Going Abstract With TAK
Written by Ryan Barnard
TAK is an entertaining spin on the game of Tic-Tac-Toe. Originally a concept in the popular fantasy novel The Wise Man’s Fear (penned by Patrick Rothfuss,) TAK is described by the tale’s protagonist Kvothe as, “simple in its rules, [but] complex in its strategy.” Although TAK’s rules were not created until after this novel was published, this quote describes the game perfectly. Perhaps one of the best aspects of this abstract game is the fact that its author Patrick Rothfuss himself was a lead designer, paving the road ahead for TAK to exist in real life; a game many readers were eager to learn how to play.
The simplicity of TAK is openly stated in the rules and is prevalent in the game’s appearance. The pieces are wooden and simply designed. The (double-sided) board, at first glance, is a 5×5 grid, and players may adjust the size of the playing area (to be 3×3, 4×4, 5×5, 6×6 or 8×8.) TAK has three different kinds of pieces and a concise objective. The objective is akin to Tic-Tac-Toe, in which players compete to forge a path from one end of the board to the other. In TAK, while your path need not be straight, your path cannot be diagonal. Players are allowed to stack pieces and move the stacks, allowing for multiple moves of pieces at one time.
Though the rules, pieces and board are simple at heart, situations can take a turn for the complicated when playing this delightful game. If a player focuses too much on their own moves, opponents will sneak their way to victory. On the other hand, if a player focuses too much on their opponent’s moves, said player will not move any closer to victory. Even if a player is in complete control of the board and only one move from completing their path, the opponent can change the tide of battle with a single move or placement of a piece or stack. The simplicity and complexity in TAK’s gameplay proves it to be easy to learn, and yet hard to master. Like any great abstract game worth its weight in silver pieces, TAK becomes increasingly fun and interesting the more it is played.
Game creators James Ernest and Patrick Rothfuss have opened the door for gamers to experience a new mind-expanding adventure. Players will enjoy a new experience every time. The game can be learned in a few short minutes. TAK is fun and easy, with great replayability and complex strategy.
[Editor’s Note: TAK’s rulebook includes three optional scoring variants, to add flavor as needed; something more games ought to consider doing. There’s the optional “Double the Line” rule, in which points are doubled for a straight winning road. Then there’s the optional “Double the Cap” rule, in which points are doubled when no capstone is used. Lastly, there’s the “Low Road, High Road” rule, in which points are tripled for a winning road made entirely of stacks that each contain more than one piece (while points are doubled for a winning road made entirely of unstacked pieces.) – TC]