Kulkmann's G@mebox - www.boardgame.de



Touko Tahkokallio


No. of Players:
2 - 4



In the last few years real time games have seen a considerable revival, ranging from chaotic dice-rolling in Escape to highly tactical cooperation games like Space Alert. However, even though quite a few different titles spring to my mind, the new ZOCH game Enigma cannot really be compared to any of those, because the playing experience found in this game is quite unique and innovative.

The game features a set of four different types of puzzles, and during each round of play each player will have to chose one type of puzzle to solve during his upcoming turn. Since the necessary parts to solve each puzzle only are included once, each player will have to chose a different type of puzzle, and for this the players draw face-down puzzle tiles which come from four different decks. When everybody has his puzzle and the necessary pieces in front of himself, they will reveal their puzzle task and all players start at once and compete to be the quickest to solve the puzzle. When the first player has finished, he will turn over a 30 seconds hourglass, and the other players now may use the remaining time in order to try to finish their own puzzles. When the sand is through, everybody has to stop, and the players who have successfully solved their puzzles now are allowed to use their puzzle tiles for a scoring placement.

For the scoring placement the players once again turn the puzzle tiles face-down, and on their backside the tiles have conductor circuits of different colours which they may now add to a common conductor layout at the middle of the table. When a tile is added to the common layout, the player who adds the tile is allowed to place one of his three pawns onto one of the circuits on his tile, and if the placement of a tile actually finishes one or more circuits (by closing all open ends) these circuits will be scored by the players who have most pawns in the respective circuits.


This may sound a bit technical, but it would have been even more exotic if I would have started with the game's strange thematic background. You are a spaceship crew which has landed on a strange planet, and it is your task to repair some alien machinery which is assumed to create some wondrous artifacts. You need to align the circuits to get the machines going, and in order to reach the circuits you have to find a way through some mathematical and three-dimensional tasks (the puzzles!). If there was a prize for the game with the most superfluous storyline, Enigma certainly would be among the nominees. But back to the game itself…

As indicated, the game includes four different kinds of puzzles, and every player will discover that he will be able to solve some kinds of puzzles faster than others. The first type of puzzle is quite classic - it's a Tangram which the players must use to create certain shapes. The next puzzle is a collection of tube-tiles, and these must be aligned in a way to match tube exits on the outer border of the puzzle-tile. Third comes a mathematics puzzle which challenges the players to distribute weights to balance a set of scales, and fourth and final is a collection of four (Tetris-like) blocks of different shapes and colours which need to be arranged so that - if watched from above - a certain shape can be seen.

A player would have an advantage if he would be able to do his favourite type of puzzle every round, but due to the changing starting player it is up to the other players to prevent this from happening. If played with a group of more or less equally skilled players, Enigma can be really entertaining because all players have a chance to solve their respective puzzles, but on the other hand the game has its limits when the group of players is composed of players of varying skills. Apart from giving weaker players a headstart on the scoring board there is no viable possibility to introduce a handicap for the more skilled players, and so all participants have to decide whether the composition of their group is balanced enough to continue playing.

Quite well done is the integration of the puzzles into the general game mechanics. The placement and scoring of the conductor circuits printed on the backside of the puzzle tiles gives the players an incentive to chose a certain tile, even though it may not belong to their favourite group of puzzles. This ascertains that the players will not do the same puzzles all along the game, and it even allows some basic tactics because even the best puzzle-solver may face some setbacks if all three of his pawns stand isolated on unfinished circuits. However, this kind of tactical play requires the players to collect some experience with the game, since newcomers usually will settle for the puzzles they can solve best, disregarding the conductor circuits they will gain from the chosen puzzle tile. So, if you decide to get Enigma on the table, take your time to get familiar with the game and the puzzles and allow yourself some warm-up rounds. This will allow you to savor the game to its full extent!

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Copyright & copy; 2014 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany