## Thursday, May 01, 2008

### Review: Solomon's Stones

Solbenk is a new subsidiary company with two new games: Solomon's Stones and Saikoro (the latter covered in another post). The publisher offered to send me copies of the games to review.

Solomon's Stones, pictured above, is a simple abstract based on a classic mathematical concept called "nim". The game adds a bit of a twist to the classic nim game, however.

Rules

The game is for two players an plays in three to twenty minutes, depending on how much time is spent thinking about the moves.

There are seven rows and seven columns of stones, twenty-eight stones in all arranged in a triangle (see above picture).

On your turn, you must remove one or more stones from a single row or column. The removed stones do not have to be adjacent, and you may remove as many or few stones as you like, so long as you remove at least one and all come from the same row or column.

The player who removes the last stone loses.

Components

It's a pretty game. The board is made of black plastic, and the stones are made of hematite gemstones, which feel something like glass. While the stones are pretty enough for a coffee table, a wooden board would have completed the package; the plastic board looks perfectly fine for a game, but not good enough for a coffee table.

There is a half-page insert with the rules.

Reactions

I played one game and it was enjoyable enough. I believe that, like Quarto, Connect Four, and other elegant abstracts, it will serve as a diverting activity for non-gamers. If you like those games, you'll probably like this one, too.

But, like Quarto, Connect Four, and other such games, I doubt very much that I will play it again. Because it works so much better as an excellent mathematical puzzle than as an ok game.

My friends and I sat down and began examining it to see how it could be solved. We looked at the trivial cases, different patterns, mirror moves, and so on. When we're done, we'll post our analysis. In the meantime, although the game seems quite stark and simple, it's entirely possible that it's NP-complete.

I expect to take some time over the next week or two thinking about how to solve it.

Tagline

The tagline of the game is "an original classic strategy game", which is oxymoronic.