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The Meeple Guild: Classic Othello fine foundation for new game

There is certainly enough ‘new’ here to make Iago a game which can stand on its own, and one worth giving a serious try.
iago-game
Iago adapts Othello core into intriguing new game.

YORKTON - there is certainly enough ‘new’ here to make Iago a game which can stand on its own, and one worth giving a serious try.

So, is there room, or even need for, the creation of a board game which could be termed an Othello variant?

A few short months ago it was likely our answer to that question would have been; ‘probably not’.

Then Iago from designer Kanare Kato arrived.

Like most games from this designer and his publishing effort Kanare_Abstract, Iago comes in a small box, think a box about the size of two packs of cigarettes, so it’s a highly portable game.

Inside is a game which immediately reminds of Othello, but thankfully is quite different too.

The board starts empty and players take turns adding a piece to the board. Borrowing from checkers captures are forced.

As in Othello, lines of pieces which are sandwiched by the other player’s colour are flipped.

The difference here is that both the black and white pieces become red when flipped.

To get those red pieces to flip again comes with a new in-game challenge. If the red disk wants to flip over again, one of your disks sandwiching it must be in the outer area or in the center space of the hexagonal board.

The exterior spaces of Othello have always been very important, but in Iago the import is ramped up just a bit more. 

Adding to the importance of the outer edge is how the game is won. Your final score is determined by multiplying the number of discs in the inner area by ones in the outer area.

So there are lots of ‘new ideas’ to explore here, but the question is how well it all comes together in Iago?

Well, much like Othello where getting to the edge is huge, and being the first to a corner near essential, here the edge’s importance is ramped up to be critical. Finding your way to controlling the outer edge is critical, and not always easy as you are forced to make captures when you might rather do something else.

Getting your head around the ‘red’ aspect is big too. Late in the game you need to flip the reds back to your colour if possible as they are part of scoring – reds are not.

Now about the packaging. The small size is neat for taking to the coffee shop, but the pieces are small because of that too. So when the cloth board gets a lot of pieces on it, and you are constantly flipping them, it’s a bit fidgety, a situation made worse by those of us with bigger fingers. It might be a case where one photocopies the board at 150 per cent and then laminate the result.

Contemplating making a larger board suggests the game is worth the effort, and that will be up to individual players. The pair of Meeple Guilders who put Iago to the test would probably be split on whether this was worth added effort.

Still, generally there is certainly enough ‘new’ here to make Iago a game which can stand on its own, and one worth giving a serious try.