So, as many of you who have been following the blog for a while know, I have fallen in love with the GIPF Project. Some of the games in the series include Yinsh and Dvonn, which have really ignited my passion for spatial reasoning games. Because of my love for this project, I've been trying to play through all of the games in the series… which leads us to Punct.
In Punct, each player has a series of pieces three pips long; they are either triangles, straight lines, or bent lines. Each of these pieces has one of the three pips filled in. Each turn, the players decide whether they want to place a new piece (anywhere except in the middle of the board), or whether they want to move one of their previously placed pieces. If they choose to move a piece, they can move it in a straight line from where the filled in pip is located. Once they have decided on the new placement of the pip, they can also rotate the piece in any direction they choose. In doing this, they are even able to land on (and cover) their own or their opponent's pieces. Players alternate actions back and forth until one player has connected their pieces in a contiguous pattern from one side of the hex board to the opposite side - at which point this player is the winner. If either player places their last piece before anyone has connected one side to the other, the game is also over - and the player with the most spaces controlled by his color in the middle region of the board is the winner.
Now for the pros. The first thing that I liked about Punct was how you could be sneaky in the game. Since you are not only allowed to move pieces, but you are also allowed to rotate them after they move, a skilled player is able to mask some of his intended movements (as well as block your opponent's potential counter-movements). By placing a bent piece at a different angle than you intend it to wind up, or by placing a straight piece perpendicular to your ultimate destination, you can make it much more challenging for your opponent to decipher your strategy.
The next thing that I liked about Punct was that you had a lot of different pieces available to you. Since there were three different shapes, and the colored pip could be in any of the three pips on that piece, there is some strategy involved in determining which piece to play. This really factors in with the bent pieces much more than the other two (a triangle can be spun so that no matter where the pip is, it can wind up where you want it, and the straight pieces really just have two variations), but it still adds some additional flavor to this game.
However, though I liked some of the strategy of Punct, the game overall didn't quite "click" for me like the other games in the series have. I have spent a decent amount of time mulling this over in my mind, trying to determine what was different, and here's what I came up with - the game doesn't work towards a conclusion. In all of the other games that I have played in the series, each play takes you noticeably closer to the conclusion of the game - whether it is because there are less pieces available, or because more pieces are aligned. In Punct, many moves do not feel this way. Players can quickly wind up stalemating each other by moving certain pieces around the board - instead of really feeling like you're improving your position, you feel more like you are just stalling, which is unfortunate.
The next thing that I didn't like about Punct was that the strategy didn't seem quite as deep. I'm sure that it is, and that I'm really missing something here, but I just felt like the strategy was to get control of most of the center and then build out a straight line as quickly as you can. Once you get close, however, your opponent will start countering your moves by covering your pieces. And then you will counter them by trying to re-cover those pieces. And then you wind up in the stalling situation that I was discussing in the previous paragraph.
My final con for Punct is quite nit-picky. The pieces didn't quite "lock" into the gameboard as well as I would have hoped. Because of this, you had to be careful not to bump the table while you were playing. The pieces did have small protrusions on the bottom of each piece that was intended to fit into the gameboard, but it wasn't quite as snug as I would have liked.
Overall, I give Punct a 6.5/10. Whereas I love the Gipf project, I felt like this title wasn't quite to the level of excellence as all of the other games I have played in it. With that said, I still look forward to playing through the rest of the games in the project, including the Gipf Kits that allow the games to be combined!
If you like games like Punct, you might check out my top ten abstract games, Pentago, and Hey, That's My Fish!