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WARNING: Polarity is a highly addictive strategy board game that is unique and so interesting that you might have a hard time putting it away.
Polarity combines strategy, dexterity and instinct -- to deliver a gaming experience that is unique and deeply entertaining.
- 1 play mat
- 53 discs
- 1 carry bag
- 1 instruction booklet
- 1 Polarity Alliance sign up guide
Average Rating: 4.3 in 3 reviews
This game consists of a canvas playing field and 53 magnetic disks: 1 red disk and 52 disks with white on one side and black on the other. Play starts with each player having 26 magnetic disks. The red disk is flipped and the poles called like a coin with the winner choosing his color. The red disk is then placed, as it landed, in the center of a circular playing field outlined on the canvas playing surface. Players should avoid the red disk for the remainder of the game. Cause a disk to touch it, and you lose the game.
White goes first, placing five flat disks as foundation disks, followed by black. Players then take turns, starting with white, placing a disk against the magnetic field of another of your disks creating a leaner. If you cause a secondary reaction, your turn is immediately over. A secondary reaction is causing a disk on the playing surface to: fall, become pulled up to the disk in hand, or contact other disks. Return the disk(s) that are in your hand to your unplayed stack of disks. Any leaners that fell remain as foundation disks (a good strategy move and the only way to get more foundation disks on the board). Your opponent must now try to capture connected magnets, creating towers of stacked magnets. These towers provide points at the end of the game.
As soon as a player uses their last disk from hand, the game is over and each player scores a point for each disk in their own towers, minus one point for each disk left in hand.
As with any game, the more you play, the better you get. You'll learn to ‘feel’ the magnetic field around a disk and know where you have to line up to balance on another disk. New strategies will begin to show up as you get better. More play options will become available like balancing up to three disks on one foundation disk or balancing a leaner on another leaner. Also, basic placement strategy to open your playing area or block your opponent become apparent.
All in all a must try game with a lot of replay value and a fun. Play it once and you'll be permanently attracted to it!
Each player starts with 5 disks as foundation disks. On your turn, you can either place a disk against the magnetic field of another of your disks creating a leaner or you can try to convert a leaner into another foundation disk. Both of which can be difficult when there are lots of other disks on the board creating their own magnetic fields. If you cause other magnets to shift and snap together, your turn is over and you give a point scoring opportunity to your opponent. Your opponent can capture connected magnets and create towers. These towers are positive points at the end of the game as well as strong foundation pieces. Also watch out for the red disk in the middle; touch it, and you lose the game. This is really a must try game. Play it once and you'll be permantly attracted to it!
Polarity (Temple Games, 1986 – Douglas Seaton) is on many lists of “games you should play at least once in your lifetime”. That is because Polarity is extremely unique – the only game I know of that uses magnets for its main mechanic. From a child, I’ve been fascinated with magnets and their uses, and Polarity takes this fascination and makes a game out of it. The game is a dexterity game, in which players attempt to balance magnet pieces on magnetic fields created by other pieces.
Polarity is a dexterity game, one that I personally am quite horrific at. Regardless, I still enjoy it, although I wonder if I like it because of the novelty factor. The rules are a bit convoluted for a game that isn’t really that complicated, and the written rules included with the game are almost a nightmare (although online rules helped me understand it quite a bit better.) Most newcomers will be soundly trounced by experienced players, but many will stay and play – mostly out of utter fascination.
Polarity is a difficult game to explain without one seeing it, but basically it consists of a large cloth mat with a circle drawn on it. Each player is given twenty-six disks that are magnetic and dual-colored – black on one side, and white on the other. A red disc is flipped and placed on the center of the circle. Players then place five “foundation discs”, placing them face up in their color anywhere inside the circle – with the White player placing all five first, then the black player. The game is then ready to begin.
On a player’s turn, they must attempt to play one disc from their stack onto the circle, placing it so that it becomes a “leaner”. In other words, the disc must lean, without falling, balanced by the magnetic forces from the foundation discs. While placing a disc, it’s very possible that the player causes a “fault”. This can be by causing a leaning disc to fall down, two or more discs to snap together, a disc to fly to the player’s hand, etc. When a player causes one of these faults, they face a penalty, which depends on the fault that is caused. Many times, the penalty involves allowing another player to capture a disc or stack of discs that are laying flat on the mat, flipping them over to their color.
As the game progresses, players will be able to place “leaners” that balance off of other “leaners” or the “towers” (stacks of discs), although this is harder. A player can also, through poor play, set of a chain reaction of faults. The game continues until one player has used all the discs in their stack. At this point, all “towers” are counted, and the player who has the most discs in their color in these towers is the winner (subtracting any discs left in hand). A player also immediately loses the game if they cause any disc to touch the red disc or cause the red disc to move off the center dot.
Some comments on the game…
- Components: Polarity comes in a long tube that is stored in a
cloth bag. Inside the tube is stored the cloth mat, with all the
discs stacked together in the middle. I’m not a huge fan of tube
games, especially ones that are this long; but it does lean in my game
room okay, and you can even hang it on a hook. The discs themselves
are made out of heavy plastic with decent magnets inside, although you
would have to work hard to use these magnets to ruin anything. The
magnets are stronger than they appear, however; and the magnetic
fields they create are fairly strong. The discs are sturdy and
survive dropping fairly well. The cloth board is okay, although I
would recommend ironing it before games so that creases or bends in it
don’t affect game play.
- Rules: The rules included in the game are actually rather
atrocious. We played several games, not knowing what in the world we
were doing, because the way that faults were explained was simply
poorly done. However, at www.polaritygame.com, one can see a flash
version of the rules, download a rulebook that makes sense, and
download a strategy guide that helps out exceedingly when trying to
figure out what fault was just caused (if any). Polarity is an
interesting game in the fact that players will usually be a little
slow to catch onto all the exact rules; but once you understand the
game, everything moves fairly smoothly. Just make sure that the
person explaining the rules knows what they are doing.
- Dexterity: No matter what strategy you may figure out with the
game, much of it comes down to the fact that people with nimble
fingers and non-shaking hands will certainly far better than clumsy,
shaky folks like myself. Oddly, I personally find that I do poorly
when it’s critical, although the process of creating a “leaner” – once
learned – isn’t that difficult. It’s a question of space, really,
because one most likely will not be able to get all of their discs as
leaners against the original five foundation discs. Placing a leaner
on the field of another leaner is difficult, doing it twice is even
- Strategy: The manual lists one of the main strategies for
Polarity as “Practice, practice, practice”, but there are other things
a clever player can do, also. They can cause a leaner to fall
deliberately – just to form another foundation disc for themselves.
They can set up their foundation discs and leaners in such a way that
play for their opponent without causing a fault. Or, even better,
they can place discs in such a way to allow themselves optimal
placement on following turns. The whole game revolves around players
setting up the discs so that they eventually become towers, but that
usually stems from bad play on your opponent’s part rather than play
on your part (or in my case – bad play on my part to help out my
- Fun Factor: Polarity is fun, of course, because of its unique
mechanics and the “cool” factor when players encounter the different
magnetic fields. But there are also some amazing moments (well, for
the player watching anyway), when there is a massive chain reaction;
and it seems like half or more of the magnets on the board snap
together. The contortions that players do to avoid such catastrophes
are rather comical to watch, but oh – the sweat pours off my brow when
attempting to make a critical placement! Honestly, though, I don’t
find myself to be craving more games of Polarity – I could continue to
practice, but the motivation isn’t really there. For me, the most fun
part of Polarity is watching the reactions of newcomers to the game
and their amazement at how the magnetic fields work.
I know that some have become enamored with Polarity, and a few that I’ve taught it to have enjoyed it to the point of wanting to play it over and over again. But for most that I’ve seen playing it, myself included, it’s merely a pleasant distraction. I wouldn’t turn down a game, but it isn’t as gripping to keep playing. I love magnets, and whenever I’m in the mood to play with them – in a good game, mind you – I’ll pull out Polarity.
“Real men play board games”