Circular boards composed of rotatable rings make for visually-arresting games. Roller Bowl from 1952 was the first; it was reimplemented various times in the following decades. The best-known versions were possibly a pair of 1980 games: Stadium Checkers and its cousin Tournament Stadium Checkers. These games used gravity-based bowl-shaped 3D boards where the object was to get the balls of your colour into similarly-coloured slots in the centre of the board (and in some versions, capture opposing marbles while doing so).
Then, in 1999, Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game was released, which clearly drew on the Death Star’s shape for inspiration. The real hook of the game was the VHS interactivity, but there were a couple of rotating rings which made life difficult for the Rebels as they undertook their mission.
Now, two soon-to-be-published games that have taken this concept in a different directions. The first is called Everdark. It’s a semi-co-op where players have to stave off the devastation of their City while competing for influence. Not much info on BGG about it yet but it looks promising.
The one I’m going to look at this week is Centrix, which is about to be Kickstarted. Their designers recently sent us a demo copy to check out.
Centrix is a family boardgame where up to six players race to get their three pawns to the top of a seven-level tower. Players have hands of three cards which they use to move their pawns and rotate the rings. Each card has a number and a colour. The number is the amount of sectors you can rotate one of the rings (as long as one of your pawns is on it). Rotation is optional, but if you rotate it must be the full amount. The colour is the square your pawn must land on. The deck also contains two different types of “joker” which allow you to land on any colour: one lets you rotate a ring any number of sectors, and the other doesn’t let you rotate at all.
Movement is always one square orthogonally, and you are allowed to jump over intervening occupied sectors. You can also be a meanie and land on an opponent’s sector, which bumps them down two rings. This has a cascading effect, so think before you bump.
The game’s colours are bright and inviting. The rings can be placed with or without colour-blind symbols, which is a plus–though some of the symbols are a bit oddly-chosen. Why a three-leaf clover? Don’t you want us to be lucky, guys?
The rules as they stand could use a bit of a re-org in my opinion, and need some clarification around bumping–for example, can you be bumped off the bottom of the board? The designers also include some optional “house rules” at the end, which feels a bit lazy to me–I mean, it’s your job to figure out which version makes for the best game Also, I think a family game should have one set of rules, otherwise the kids will always be arguing over which version to play. (Amirite, parents?)
The biggest problem with Centrix is the end-game. When each player only has one pawn left to move, there are a lot of dead cards (this may be better at higher player-counts; I only got to play with three) and there’s no explicit mechanism for flushing your hand. At this point in the game it overstays its welcome, which is a shame, because it’s at least 80% of the way there.
I think Centrix could be a great grease-pole of a game, with players constantly clawing their way up and being knocked back down the levels. The box currently says it’s for ages 14 and up, but I think it could easily be played by kids as young as 8. The designers continue to gather feedback and tweak the game, so there’s every possibility the game will deliver when it is ultimately released.