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One of the games I liked the look of but didn't buy at Essen last year was this little multi-player abstract. It came in a nice small box, ideal for tucking into the corner of a suitcase, but only if the suitcase then went in the boot of the car. If instead the suitcase was one that was already heavy and that you were going to have carry to and round railway stations and airports, wisdom dictated that the game stayed unbought, because this little box was full of steel nuts--the 'Muttern' of the title--and its weight reflected that. A couple of months later, after I had made a brief reference to the game in my Essen report, a parcel arrived containing a present from Hartmut. There are some very nice people in this hobby.
The game equipment consists of 70 hexagonal nuts and some coloured marbles and the object is to build towers with marbles of your colour on top of them.
At the start of the game the nuts are pushed together to form a connected 'land'. The precise shape is up to the players and there can be bays, peninsulars and lakes, as the mood takes you. The marbles are then placed on nuts at the edge of the land, with each player placing those of their right-hand opponent. Once the game starts, your turn consists of two actions: (1) moving one of your marbles and (2) removing a nut from its present position and placing it on top of another one, thus creating a tower. The movement options and a restriction on which nuts can be shifted then make for some interesting tactics.
In order to be moved a nut has to be adjacent to one of your own marbles and 'free', with the definition of 'free' being that there is nothing, nut or marble, sitting on top of it and that at least three of its sides are not adjacent to other nuts. For a nut at ground level, this latter means that it has to at the edge and 'sticking out', but for nuts at a higher level it is a condition that is almost automatically met. Moving a nut is the second thing you do in your turn, the first being move a marble, and when you come to place the nut back on the board, you have to put it on top of an empty nut adjacent to the marble you have just moved.
When moving marbles you have three options: simple movement, jumping and pushing. Simple movement is to an adjacent empty nut that is either on the same level or exactly one level up or down. Jumping is moving over an adjacent nut to the one beyond, but with the restriction that the intervening nut must have a marble on top of it and that the same sort of progression of levels as you had for simple movement is followed. So, a jump from a level one, over a level one and to a level one is okay, as is level one to level three over a level two, but level one to level three over a level one is not because of the 'double step'. Pushing consists of moving to an adjacent nut that is occupied by a marble and displacing it, with the displaced marble going to a nut that is adjacent to it in turn. This can set up a chain reaction. Pushing must be either all at the one level or downhill, one step at a time.
The general strategy is to try and group your marbles together and to create a range of hills where they dominate, for only then can you create the situation where your marbles can climb to the top of the 4-story towers, which is what the victory conditions require. Just how many towers depends on the number of people playing.
Pure abstracts aren't to everyone's taste, but if you do like them, this is worth considering. It is interesting and is unusual in that it will work as well multi-player as with just two. It also lends itself to partnership play. English rules are available, with the translator having come up with a witty pun of his own to replace the untranslatable German one of the title. I don't have a price for the game, but if you are interested, contact Hartmut at Steingrube 4, 88630 Pullendoif, Germany. Alternatively, if you are going to Essen, check out the Witt Spiele stand.