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The Meeple Guild: Fendo offers many decisions in game

In Fendo you have a fine game, and a board that looks amazing, but be aware tiny pieces are involved here.
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Clemens Gerhards production of Fendo is outstanding.

YORKTON - So this week’s review brings together one of the absolute best abstract strategy game designers, and one of the companies making some of the absolute best quality games on the market.

The designer is Dieter Stein – creator of such gems as Volo, Urbino, Abande and Ordo – all of which should be in the collection of any serious abstract strategy fan.

The publisher is Clemens Gerhards (www.spiel-und-design.eu)

And, oh yes the game is Fendo.

So let’s start with Stein’s game.

In Fendo you have a territory game -- so think something akin to the classic 1992 game Amazons from Walter Zamkauskas.

Fendo is different but the general family is the same.

In Fendo is a board game in which players take turns placing and moving their pieces.

There are also neutral fences available that must be placed between the spaces to enclose areas.

Again fencing in territory is not a new idea. Designer Philip Slater was using the fence idea back in 1975 with his game Blockade.

Mirko Marchesi revisited the idea in 1997 with Quoridor, still on the market from publisher Gigamic.

Then in 1999 Rich Gowell released Entrapment, which remains the best use of fences, even with Stein’s 2014 designed Fendo.

But, to Stein’s credit he has a game in Fendo that challenges Entrapment for top of the heap among ‘fence’ mechanic games, and since Entrapment is sadly out-of-print this one warrants serious attention.

In Fendo, as play progresses the board sees reduced freedom of movement due to the fences, and when there are no moves left the game ends, and the player with the largest total territory wins.

It’s pretty straight forward in terms of rules, but don’t equate rule simplicity with lack of game depth. Fendo makes you think – and often think hard – to determine what are the best moves.

It doesn’t hurt that the game is being produced by Clemens Gerhards.

I’ve reviewed several of the games the publisher has produced over the years dating back to ConHex and Aronda way back in 2009.

Through the years the publisher has always made wonderful wooden boards, the sort of board which begs to be displayed on office desks or coffee tables.

In that regard the Fendo board could not be made nicer.

But – yes there is a but here – the fence pieces are tiny. They are skinny little wooden bits that my large old fingers are not enamoured with. They fit in the cut-out slots on the board nicely, but they are finicky to handle.

And, I would hate to drop one on the carpet to find, and so I would not suggest taking Fendo to a coffee shop unless you are very careful.

If you are like myself and the other main abstract player in the Guild – you handle game pieces as you think. Drop a glass bead in Go, it’s relatively easy to find. These fences would be more challenging. It is sort of the same thing that was in the ConHex set so long ago, small wooden marbles that you feared might roll off the table too easily.

So in Fendo you have a fine game, and a board that looks amazing, but be aware tiny pieces are involved here.