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Game includes tennis court, net, balls and two players with movable arms (both right-handed). Movable plates underneath the court help create a very realistic tennis simulation.
This is a very impressive game that does an amazing job of bringing tennis to the gaming table.
Each player is represented by a detailed plastic figure, which is strategically positioned on the tennis court. Hitting the ball is accomplished by holding and aiming your player figure, bending back the flexible arm/racquet, and smack! you let the arm go to flick the ball over the net. Your opponent must then return the ball in the same way, by hitting the ball from the point where it came to rest.
Just as in real tennis, placing your player in the best position to receive the next volley is critical. This is accomplished by positioning a ring, representing your player's area of reach, in the desired area of the court. You can force your opponent 'out of position' by hitting the ball into the fringe, or running, area of his/her ring, forcing them to reposition the ring to accommodate the new location of the ball. Since the ring is not big enough to cover the entire court, this will leave a larger portion of the court exposed for your next return shot.
You score a point by hitting the ball to an area of the court that is not covered by your opponent's ring, and of course, when your opponent hits the ball 'out' or into the net. The game does a great job of conveying the feel and dynamics of a real tennis match.
I am extremely impressed by design of the components. The hairy little tennis balls, which are a bit on the bizarre side, are the right size and weight for the scale and size of the court, and they interact perfectly with the nappy foam-like court surface, which prevents them from rolling excessively. At the same time, the court is semi-transparent, so the 'rings of reach' can be seen and positioned under the court surface without interfering with the game. The player figures are solid with hand-painted detail, and are just flexible enough to allow slight bending of the racquet arm for shot tension.
With just a small amount of practice you'll soon be placing drop shots and nailing the deep corners with regularity. But no shot is ever 100% certain, and just like in real tennis, the low percentage shots are still tough to hit even once you've got the game down, which is exactly as it should be.
Tennis Masters is great indoor fun when you have a hankering to play tennis but don't want to break a sweat. Very highly recommended.
This is one of the best 'action' games I have ever played. The rules of play are just as in tennis, with some specialized rules for player positioning. With a little practice you can control the ball quite well and some very tense tennis matches are sure to ensue.
Don't miss out on this game. Everyone I have played it with has wanted a copy.
Goldsieber is an interesting publisher. They produce beautiful big-box board games like Mississippi Queen, Big City, Ido, and Medieval Merchant. They produce little card games like Katzenjammer Blues and Vampire. They had a limited series run of high-production value abstract games in Caprice, Cabale, and Siesta, and of course brought Carabande to the world as the king of the dexterity games. Now, they've published two new interesting dexterity games that meet the high end and big box standard, but both attempt to simulate real sporting events. To a large extent, both succeed well but the games are different and playing them well requires practice.
Tennis Masters and Golf Masters share a common look, designers, and heart. Golf is the more simple game, but playing it successfully is not simple. The game consists of six double-sided fairway sections that can be pieced together in multiple combinations to create dozens of holes. The playing figures are two realistic-looking golfers (both men), who are positioned in a shot-making crouch with an iron. Their bodies swivel at the hips by means of a handle that protrudes from their back. To hit, you place the figure with the club head at the ball, take a back swing, and follow through just like in the real game, sending the little white fuzzy ball down the fairway and towards the hole. Play is just like the real game, and fairways include hazards that either mandate a penalty point or give options based on the ability to position the figure for the next shot. Hitting out of the sand uses a special and clever way to use the figure, by pulling back on the club but then just letting it fall which simulates the erratic play of the sand.
Tennis is more complex, and it uses an ingenious method to simulate the positioning aspect of the real game. The figures here are a male and female, and each is holding a racket that can be snapped back to hit the ball. The ball movement is more difficult to grasp than in Golf Masters, but with a little practice it becomes quite controllable. The court is made of a large board covered with a transparent overlay showing the line markings. The net is made of plastic and divides the two sides. Each player uses a "slider", which is a paddle-looking piece that slides on the board but underneath the overlay so you can see its markings clearly. A handle sticks out so that it can easily be maneuvered under the overlay. The slider shows a "standing area" boundary, and a "running area" just outside this. In addition, a dot in the center shows the location of where your figure must stand to return a shot along with a dotted line to help manage the service return. The complete area of the slider covers only about 75 surface area. The slider effectively measures the area of the court that the player can cover.
During play, if you hit a shot into your opponent's standing area they can move the slider to any position they like, return the ball, then put their figure on the center dot. If you can place the ball in the opponent's running area, they must move the slider so that the ball falls within the standing area and then leave it there until the next return. By doing this effectively, you can force them to leave fairly large areas of the court not covered by the slider, and any ball that falls into this uncovered area cannot be reached and scores a point for the player who placed it.
This works very well and accurately simulates the player movement in a real tennis game. By proper positioning of the ball, you move your opponent to an extreme enough position allowing a winner to be hit. The slider nicely captures this idea and rewards good ball movement.
There are other nice features of Tennis Masters, including the ability to serve an ace by hitting a service line exactly. A clever service return mechanism rewards good serves by forcing the opponent off balance a little but not penalizing the return player because the tennis ball is too close to the net. Like Golf, the components are top quality and in play the game feels real.
Both Golf and Tennis use fuzzy little balls with a lot of fringe material that allows a little bit of roll depending on how they're hit but also a good bit of stickiness. Tennis is a much larger game and comes in an Ido-sized box, while Golf is more bookshelf-sized in its packaging. I consider Tennis to be a better game in that its cleverness appears throughout the match and there is not the constant hole-building of Golf. Like the real games, Tennis is also a truly head to head contest while in Golf you are playing against yourself as well. Golf is probably more approachable, however, and both games should be considered for those who want a skill-based two-player dexterity game. Consider either when you grow out of Elchfest.