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A great two-player strategy game! Cover Up takes seconds to learn and minutes to play. Cover your opponent's options, while uncovering your plan to win. Four in a row wins the game! Reach new levels with Cover Up!
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Out of the Box – best known for its highly successful Apples to Apples party game – has been steadily releasing a line of quality strategy games designed to test the skill and acumen of the players. The initial wave of these abstract games was in partnership with PIN International, and all were highly attractive, with components being constructed with decorative wood. The company is also releasing non-wooden products, but the game play is equally as challenging and engaging.
Coverup is played on a 5x5, three-dimensional plastic board, and uses a familiar “connect four-in-a-row” objective. The twist is that the pieces – sturdy plastic disks – come in three sizes, and larger pieces can cover smaller pieces. Further, the largest discs can be moved, which can cause pieces underneath it to be revealed. Thus, the game does have a memory element in that players should attempt to remember the color of the piece that may lie beneath these larger pieces. Failure to remember this could prove detrimental, and unwittingly aid your opponent. This mechanism is eerily similar to the one used in Gobblet, a game designed by Thierry Denoual and released by Blue Orange Games. This makes one wonder if Gobblet was an influence on this design.
Game play is incredibly simple. Players each receive 12 disks: 3 large, 4 medium and 5 small. They alternate placing pieces onto the board, attempting to connect four of their disks in a row. Disks fit snuggly into the recessed spaces, so there is little chance of upsetting the board. Once placed, small and medium-sized pieces remain stationary and may not be moved. Large pieces, however, can be moved on future turns, but this will reveal the disk that lies underneath it. Part of the strategy is moving these pieces at the moment to either thwart an opponent or re- position the piece to achieve victory.
The game is easy to learn, and plays to completion in ten minutes or so. There isn’t an awful lot to think about, so there is little danger of someone causing the game to bog-down by over-analyzing his possible moves. Yet, there are definite tactics to employ, and the absence of any luck factors makes this a game of pure skill. The fact that it plays quickly and doesn’t over-tax one’s mental abilities makes Coverup a nice filler for couples and gamers.
The name might sound like a game about corporate or governmental sleaze, but CoverUp (Out of the Box Publishing, 2006 – Rudell Design) is a game in which players are simply playing Tic-Tac-Toe on multiple levels. And that, my friends, immediately caused me to wonder if the game was worth playing, as I have no fond feelings in my heart for the game scattered all through my student’s notes.
But regardless, I found it to be a simple (from Out of the Box Publishing, did I expect anything else!?), fun game. Taking only about six of seven minutes to play, it’s a quick game in which players often lose because of a poor movement on their own part but can simply wipe the board and play again. The goal of the game, getting four disks in a row, is an old theme; but the three-dimensional aspect adds a bit of life, and the pleasant components make this a really good gift game.
The game board is composed of a grid of twenty-five “wells”, in which players will be placing their pieces. Each player gets three large, four medium, and five small discs in their color (maroon or gray). That’s it – the game is ready to go!
On a player’s turn, they simply place a disk into any space on the board (except that the first player cannot place theirs in the very center space. When placing small or medium pieces, they fit into the well and cannot be removed for the remainder of the game. Medium and large pieces can both be placed on top of small pieces, and large pieces can be used to cover up medium pieces. In fact, a player can move a large disk and place it in a new location on their turn, rather than adding a new piece. However, once a player lifts up a disk, they cannot put it back on the same space. Players are attempting to get four disks of their color in a row – at which point they automatically win. If a player lifts up a disc, and it reveals a disc that causes the other player to have four in a row, the other player wins!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: One thing that is greatly in favor of CoverUp is its packaging. The board itself is a plastic piece that has a hollowed out area on the back, with sliding lid that holds the discs and rules firmly. In fact, once you have it packaged like that, you really don’t even need the box! Still, I like the box, which is the standard thin square one that most OOTB games come in, with two pieces of foam included to keep the game board from bouncing around. The discs are plastic discs; the three sizes are easily distinguishable from each other, and all the discs have a quality that lets them make a satisfying clink when placed in the holder. The largest discs are double the thickness of the other discs, making them easy to pull out of the wells and move, while the other discs fit in more snugly and can’t be removed unless the entire board is turned upside down.
2.) Rules: The small rulebook, which fits into the bottom of the board, is only five pages long; and that’s with very few words per page. The game has rules that can be explained in thirty seconds; and games can be played in very little time, making rules explanations almost superfluous. I’ve taught the game to children, teenagers, and adults; and all have picked it up easily.
3.) Strategy: Players who have played classics such as Connect Four and other games of that genre will easily understand the tactics here – or so they might think. Actually, the movable large discs are the key to the whole game. Since a player only has three of them, they HAVE to use the smaller discs to complete their four and can only cover up so many of their opponent’s discs. In the games I’ve played, the majority have been won by one player moving a piece and revealing four in a row of their opponent. That is indeed an embarrassing way to lose but certainly a most dangerous one. Covering up an opponent’s disk is an easy way to stop them from an immediate four in a row, but a player can find that their large discs are trapped that way. The flow between the three sizes of discs is very unique and interesting, as players must figure out which discs to place first, and where. How soon do you get the large discs on the board? Which opponent discs do you cover up?
4.) Fun Factor: Pretend as I might, however, there really isn’t much more to say about the game. The fun in the game comes from covering up an opponent’s pieces, and trying to force them to move so that you score four in a row. Do you know that satisfying feeling that you get in Connect Four when your opponent can only block one of your moves, and you can claim victory by default? That same feeling is present here, as you force your opponent to block you with the only piece they can move, revealing your other four in a row. Tremendous.
It’s a very entertaining time to spend between two players; and the high quality pieces, although they may be less than flashy, make it a nice coffee table game. I like the portable nature of the game; and it’s one that people aren’t afraid to try out, since they most likely have played some “get x pieces in a row” game before. This is a smooth offering by Out of the Box Publishing. This game may get overlooked by many; but if you want a fast fun game to play with kids or other family members, this may be a good bet.
“Real men play board games”