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The Meeple Guild: Miniature game meets chess in 5 Paths

Look is very 'video game' influenced
5 paths 72
The rule set is well laid out.

YORKTON - Perhaps with the popularity of events such as MMA, and more Hollywood movies than you can shake the proverbial stick at, there are many games that try to mimic the idea of battles.

There are many games which simulate such battles -- some are straight board games, some freer form miniature skirmish style – ranging from the gladiatorial battles of old to alien races in a dream of play within the stars.

So, when you boldly go into this particular area of game design it is an area that has been extensively mimed over the years.

But, that doesn’t mean a new game can’t come along to impress, although it has a lot of competition already on gamer shelves.

A new offering in the field is 5 Paths by designer Nicholas Jackson.

The game was recently funded through Kickstarter.

The game has a ‘video game’ feel and look, with two players sending pieces into something of a maze. The pieces have different abilities and you move them over the board attempting to either capture five of your opponents’ pieces, or making it where they have no move – both conditions giving you the victory.

This is generally an abstract strategy game with a very modern look – maybe a tad off-putting to diehard chess lovers who like the simplistic checkered board – with pieces that are simply made but stickered to again look quite video-gamey.

Like any game of this type, your joy will be heightened by knowing the pieces and what they do well so you are not referring to the rulebook. That knowledge only comes with repeated play, so there is something of a learning curve.

Designer Jackson, who lives in San Francisco where he pays the bills as a Law Clerk said the game has roots in his own gaming background.

“On some level I've always enjoyed abstract strategy games,” he said in an email interview. “I grew up playing a lot of SRPGs and the first physical game that I learned to play was dominos. So I think I tend to move from a place of abstraction. I won't pretend I'm some great strategist but the tactical, turn by turn problem solving in abstract strategy games is something that definitely appeals to me.”

Jackson said he never seriously expected to design a game.

“A buddy wanted me to help him with the flavor content for a game he was designing and, because we were a small team, I ended up helping with a lot of the mechanical stress testing as well and found out that I enjoyed the problem solving that went into balancing mechanics,” he said. 

The game 5 Paths “is the first game I ever attempted under my own steam,” added Jackson.

So as his first game how did it evolve? 

“It started as a thought experiment really, but the design process was largely figuring out what didn't work, fixing it, and then figuring out how to fix what I broke in the process of fixing the earlier problem,” said Jackson. 

But, as someone fairly new to game design was there a major challenge? 

“That's pretty hard to pin down,” said Jackson. “Throughout the design process I generally felt like I was in over my head, I have a much greater understanding of the design process now but there were definitely long periods of me not knowing how to get around a particular issue with the mechanics or design.” 

In the end though, what does the designer see as the best aspect of the game? 

“Quick set up and high replay value,” responded Jackson. “I think that if you like playing the game today you'll still enjoy it 15 or 20 years from now.” 

Jackson just might be right on that. The game has high replay potential, and sitting somewhere between chess and a miniature skirmish game it should have broad appeal. 

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