Last Step Game (2 players, more possible)
Designer and Publisher: Alexander Zerykier
Simply, decent abstract NIM game, with cheap components and truly awful rulebook.
The game comes with a double sided board and 15 playing pieces in three colors.
Each player, in turn, places one of five pieces onto a 5x5 or 8x8 grid. Each player then, in turn, moves one piece any number of spaces right, diagonally right and down, down, or diagonally left and down. A player may move any number of spaces, jumping any number of pieces, so long as the player's piece lands in an empty space. Last player to move loses.
Variants are presented: more or less pieces, restricted movement options, different colored pieces with different movement or jumping rules, players move only their own colors, last player to move wins, and so on.
Let's start with the good news.
As NIM games go, this one is a classic. That you place the pieces on the board should give the last player to place a piece a distinct advantage, if he can calculate correctly. But it's complex enough that that's not going to be easy.
The different movement possibilities, and the fact that the board space crowds toward one end, but no one defined end position, makes the game a nice challenge.
All the variants are obvious and similarly interesting from a mathematical perspective, if not from a gamer perspective.
And it's cheap.
Now for the bad news.
That rules explanation took me 100 words. The book provided with the game takes 28 laborious pages and is written like a legal document. It methodically plods through every possible move and mistake you could possibly make, until, by the end, you are more confused than when you started. The variants are described just as poorly, although they are so simple by nature, it is not hard to understand the idea.
My booklet even came with corrections stapled to various pages in an attempt to clarify some clarifications, but they only made it worse. *shudder*
The contents of the game are also very cheap. The board is a simple glazed cardboard, and the 15 pawns are cheap, undistinguished, and unattractive. Add a flimsy box and the words "Made in China" are not a surprise when encountered on the back. It looks like a game you would pick up as part of a bundle of five games in a dollar store. However, they are, at least, clear and serviceable enough.
If it were not for the fact that the designer sent me a copy, I would not have bought a copy. I recommend playing on a Checkers board and sending the designer $5 as a token of support, but only if he promises not to send you the game.
The components and rules may be cheap, but the game play is a pleasure for abstract lovers, families, and mathematicians. I'm curious to see what other game ideas this guy may have in mind.