So, let’s talk about For The Win. It’s a new project launched on Kickstarter by the folks over at Tasty Minstrel Games that seems to have come from nowhere that caught the imagination of the pledging public when TMG’s owner Michael Mindes announced that the game would be initially funded under a Pay What You Want deal. With seven hundred people signing up for that within a couple of days, the game is nearly two thirds of the way to funding with just under three weeks to go on the campaign. The question is should you chuck your money behind this project?
Well, to decide that you’ll want to know what the game’s about – and if it’s any good… Ostensibly it’s a simple abstract for two players that – from the outside at least – feels very much like John Yianni’s classic Hive. Players each get ten double sided tiles split into five pairs, each represented by a different icon. Some of the internet’s favourite things are the stars of this game with Ninjas, Monkeys, Pirates, Aliens and Zombies coming together in a battle for the ages – and you’ve got two of each of them on your side. The objective is straightforward enough: get the five different icons face up and adjacent to each other (orthogonally, diagonally or a mix of both) before the other person does by adding tiles to the grid, moving them around and flipping them.
At the start of each round, players are given five actions that can be used in ones and twos before passing over to your opponent. These actions are your standard move a tile / shove a line affairs, but that flipping aspect is a whole new thing. By turning a tile face down you activate that creature’s power, each one allowing you to do something a little different to the playing grid. The Ninja, for example, can be moved to any location on the play space, showing how stealthy and sneaky it can be, while the Zombie infects pieces around it turning them undead. The Pirate’s power allows you to move any other piece (firing them out of a cannon), the Alien attracts pieces towards it (tractor beam) and the Monkey flips over all adjacent tiles thanks to its banana skin power.
It’s a quick playing game that – thanks to its portability – can be pretty much set up anywhere as long as you’ve got a flat surface. Despite the simple ruleset it’s got quite a lot of think to it. You’ve really got to pay attention to what the other player is doing while trying not to screw up your own plans. A game can switch from victory within your grasp to utter defeat in a couple of turns if you don’t focus, so don’t take the cutesy icons for granted! Also, with clever play you can actually turn the game round so you can get a stack of actions to play through while your opposition sadly shakes their head, frustrated that you’re wiping the floor with them… and there’s nothing they can do.
The addition of powers and the decisions you need to make regarding spending your actions mean that For The Win is no Hive rip-off. It’s a whole new deal from designer Michael Eskue that feels fresh and fun – and this isn’t even the finished version of the game. I’m trying out the print and play demo; all I have is a few bits of paper stuck on card and I can still see the game shining through. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on the final version which will come with big chunky plasticised tiles, adding a level of tactile appeal that’s always nice to have.
If you’re interested in getting a copy yourself, there’s only one way: get yourself over to Kickstarter (here’s a link to make your life easy) and put your money where your mouth is. The game will eventually be available through regular retail channels, but to keep ahead of the pack you’ll want to back the campaign. This is a quality little game that deserves your attention – even if you’re not totally into abstracts, For The Win has that combination of quick playtime and straight-up enjoyment that could be enough to change your mind for good!