Whenever an abstract strategy game comes along I am interested.
If the game is made out of wood so that it has that classic ‘feel’ you have definitely caught my attention.
Such was the case with Entrapment, a game actually released back in 1999, but getting more attention lately.
It’s a good thing that the game is drawing some renewed interest because designer Rich Gowell has created something that is really quite outstanding in terms of a two-player abstract strategy game.
The game is based on the idea of area control and piece immobilization.
“The object of Entrapment is to capture your opponent’s roamers (pawns) by rendering them incapable of movement. A roamer that cannot move is considered captured, ands is eliminated from the board. When all three of a player’s roamers have been captured the game is over and his or her opponent declared the winner,” explains the game rules.
“Regarding Quoridor, believe it or not, I had never heard of it at this point. Shortly after I started play testing it at work a coworker came up and said something like ‘hey, I saw your game in a store up in Grand Haven’,” he said. “So I quickly researched and found out about it, and realized, to my relief, that there seemed enough difference to proceed. To this very day I have not played Quoridor, though it’s clear from people’s comments that it’s an elegant minimalist abstract.”
That said the two games obviously share some elements, in particular the use of barriers to restrict pawn movement.
In the case of Entrapment a pawn may jump a friendly barrier, although this causes the barrier to be set on its end and from that point on no piece may jump it. That is one of the innovative rules which take this game to a higher level.
The game may not quite reach the level of Go, or chess, in terms of complexity, but there is plenty here to challenge gamers too.
“The game has some ‘Go-esque”’ qualities, and so for sure those players. Chess players seem to like it as well,” said Gowell.
“Back in ‘98, when I started to have game design on the brain (started with word game obsession, morphed to abstracts) I came up with an idea involving pawns and barriers, as well as another kind of piece,” he said. “It was 10-by-10, and I made it by cutting out squares of quarter inch plywood and gluing them on a base board.
“(I) tested it one afternoon, and it had promise, but not enough. So as I sat looking at this beast, I started dinking about with the pieces. Quite suddenly the core element of entrapment came to me, the notion of jumping friendly barriers one time. It really had a kind of ‘eureka’ feel to it.
“Most of the game was in place within a few months, such as move range of roamers and forced move rule, but it took as much as a full year I think to add the double force rule, and it wasn’t until about two years ago we tried 6x7, because I felt it might cut down on what I call ‘wander’ -- that ‘wide open fields’ thing that persists awhile in the early part of a 7x7 game).”
So does Gowell think he has a classic game on his hands?
“Too early in the curve to see the phenomena you mention (tournament play and leagues) emerge yet, but would be a dream come true, to put it mildly, if and when that happens,” he said, adding he is “trying my best to keep the game chugging forward.”
Well in terms of quality production Gowell is certainly doing that. The board and pieces for Entrapment are all wood, and that really adds to both the look and ‘feel’ of the game. No game pieces have a better tactile feel than those of wood.
The game plays different enough from popular abstracts such as chess, go and the great Gipf series to offer up a unique game experience.
There is sufficient depth to be highly re-playable.
And finally the wooden game is one with heirloom potential.
Certainly one to seek out.