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Fun is in the Balance! In a race against time, players attempt to "one up" each other by pulling Kiwi Disks from a teetering wall, and daring to stack them ever higher. The last player to successfully stack a disk, before the timer marble drops out of sight, wins Wallamoppi!
This is not the case of Wallamoppi (Out of the Box Publishing - 2006 - Garrett Donner and Michael Steer)! My personal name of it is "Fun, speed Jenga". With incredibly high quality components, a nifty and gimmicky marble ramp, and short playing time - Wallamoppi has replaced Jenga forever for me, giving those blocks to my children to play with. Wallamoppi is a simple dexterity game for two people and fills that niche quite well, also being a fun game to observe.
The wooden box that Wallamoppi comes in opens up to form a marble ramp, which holds two black marbles at the bottom. A pile of thirty-six disks, half a dark brown, the other a light tan, are mixed into a bag, and a chute is connected to the end of the marble ramp. Players now set up the "wall" of the game and determine which player plays the dark pieces, and which plays the light pieces. One dark and light disk are set aside, and then the two players take turns randomly pulling a disk from the bag, and placing it next to another disk on the wall. The wall is made up of eight disks on the bottom, then seven, then six, etc. The last two spots of the wall are taken up by the two disks set aside, with the light disk on the top, forming the bottom piece of the "tower". The dark player then prepares to take the first turn.
To start the dark player's turn, the light player drops the marble into the top of the marble ramp. The dark player must then pull a disk from anywhere in the wall and place it on top of the tower. He then grabs the marble before it falls into the hole at the end of the chute and drops it into the top of the tower. This signals that it's the light player's turn, and they must place a tan disc on top of the tower before the marble reaches the end of the ramp.
Turns alternate, as players drop the marble into the top of the tower, and the other player frantically scrambles to place a disk at the top of the tower. Players may only use one hand and may knock other disks off the wall with no retribution. If, however, a player causes the tower to fall or allows the marble to drop in the hole at the end of the chute before they finish placing a piece, they lose the game. The other player wins!
Some comments on the game...
1.) Components: Excellent, tremendous quality of game components - I'm amazed that the suggested retail price is only twenty dollars. The good-sized wooden box just manages to hold the very nice black "leather" bag, the rules, and the marble chute. The disks, while not always the same color (different wood grain and all), are very easy to distinguish between light and dark - the darker ones looking like chocolate. Each disk has a diameter of about four centimeters and a width of a little over a centimeter, making them nice and chunky to deal with. There's some flamingo artwork on the game, which is nice; although I'm not sure what in the world that has to do with the game. Great, beautiful components.
2.) Marble Tower: The marble ramp, of course, is the main attraction of the game. As a kid, I loved to set up complicated marble ramp setups with racecar tracks, cardboard tubes, etc. This marble ramp isn't quite that complicated in Wallamoppi, but it's enough to create tension. According to my watch, the entire process of the marble dropping takes about four seconds. Each time the marble drops down to another level causes the tension to ratchet up, as the marble clinks down, down, down. I guess a timer could have been used, but would that have been as cool as the ramp? The marble occasionally comes off the ramp at wrong points, especially if the floor or table isn't level; but by using the rules leaflet, I was able to tilt it correctly each time. The game rules suggest that for a "light" version, players can simply take turns without the timer. See my initial paragraph of this review to see if I've ever done that. The tower makes the game.
3.) Rules: Besides being used as a tower adjustor, the three pages of rules are clear, giving specific details on exactly how to move disks. The game is very easy to teach, although the setup phase might not make sense to new players the first time they play. When teaching a new player, or playing for the first time, I would recommend just randomly pulling the disks out of the bag. This might make the game slightly lopsided in one player's favor, but the game is so quick it doesn't matter.
4.) Dexterity: Speed dexterity is something I can handle, because I'm fairly bad at games that require a player to move very slowly (Hamster Rolle, etc.) If you dilly-dally at all during the course of a game, the marble drops, and you lose. That is what separates the game from other dexterity games. The disks ARE easier to pull out than the blocks in Jenga, but with the short time limit, things are much tenser, and much harder.
5.) Fun Factor: There's not much more I can say about the game. Deciding which block to pull out is important, but you really don't have that much time to think about it - just pull one out already! The fact that the game ends quickly (setting up takes longer than the actual game) is a good one, and it's a great game to pull out when two players are waiting for the rest of the group to show up at game night. Teenagers and adults that I've taught the game to enjoyed it greatly.
Is Wallamoppi the best dexterity game I've ever played? No. But it does have a bit of uniqueness, namely the marble tower. The fact that the tower is the box for the game is pretty impressive, and the components are great to handle, use - and just look quite nice when set up on a coffee table. It's a good deal for a good, quick game. And with the ability to whip this game out, I'll never be subjected to playing Jenga again.
"Real men play board games"
NOTE: This review was first published in Knucklebones magazine
Balancing games seem to be quite popular, and there is no shortage of these dexterity games. The latest in this genre is the strangely-named Wallamoppi, wherein 2-players compete to remove “kiwi discs” from a pyramid and stack them to form a tower without causing it to topple.
Out of the Box seemed to spare no expense in the game’s production. There are 36 thick, wooden discs, 18 each in natural or dark finish. The box itself is also wood, and is actually used as an intriguing timer mechanism. The components fit securely in a vinyl bag, completing a package that looks, feels and even smells good!
After choosing colors, players alternate removing discs from the bag and stacking them on the table to form a pyramid. Players place whatever discs they draw from the bag, be they their own or their opponent’s. Discs can be placed directly onto the table, or atop two other previously placed discs. The base of the pyramid must contain 8 discs, but discs can be placed in higher rows before finishing the bottom row. The idea is to try to place your own discs in positions where they can be easily removed, while placing the discs of your opponents in positions that make them difficult to grab.
When the pyramid is complete, the tower building begins with players alternating removing one disc and placing it atop the top disc in the pyramid. However, they have a time limit in which to accomplish this feat. The wooden box itself is stood on end and used as a timer. A series of tracks run along this inside of the box, ending in a chute. A marble is dropped into the box, and the marble rolls along the tracks, eventually rolling into the chute and reaching the end. A player must remove and place a disc, and grab the marble before it reaches the end of the chute. Failing to do this in time results in a victory for one’s opponent.
Player alternate doing this until either one player fails to grab the marble in time, or the tower tumbles.
As the tower grows, it become more precarious. Not only is the height of the tower a factor, but the supporting pyramid will also be growing unstable. This occurs rather quickly, so the game is quite short in duration. That’s a good thing, as it doesn’t grow stale.
While quite clever, the timing mechanism really doesn’t add that much pressure to the proceedings. It takes a handful of seconds for the marble reach the bottom. While that seems quick, it really does allow enough time for a player to remove and place a disc. The “clack” sound the marble makes while it drops from track to track, however, can add a psychological sense of urgency that really isn’t necessary.
For dexterity game fans, Wallamoppi is a nice addition to the genre. Its strengths are quick play, attractiveness, decent price and some challenge. Plus, it will certainly make an attractive game to display in your game room or on your coffee table. It isn’t as challenging as other dexterity games I’ve played, but it is still amusing. Your biggest challenge will be trying to explain why kiwis are intent on building a tower!