includes Shacru and Azacru; series 302
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The Pacru 302 set contains the rules and equipment for three games: Pacru, Shacru & Azacru.
These are played by 2,3 or 4 players with special "chevron" pieces which turn fields their own color as they move round the board. Chevrons point and move in three directions forwards.
Shacru is very easy to learn and play. The challenge is to win by blocking your opponents' paths with markers and avoiding their blocks so you get the most fields. For ages 5 and up; 15-30 minutes.
Azacru requires strategic thinking. In the dramatic climax players make "connection changes": a powerful move that can turn many fields your color -- even when they belonged to your opponents. For ages 7 and up; 15-40 minutes.
Pacru is a deep game comparable to classic abstracts such as Chess or Go. You can be creative with the different dynamics that make each game so fascinating. To win you capture all your opponent's chevrons, block them in, or reach the target of forty-two fields. For ages 9 and up; 40-80 minutes.
This set of games both shares much in common (same pieces, unique movements) and are also quite different. My personal favourite is definitely Pacru which is an almost perfect game. The game plays best with two people, but will work with more provided the players are of approximately equally strength. While the play is very different, the strategy is roughly a combination of chess and Go and this is high praise indeed. A skillful player must think strategically, capturing territory and important squares (as in Go) but also be able to handle some quite complex tactics and piece movement (as in chess). Pacru is a superb game. The rules are fairly complex and will take about 10-15 minutes to fully grasp. A game of Pacru between two good players is likely to take about 60+ minutes.
Azacru will probably have the widest appeal of the 3 games. In many ways, it is the most elegant of the 3 games and has a very rare (and clever!) mechanism in which the sacrifice of pieces is actually an important tactic in a players' arsenal. This mechanism can be extremally pleasing when successfully executed! The rules are not very complex and will take about 5-10 minutes to fully grasp. A game of Azacru between two good players might end quite suddenly (don't be complacent!) so can last anything from 5-30 minutes.
Shacru is the lightest of the 3 games. It is a simple territory carving game and a useful introduction to the board and movement for the much better games of Azacru and Pacru. I'm not a big fan of Shacru but it should appeal to children and adults looking for a fun, social experience. The rules will take about 1-2 minutes to master and games are usually around 10-20 minutes in length. Shacru works particularly well with 4 players.
The gameplay of Pacru is somewhat hard to describe because of the fact that it's actually a kit that supports 3 different games.
Shacru is a very simplistic game that reminds me somewhat of the old arcade game Qix where you're similarly trying to block off areas of terrain. It looked a bit basic for me, and so I didn't actually play this variation of the game.
Azacru is a more complex game that still doesn't get too deep. I suspect it's the variant most likely to appeal to Eurogamers.
Pacru drew comparisons to Chess, as our players all felt like it required pretty deep levels of concentration and pretty careful look-ahead to play well.
It's a bit hard for me to weigh the design of the Pacru games because this sort of abstract game really isn't my forte. I like the simple, geometric abstracts like Punct and Rumis (and to a lesser extent, Blokus), but more strategic abstracts are more likely to leave me cold.
With that said ...
When I said that Azacru, the middle game, was more likely to appeal to Eurogamers, that's because my group enjoyed it when we played. It's very abstract, but it's simple, and it's elegant. There's a lot of careful positioning in the first part of the game. When you start to clash with your opponents, you can sometimes make very clever moves involving connection changes and through that the game is often won.
It's not too deep, but it allows for some fun tactics, and in that incarnation I think you have a fairly average game, and probably something nice as a change of pace if you like light abstracts.
Pacru, however, is clearly the heart of this set of games, and its aesthetics even appeal to me, despite not liking this sort of game. It's a complex abstract that takes lots of thought, and, hand-in-hand with that I'm pretty sure it rewards players who are able to play more thoughtfully.
Moreso than Azacru it really felt like a game of strategy, because you were often setting things up many turns in advance. Yes, you could make a sudden and brilliant one-turn move, but it was often based upon many prior turns of careful setup. The special moves (the connections, the pincer, and the meeting) offered just enough meat for you to hang those clever plans upon. There were never any meetings in our game, but a few pincers were successfully conducted, and they helped turn the game.
As a deep strategy game, and a contender for the same brainspace as classics like Chess, I suspect that Pacru has real legs, and suggest it to a serious abstract player.
On the whole, I've given the Pacru series of games a "4" out of "5". It might go higher if I got really deep into the game, but that's beyond me. I'll also add the caveat that though there are variants of the game for casual and intermediate players, I think that the advanced game is the best for its particular audience.
[This is excerpted from a longer review at RPGnet.]
When I first read over the rules for Shacru, which is one of the three games included in Pacru (Pacru Ltd., 2004 - Mike Wellman), I immediately thought of the old movie Tron, or the video game Centipede. Players race their pieces around the board, leaving a trail behind them, and this abstract game appealed to me since I had always liked games such as this. With the simple pieces that came in Pacru, there are three rule sets: Shacru, Azacru, and Pacru (fun to say, huh?). After many plays, I consider all three games variations on the same theme (although they do play fairly differently), but the author insists that they are three separate games - and indeed they have three entries at www.boardgamegeek.com.
Either way, I have to say that Pacru was for me quite the enjoyable game. While "Pacru" was easily the most complicated of the three games and possibly the deepest strategically, I found myself continually drawn to playing Shacru, mostly because of its sheer simplicity. But all three games were enjoyable to me and the other adults I played with. Teenagers did not seem to have the same enjoyment of the game as I did; I taught the game to many of them, and while they understood it, they really weren't too enthused about it.
All three of the games use the same components. Each player receives three or four triangular pieces, (chevrons) as well as a box of smaller "marker" pieces of the same color. The board is made up of a nine by nine grid of spaces - split into nine "regions" - very similar to a Suduko board. Each space is an eight pointed star, pointing at one other space (or the side of the board.)
In Shacru, players move one chevron on their turn - moving it either straight forward, or turning it forty-five degrees and then moving it straight forward one space. After moving to the new space, the chevron should be facing in the direction that it just moved, and a marker is placed in the space the chevron is currently sitting. Players may not move a piece into a space containing either another chevron, or a marker of an opponent's color. When crossing a "border" (the lines between the nine regions of the board), players also have the option of rotating the chevron forty-five degrees AFTER moving. When a player cannot move one of their chevrons, they pass; and the game continues until all of the players cannot move any of their chevrons. At this point the number of markers on the board is totaled, and the player with the most is the winner!
In Azacru, the same basic rules apply as in Shacru. However, other options are available. Each chevron now has the "power of movement", which means that they can move between one space and their "power". This power is determined by the number of player's markers in a region. So if my chevron is in a region with four markers of my color, it can move between one or four spaces in a straight line. When a chevron moves from a spot containing one of its markers to another spot containing one of its markers, all the markers in between are changed to that player's color. Players can also jump another player's chevron in the same way, but then cannot change the markers to their own color. Again, play continues until all players cannot move, at which point the number of markers on the board is totaled, and the player with the most is the winner!
In Pacru, the entire game changes. Pieces move as they do in Azacru, with "power of movement", however several new moves and rules are allowed. When a player's chevron crosses a border into a new region, they may place a marker on ANY neutral space in that region, unless there are none - in which case they can replace an opponent's marker. If, on a player's turn, they could move two different chevrons to the same space that an opponent's chevron is sitting on, then a "pincer" is formed. They can move one of the two chevrons to the space, eliminate the opponent's chevron, and place one of their markers in the space. Players can also form a "meeting", in which two of their chevrons are directly pointing at each other, both on a space including a marker of that player's color. If a "meeting" occurs, the player may place their marker on any space on the board. A player can also, instead of moving on their turn, re-orient one of their pieces. If they re-orient it forty-five degrees, they must remove two of their markers from the board, removing four markers if they re-orient it ninety degrees. Players can only re-orient a piece if one of their pieces can still move. If a player cannot move one of their chevrons on their turn (or all their chevrons have been eliminated), then they lose the game. Otherwise, the game ends when a player places a specified number of markers on the board (determined by number of players). This player is the winner!
Some comments on the game…
1.) Components: The game I have is called "Series 302", and was produced in 2005. Several other versions have been made, including some rather deluxe versions with beautiful tiles. My Pacru comes in a rather plain looking box, with a photograph of the game on it, and pieces of the game adorning the sides. The board is simply a large grid of star spaces, split into nine regions by thick black lines. Each of the four sets of pieces comes in a small box with lid of that color (yellow, red, green, and black). The pieces are all wooden - with the markers being small cylinders, and the chevrons triangular pieces that remind one of an arrowhead. The game certainly looks abstract; and while it's pleasing on the eye, it is "no frills". Everything fits easily inside the square box; and I really liked the four smaller boxes, as they kept all the pieces organized quite well.
2.) Rules: The rulebook is very clear, showing the rules for all three games and color illustrations of each, showing different examples. All three games can be taught easily, with Shacru being learned in less than a minute. Pacru is certainly the hardest, as players have a lot to deal with on their turns, and will probably easily lose to an experienced player. One can go to the website for the game (www.pacru.com) and play a web version of all three games, to get a feel for the rules. But even though I've said that Pacru has the hardest set of rules, they're still fairly simple compared to other games - only the strategies are more difficult.
3.) Games: While the author maintains that the three games are completely different, I would submit that Azacru is simply an advanced form of Shacru, and that Pacru, while completely different, is a "cousin" of the other two. But it doesn't really matter. When buying this game, you'll get three different games in one box - each of which plays differently, and all of which use the exact same pieces. Shacru is my current favorite of the three, since it allows more socialization when playing (not as much thinking is required as in the analysis heavy Pacru).
4.) Shacru: Most games of Shacru that I've played end in fairly close scores. Players usually lose because of a stupid mistake that they've made, as they allow a chevron to be forced into a corner or plow into the path of another player's color. I enjoy Shacru with four players best, although it works fine with three and two.
5.) Azacru: Scores for this game aren't nearly as close as Shacru, because one clever move by a player can result in the changing of four or more spaces to their color. Instead of moving around the board, trying to "cut off" their opponents, players must constantly watch to see where chevrons might "jump" into other territory. Azacru is my least favorite of the three games; not because I dislike it, but because if I want to play with the fancier moves, I like to play Pacru.
6.) Pacru: This is certainly a game in which a player must be on guard at all times. Losing a chevron to a Pincer is devastating, and players can quickly find that their pieces can get stuck in corners and be unable to move. While Shacru and Azacru are fun games, in which players can sit around and laugh and talk while playing, Pacru is a much more focused, intense experience. Even though players only have one type of piece - and only three or four of them, the options they have are great, and they must take care to watch out for traps set up by their opponents. I find Pacru plays best with two, because the level of intensity is that much higher.
7.) Ages: I'm not sure why I couldn't get the kids to enjoy the game. They usually like abstract games, but this one flopped with them - and with more than one group. Adults seemed to enjoy the game greatly, though, so perhaps it's a game that appeals more to a higher maturity level.
8.) Fun Factor: Shacru and Azacru will be more fun for the "lighter" crowd, the folks who want a simple game of strategy, but one that doesn't require absolutely all of their attention and concentration. Pacru will appeal more to those who enjoy a "meaty" game, one in which they must maneuver their pieces to the best of their ability. In a glance, I can tell who is winning in a Shacru game. It's much more difficult looking at a Pacru board, as the pieces look scattered and in chaos (they're not).
If any of these three games sound interesting to you, then it's worth picking up. Really, I like all three; and while Pacru can be too intense for me at times, Shacru is always available and easy to find opponents for. If you're looking for a game that has three different rule sets - from simple to rather strategy-heavy, then Pacru is certainly worth looking into. If nothing else, you can try it out online before purchasing to see if this type of abstract game is for you.
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