Review: Your piece, my piece.

Taiji is another game in the Nestorgame line of small, portable abstract games. The object of the game is simple, to end the game having the largest connected area of your own colour laid on a square-gridded board, but the game pieces themselves work against you.

Taiji is played on a square board in 7x7, 9x9 or 11x11 sizes (each of the three sizes is marked out on the Nestorgames board). Each player receives a pile of identical ‘tajitu’ pieces, each of which is a rounded lozenge of acrylic with a light and a dark end which can be placed by either player.

Player take turns placing a single taijitu on the board until there are no more empty spaces. The largest connection region or regions wins! (alternate scoring for the larger boards count each player’s 2 or 3 largest regions)

At first glance the game is trivial, but this ignores the two-ended pieces. Every piece placed also creates a space for your opponent. Perhaps more importantly, every piece blocks your own region from expanding in one direction, making forking moves much harder. It’s impossible to extend a region up through a 1-square-wide channel as the second half will block it. The limited connectivity of the square grid also provides fertile ground for blocking moves, although only at the expense of abandoning your own regions to attack.

Over several plays, players will tend to figure out a few formations that can be easily turned into larger regions. The next step of strategy is figuring out block formations which work while still leaving opportunities to grow your own region without ceding any advantage. This can be a lot trickier than it sounds, and that 1 space you add to the other player’s region may well be the margin of victory. Some control over game length comes when odd-sized regions are fenced off which will leave gaps.

The character of the game changes on the different sized boards, with more opportunities for sweeping connections and surrounding your opponent on the larger ones. The multi-region scoring also forces you to choose between developing a promising region and further expanding your largest. I’d suggest starting on the smaller board (which also plays much faster) and then moving up to the larger boards only when your opponents are completely hooked on figuring out new strategies.

Taiji is simpler and lighter than other area control abstract games, but the simplicity and fast play are part of it’s appeal as an easy-to-pull out filler abstract with easy rules that just cries out for a few more games once you’ve finished your first. It’s definitely worth adding to a collection if you play enough abstracts to have places for both light and heavy ones.