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Store:  2-Player Games, Family Games
Edition:  TAMSK
Series:  Project GIPF
Genre:  Abstract Strategy
Format:  Board Games


formerly part of the GIPF series

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Product Awards:  

Ages Play Time Players
8+ 15 minutes 2

Designer(s): Kris Burm

Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Schmidt Spiele

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Product Description

TAMSK is a game for 2 players, which is played under permanent time pressure. Both players start the game with 3 hourglasses and 32 rings. The hourglasses are the playing pieces; the aim is to get rid of as many rings as possible. Each turn you must move one of your hourglasses and turn it over; next you may play a ring in the newly covered space. The more spaces you visit, the more rings you will be able to play. But watch your hourglasses closely; each one that runs out of time is lost!

TAMSK introduces time as a substantial strategic element. If you are prepared to think fast and to play quickly without losing your cool, then you have the right attitude. Enjoy the pressure!

A clarifying note from designer Kris Burm about the GIPF Project expansion Set #1 and the TAMSK potentials included with the TAMSK game:

As you maybe know, enclosed in the TAMSK box are 3 white and 3 black TAMSK-potentials. These are samples. You need a minimum of 3 potentials of each color to get a feeling of how they change a game of GIPF. The GIPF Project Expansion Set #1 contains 12 TAMSK-potentials; 6 potentials per color is the standard number to play with. The kit is meant to give players who like playing with the potentials the possibility to get more potentials without needing to buy a second game of TAMSK. That aside, it is also meant to serve those who want to find out what potentials are all about without needing to purchase TAMSK.

2007 Update: Kris Burm released PÜNCT at Spiel 05, apparently finishing Project GIPF, his series of six abstract games that rank head and shoulders over almost all others -- but as it turns out, there's been a change of plans. TAMSK is being removed from the GIPF series and will be replaced by TZAAR. TAMSK will be republished as a separate, stand-alone game.

Product Awards

Product Information

  • Designer(s): Kris Burm

  • Manufacturer(s): Rio Grande Games, Schmidt Spiele

  • Year: 2005

  • Players: 2

  • Time: 15 minutes

  • Ages: 8 and up

  • Est. time to learn: 10-20 minutes

  • Weight: 1,226 grams

  • Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. This is an international edition or domestic edition of an imported item. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).


  • 1 gameboard
  • 3 red hourglasses
  • 3 black hourglasses
  • 1 15-second timer
  • 64 rings
  • 2 ringholders
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Product Reviews


Average Rating: 4 in 7 reviews

Hurrah! Strategy with a time limit!
October 28, 2003

When I read through the rules the first time, I knew I had to play a round against my husband! He is one of those gamers that takes a long time to think through all of his moves. Of course, this IS the best way to play a strategy game (and probably why he wins most of the time) but I'm just not that patient.

This game gave us the best of both worlds. He gets a pure strategy game and I get a game that moves along quickly!

This one will come out of the game cabinet often!

Hurry Up and Wait! A New Twist on Strategy!
November 25, 2001

The GIPF series is brilliant! Any large set of games like this is bound to have a weak link. The sad part is that in a series as fine as GIPF, the weak link will never get the glory it deserves in its own right. TAMSK will, unfortunately, always stand in the shadow of GIPF, ZERTZ, and DVONN. That is really unfair. I always thought Jerry Dogget was a really first-rate baseball announcer, but when you sit next to Vin Scully for 30-some years, you will always come out second best. It just ain't fair!

TAMSK is, in its own way, just as superb a game as GIPF. It is simple and made of nothing but stategy--no chance involved. However, it does have the neat twist of being time-critical. I have found that one approach is to use time to your advantage by keeping your opponent busy with a few of his timers, forcing him to ignore one or two that are then likely to be lost by running out of sand. Sometimes, I deliberately ponder a move at a casual pace, while my opponent is screaming to hurry up! She has allowed one of her timers to sit still too long and I can force it out by dawdling--most aggravating! I think the Monopolist in me, who enjoys the bankruptcy of others, finds this very entertaining.

I think Derek Leif's suggestion (below) to accelerate the panic might be worth trying. Chris Farrell (below) isn't exactly right about winning--it is actually the person with the fewest unplayed rings who wins. Of course, that is almost always the last player able to move, as Chris says. Both of these reviewers only gave TAMSK 4 stars, even though they both appear to like it very much. I heartily disagree with these ratings. TAMSK is an excellent game, saddled with an unavoidably high price, so I give it 5 stars in the sincere hope that it will NOT fade into oblivion. I do not regret spending the money.

I highly recommend TAMSK!

Time flies when you're having fun...
April 14, 2003

General concensus seems to be that TAMSK is the least of the first 4 GIPF games, and though I'd agree with that in respect of strategic depth it doesn't tell the whole story.

There's nothing else quite like it that I've seen, and playing a different game with Chess clocks doesn't apply time pressure in quite the same way as TAMSK, because the hourglasses will give a variable amount of time depending where the sand had got to were when they moved (and thus turned over). A glass with plenty of time left suddenly becomes one with hardly any, but an opponent's moves may make such a thing necessary... And it's also the case that each piece has its own time, so you have to keep your moves relatively well distributed over your pieces, or the static ones will stay that way whether you like it or not.

Shorn of the time element (and this is what the basic version is) the game isn't that interesting, but there again Poker without the gambling element isn't very interesting as a card game either, and that doesn't make it a bad thing. I'd personally not bother with the first two versions presented in the rules: it's far more fun (and more interesting too) with all the timers running, and use of the 15 second move timer as an option on any turn also seems quite natural and not really worth leaving out as suggested for an intermediate game with a 'gentleman's agreement' to keep moves coming at a fair rate. The facility of the 15 second move timer *optionally* deployed by the opponent actually adds another level to the game, as it might be in your interest for the other player to take a bit longer...

A primary positive aspect to the temporal nature of the game is it keeps it moving at a fair speed (the other GIPF games can involve staring at the board for quite a while deciding on a best move; do that in TAMSK and you'll just lose your go) so it's easy to fit it into a small slice of time, and it also helps make it the most outright *fun* of the first 4 games, even if it is shallower than its cousins in many respects.

It's a shame it costs more than the other GIPF games, but the elaborate components make this quite understandable with the moulded plastic board as well as hourglasses being integral to the play rather than chrome for the sake of over-production. I'd actually prefer to pay a little more in return for better matched hourglasses (they're not all equal, but not to the extent of really affecting the game too much in my set) and nicer rings (the textured surfaces of DVONN and ZERTZ pieces show the sort of thing which would make the game nicer physicaly).

Not necessarily something that would appeal to everybody, but for an enjoyable and fast game of skill that is unencumbered by analysis paralysis I recommend it. In fact, if you have players who routinely drag their moves out for hours at a time in most games leaving everyone else twiddling their thumbs, you could use TAMSK to exact some sweet revenge! ;-)

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