[GR] Tom Tube
- I had a lot of enjoyment from both Lost Valley and Bonobo Beach, both
done by the Goslar brothers. When I opened up another of their games,
Tom Tube (Kronberger Spiele, 2004 - Roland and Tobias Goslar), I
thought that it was a perfect match. Any game that bears my name must
be good, and there were more rhombi in this two-player game. The
space theme is one that I'm a sucker for, and thus I was excited to
try it out.
After playing the game, I am certain that it is an excellent
two-player game with deep and interesting strategies available.
Players have a decent selection of options each turn; and while luck
plays a part (in the drawing of tiles), the player who can best see in
the future will win. However, even though I know all this, I just
didn't enjoy the game much. The theme, while it works to some sort of
degree, just failed to work with my imagination, and I didn't like how
it forced me to think in ways I wasn't entirely used to. Tom Tube
seems to be a game that takes several games just to understand it and
was simply too abstract and overwhelming for me. I understood Tom
Tube and appreciated the skill of the design; it just left me a bit
The board is made up of a large hexagon made up of several triangles.
On opposite sides of the board, each player has a base, in which
their astronaut pawn begins. Four solar modules, two for each player,
are spaced on the other four sides of the board, with tubes extending
from each of them as well as the players' bases. A token is placed on
each solar module. Each player is given a pile of triangle pieces
that are either blank or include tubes of their color (red or orange).
Three piles of cubes are placed near the board (yellow energy
counters, blue control counters, and green alien counters). A pile of
rhombi are shuffled and placed face down near the board. Each player
begins with one energy counter, and the younger player goes first with
play then alternating.
The gameplay is actually rather simple, as a player either places a
rhombus on their turn OR moves their astronaut. When placing a
rhombus, a player draws the top one and places it on any two free
adjacent triangles on the board. Occasionally, this will cause a
solitary free triangle to occur, in which case the player chooses one
of their triangles to put in the spot. As rhombi are placed, the
intersections form "spheres", and a network of pipes is built. Pipes
are either red, orange, or "neutral" (half orange, half red). Often,
a rhombus will have an energy sphere in the center of it - onto which
an energy cube is placed immediately. If a completed sphere has only
one pipe extending from it, it becomes a control sphere, with a blue
cube placed on it. Finally, some completed spheres have no pipes
attached to them, causing them to have a green alien cube placed on
When moving their astronaut, a player "drifts", which means that the
astronaut moves in a straight line along a tube of their color. If
the tube turns, the astronaut turns at it but will not turn at
spheres, stopping instead if there is no tube straight ahead of them.
Astronauts may only move through neutral tubes or tubes of their
color, unless the player discards a blue cube, allowing them to move
through tubes of the other player. When an astronaut hits a cube of
any color on the board, the player takes the cube and places it in
front of them.
A player can also move by making a "space jump", which allows them to
move to a sphere one space away, even if there are no tubes. The
player must expend an energy counter to do this. Players are
attempting to retrieve both of their solar counters and bring them
back to their home base. If they do so, the game begins to end - the
other player counting the amount of turns needed to get back to their
home base with this number added to the faster player's score.
Players receive one point for each energy counter, two points for each
control counter, five points for each alien counter, and five points
for each solar counter. The player with the higher point total is the
A player can exchange an alien counter at any time for one control
counter and two energy counters. A player can also lose the game if
their astronaut is lost in space, which means there is no possible way
to get back to its base. Finally, the game can end if no more rhombi
can be placed, and one astronaut returns home. Points are totaled as
normal, but with no bonus for the faster player.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The thin box is covered with artwork that shows tubes
building a space station, although I've never seen a space station as
abstract looking as this one. Beyond this, however, the board and
rhombi are very sharp looking with the red and orange tubes providing
a stark contrast against the pitch black background. The rhombi tiles
are of high quality and are fun to use in contrast with the usual
squares or hexes of most games. The pawns and cubes are the typical
ones found in most games of this type, and everything fits easily into
the box. The game sets up remarkably quickly and is easy to store and
2.) Rules: The four page rulebook has many color illustrations and
examples and explains step by step how to play. Still, I had to read
it several times to grasp the rules, because they just weren't
intuitive to me for some reason. I understood how to place tiles
easily enough, but movement was a little harder to grasp. Not
everyone I taught the game to had the same hang-ups, but grasping
overall strategy eluded all whom I played the game with the first
3.) Experience: A player who is playing Tom Tube for the first time
has a good chance of simply being overwhelmed at what to do. Yes,
getting to the solar modules is a priority, but what is the best way
to do so? When should a player use their cubes? I've yet to see
someone lose their astronaut into space, but I've seen people come
close. Knowing when to "jump", and when to go out of your way for an
alien cube takes experience, and isn't intuitive at all - at least for
me. Even placing the tiles isn't as simple as a task as it seems.
The tile arrangement leads to a cluttered, mangled mess of pipes, and
it's not just a simple matter of connecting your base to the solar
modules. A player who has some idea of how the entire game fits
together will have a stunning advantage over a newcomer.
4.) Strategy: That being said, the game is actually fairly deep,
because a player must carefully balance where they place the rhombi.
A tile that you are placing may seem like a useful connection for you
but also might just set your opponent up for a long drift. Players
can also deliberately form alien and control spheres, just to make the
counters available; but they must also make sure that they can get
there first. Placing the rhombi allows for more options, but in this
game, they also make it a little harder to form in one's mind of how
future rhombi and triangles will play a part. Players must play the
correct triangles; these can often make the difference between a
well-defined network of pipes and a meaningless jumble.
5.) Time: The game box says thirty minutes, and that's fairly
accurate. Since the game has a decent amount of options, mid game
turns can slow down as people fall into "analysis paralysis", and
study the board - but only a few turns are usually this option-filled,
so the game itself goes quickly. What may be surprising is how
quickly the end game comes. Players are busy laying rhombi, and
suddenly, the pipe networks come together; at which point the game
becomes a race. In fact, I suppose that Tom Tube can be considered a
race game, but one in which players set up a maze-like setup of
tracks. One false move can give victory to the other player.
6.) Fun Factor: As much as I like mazes and space, this game just was
a bit too abstracted for me, requiring me to look too far in the
future, with slight mistakes being too costly. I think the
rhombi/counter point system is very well done, and everything works
together smoothly. But the gameplay is smoother than the player, in
this case, and I feel like a clumsy fool trying to participate in
ballet. It's a great experience, but one that I think is for other
Tom Tube is a two-player game that will be a big hit with those who
like games that require a bit of futuristic playing. It's a mixture
of mechanics that work nicely together - in a puzzle type of format.
And since the game feels like a puzzle in which the player who solves
it first is the winner, I just don't appreciate it too much. I
usually like games with unusual and innovative mechanics. Tom Tube
certainly has these, with a depth of play to match, but the end result
just didn't bring me enjoyment - so I'll pass. Folks who like
interesting puzzles and a quick yet deep two player game should check
it out, however.
"Real men play board games"