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Battle of Lizard

Another small box game from MoZi, Battle of Lizard is a pattern building game where players are trying to achieve a horizontal, vertical or diagonal line of five matching lizards. It's designed by Pin Chen, Yu-Horng Chen, Nai-Fang Hsu, Pei-EnSu and Hsaio-Han You.

Battle of Lizard may sound like a five-in-a-row variant of Connect 4 but the play is very different. Everyone has a card showing the colour of lizard (yellow, red or blue) for which they are trying to achieve a row. That card is kept is kept hidden, although we found that it was pretty obvious early on which colour each player had. Players also have a hand of six domino-like cards that show a lizard at each end. Players take turns to lay a single lizard card to a central tableau, drawing another card to replace it. Unlike dominos, the cards don't have to match up in any way. After the first six cards have been laid out, players can choose to overlay cards that have already been laid.

Lizards can cover previously laid lizards of the colours matching the ties they are wearing. The yellow lizard wears a red neckerchief so can cover a red lizard; the red lizard wears a blue tie, so can be placed over a blue lizard; the blue lizard wears yellow so can cover a yellow lizard. This initially takes some getting used to. On the yellow and red lizards, the tie corresponds with the background colour; it's a pity the same isn't the case with the blue lizard (pictured on a green background) as that would have made the colour recognition easier. In any event, this is probably not a game that lends itself to play by those suffering from colour blindness.

There's a certain cut and thrust to Battle of Lizard as players set up their rows of five only to find an opponent scuppers their plan by overlaying the tiles they've laid. This of course lends itself to strategic placement so that the row of five is suddenly revealed through cleverly placed overlays. The game works as a two-player game, except that it can be frustrating to find your target is a row of, say, yellow lizards and you have successive hands full only of red and blue lizards. Likewise, it can be frustrating to see an opponent setting up their five lizard chain and not have the cards to stop them. This tends to be less of an issue with three players - the sweet spot player count for this game, where everyone has their own different targeted colour. The game accommodates up to six players but, with more than four, players will be sharing objectives. That's OK if you play with six, so that all the colours have two players trying to achieve five in a row, but it is very unbalanced with four or five players as some colours will have two players working to achieve their chains of five while others will have just one player.

Battle of Lizard works as a family game and children will enjoy learning the best strategies for achieving a five lizard run. We weren't convinced of the necessity of having concealed rather than open objectives, except perhaps in a two-player game where there is some scope for offering a feint that hints to your opponent you are going for one colour when you are really targeting the other.

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