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Fnap is a blind-bidding, tile placement game. Players bid to play tiles, one at a time. Tiles can score in three different ways
Average Rating: 4 in 1 review
There is a large fanbase for abstract games, yet I’m still amazed that the wonderful games of Pin International aren’t mentioned more often. Some of them, like Creeper and Outfox are incredibly simple yet clever games. I’m amazed at their quality, both in component quality – wonderful wood straight from Thailand, and simple, tremendous rules. Thus, when I got Fnap (Pin International, 2006 – Andrew Juell) in the mail, I was instantly intrigued, simply because of the company involved.
Fnap (how do you pronounce this?) is a game that successfully combines blind bidding with tile placement for a very intriguing game that is quickly becoming one of my favorite two-player abstracts. There is a bit of guesswork as you attempt to figure out what tile your opponent will play, while at the same time attempting to pick the best tile for you to use at any specific moment. It’s clean, the strategies aren’t immediately obvious, and I come out of each game with a great feel of satisfaction – plus the components are fantastic, as usual.
Each player takes a set of tiles in their color (yellow or red). The twenty-four tiles are composed of the numbers “0” through “5”, four times. One set has the number with a circle around it, another has arrows pointing to each of the four sides, another has arrows pointing to each of the four corners, and the last has arrows that point to the corners and sides. Players put their tiles face up behind a shield, and place a board with a six by six grid between them. Each row and column of the grid has a pin placed at the end of it. Two other pins are placed at the bottom of a scoring track shaped like a “U”. One side of this “U” is used for one player, and the other for the opposing player. One player is given the Fnap token, and the game begins.
In each round, players choose a tile from behind their screens and reveal them simultaneously. The player who reveals the lower number places both tiles onto empty spaces on the board. If both players reveal the same number, then the player with the Fnap token has a choice. They can either place both tiles, giving their opponent the Fnap token, or simply allow their opponent to place the tiles.
When placing the tiles, different things can happen, depending what tiles where placed where. If a column or row is completely filled up with tiles, then the sum of the numbers on each players’ tiles are compared. The player with the higher sum takes the pin associated with that tile, and places it at the end of the scoring track closer to their side of the “U”. If there is a tie, the pin is flipped over, with no player scoring that row.
Also, if three tiles of the same player are placed next to each other, and all three have arrows that point at each other (in the same line), then that player scores a “triplet”, and takes the pin on the scoring track closest to their opponent, and places it at the end of the scoring track closer to themselves.
When the board is filled up, the tiles with circles are each checked. For each of these tiles which has NO tiles of the same color pointing at them with arrows (an “isolated circle”), the player moves a pin from the other end of the line to their side. At this point, the player who has the line of pins closer to their end of the “U” is the winner! If there is a tie, then the player with the Fnap token wins.
Some comments on the game…
- Components: As I stated at the beginning, I’m a huge fan of the
high quality of Pin Interantional games, and Fnap is no exception.
The only thing I don’t like is that Fnap is a part of the “Games
Collection” series from Pin. On the positive side, this means that it
can be stored, along with three other games, on a nice rack that holds
four games and makes a nice centerpiece for a coffee table. On the
negative side, this means that the box is a pain, as the game must be
slid out, and if tipped will spill all the pieces. The tiles and
shields all fit nicely on the board, and everything, from the pins to
the Fnap token, fit quite well. The tiles are bright colored red and
yellow wooden pieces, with easy to differentiate numbers and symbols
on them. Fnap is surely a beatiumous game.
- Rules: The rules are very easy to understand, although I often
find myself showing the other player exactly how the scoring track
works, although it’s simply like a snake that is growing and moving
back and forth on the track. The circle tiles and rows of three are
explainable via demonstration, and even an elementary child can
probably pick up the game quickly.
- Tiles: Knowing which tile to play is an excruciating decision
each turn. By playing a high numbered tile, a player can assure that
they will have domination on the rows and columns on the board, but
will most likely have no control over the placement. Playing a low
number may guarantee you where to place, but you sacrifice power by
doing so. And which type? If a player places the tiles with arrows
pointing in all directions, they will be able to more easily make
lines of three, but also make it extremely difficult to place their
circled tiles. Now, I know that simultaneous selection is a turn off
for some people, and it’s indeed the only real randomness in Fnap, but
I would urge even those who don’t enjoy it to check it out here.
There are real decisions to be made behind each tile, which depend on
the tiles already played, and the positions available on the board.
If I see a spot that is perfect for my opponent to place a circled
tile, I may play the lowest numbered tile I have, simply to mess them
up. At the same time, it’s quite feasible for them to realize that
I’m about to do this, and play a tile that they don’t care where I place.
- Strategy: Placing tiles is a key to this game, as players will
most likely be able to do it half the time (less, if you insist on
holding onto the start tile – which could break a game-ending tie, but
I haven’t seen it happen yet). Gaining the most points in columns and
rows is important, and easy to set up, but you would be amazed at how
powerful the end game, and those circled tiles can be. They certainly
are difficult to place (possibly more so than a triplet), but at the
same time give your opponent a nasty surprise when you get one down
successfully. If players wish, there are also “tournament” rules that
are found at www.boardgamegeek.com that help add strategy to the start
of a game.
- Fun Factor: Most of the fun from Fnap will come from analyzing
the board and determining the best place to put each tile. I get a
kick out of playing my opponent’s tile in the worst place possible,
and out of allowing them to place a tile that I really don’t mind
wherever it goes. This cerebral thinking won’t be for everyone, but
Fnap is a game that seems to offer so many possibilities, and I doubt
you’d ever see the same game twice.
Fnap is a beautiful game with a strange name, but easy to understand mechanics, and unique in that it integrates a simultaneous selection mechanic that is less random than it seems. Every tile in the twenty-four are useful, even though a player will use only eighteen. I’m curious to play this time and time again, to see how the board set up changes and how strategies develop. And I’m glad that I’ll get this chance, because Fnap is high on my list of games that I want to play over and over again.
"Real men play board games"