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Town 66

Another entry in the series of small box games from Oink, Town 66 is a game that's notionally themed around town planning. Actually tho, it's an abstract puzzle game designed by Christoph Cantzler and Anja Wrede where players are placing out tiles to orthogonally adjacent positions in a 6 x 6 grid. The tiles come in six colours and six shapes, and on your turn you need to place a tile so that it does not duplicate either the colour or shape of any other tile in its row or column. Think of it as a Sudoku variant.

The 1-4 players each start with a hand of four tiles drawn from a bag, and players each have a small tile rack to hold the tiles so that the player can see the colour and shape but other players can only see the colours of opponents' tiles. This gives players limited but useful information: if I know an opponent has two yellow tiles, for example, I might deliberately choose to play a yellow tile because I know that's going to reduce their placement options.

On your turn you place out one tile and you draw another. If you ever have three tiles of the same colour, you can discard them and redraw. At the end of any of your turns, after you've placed and drawn, you can decide to discard a tile to permanently reduce your hand size. This is a clever push-your-luck device: it takes you closer to meeting a potential win condition of using up all your tiles. The risk tho' is that with fewer tiles you increase the possibility that you have no legal play (ie: there is no position in the grid to which you can play any of your tiles). If that happens, you are eliminated from the game. And running down your hand too early in the game won't guarantee you a win: if two or more players exhaust their hands, the win goes to the player that did this last...

The design for Town 66 is simple but effective, and it works especially well as a two-player tactical tussle. Tho' there is player elimination (either because you cannot place a tile or you've deliberately run your rack down to zero) you won't be sitting on the sidelines waiting for the finish for very long because Town 66 takes no more than 15 minutes to play. This then is a great little filler-length puzzle game that takes up very little space on your shelves or in your suitcase. Oink have done their usual sterling job over the production and packaging: the box may be small but it comfortably accommodates the tiles, racks and draw bag, and the art from Jun Sasaki serves its function well. And even tho' colours might seem critical to the game, the design thoughtfully incorporates dot patterns that colour-blind players can use to supplement the colours to distinguish tiles from each other.

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