I hesitated for a while to write up Tak. Given the few games I’ve played, I’ve clearly just scratched the surface. But then again, that’s what I already enjoy about the game. With such simple rules, there’s so much to explore. Tak is one of those abstract games that manages a lot of challenging play in a very uncomplicated package.
I’ve also never read the novel from which the game is derived, The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. And yet, perhaps even more than the interesting game play, it’s the imagined history and culture of Tak that has me so engaged.
The game works like this… On your turn you either place a piece (called a “stone”) on an empty square—standing up or laying flat—or you move a single stack of stones already on the board in a straight line, dropping some from the bottom of the stack in every space along the way. Generally, you can’t place a stone on top of a standing stone, that is, unless you do so with the special capstone piece to flatten it. Winning is accomplished by connecting any two board edges with a contiguous line of flat stones, and that is called a “road”.
Tak players of antiquity played with hand-carved pieces of various shapes and sizes. Some were just wooden squares or rounded stones; some were intricately decorated. Standard colors, shapes, and sizes for the pieces vary from time to time and place to place. Travelers typically played 5×5, using simple wooden pieces and an improvised board (or no board at all). Court players typically played the larger 6×6 game. Capstones could be highly specialized, and Tak players often carry their own personalized capstone, even if they don’t carry a whole set.
…So the instructions go, interspersing rules with brief lessons on the game’s archaeology, etiquette, unique terminology, and varying styles of play—short but one of the most enjoyable board game rule books I’ve ever read.
Cheapass Games’ Kickstarter project for Tak has just 10 days to go but is already funded 10 times over. Backers have options for different stone sets, beautiful wood boards, and a book with more on the game’s fictional history.