- Designer: Roberto Fraga
- Publisher: Mandoo Games
- Players: 2
- Age: 8+
- Time: 20 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by Mandoo Games
Roberto Fraga has a history of making games that use reflections as a main component of play (Princess Jing immediately comes to mind) – and in Reflecto, the idea is used in a word game. According to the rules, the game is set in the seventh story of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale “The Snow Queen”. After a long journey, Gerda found Kai alone in a frozen pond. The Snow Queen agrees to save him if Gerda solves a puzzle of matching frozen letters and words. In this game, players take on the roles of the Snow Queen and Gerda – trying to either complete their own word or guess what their opponents word is.
The board is placed on the table and each player takes a set of 7 screens, 5 erasable screens and 2 mirror screens. Players each choose a 5 letter word and write it on their player board. Then, each of the 5 erasable screens gets one of the letters from the word written on it. The seven screens are then placed on the first row in front of the player.
On your turn, you move one of your screens. A screen can move one space in any direction, including diagonally. Or, if there is a screen in an adjacent space (vertically, horizontally or diagonally), your screen can jump over that piece and land in the empty space on the other side. The obstructing screen can be either yours or your opponents. It is possible to combine jumps so long as there are suitable landing spaces for each jump.
If you are moving your mirror screen, if you put it in the right place (generally directly behind it), you’ll get a look at the letter written on that screen. You can remember this, or make a note of it on your player board. Don’t tilt the screen to see other things, and anyways, you probably don’t want the other player to know that you are looking at your mirror. It’s probably best that they don’t know this.
Conversely, if you are moving a letter screen, you might want to make the jumps as quick as possible as you don’t want your opponent to get a free peek in case you move yours in front of their mirror screen…
When your letter screens make it to the far edge of the board, you can remove them at any time (and place them facedown). However, the screens must be removed in the same order as they are in your word – that is, the first letter in your word must be the first screen removed from the board, and so on. It is also possible to jump off the board if there is an obstructing screen in the appropriate place.
There are two ways the game will end. If you remove all five of your letter screens (again, in the correct order) – you win. Alternatively, on your turn, you can make a single guess at what your opponent’s word is. If you guess correct, you win; else you lose.
Thoughts on the game
This is an interesting tactical game where you are racing to get your pieces into the right places – whether it is racing your letter tiles to the other edge of the board or getting your mirror tile in the right place to glimpse a view of your opponents letters.
There is a bit of fiddliness with the mirrors – you are trying to be secretive about which of your screens are letters and which are mirrors. So, you really need to look quickly and try to hold off on making notes until your opponent isn’t sure what you have done. The rules also have some hard-to-enforce rules that you’re supposed to sit up at all times and not lean too much to the left or right so that you can’t sneak a peek at a screen that isn’t directly behind your mirror. For us, we just simply play and not worry about this – trying to hold to the spirit of the rules without having the posture police come into play.
That being said, we did have some issues seeing the letters in the mirror. When all the pieces are placed in the middle of their board square, you can only easily see the bottom most part of the opponent’s letter. We had to write very small and at the very bottom for us to be able to see the letters without having to contort ourselves (which is against the rules AND then gives away that you’re trying to use a mirror).
The game plays out surprisingly quick – I think this is in part due to the possibility of jumping pieces, and chaining those jumps together. The speed at which the pieces can move across the board is something that takes a bit of getting used to. Games definitely fall into the 10-15 minute range here, and as a result, the game never outstays its welcome.
Rules are fairly clear, but the layout is a bit weird. The bulk of the rules are in black text, but then a few important rules are in Red and smaller font. They are clearly preceded by “Note” – but my brain glossed over these rules on the first read through. It might have been easier to leave them in the main rules, and perhaps bold them. The smaller size made my brain think it was just a caption to a picture rather than the most important rule in the game. Don’t miss the fact that your letters must be removed in the correct order; i.e. the first letter in your word has to be the first letter removed from the board.
There are a number of variants included in the rules to make the game easier or more difficult, as well as ways to balance out varied player skill. As such, the game should be able to work with most any pair of players – though of course the youngest players may not have enough vocabulary to really compete – though the older player could stick to simple words to help out here.
Reflecto is an interesting take on the word game genre – there isn’t anything quite like it as far as I can remember. The addition of the board and mirror adds a tactical component that is refreshing. While you need all of your word skills to try to guess your opponent’s word; if you are skillful enough at the board movement part, you might just win by getting everything off the board first! If you are looking for a word game with a different twist, this could fit the bill…
Until your next appointment
The Gaming Doctor