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The review from Games magazine describes the 'action,' such as it is, in this game. It's about as simple as you can get. And that's fine. But it wouldn't be all that impressive if it weren't for the two key facts about this game:
So, when you're trying to find something for 3 (and that's rare in the boardgame market) and you have little time, this is the answer.
A bit of bluff goes a long way in this quirky game. Each player is randomly assigned two of the six colors, which are kept secret. On your turn, you draw a tile at random from the bag of 36 foam tiles (two each of all possible color pairs) and place it on the 6 x 6 board with either side faceup. Depending on that side's color, you must flip over tiles that are a fixed orthogonal distance away. For example, a yellow tile would cause all tiles three spaces away to be turned over. When the board is full, the winner is the player who has the greatest difference in the amounts of tiles showing in their two colors. Here's a tip: To confuse your opponent, play randomly now and then.
Dirk Henn and Barbara Weber (db Spiele) have hand-produced a nice selection of games that play well, are easy to learn, and have simple but sophisticated strategies. Tendix is their tenth game, and is dedicated to the people who supported their first nine. While Tendix is a decent game, it doesn't quite live up to the standard set by Premier (Showmanager), Al Capone (Stimmt So!), or Iron Horse.
Tendix is purely abstract, a trait common to a few other db titles (Carat, Texas.) The game consists of a 5 x 5 grid, six cards each representing one of six colors, and 25 two-sided tiles. These tiles have one of the six different colors on each side, with each color corresponding to a number from 0 to 5 (designated on the frame of the board.) The game begins when each player draws two cards that become the two significant colors for him in the game.
Like Iron Horse, the tiles are drawn blind one at a time and must be placed on the board. When the tile is placed, the number corresponding to the face-up color determines which previously placed tiles must be flipped over. For example, green corresponds to four, so when a tile is placed green-side up all tiles four spaces away by rank and file (no diagonals) are flipped. The game continues until all the spaces are filled, and the winner is the player with the largest difference in the final face-up tile count based on the two colors they drew at the beginning.
The game has a nice ebb and flow, and the board is changing throughout as you try to maximize one of your colors, minimize your other color, and try to figure out which colors your opponents are doing the same to. Each color is represented 10 times on a two-sided tile, and one time on a tile where both sides have the same color. This creates an optimal score of 10 (all of one color up and only one, the single-color double, of the second face up), but a typical winning score is 6 or 7. As the board fills, you find options to play both offensively or defensively, and can lock in certain face up tiles by filling the rank and file they sit in (thus removing any chance they'll be flipped) or by careful counting of the remaining tiles. This is easy to do since all the tiles are placed on the board as they are drawn.
Despite playing quickly and having a reasonable strategic requirement, Tendix just isn't very exciting. We've experimented with the Auf Heller und Pfennig tactic of randomly choosing a tile at the beginning, keeping it secret, and then playing either a tile from the bag or your secret tile. This works, but doesn't add much. The game works better with 2 than with 3, since it is harder to determine which colors your opponent really is trying to optimize, but for two players both db's Carat and Knizia's Revolution feel similar but work better. If this sounds a little apologetic, so be it, since I enjoy the other db Spiele games and this one is weak more by comparison than in the absolute. Play it when you get the chance, but don't search too hard, and by all means play Iron Horse first!