prudent to remember that the other islands can be separate.  This can make the bridge drawing decision a lot easier, and it also can help maximize your finished island scoring.

While the map(s) are the same each time, and you will clearly become familiar with them after a few plays, each game still plays out differently because of the varied island numbers and number of bridges that come up in each game.  It is impossible to “solve” the boards here as a result – also, as your RHO determines your starting island each turn, you can’t come up with a foolproof plan right off the bat each game.

PXL_20210416_013836441

The rules are good, but in a few places, they could be better organized – biggest thing for me is that a rule for placing a number on an island is hidden in a section called “rules for correct bridge construction”.  So, when I was looking for confirmation of this rule, I ended up having to read the whole rule set again because the rule is nowhere to be found near the rest of the rules for putting numbers on islands.

And if I’m going to quibble, I’d also like the scoring boxes on the bottom of the board to be in a different order.  To my logical brain, I’d like the three boxes that are scored in the course of the game to be on the left of the row, and the end game scoring for finished islands to be the rightmost entry.  Yes, I realize that it makes no difference at all, but my OCD tendencies really don’t like this arrangement. 

The components are well done, and I appreciate the fact that this comes in a slim square box – big enough to hold the components, but not overly airy.  The box honestly could have been smaller, but for the size of the boards – but the board size is big enough that you can easily read all the numbers you have to write on it.  The markers that NSV sources are great.  Heck, my original Diceland markers from a few years ago still write like new.  I wish that all of my roll and write games had such nice writing instruments. 

The rules also provide a solo challenge which gives you timing guidelines on when you have to finish the three bonus criteria in order to get the max score.  I have found it harder to remember, and I would have liked the information to be printed somewhere in the sea margins on the sides of the board which are otherwise empty OR even put this info in the scoring boxes where you enter the scores….  (Yeah, I know, the developer in me can’t help but try to tinker with games when I play them)    It has proved to be a nice diversion at work this week, and I have played six of seven games so far, trying to best my high score of 51.  The scoring rubric says to 60 is the best score and doesn’t even rank scores until you get to 40, so I think this confirms that I am perfectly mediocre at this so far… which matches up to my performance in my competitive multiplayer games as well!

Thoughts from other Opinionated Gamers

Dan Blum (1 play):I tend to like the simpler roll/flip and write games, as opposed to the more elaborate ones with lots of bonuses and such, so this is in my sweet spot. Unsurprisingly, I enjoyed it. My only concern is that it seemed a little too easy to complete all the bonuses, so victory was just determined by who got to them a bit earlier. Hard to say based on one game, of course.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it!
  • I like it.  Dale Y, James Nathan, Dan Blum
  • Neutral.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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