[Review] Pacru, Shacru, and Azacru
- When I first read over the rules for Shacru, which is one of the
three games included in Pacru (Pacru Ltd., 2004 - Mike Wellman), I
immediately thought of the old movie Tron, or the video game
Centipede. Players race their pieces around the board, leaving a
trail behind them, and this abstract game appealed to me since I had
always liked games such as this. With the simple pieces that came in
Pacru, there are three rule sets: Shacru, Azacru, and Pacru (fun to
say, huh?). After many plays, I consider all three games variations
on the same theme (although they do play fairly differently), but the
author insists that they are three separate games - and indeed they
have three entries at www.boardgamegeek.com.
Either way, I have to say that Pacru was for me quite the enjoyable
game. While "Pacru" was easily the most complicated of the three
games and possibly the deepest strategically, I found myself
continually drawn to playing Shacru, mostly because of its sheer
simplicity. But all three games were enjoyable to me and the other
adults I played with. Teenagers did not seem to have the same
enjoyment of the game as I did; I taught the game to many of them, and
while they understood it, they really weren't too enthused about it.
All three of the games use the same components. Each player receives
three or four triangular pieces, (chevrons) as well as a box of
smaller "marker" pieces of the same color. The board is made up of a
nine by nine grid of spaces - split into nine "regions" - very similar
to a Soduko board. Each space is an eight pointed star, pointing at
one other space (or the side of the board.)
In Shacru, players move one chevron on their turn - moving it either
straight forward, or turning it forty-five degrees and then moving it
straight forward one space. After moving to the new space, the
chevron should be facing in the direction that it just moved, and a
marker is placed in the space the chevron is currently sitting.
Players may not move a piece into a space containing either another
chevron, or a marker of an opponent's color. When crossing a "border"
(the lines between the nine regions of the board), players also have
the option of rotating the chevron forty-five degrees AFTER moving.
When a player cannot move one of their chevrons, they pass; and the
game continues until all of the players cannot move any of their
chevrons. At this point the number of markers on the board is
totaled, and the player with the most is the winner!
In Azacru, the same basic rules apply as in Shacru. However, other
options are available. Each chevron now has the "power of movement",
which means that they can move between one space and their "power".
This power is determined by the number of player's markers in a
region. So if my chevron is in a region with four markers of my
color, it can move between one or four spaces in a straight line.
When a chevron moves from a spot containing one of its markers to
another spot containing one of its markers, all the markers in between
are changed to that player's color. Players can also jump another
player's chevron in the same way, but then cannot change the markers
to their own color. Again, play continues until all players cannot
move, at which point the number of markers on the board is totaled,
and the player with the most is the winner!
In Pacru, the entire game changes. Pieces move as they do in Azacru,
with "power of movement", however several new moves and rules are
allowed. When a player's chevron crosses a border into a new region,
they may place a marker on ANY neutral space in that region, unless
there are none - in which case they can replace an opponent's marker.
If, on a player's turn, they could move two different chevrons to the
same space that an opponent's chevron is sitting on, then a "pincer"
is formed. They can move one of the two chevrons to the space,
eliminate the opponent's chevron, and place one of their markers in
the space. Players can also form a "meeting", in which two of their
chevrons are directly pointing at each other, both on a space
including a marker of that player's color. If a "meeting" occurs, the
player may place their marker on any space on the board. A player can
also, instead of moving on their turn, re-orient one of their pieces.
If they re-orient it forty-five degrees, they must remove two of their
markers from the board, removing four markers if they re-orient it
ninety degrees. Players can only re-orient a piece if one of their
pieces can still move. If a player cannot move one of their chevrons
on their turn (or all their chevrons have been eliminated), then they
lose the game. Otherwise, the game ends when a player places a
specified number of markers on the board (determined by number of
players). This player is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The game I have is called "Series 302", and was
produced in 2005. Several other versions have been made, including
some rather deluxe versions with beautiful tiles. My Pacru comes in a
rather plain looking box, with a photograph of the game on it, and
pieces of the game adorning the sides. The board is simply a large
grid of star spaces, split into nine regions by thick black lines.
Each of the four sets of pieces comes in a small box with lid of that
color (yellow, red, green, and black). The pieces are all wooden -
with the markers being small cylinders, and the chevrons triangular
pieces that remind one of an arrowhead. The game certainly looks
abstract; and while it's pleasing on the eye, it is "no frills".
Everything fits easily inside the square box; and I really liked the
four smaller boxes, as they kept all the pieces organized quite well.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is very clear, showing the rules for all
three games and color illustrations of each, showing different
examples. All three games can be taught easily, with Shacru being
learned in less than a minute. Pacru is certainly the hardest, as
players have a lot to deal with on their turns, and will probably
easily lose to an experienced player. One can go to the website for
the game (www.pacru.com) and play a web version of all three games, to
get a feel for the rules. But even though I've said that Pacru has
the hardest set of rules, they're still fairly simple compared to
other games - only the strategies are more difficult.
3.) Games: While the author maintains that the three games are
completely different, I would submit that Azacru is simply an advanced
form of Shacru, and that Pacru, while completely different, is a
"cousin" of the other two. But it doesn't really matter. When buying
this game, you'll get three different games in one box - each of which
plays differently, and all of which use the exact same pieces. Shacru
is my current favorite of the three, since it allows more
socialization when playing (not as much thinking is required as in the
analysis heavy Pacru).
4.) Shacru: Most games of Shacru that I've played end in fairly close
scores. Players usually lose because of a stupid mistake that they've
made, as they allow a chevron to be forced into a corner or plow into
the path of another player's color. I enjoy Shacru with four players
best, although it works fine with three and two.
5.) Azacru: Scores for this game aren't nearly as close as Shacru,
because one clever move by a player can result in the changing of four
or more spaces to their color. Instead of moving around the board,
trying to "cut off" their opponents, players must constantly watch to
see where chevrons might "jump" into other territory. Azacru is my
least favorite of the three games; not because I dislike it, but
because if I want to play with the fancier moves, I like to play
6.) Pacru: This is certainly a game in which a player must be on
guard at all times. Losing a chevron to a Pincer is devastating, and
players can quickly find that their pieces can get stuck in corners
and be unable to move. While Shacru and Azacru are fun games, in
which players can sit around and laugh and talk while playing, Pacru
is a much more focused, intense experience. Even though players only
have one type of piece - and only three or four of them, the options
they have are great, and they must take care to watch out for traps
set up by their opponents. I find Pacru plays best with two, because
the level of intensity is that much higher.
7.) Ages: I'm not sure why I couldn't get the kids to enjoy the game.
They usually like abstract games, but this one flopped with them -
and with more than one group. Adults seemed to enjoy the game
greatly, though, so perhaps it's a game that appeals more to a higher
8.) Fun Factor: Shacru and Azacru will be more fun for the "lighter"
crowd, the folks who want a simple game of strategy, but one that
doesn't require absolutely all of their attention and concentration.
Pacru will appeal more to those who enjoy a "meaty" game, one in which
they must maneuver their pieces to the best of their ability. In a
glance, I can tell who is winning in a Shacru game. It's much more
difficult looking at a Pacru board, as the pieces look scattered and
in chaos (they're not).
If any of these three games sound interesting to you, then it's worth
picking up. Really, I like all three; and while Pacru can be too
intense for me at times, Shacru is always available and easy to find
opponents for. If you're looking for a game that has three different
rule sets - from simple to rather strategy-heavy, then Pacru is
certainly worth looking into. If nothing else, you can try it out
online before purchasing to see if this type of abstract game is for
"Real men play board games"