Graham’s Games, designed by Graham Lipscomb: 2 players

Review from *Sumo Magazine* December 1995

Two player abstracts are as common as little German card games and they nearly always have a blurb on the box that proclaims them to be deeper than chess. This is invariably a lie and they are nearly always forgotten within a year. They are also not to everybody’s taste and indeed I rarely buy them myself. However, this game and its companion have an originality and a subtlety that lifts them above most of the competition and if you do enjoy such classics of the genre as Abalone, Cul de Sac, Pagode and Twixt, they are well worth your attention.

Creeper is a game that you might have invented yourself if you had had a Reversi set, some pawns, an original turn of mind and the right pattern on the bathroom floor. All gamers know that you can tile the plane with regular hexagons. If you try to do the same with regular octagons, you find that they don’t quite fit together and that you need some small square tiles to fill the gaps. It is this tesselation of octagons and squares that provides the board for Creeper. The four corner octagons are home bases, two white and two black, with each player’s pair of bases being at opposite ends of a diagonal. The object is to connect your two bases with a path of discs in your own colour.

So far the game is another in the tradition established almost fifty years ago by Piet Hein’s game, Hex, a game of interest to mathematicians as well as gamers, because we can prove that there is a forced win for the first player but nobody knows what the moves needed to achieve it actually are. Where Creeper strikes out on its own is that it is not the path-making discs that provide the main play, but a set of pawns. Each player has eight of these and they begin on the edge of the board, near the home bases.

They move on the squares and the options are (1) a simple move along a line to an adjacent square; (2) a leap across an octagon to the square on the other side; (3) a leap over an adjacent pawn of the opposite colour. If it is an opposing pawn that is jumped over, the leaped piece is captured and removed from play. If it is an empty octagon, a disc of your colour is placed there and if it is an octagon occupied by a disc of your opponent’s colour, the disc is flipped so that your colour comes to the top. It is a nicely logical set of rules and they make for interesting play. The best of these path making games are generally reckoned to be Alex Randolph’s Twixt and Eric Solomon’s Thoughtwave, but my early impression is that this game belongs up there with those two. The game is very well presented and with the rules comes a booklet containing an illustrated and annotated game to help you shorten the learning process.

- Stuart Dagger

Graham’s Games, designed by Graham Lipscomb: 2 players

Review from *Sumo Magazine* December 1995

Part of my mission at Essen was to make games inventors feel good by giving them the opportunity to beat me at their own games. The inventor of Abalone gave me a demonstration of that excellent and very successful game and Graham showed me the way home at this one.

Once again the board is an attractive tesselation, this time built up from circles. If you arrange six touching circles to form an approximation to a hexagon, you have the basic building block. Then fit these blocks together so that each shares two of its circles with each of its neighbours and you have the playing area. The playing pieces are dice-red and black for each of the two players and some special ones for doing the scoring. At any one time you have five dice of your own colour in front of you. This is your hand and from it you place dice on the board in an attempt to score points. Points are scored by achieving one of the permitted scoring patterns round one of the circles and there are rules governing what can sit next to what which ensure that the game is primarily about strategy rather than dice rolling.

The scoring patterns are: The numbers 1 to 6 in order around a circle this scores 5 points; two adjacent numbers alternating round a circle e.g. 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4 - this scores 3 points; and a completed circle fitting neither of these patterns, which is worth just 1. In all cases the points go to whichever player owned the dice which contributed the higher total to the sum of the numbers round the circle. So my 1, 3, 6 loses out to your 2, 4, 5 on a 5-pointer. When you place a die on the board, the number it shows must be exactly one away from those on all adjacent dice. In addition to placing dice on the board you may slide dice that are already there around. When you do this the number that they display changes - up one for each move of an opposing die and down one for each move of one of your own. Quite clever that because it means that as you break up your opponent’s positions you are forced to increase his scoring potential in other places, with the opposite effect on your dice as you manoeuvre them into better places. When you place dice on the board you roll new ones to bring your hand back up to five and there are also re-roll options to help you improve a bad hand. So, a precise and slightly complicated set of rules, but they are also very logical and you pick them up quickly. So quickly in fact that at the two thirds point of our game, Graham was very worried that I was picking them up too quickly and that he was going to lose. Two reasons for that: the first is my Marvin-like cranial capacity and the second that he couldn’t roll a 3 to save his life.

As with Creeper, the presentation of the game is first class, the rules are clearly written and there is a supplementary booklet with an illustrated example game to help you pick things up.

- Stuart Dagger

Review from *Games Games Games*, December 1995

Colliding Circles and Creeper are two new two-player strategy games from Graham’s Games. I played them at Furrycon and thought them well worth another look.

Creeper is an abstract strategy game for two players aged 8 to adult. It could be played by even younger players but, being pure skill, it is most likely to appeal to adults.

The game consists of a very nice board, 16 pawns (8 white, 8 black), and 32 double sided ownership discs. The board is essentially a grid of squares; 6 by 6. Each player starts off with ownership of two opposite corner squares and aims to own a chain of squares which will connect them. The pawns sit on the intersections between squares and have a choice of moves. They can make a diagonal jump across a square to capture it, or they can move horizontally or vertically along the lines between the squares. Normally they can only move one intersection, but they can move two if by doing so they are jumping over and removing an enemy piece. You can only capture an enemy piece during a horizontal or vertical move, so you have to choose between capturing a vital square and removing an enemy piece: this is where the fun comes in. Do you aim at manoeuvring for position or go all out for making a quick connection?

This is a fairly good little game. I’m not sure how much long term appeal it has, but as it only takes one minute to set up, five minutes to explain, and about twenty minutes to play, it’s ideal for playing at conventions while waiting for a longer game to start.

Colliding Circles is an abstract game for two players aged 10 to adult. As with Creeper, Graham Lipscomb (the designer) has provided good quality game components. In this case a board, 56 normal dice (28 red, 28 black), and 19 scoring dice. The board consists of 19 circles, each one made up of 6 spots on which a die will go. The circles are all intersecting (hence the name), so that most dice hold a position in three circles.

The aim is to score points by owning circles. When all spots on a circle are occupied, players add up the value of their dice, and the higher total owns it. The best circle a player can own has dice going in order from one to six and is worth 5 points. A circle with an alternating pair of numbers (e.g. 3, 4, 3, 4, 3, 4) is worth 3 points, and any other circle is worth 1.

To play the game, each player rolls five dice. During an average move, you can move one die already on the board, place up to two dice from your hand, and then roll to make your hand back up to five. Of course it’s not quite so simple as that. When placing a die, it must go next to a die already on the board, and must be exactly one more or one less than each adjacent die (1 being next to 6). So you could only place a 2 in between a 1 and a 3 for example. When moving a die, you must reduce its value by one (if it’s your own), or increase it if it’s your opponent’s, for each space moved. All this means that you are heavily restricted on what you can do. More importantly it means that you can see what your opponent will be able to do on his/her turn, and stitch him/her up!

I like this game. With most simple two player strategy games, you play until one player makes a mistake, and then it’s all over. In this game, the situation keeps changing, depending upon what dice each player holds, but not so fast as to prevent some planning ahead. You are constantly trying to set up 5 point circles you will control, while at the same time trying to sabotage any circles your opponent looks like controlling so that they will only be worth 1 point to him/her.

All in all, Creeper and Colliding Circles are a good pair of games for your two-player strategy game collection

Creeper and Colliding Circles were designed by Graham Lipscomb and are published by Graham’s Games. Both are for two players and take 20-30 minutes to play.

*GAMES GAMES GAMES No. 97* December 1995

Graham’s Games

Review from *Games & Puzzles*, July 1995

Creeper is the first of two offerings this month from Graham’s Games. I could say that at first glance it looked like a cross between Connections, Othello and checkers, but that would be doing Creeper a disservice. The only real similarity is the ease with which you can pick up the rules and get stuck straight into exploring some strategies.

The board consists of a 6x6 array of octagons with each player having two bases at opposite corners of the array. The object of the game is to connect these two bases together by a chain of octagons of your colour.

You start the game with 8 pawns which are used to capture the octagons. The pawns move between the square voids between the octagons in three ways:

1) they can move horizontally or vertically to an adjacent square (i.e. along the edge between two octagons), 2) take an opposing pawn on an adjacent square by jumping over it to the free square immediately beyond, 3) capture or recapture one of the octagons by jumping diagonally across it.

The rules are thus very simply explained but this is one of those games with complex strategies to discover. The compactness of the board and the mobility of the pawns especially on their taking diagonal moves means that an apparent positional advantage can disappear very rapidly. Control of the middle of the board is very important, but your opponent can very quickly build a path round the outside cutting off this middle region from one of the bases if you aren’t careful. My only quibble is that white playing first seems to have quite an advantage.

The presentation is functional not lavish with plastic playing pieces. The rules are well explained and the example game very instructive but it would have been useful to have some suggested handicaps for uneven matches.

Overall Creeper is another of those minute to learn, lifetime to master games that will keep abstract game fans occupied for many weeks.

Rating: 5 out of 6

- Anthony Steed

Graham’s Games

Review from *Games & Puzzles*, July 1995

If I told you that Colliding Circles comes with seventy five dice, you might assume that this was a war game with a horribly complicated combat system, but, no, this is a well thought out strategy game.

The board consists of 19 interlocking rings each formed from six spots. Dice are placed or moved onto the spots until a ring is full at which point the player with the highest dice total wins that ring. The score for a ring depends on the sequence of numbers showing: 5 for a "wolf" - a run from 1-6, 3 for a "fox" - an alternating sequence, 1 for a "goose" - otherwise.

The mechanics of playing the game appear quite complicated at first, but once you get into it they are entirely logical. You start the game by rolling a hand of five dice, which you replenish after each move by rolling replacements. A move consists of 3 stages, none of which is compulsory. Firstly you may manoeuvre one of the dice on the board to an alternate spot. If it is your own die you must decrease its value, otherwise you must increase it. Secondly you may place a die from your hand on the board adjacent to any other die. Thirdly you may place a second die or re-roll one of the ones in your hand. The golden rule is that adjacent dice must differ by exactly one point at all points during the game.

This seemingly complex turn structure plays very well and is a mark of the thought that must have gone into choosing this particular system out of the numerous possible variations. The random element does not make the game too unpredictable since the opponents can see each other’s hand and can plan accordingly. Of course rolling high numbers is advantageous when the aim of the game is to get higher ring totals, but there are many ways to defend against an attack on a ring and it is difficult to press an advantage to gain a wolf without a good position and a good range of die values in your hand.

Overall Colliding Circles is a fascinating and well thought out game that will provide many hours of challenge and enjoyment.

Rating: 6 out of 6

- Anthony Steed.

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