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



Reiner Knizia


No. of Players:
2 - 4



It is always astonishing to see the number of new games created by Reiner Knizia each year, and it is likewise remarkable that his creativity does not focus on one specific genre of games, but instead his creations range from thematic strategy games to titles focusing on abstract scoring and placement rules. One of his newest creations falls into the latter category, and so the game Rondo invites the players to place coloured disks onto a gameboard in order to score victory points.

The double-sided gameboard features a wheel-like grid of tracks, and these tracks are subdivided into coloured spaces which feature values ranging from 1 to 5. During the course of the game the players try to place disks of matching colours on these spaces, and for each successful placement they may collect victory points corresponding to the value of the space.

During setup each player receives two disks which were randomly drawn from an opaque bag, and the players keep the colours of their disks secret by placing them onto stands which are reserved for their eyes only. During his turn, a player either may opt to play one or more disks from his stand, or he may draw two additional disks from the bag in order to increase his hand size. This may be done until a player has a maximum of five disks on his stand, and if this maximum is reached the player is forced to play at least one of his disks during his following turn.

[IMAGE]As indicated, disks only may be placed on spaces of a matching colour, and in addition all disks must be placed adjacent to already placed disks or to the center-space of the gameboard. However, if a player wants to place more than one disk during his turn, he faces an additional restriction by the rule that all disks placed during a turn must be placed in a row, meaning that they must be used to fill spaces adjacent to each other. After one or more disks have been placed, the active player then finishes his turn by recording his score and drawing one new disk from the bag to add it to his stand.

There is one occasion in which a disk's colour does not need to match the colour of the space where it is placed: if a player wants to "bridge" a specific space of which he does not possess a matching coloured disk, he may place one of his disks face down on this space in order to continue placing disks behind this space. Such a placement is valid, but the player will not score points for the bridged space and so the bridging of many spaces usually means a loss of many potential victory points.

During the first few rounds the players will collect some disks and start placing them on spaces leading outwards, away from the center of the gameboard. However, after some placements the gridwork of already placed disks slowly will get closer towards the outer rim of the gameboard, and here the really valuable spaces with values of 4 and 5 are waiting. When these spaces get into range, the players will start to get more cautious, trying to remember how many disks the other players still might have available on their displays. Every placed disk closes the range to one of the high-value spaces, but this comes at the risk that the range is shortened not only for the active player during his next turn, but all other players now also will have the chance to get to this space.

In addition, the players need to consider the not yet mentioned additional scoring rule that the active player is allowed to stack more than one disk onto a space, thus scoring its value several times. So, it may pay off to collect disks of the same colour for such a multiple scoring, but the frustration is even higher if such a possibility then is spoiled by a competitor.

Due to his wonderful skills as a mathematician Reiner Knizia fittingly decided that "5" is the magic number for this game. So, the limitation of a player's hand to five disks means a rather good balance between turns spent for making scorings on the gameboard and turns used to collect new disks from the bag. The availability of up to five disks on a player's stand means that the player may be able to cover a good sequence of spaces on the gameboard, and so the players will try to wait for a perfect opportunity which allows a high scoring. The secrecy of a player's hand also introduces some degree of bluffing, since especially the players with two or three disks of the same colour will try to mask their true intentions until a desired space comes into range.

All in all, Rondo is an entertaining family game which comes with convincing "Knizia-approved" rules and high quality playing materials. The chip-like disks are nice to handle, and both the abstract gameboard and the disks give an impression of simple but timeless elegance. The whole creation is topped by the backside of the gameboard which features a slightly different layout and higher values for the spaces, and these two simple changes challenge the players to re-think some of the moves they usually would make while playing the other side of the board.

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Copyright © 2012 Frank Schulte-Kulkmann, Essen, Germany