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Ganymede, Jupiter. Two astronauts -- Tom Tube and Drifting Dave -- are building a space station. The base and solar modules are finished, but the connecting tubes are missing. Tom and Dave take turns building new tubes. As quickly as possible, they try to float through the tubes to their solar modules to switch it on and return to their base. They gather energy and control stones, which they use for space jumps and faster moves. Perhaps they'll even have a first contact with extraterrestrial beings.
On the first time we played this game we did'nt get it. But now we love it. So read the part about were to place the stones twice. That is the thing most people first do wrong.
Make you desicion what to do - build first or fly through space.
Tom Tube, the first offering from fledgling publisher Kronberger Spiele, is analogous to a minor-league callup hitting a stand-up triple his first major-league at-bat. It's not a home run, but it's a darned fine start.
The game uses an excellent mechansism to keep players making decisions throughout - you can either place a tile or move on your turn, but not both. So here's the agony: do you try to get a head start on your opponent and move or do you want to try and keep optimizing your route? Or do you want to make life difficult for the other guy and play a blocking maneuver? Or place a tile to form a high-scoring Alien counter, which you'll of course have to go for - which oh by the way slows you down in your primary mission? Lots of choices, and it's not at all evident which is the right move to make.
Quality-wise, the game stands up to comparisons with any of the major German publishers - same excellent components (including nice wooden bits for the counters and astronauts), same sturdy box. The price is hard to beat, too, making this a worthy addition to any game library.
Tom Tube is a new offering from brothers(?) Roland and Tobias Goslar by Kronberger Spiele. It appears to be the first offering by both the designers and publisher. Bully for them. This is an engrossing two player game with plenty of decision making with a futuristic Carcassonne feel to it. Premise of Tom Tube are two astronauts, Tom & Dave, creating a space station. A player's turn consists of either; Draw a diamond tile and place it, or Move your astronaut through space tubes to completed spheres in space. The diamond tiles (rhombs) have red, yellow, or striped tubes indicating which astronaut may pass through them. Each player also has nine triangle tiles, which he places when a rhomb creates an empty triangle on the board. Before your eyes, a wild cosmic twisting space station appears, with completed silver spheres dotting the board. You may only travel to/thru completed spheres. You collect energy, control and alien counters (all worth VP's) as you travel across the board to your solar panels. Players may spend collected counters to move faster, but lose their victory points. Game ends when one astronaut returns with both solar counters. Several scoring mechanisms keep the game close. Just being the first one back does not ensure victory.
This game will rival any kosmos two-player you have. Always different with lots of unique ways to go. When we first started playing, there was a tendency to always connect tubes closest to you, but as we played again, saw you can use tiles to slow your opponent down, if that particular tile didn't advance your forward progression. Finishing first did not ensure victory either. The game did not offer a tie breaker rule though, so we assumed if a tie took place in VP's, whoever got 'home' first won. Strong, solid colors, adequate tiles, game board can buckle, so works well if you have a small plexy sheet to keep it flat.
A solid 4 from Boardgamers of Reno.
I had a lot of enjoyment from both Lost Valley and Bonobo Beach, both done by the Goslar brothers. When I opened up another of their games, Tom Tube (Kronberger Spiele, 2004 - Roland and Tobias Goslar), I thought that it was a perfect match. Any game that bears my name must be good, and there were more rhombi in this two-player game. The space theme is one that I'm a sucker for, and thus I was excited to try it out.
After playing the game, I am certain that it is an excellent two-player game with deep and interesting strategies available. Players have a decent selection of options each turn; and while luck plays a part (in the drawing of tiles), the player who can best see in the future will win. However, even though I know all this, I just didn't enjoy the game much. The theme, while it works to some sort of degree, just failed to work with my imagination, and I didn't like how it forced me to think in ways I wasn't entirely used to. Tom Tube seems to be a game that takes several games just to understand it and was simply too abstract and overwhelming for me. I understood Tom Tube and appreciated the skill of the design; it just left me a bit cold.
The board is made up of a large hexagon made up of several triangles. On opposite sides of the board, each player has a base, in which their astronaut pawn begins. Four solar modules, two for each player, are spaced on the other four sides of the board, with tubes extending from each of them as well as the players' bases. A token is placed on each solar module. Each player is given a pile of triangle pieces that are either blank or include tubes of their color (red or orange). Three piles of cubes are placed near the board (yellow energy counters, blue control counters, and green alien counters). A pile of rhombi are shuffled and placed face down near the board. Each player begins with one energy counter, and the younger player goes first with play then alternating.
The gameplay is actually rather simple, as a player either places a rhombus on their turn OR moves their astronaut. When placing a rhombus, a player draws the top one and places it on any two free adjacent triangles on the board. Occasionally, this will cause a solitary free triangle to occur, in which case the player chooses one of their triangles to put in the spot. As rhombi are placed, the intersections form "spheres", and a network of pipes is built. Pipes are either red, orange, or "neutral" (half orange, half red). Often, a rhombus will have an energy sphere in the center of it - onto which an energy cube is placed immediately. If a completed sphere has only one pipe extending from it, it becomes a control sphere, with a blue cube placed on it. Finally, some completed spheres have no pipes attached to them, causing them to have a green alien cube placed on them.
When moving their astronaut, a player "drifts", which means that the astronaut moves in a straight line along a tube of their color. If the tube turns, the astronaut turns at it but will not turn at spheres, stopping instead if there is no tube straight ahead of them. Astronauts may only move through neutral tubes or tubes of their color, unless the player discards a blue cube, allowing them to move through tubes of the other player. When an astronaut hits a cube of any color on the board, the player takes the cube and places it in front of them.
A player can also move by making a "space jump", which allows them to move to a sphere one space away, even if there are no tubes. The player must expend an energy counter to do this. Players are attempting to retrieve both of their solar counters and bring them back to their home base. If they do so, the game begins to end - the other player counting the amount of turns needed to get back to their home base with this number added to the faster player's score. Players receive one point for each energy counter, two points for each control counter, five points for each alien counter, and five points for each solar counter. The player with the higher point total is the winner!
A player can exchange an alien counter at any time for one control counter and two energy counters. A player can also lose the game if their astronaut is lost in space, which means there is no possible way to get back to its base. Finally, the game can end if no more rhombi can be placed, and one astronaut returns home. Points are totaled as normal, but with no bonus for the faster player.
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The thin box is covered with artwork that shows tubes building a space station, although I've never seen a space station as abstract looking as this one. Beyond this, however, the board and rhombi are very sharp looking with the red and orange tubes providing a stark contrast against the pitch black background. The rhombi tiles are of high quality and are fun to use in contrast with the usual squares or hexes of most games. The pawns and cubes are the typical ones found in most games of this type, and everything fits easily into the box. The game sets up remarkably quickly and is easy to store and put away.
2.) Rules: The four page rulebook has many color illustrations and examples and explains step by step how to play. Still, I had to read it several times to grasp the rules, because they just weren't intuitive to me for some reason. I understood how to place tiles easily enough, but movement was a little harder to grasp. Not everyone I taught the game to had the same hang-ups, but grasping overall strategy eluded all whom I played the game with the first time.
3.) Experience: A player who is playing Tom Tube for the first time has a good chance of simply being overwhelmed at what to do. Yes, getting to the solar modules is a priority, but what is the best way to do so? When should a player use their cubes? I've yet to see someone lose their astronaut into space, but I've seen people come close. Knowing when to "jump", and when to go out of your way for an alien cube takes experience, and isn't intuitive at all - at least for me. Even placing the tiles isn't as simple as a task as it seems. The tile arrangement leads to a cluttered, mangled mess of pipes, and it's not just a simple matter of connecting your base to the solar modules. A player who has some idea of how the entire game fits together will have a stunning advantage over a newcomer.
4.) Strategy: That being said, the game is actually fairly deep, because a player must carefully balance where they place the rhombi. A tile that you are placing may seem like a useful connection for you but also might just set your opponent up for a long drift. Players can also deliberately form alien and control spheres, just to make the counters available; but they must also make sure that they can get there first. Placing the rhombi allows for more options, but in this game, they also make it a little harder to form in one's mind of how future rhombi and triangles will play a part. Players must play the correct triangles; these can often make the difference between a well-defined network of pipes and a meaningless jumble.
5.) Time: The game box says thirty minutes, and that's fairly accurate. Since the game has a decent amount of options, mid game turns can slow down as people fall into "analysis paralysis", and study the board - but only a few turns are usually this option-filled, so the game itself goes quickly. What may be surprising is how quickly the end game comes. Players are busy laying rhombi, and suddenly, the pipe networks come together; at which point the game becomes a race. In fact, I suppose that Tom Tube can be considered a race game, but one in which players set up a maze-like setup of tracks. One false move can give victory to the other player.
6.) Fun Factor: As much as I like mazes and space, this game just was a bit too abstracted for me, requiring me to look too far in the future, with slight mistakes being too costly. I think the rhombi/counter point system is very well done, and everything works together smoothly. But the gameplay is smoother than the player, in this case, and I feel like a clumsy fool trying to participate in ballet. It's a great experience, but one that I think is for other people.
Tom Tube is a two-player game that will be a big hit with those who like games that require a bit of futuristic playing. It's a mixture of mechanics that work nicely together - in a puzzle type of format. And since the game feels like a puzzle in which the player who solves it first is the winner, I just don't appreciate it too much. I usually like games with unusual and innovative mechanics. Tom Tube certainly has these, with a depth of play to match, but the end result just didn't bring me enjoyment - so I'll pass. Folks who like interesting puzzles and a quick yet deep two player game should check it out, however.
"Real men play board games"
Abstract strategy games are not normally part of my diet of games, but recently I have been warming to them. The latest one from Kronberger comes in a box similar in size to the 2 player Kosmos series and has quality components to match.
The mounted board shows a triangular grid within a hexagonal shape. Each player starts on opposite sides of this grid and there are two targets to retrieve equidistant from each player's base. If you imagine a capital Y, the bottom of the Y is the player's base and the targets are at the far tips of the Y.
How do you retrieve these? Each player must lay a rhombus tile (the size of 2 triangles joined together), which creates a pathway on the board. The tiles are of a reasonable thickness but the sharp ends of the tiles could get worn. This doesn't matter too much, but since the tiles are drawn face down, distinctive marks could affect your draw.
The paths on the tiles can be made from a player's own colour - red or yellow - or a blended yellow and red colour that looks like two ropes twisted together. Each player's astronaut can move along their own or the blended colour freely. It is also possible to move on the opponent's coloured path by paying a cost.
The shape and colour of each path (or tube, from where the game's name derives) may cross in a variety of directions linking opposite sides of a tile, apex to apex or a combination of these. This produces a wide variety of tiles to be placed on the board. Each apex also contains a portion of a sphere so that a complete sphere is created when all pieces around a point are joined. The number of tube links to this completed sphere may yield a bonus cube. If there is only one link, a blue (control) cube is placed. This will allow travel on a turn to pass over the opponents coloured tubes. If there are no links in, then a green (alien) cube is placed. But there are no links to this so how do you get in? The answer is by playing a yellow cube, which appears on many of the tiles that show a small cross on part of the tube track. When one of these is handed in at the beginning of a turn a player may move his astronaut token down a triangle edge, which allows access to another part of the network or to retrieve the green alien cube. This is worthwhile as the green cube can be exchanged for 3 yellow and 1 blue cube.
The object of the game is to collect the 2 targets and then return to your base. The scoring is calculated as 5 points for each target and each green cube, 2 points for each blue cube and 1 point for the yellow cubes.
Some tiles feature a small cross on the tube on which a yellow cube should be placed. When the astronaut moves onto the tube route containing the cube it is picked up and returned to the player's base where it can be used to carry out a jump move on a subsequent turn.
The really special aspect of the game though is the movement of the astronauts. As an alternative to placing a tile, the astronaut may move along a tube. How far the astronaut may move depends on the route chosen and how the tiles are aligned. The route can involve all colours by payment of a blue cube, or freely along the neutral and player's own colour. The distance travelled depends on the alignment of the tracks. The astronauts travel between completed spheres, so the first thing to check is that your route concludes on one. If not, you should place enough tiles to complete that sphere. Next, and most importantly, you can continue your movement beyond the first sphere and travel between spheres if the route continues in a straight line from the previous sphere. If there is some cornering to do when leaving a sphere to the next, then the current move stops and you can move to the next sphere on your following turn. Finally, a move ends when you retrieve a cube or are blocked by the opponent's astronaut.
If this seems difficult, it isn't in practice. The skill lies in placing your rhombus tiles in such a way as to hinder your opponent's probable route and in creating routes that allow longer moves for you. There is considerable planning in this and I suspect you will see more possibilities after several games. As the yellow cubes are fairly easy to pick up, you can often find yourself in a better part of the tube route which may overcome some slower parts of the route that only allow you to make short moves.
Occasionally there are triangular holes formed when the rhombus tiles have been placed on the grid. The player who caused the hole then plays one of his triangular pieces (each player having received a set of 9 at the beginning of the game). As these triangular pieces have different tube connections they provide another tactical aspect to the game.
Tom Tube is a very clever game. You need to have some spatial awareness to assess where to play a tile and how to disrupt your opponent and help yourself while creating smooth routes that you can travel long distances in one turn. The race to your home concludes the game, so you really have to consider three routes - one to the first target, the second to the next and then your route back to your base. And the same routes for your opponent. All very interesting.
Certainly Tom Tube is one of the best 2 player games to be produced recently and a good puzzle for players who appreciate this type of challenge. That now includes me. For more details, see the website at www.kronberger-spiele.de/