- I must say that I'm not a fan of abstract strategy games.
Occasionally I'll play one that piques my interest, but as a general
whole I'd rather have a theme thrown into the mix; even if it's one
that's just pasted on. Also, abstract strategy games, such as the
Gipf series, tend to have no random events in them, and a bit of
randomness always adds fun to the mix - so say I. Still, there's
something about marbles that's a lot of fun, and when I saw Balanx
(Fun Connection, 1993 - Kris Burm) on sale for a rather inexpensive
price, I thought that rolling marbles sounded like a fun game. The
idea certainly isn't new, as there are many decades-old games that
feature rolling marbles in some shape or form. Still, the game had a
certain visual appeal and appealing mechanic, so I gladly sat down to
try it out.
And after playing the game, I blinked, and wondered what just had
happened. I won, which is usually cause for great victory and
rejoicing, but didn't know how I had won. I finished getting my
pieces into place before my opponent by only a couple moves, but had
no idea how I had done so, and what strategy I had used. What was
worse, I didn't care. The game was mind-numbing enough that I just
blindly started moving marbles around at one point, feeling like I was
playing a sadistic version of Chinese Checkers, a game I abhor. There
was nothing remotely fun about the game, even the marbles rolled a
total of one space - whoopee! - and the fact that I won was not a
cause for triumph but one of relief that the game was over.
A tilting black board is set in front of the players, with two steel
balls placed in two long tracks on each side of it - I think to keep
the balance intact. Each player then places ten large glass balls
(slightly smaller than a "shooter" marble) in a triangular formation
in the spaces on one corner of the square directly opposite one of the
rolling marbles and across the table from themselves. One player
starts the game, and then turns rotate until one player thankfully
On a turn, the player first tilts the board in their direction, which
may move some of the marbles one space in a most exciting way, causing
jaws to drop from passerby. The player then has two thrilling
choices: jump a marble over another marble orthogonically, or simply
move a marble sideways only. Play then passes to the other player.
The first player to have all the marbles in their side of the board
filled in that same triangular patter wins the game, even if some of
the marbles are of the other player's color. That's basically all the
rules to the game.
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: The black and white glass marbles are really nice;
and when they are set on the board, it really presents a striking
abstract look - one that would look nice on a coffee table, as long as
the marbles didn't keep falling on the floor at the slightest bump.
The plastic insert in the boring-looking box holds everything in well.
2.) Rules: The rules come on a simple sheet of paper that is longer
than what I typed, but only because the rule writers wanted you to
know what a superb game of strategy you picked up. The game is very
simple to teach, and players pick it up fast (putting it down faster!)
3.) Strategy: I had to laugh when I read in the rules that the game
was different because you started with your pieces away from you, and
had them come towards you. Apparently this makes the game more
strategic! Really? So if I rotate a chess board 180 degrees and play
it backwards, it makes the game more exciting! Hold me back!!!
Really, though, if you are good at Chinese Checkers, I'm sure you'd be
good at this game; it's basically the same thing, except the marbles
4.) Rolling and Fun Factor: I thought that the rolling marbles would
help make the game more interesting. I was quite annoyed that hardly
a marble rolled during the game, as the board was quite jammed packed;
and that when they did roll, it was only one space! Oh, the sheer
fun! When we were done, both of us sighed and were glad it was over.
I had no idea why I had won, and my opponent had no idea why they had
lost. And even though the game had taken probably only twenty minute,
they were long enough to feel like an hour.
I definitely don't recommend this game at all. I bought it on
clearance, and you'd think that I would learn by now that really cheap
games are probably ones that aren't that fun. I dislike abstract
strategy games, so that may have some bearing on my opinion; but for
the love of all that's abstract, if you're going to play one of these
games, at least play one that makes you think and lets you enjoy
yourself. I'd rather play checkers than Balanx again, and that's even
with the cool marbles! If you're looking for a good strategy game
with marbles, this isn't it; but if you need some good "shooters" for
your marble collection, the price on this game often runs cheap enough
that maybe you can chuck the game and go have some real fun, using the
marbles for what they were intended.
"Real men play board games."