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Garkles

Draw and place a tile or connect your colored spaces on the board with birds. The player with the most birds on the board by the end of the game wins!

Published by Fireside Games, Grackles is an abstract strategy game packed full of head-to-head action and player interaction.

Gameplay

Each player selects a player color and takes the forty-five bird tokens in that color. The two start tiles are placed in the center of the table, and the rest of the tiles are shuffled facedown and form the draw pile.

On your turn you may choose one of the following actions: draw and place a tile, place birds, extend a line of birds, or rotate an empty tile. A tile is empty if there are no bird tokens on it and each player may only choose to take this action five times during the game.

Each tile shows four colored spaces, one for each of the four player colors in the game. When placing a tile it must be vertically or horizontally adjacent to a tile already on the table and the tiles must fit within a five-by-five grid. If a column or row already has five tiles, you cannot place another tile there.

When placing birds, you choose any two empty spaces that match your player color and are on the same line, and there must also be no birds already placed between them. You then place your bird tokens from one of these spaces to the other, placing tokens on any spaces in between (regardless of the color of those in-between spaces).

Extending a line is similar. You choose one of your lines of birds and add extra bird tokens extending it to another empty space in your color. Once again, any spaces between your line and this new empty space must be empty. You must also be building out the line in the same direction it was already going; in other words you cannot extend a line at a right angle.

The game ends once all twenty-five tiles have been placed, and there are no legal moves left. The player with the most birds on the board then wins the game.

Garkles Components

Review

Grackles plays quickly, with fast turns as each player only takes one action, and your options are clear each turn. There is a lot of back and forth competition, making choices to block each other, while also trying not to accidentally block yourself. Early moves often have a big impact later in the game, as the more lines of birds on the board, the more difficult to build long connections.

The game has plenty of player interaction, as with every tile you place you have to consider how it directly impacts everyone else. The game scales interestingly, as a two player game is a much more direct head-to-head game, while at three or four players your options open up, particularly regarding the rotation ability. A player can simply rotate again a tile you just rotated, but if you keep in mind turn order, you can make moves that will set up someone else for a smaller gain while blocking another opponent from a big play. Since a tile has to be empty in order to rotate, you can use this to prevent tiles from simply being rotated back again.

While the game is quite easy to teach, we did find the rulebook a little vague and had to go online to watch the publisher’s rule video in order to actually figure how it was supposed to play. But we like the bright and cheery colors of the components, and the bird tokens are fun to place and fill the board with.

Right from the start of the game in Grackles, you are trying to plan and build the board strategically — it is both tense and challenging. The game time felt perfect for this type of gameplay, and it is definitely one of those games that is easy to learn but hard to master.

Pros: Different strengths across all its player counts, high player interaction, colorful

Cons: Despite the simple rules the rulebook is still unclear

Disclosure: we received a complimentary review copy of this game.