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The triangular board is first balanced carefully on the small ball in the center of the outer frame, and each player takes all the pieces of one color. These pieces are in five different sizes, and differ accordingly in weight. The players take turns placing pieces onto the teetering board, being careful not to upset the balance of the board to the point that it strikes the frame. With each successful placement of a piece, the player not only blocks his opponents from occupying that space in the future, but also scores a number of points equal to the size of the piece successfully placed times the number of pips on the space. Those spaces nearer the edge of the board -- and the pieces with greater weight -- are worth more points, but are more likely to upset the delicate balance of the board. Once the board is full, players total their points and the player with the greatest sum wins.
Theta is a German company that makes big games with nice wooden components. Their price matches the quality, as each of their games will set you back about $50. Most of the games fall into the "dexterity" category, and they claim that you'll only unbox the game once since they look so good out of the box. They do look good, but if you display them it will probably be because the boxes do not fit well on normal sized bookshelves. Some of the games are excellent, while others look better than they play. For the uninitiated, here is a review of the Theta games:
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[page 07809#001549]jump to Saturn review
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Like Saturn, Tribalance is a game of placement and balance. It is great looking, though not so spectacular as Saturn, but is a bit more strategic and overall is excellent. The game consists of a triangle shaped board that balances on a center ball inside of a frame. On the board are a series of spots that are labeled with one to five points in a ``dominoes-like'' pattern. The corner spaces are worth five, and the inner spaces vary based on the difficulty of placing pieces in a stable setting.
Each of up to three players gets a set of pieces that are 1, 2, 3, 4, and five units high, obviously with correspondingly increasing weight. Like Saturn, on your turn you place one of your pieces on any space and the piece stays if the board does not end up touching the frame at the end of its oscillations. You score the points on the space times the size of the unit, for a small score of 1 (a 1 unit piece in a 1-point space) all the way to 25 if you can manage to place your five unit piece in one of the three corner spots (very difficult to do!)
While clearly a balancing game, there is very real strategy in this game as well beyond estimating the impact of a certain weight piece in a certain spot on the board. With a limited set of each numbered spot, using a 4-space for a low unit piece may not gain you many points but also eliminates that 4-space for use by anyone else. The easiest way to neutralize the big pieces still held by your opponent id to give them only low number spaces left to fill.
For many of the same reasons as Saturn, Tribalance is a very good game that uses a fundamentally simple balancing principle in a well-designed mechanic and well made structure.
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[page 07807#001554]jump to Handicap review
Step by Step
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A Quick Summary
The eight games in the Theta collection share the common features of quality wooden components, big boxes, great aesthetics, focus on physics, and high prices. Here is a buyers guide for those interested. The number in parenthesis refers to the "dexterity/strategy" mix, with 1 meaning only dexterity and 10 meaning only strategy: