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[Review] Balanx

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  • Tom Vasel
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 2, 2004
      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
      finally wins.

      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
      roll some.

      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.

      Tom Vasel
      "Real men play board games."
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