Tamsk Review

Tamsk board game in play
The last game from the original Gipf project that I've been able to try is Tamsk. (The link is to Board Game Geek, since Tamsk is out of print and not on Amazon. Plus, Tamsk was originally part of the Gipf project, but was later replaced by Tzaar; hence it being out of print.)

In Tamsk, your goal is to get rid of as many rings as possible.  Players take turns moving timers along a hexagonal shaped board, and after each move, they drop a ring around their new location.  Timers can only move to locations that still have room for another ring on them, and depending on where the location lives on the board, each location can hold anywhere from one to four rings.  Players alternate turns until no more legal moves exist, at which point the player with the least number of rings is the winner.  To add more challenge to the game, you may also play where each turn you must flip the timer that is being moved - and if a timer ever runs out of sand, then it is no longer legally allowed to move.  Finally, if you want to add even more challenge, a 15-second timer is included which you can flip over on your opponent's turn.  If they do not complete their move before that timer expires, then they lose their turn, and you are allowed to place an extra ring.

Tamsk board game from the Gipf project
Jockying for position
Though I have now reviewed many different abstract strategy games, I still haven't developed a good vocabulary for describing what I like and dislike about the games.  I often feel like my review consists of "I thought it was a good game," or "it was fun."  Basically, this is like reviewer caveman talk - "Josh like that round piece moves!"  Regardless, I will try to describe my thoughts about Tamsk.  The crux of the game is in positioning your timers to leave a maximum number of options, while limiting your opponent.  One of the interesting elements that Tamsk adds to the formula, however, is that the closer you move to the middle, the more times that a specific location can be used (the center spot can hold four rings, but the outer edge can only hold one).  This element forces players to decide whether they want to move towards the center of the board, where they will be able to move around, but will have a lot of moves blocked by other timers, or whether they should stay along the exterior of the board where each move might eliminate a location, but where there will be less conflict over each location.

The next pro that I found for Tamsk is that there are interesting choices that you have to make about when to un-block an opponent's timer.  Generally, you want to block your opponent's timers.  This prevents them from moving, and thus it allows you to take extra turns - thus playing more of your rings.  However, because the locations can be used more than once, if you are blocking an opponent with one of your timers, they will quite likely be allowed to take your vacated space as soon as you leave it.  Therefore, you have the upper hand since you have temporarily blocked your opponent, but if you don't take advantage of this by positioning your other timers while they are blocked, then this advantage might only be temporary.

Tamsk game board close up
Showing off a red timer that has died
However, though these elements are interesting, I had some definitely cons with Tamsk.  First, I hated playing it while actually flipping the timers.  Instead of trying to optimize your movements, this changes the game so that you are simply making a game of when you flip each timer.  The rules specify that as a "gentleman's agreement" you should move quickly.  However, if you start moving quickly (as you're "supposed" to), and don't alternate turns between your different timers, then you might wind up flipping  a timer that you have just flipped - causing it's time to be almost completely expired.  So, you aren't even necessarily always waiting on your opponent's timer to expire - you might be waiting on your own timer to run down so that it will have more sand in it on your opponent's turn.  Ultimately, I felt like this element of the game encouraged sitting around and waiting for timers to be close to expiring more than it encouraged playing the strategic part of the game. 

The second con that I had for Tamsk was that it simply felt too simplistic.  There didn't seem to be all that many strategic elements to it.  Like I said before, I don't have a good vocabulary for how to explain this better.  Essentially, it felt like in Tamsk, there are just not many choices - do I move towards the center, or along the edge?  Do I unblock my opponent yet?  That really seemed like about it.  Without the timer element (which I hated), you are left with a fairly basic and generic abstract game.

Overall, I give Tamsk a 6.5/10.  Part of my disappointment in the game may be that it took me a long time to track down a copy to play, but the game wasn't phenomenal, like I was hoping.  However, since I truly dislike the timer element to the game, I will probably move my copy along to someone new.

If you enjoy abstract strategy games, then you might want to check out the other games (that I've reviewed) from the Gipf project - Gipf, Dvonn, Punct, Yinsh, and Zertz.


  1. Hey Josh. I just wanted to thank you for this site as a whole. I just started getting into the board game hobby and your reviews gave me some good info to set up my plans on which games to get. I actually used your amazon link as a little bit more of a thank you. keep up the good work.

    1. Thanks for the kind words! I'm glad that you've found the site useful.