WD40 for your brain

With the new semester looming on the horizon, I'm sure many of us are dreading the return to cognitive endeavors. Getting the gears turning again prior to that first day of class would probably be a good idea. Naturally, your Reverend has a suggestion for shaking off a summer's worth of brain rust...

Tantrix Discovery set

Tantrix is a nifty little game/puzzle that wakes up your problem solving skills. In the puzzle version shown above, each hexagonal tile has three colored stripes on it, and the goal is to make loops out of one color at a time. You begin with three tiles and it takes just a few seconds to solve the puzzle, but once you get up to 6 or 7 tiles it becomes a serious challenge. There are 10 tiles in the starter set, and you can add sets together to make it more challenging.

The competitive version of the game uses a full set of 56 tiles. Each player choose one of the four colors and play alternates, with each player placing tiles from his hand of 6, and replacing them with tiles drawn from the bag. The goal is to build the longest possible line or loop of your color while blocking your opponent's attempts to do the same. The strategy can be as complex as you wish, but the small element of luck (the replacement draw) keeps the game interesting.

A game in progress - yellow is winning with a score of 12.

Another member of the Tantrix family is the three dimensional puzzle known as The Rock.

It is a truncated octahedron, with 8 hexagonal faces and 6 square faces. There are hexagonal and square tantrix tiles which attach to these faces, and the aim is of course to place all these tiles so that all the colored lines match up. Instead of taking the tiles off completely and trying to solve it, it is also possible to just rotate the tiles in place which makes for an easier puzzle.

Tantrix has a rabid following in other countries. If you'd like to try before you buy, there is an online Tantrix community where you can meet (and be beaten senseless by) players from all over the world. Get online and defend America's honor! (that's probably not the most compelling pitch for my regular readers...) I have played and spectated a bit there, and these guys are good. There is a ranking system similar to chess, and a pretty good chat interface that allows the pros to easily tell you what you are doing wrong.

Two person games are the most common. Four person games are mind-bending affairs in which I am usually so far behind that I am left for dead by the time the bag is half empty. Did I mention that these guys are good?

So, give Tantrix a try. The ten-tile Discovery set is currently selling at game stores and Barnes and Noble for about $5. Anybody in the general vicinity of the International Headquarters of the Ministry who would like to try out the puzzle version is welcome to borrow my set.

Travels easily - play anywhere.


Post a Comment