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Updated: Apr 27, 2023

This striking creation from Drawlab Entertainment is an abstract two-player tactical game played on a 5 x 5 square board. The pieces are chunky stackable statues reminiscent of those found on Easter Island and each has a number on the back from 1 to 5. Players can see only the numbers on their own pieces; the numbers on their opponent's pieces remain hidden. Numbers beat all those of lower values, except that the lowly 1 beats the otherwise all-powerful 5.

Players start off with all their pieces in stacks of two in their five home row spaces. You've a free choice about how you organise your original set up, so you always keep your opponent guessing. Pieces move orthogonally, either sideways or forward (never backwards). To win, you need to have a five-piece totem-pole-like stack in your opponent's home row.

On your turn, you get to take two moves: either moving one piece twice or two pieces once each. You can freely stack pieces on any of your own by simply moving into their squares. You can also move onto your opponent's piece, in which case you compare values of your piece with the topmost piece on the stack you moved to. If there are two or more opposing pieces in the stack you moved onto, you 'battle' (compare values) with each in turn. So, for example, if you move a 5 onto an enemy stack where the top piece is a 3, the 3 is removed from play; you continue to compare and remove but if and when you encounter a piece that beats yours (in this case a 1), then your piece is removed. If your 'battle' encounters a piece of the same value, that piece remains in place but is blocked until you either move your piece off the stack or until your piece is defeated in a subsequent attack. A piece that's been removed from the game can be 'reincarnated' but at the cost of missing your move actions for a turn.

That's all the rules in a nutshell so you can see that Gábor Incze has designed a game that feels like a cross between Draughts (aka Checkers) and Stratego (Jumbo Games/Hasbro). There's a strong element of both deduction and bluff: is that piece you're advancing a 5 that'll sweep all in its path, except a 1, or are you bluffing? Battles reveal the number of enemy pieces that win, so there's a memory element in keeping track of that information. If you reincarnate a lost piece, its value isn't shared with your opponent (tho' obviously if you reincarnate pieces immediately after you lose them then your opponent will know their value). And note that pieces reincarnate in your home row, so if you manage to occupy all five squares in an opponent's home row then they can no longer reincarnate...

Art is by Nagy Norbert, and with its chunky stacking pieces, TacTiki certainly has a very strong table presence! It plays quickly - judging from our Board's Eye View plays, the 20-30 minutes on the box was dead accurate, and that means it's short enough that it often elicits a 'let's play it again' response.

And, as if TacTiki wasn't already addictive enough, Drawlab Entertainment have included two variants in the box. You can flip the board to play instead on a 4 x 5 grid, omitting the value 5 pieces (and with 1 beating 4 instead), making for an even tighter shorter game, and you can play using 'hazardous field' squares that block movement. TacTiki is a game to which you'll regularly return.

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