Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Sunday, 15 December 2013

Viking Orders

Mijnlieff is an award-winning game from Hopwood Games, designed Andy Hopwood, a boardgame designer who lives local to me. Winner of the Best Abstract Game at the UK Games Expo 2010, Mijnlieff is all about controlling your opponent’s turns, forcing where they can play a piece whilst you try and lay the most lines of three. Designed for two players, Mijnlieff has a Viking theme and is essentially a variant of ‘Noughts & Crosses’ or ‘tic tac toe’, but a very clever one at that.

The game consists of four plain playing squares, each marked with four squares, and two sets of eight playing pieces, one white, the other red. The playing squares are usually laid out to create a four-by-four square grid, but other layouts are possible. Each set of playing pieces consists of four tiles – two Straights, two Diagonals, two Pullers, and two Pushers. When played, each tile tells an opponent where he must place his next tile. A Straight tile forces the other player to play a tile orthogonally to the one played; a Diagonal forces him to play a tile diagonally to the one played; a Puller forces him to play a tile adjacent to the one played; and a Pusher forces him to play a tile away rather than adjacent to the tile played. The playing tiles are clearly marked and easy to understand.

Each turn a player places a single tile. If a player cannot place a tile because he is blocked, then he loses a turn. For each line of three tiles – orthogonally or diagonally – that a player can lay, he scores a point. The player with the most points wins the game.

Mijnlieff is a simple game, but it does force a player to think about the consequences of his next move. Not only that, but he needs to think about what his opponent will play and how he can stop him. It is thus much thoughtful a game than the traditional ‘Noughts & Crosses’ or ‘tic tac toe’ and as a consequence takes a little longer to play. It is still a quick game though, and several games can be played in quick succession.

If there is an issue with Mijnlieff, it is that it is only available from Hopwood Games, but the good news is that Astraware has adapted the game as an app available for iOS and Android devices. It is free to download, but to get the very fullest use of the game does require in-game purchases – these include being able to play against more than two opponents at a time and to be able to rearrange the board other than a square. Once downloaded, the tutorial quickly teaches you how to play and then you are off, defeating – or not, one Viking after another, each progressively a more challenging opponent. In addition, you can play against your friends, random opponents, or with an opponent with the device between you. Visually, the game is well presented, there being a satisfying heft and click as the playing tiles are played and a slightly sharp ringing sound as lines are scored.

Either version of Mijnlieff is worth adding to your games collection. Both serve as an excellent, if thoughtful filler game for two players – there being advantages to both versions. It is a clever variation upon a very basic game, the one that we first played when we were children, that in Mijnlieff offers more play and more challenge.