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The Meeple Guild: many fine 'crossing' games to explore

In this case we are only looking at ‘crossing’ games which can be played on simply created square grids with the playing pieces being a collection of checkers or backgammon stones.
A homemade board for Epaminondas, a much under-appreciated classic from Robert Abbott created in 1975.

YORKTON - As promised last week, we’ll look at a few games which have as their win condition moving one of your pieces across the board to your opponent’s back line. 

In this case we are only looking at ‘crossing’ games which can be played on simply created square grids with the playing pieces being a collection of checkers or backgammon stones – in short something fairly easy to create at a low cost. It is the same base boards and pieces required for last week’s stacking games. 

In some cases, here you will note that they connect to stacking games too, stacking be a movement mechanic in some of these games to get your piece across the board. 

That is the case with India, a 2003 creation from designer Martin Windischer. It uses stacking on a 6×6 board as players try to move a stack of size one to the opposite side.

In this one you start with 12 pieces each on board and 12 more off the board you can bring into play later, meaning a lot of pieces are on a small board which means maneuvering is a huge part of the challenge here.

Zonesh from W. D. Troyka plays with 10 pieces each positioned in opposite corners of a 6X6 board.  

In Zonesh each piece moves and captures to an empty adjacent (orthogonal or diagonal) cell space except that a stone in its home zone -- the set of cells where its army begins -- cannot move/capture diagonally. 

You win by moving a piece to the opposite corner. 

The 1985 creation Gygès from Claude Leroy is one of the more unusual and enticing offerings here. 

Again this one is played on a 6X6 board. The object of Gygès is to move a piece to your opponent's last row. The catch is that no one owns the pieces. You can only move a piece in the row nearest you.

So all the pieces are the same colour with each player restricted in which they can move based on where they are on the board.

If you can land on another piece, you get to continue moving, and try to get to the other side, but it must be achieved by passing through one of the middle two spaces, so it takes a lot of movement planning.

On a 7X7 board we have the 2004 release Daiballick by designer Philippe Lefrancois.

The game is more, or less a simulation of a sport such as soccer, whereby two teams are simultaneously trying to get their ball to the opposite teams starting goal line. 

Each player starts with seven ‘ball holders’, checkers work fine, along each player’s edge of the board and their ‘ball’ in the middle holder – again a smaller checker or a cube works just fine. Players subsequently take turns completing the following actions: 

*Moving an empty ball holder orthogonally (up to 2 times); and/or 

*Making a ball "pass" by moving the ball from on holder to another along lateral (horizontal) or diagonal line. Pass are not limited in length as long as no opponent pieces are in the way. 

First person to send their teams ball to a holder on the opponents starting line wins.  

Diaballick was nominated for the 2006 As d'Or Game of the Year, so you know it has some merit. 

For a game with an ‘older-design feel’ we come to Murus Gallicus. It was created rather recently, 2009, but when you play you think it could have been created a century, or three earlier.

The object of the Murus Gallicus is to reach your opponent's home row or to stalemate your opponent.

The game is played on a rectangular board consisting of an 8x7 array of cells, so the easiest option is to ignore one row on a back chess board.

Each player starts with a set of 16 tokens. To start the game, each player takes a set of stones and stacks two stones on each of their eight home row.

The basic units of the game are towers and walls. A tower consists of two like-colored stones in a cell. A wall is a single stone in a cell. Only towers move.

This is very much a resource management effort and a great one to explore.

This is something of a masterpiece by designer Phil Leduc. 

As for a chess board, there is the 2001 creation Breakthrough by Dan Troyka. 

Breakthrough won the 2001 8x8 Game Design Competition, sponsored by About Board Games, Abstract Games Magazine and the Strategy Gaming Society.

A piece can move forward or diagonally forward to an adjacent empty cell. Alternatively, it can capture an enemy piece diagonally forward (as chess pawns do).

Captures are neither compulsory nor can be chained.

The game is simple but that does not mean it lacks a challenge.

The goal is to try to get one of your pieces to the other side of the board before your opponent does the same.

In 1989 prolific game designer Sid Sackson released one of his greatest games Chain Reaction.

This one, played on an 8X7 board, is another using stacking as a movement mechanism with the goal to get pieces across the board.

From, “players take alternate turns of up to five segments (moves), trying to move game pieces from their home squares over the opposing goal line, in order to score points.

“After the first segment of a turn, only towers made of two game pieces may be moved. Each tower is broken down during its move, and one of its pieces may be used to build a new tower on another square. Intelligent use of this move technique can lead to "nuclear chain reactions", in which up to five towers are involved.

“There must never be more than one tower on the board at one time. Any tower on the board must be moved during the following turn segment by the player whose piece is on top. The game ends with the achievement of an agreed-upon number of points.”

I’d suggest this in the top-three of crossing games that fit the criteria of this article.

Ordo is one of my personal favourites, in part because it is played on a rather larger 10X12 board.

From designer Dieter Stein, Ordo is a game in which players try to get to their opponent's home row but while crossing the board they must always keep their pieces connected – each player starts with 20.

Pieces can move singly in orthogonal or diagonal directions, but also as a group in certain situations, which is called an ‘ordo move.’

It is great to explore a rather unique movement option, and the need to keep your forces connected, while the goal remains rather straight forward, get across the large board. 

Speaking of a large board we have to end this week with Epaminondas, a much under-appreciated classic from Robert Abbott created in 1975. 

Epaminondas is named after the Theban general who invented the phalanx formation he used to defeat the Spartans in 371 B.C., according to The term "phalanx" is used in the game to describe a connected group of two or more pieces in a straight line, either orthogonally or diagonally.

Epaminondas is played on a huge 14 x 12 checkered board with 28 black pieces and 28 white pieces.

Just appreciating the scale here is fascinating.

The objective is to move your pieces across the board onto your opponent's back rank, the row closest to him, by moving your phalanxes and capturing enemy pieces.

This is simply a great game deserving of much more attention. Create a board and enjoy.

So there you have nine games based on crossing the board to win, playable with a play set which also plays numerous stacking games, so you actually are creating hours and hours of games to explore.