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Tyler Sigman's Crows - Junk Spirit Games
Crows of the Obsidian Wastes give off mana collected in magical stones.
Alestone is an abstract game that was sent to us by DEADBOX GAMES, a Cleveland, Ohio (Go Buckeyes!) based gaming company. The game comes in a simple box, and consists of a fabric “board” and stone “pawns”. The quality of the components is very nice, though the “board” misses the mark, despite being made to take the punishment of the game being a drinking and gaming game.
The “board” is designed to sit your drinks on, and not get upset if your buddy spills his beer, GASP! The problem is, the fabric is so soft, it is quite easy to grab during normal gameplay, and upset the game. The pawns, are actually made of stone. STONE! How cool is that? Each piece is hand painted with nips between 4 and 2, or a fate stone, which moves as much as an included dice is rolled.
I enjoy abstract games generally, I just find them so interesting. The rules of this game are a single sheet of paper, that over-complicate the base gameplay.
To nail it down to under a paragraph, this game is a capture the flag (without having to return to base) pawn movement game. The pieces may move orthogonally, the same distance as their face suggests, 2 = 2, 3 = 3, 4 = 4, 5 = 5, and the fate symbol allows you to move the same distance as the roll of the dice. On any given turn you may move two pieces, up to their face value. If you “tag” another players pawn, he returns home, and you become a drunk turtle, on your back and anyone can stand on your stomach like a surfboard. As with a drunk turtle, being stood on, you can’t move, you are pinned, until the other player moves off of you. In order to win, you need to “capture” the flag with three pieces, which means getting into your opponents castle and your pawns cannot be in a single line, which means at least one piece must be in another column or row. Ultimately, this is the base concept of the game. Another person playing described the game as silly soccer where you run into the goal, and are removed from the game, with a stamp on your foot “Kung Fu Hustle” style mechanic preventing movement.
The game also has augments, which in our opinion could make the game more interesting, but we were playing only the base game, to get the idea of the general mechanic of the game. These augments like a sword, shield, or the like allow you to have a one time benefit for using the augment once “captured”. This is similar to a single grenade in an FPS shooter console game. You may have a grenade, but you better make good use of it.
I’d very much like to say this is my new favorite abstract game. Sadly, I cannot. However, for a game that would actually work well in a pub atmosphere, I could really appreciate the game being pocketable, and the main components being drink friendly. I would suggest to DEAD BOX GAMES, to include a pouch (preferably leather for this snob), that would make it easier to pocket, to take to the pub, and as an interesting piece to start conversation. The augments are cardboard, and in my opinion, should at least be plastic, to continue to be drink safe.
Ultimately, for what this game offers, a 2 OR 4 player drinking abstract game it was fun, and I could see playing it regularly. I can also see where “house” rules would become an important part of gameplay, as we saw a few follies that we would address if we were to play regularly. One of which is the rules do not tell you what happens to pawns once they are in the castle. This could be a very important placing issue with people who got good at the game. It was our contention, you should be able to use your movement point to move a pawn already in the castle. We also became curious who should be able to place a pawn that is sent home, we ended up having the player sent home as the person who chose where to place the pawn.
For the price point of the game, we do not know how much gameplay a person buying Alestone will get, but the main components are very HIGH quality. To my knowledge, we do not have any other game with stone pawns besides chess.
If you enjoy abstract games, and enjoy having a beer while playing, ALESTONE is a game that deserves a second look.