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We are in the realm of Siam which once upon a time was heaven on earth, a vast country where elephants and rhinoceroses had been living in peace for centuries. Once, the earth started to shake and Siam was reduced to three regions surrounded by gigantic mountains. Since then, elephants and rhinoceroses don't have enough space to live. These two incredibly strong species shall now struggle mercilessly to rule over two territories.
To win the game, be the first player to push a rock out of the board. An animal can push a rock -- but beware, if you want to push out an animal which faces you, you have to be superior in numbers, e.g. you will need 2 animals to push 1 out, 3 to push 2 out, etc.
The simplicity of Siam's rules and the profoundness of its gameplay will please the players of all strengths and ages.
Game board measures 26 cm = 10 inches.
Time: 15 minutes
Ages: 8 and up
Weight: 1,311 grams
Language Requirements: Game components are language-independent. Manufacturer's rules are printed in multiple languages (including English).
- 1 wooden playing board
- 5 elephants
- 5 rhinoceroses
- 3 rocks
- rules (English, French, German, Dutch, Italian)
Average Rating: 5 in 2 reviews
This game is very very good. It is quite simple and yet it retains a remarkable depth of strategy, which not only makes it a quick game to explain to a new player but the game is so easy to observe and analyze that players can think several moves ahead without getting a headache. Unlike Chess for example, players can play this game at an expert level without practicing memory skills and studying gambits. In Chess you have several pieces that do different things, in this game you have one type of piece that you can do several different things with and these several different things are so intuitive it's uncommon for a player to forget what he can do with his pieces. I don't mean to imply that this is a casual gamers game that doesn't require a lot of thought, but rather, the thought required to win is less encumbered by things irrelevant to the actual game play itself.
The game time is also quite ideal for two players with games typically lasting half an hour to an hour depending on the experience of the players and the amount of thinking time they afford one another. Also, player's rarely end up in long drawn out end-games where there is a clear winner slowly crushing his/her opponent. Very often a player in what appears to be a losing position can shift the balance with a single well-placed move. The board and pieces are high quality and look good when the game is left out. The only shortcoming of this game is the directions were not translated very well and so there is some potential for confusion unless you take a good look at the diagrams which illustrate the moves you can make.
Small Board, Big Fun
The first thing you'll notice about the "Siam" game, are the pieces... They look like they were plucked directly from some type of fancy Far Eastern Chess Set. You'll find five (5) sculpted looking Elephants in an ivory color and (5) sculpted looking Rhinos in a brown color, along with (3) equally attractive Mountain pieces that make up the game components. Each piece has felt on the bottom and feels good in the hand and are quite beautiful. In addition, the game comes with a nice thick wooden board made up of squares, in a 5x5 arrangement. The often heard comment, about leaving a game on display on your coffee table, really does apply to this one. Mine sits on a shelf with the pieces on the board, ready at any moment for a quick game. On the downside, these pieces are very delicate, so there's always the concern about dropping one and having it chip or break. It's almost makes me wish they were made out of wood instead of resin. Surprisingly, the publisher decided not to include any special insert for the box where the pieces might sit securely and safely, but instead opted to include just a few loose separate Styrofoam strips with small bubble bags taped to them for the pieces, which is another reason I leave my set out. With that said, it's truly the only flaw I could find with the game.
The goal of Siam is easy: Be the first player to push a Mountain piece off the board. However, when a Mountain is pushed off, two other criteria must be met:
- You must have a piece in the same line, that's closest to the Mountain.
- This piece must be facing in the same direction as the Mountain.
The board starts with the 3 mountain pieces aligned in the center with all the other pieces off the board. The Mountains, are neutral pieces in the game and belong to no one. The only way they can be moved on the board, is when they're pushed by another piece or pieces. On your turn, you can choose between one of the following options:
- Place a piece on any outer square of the board and have the piece face in any of four directions.
- Remove a piece from any outer square of the board.
- Move a piece already on the board 1 square vertically or horizontally. If you wish, you may also change the direction the piece faces.
- Change the direction a piece faces that's already on the board..
- Use a piece on the board to push one or more pieces 1 square.
Where Siam really shines, is in the possibilities of pushing one or more pieces on the board. This is far more then "2 pieces can push one" or "3 pieces can push 2", as seen in other pushing games. In Siam, both sides pieces, can help or hinder in the pushing process, depending on which direction each piece faces.
Even though one or more pieces may be pushed in an up, down, left or right direction, for the purposes of this description, you can assume the pushing is done from left to right, with the players piece who's on turn, at the very left and facing right, which is the only direction it could face to be able to push to the right.
You can also push with a piece that's just being brought into play, by pushing from the outer edge of the board. Thus as many as five other pieces/mountains, may be pushed at the same time, causing whatever piece is on the end to leave the board, including one of your own. The Mountain pieces don't face in any particular direction and exert no influence/force in the pushing process. Thus you can push a Mountain with just one single piece of your own or with two pieces facing right will push two Mountains, etc. The Rhinos and Elephants on the other hand, can each exert an influence/force of "1", provided they face either left or right. Pieces facing in the opposite direction of a pushing movement, are also pushing back, and that includes pieces of your own, so in order for a push to be legal, there must be more influence/force on the side doing the pushing. In addition, If your pushing from left to right, any pieces that face up or down, exert no influence/force at all, and thus it's as if they aren't even there. It gets a little more complicated, when you have both pieces and Mountains in the same line, but after a few games you'll get the hang of it.
THOUGHTS ON THE GAME:
While playing, I was very surprised at how much thought can go into choosing which option to take on your turn. In spite of the small number of pieces and the size of the board, I got the sense I was playing a game on a board twice the size. Like chess, it's a battle between two equal sides trying to be the first to accomplish the same thing. Unlike chess however, there's no capturing and so one must try and find the best spots for their pieces, at just the right time, to pull off a victory. This is certainly a game worthy of any collection. It's definitely clever, beautiful and big fun.