Sudoku Tactics Review
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Players: 2-5 (ages 8+)
Playing Time: varies

My husband has always had a thing for puzzles—so as soon as he discovered Sudoku, he was completely and irrevocably hooked. He could work on a puzzle book for hours without making a sound—and he even got me to try my hand at a puzzle or two from time to time. The only problem, though, is that Sudoku puzzles are pretty anti-social—and we ended up sitting quietly in a room, doing puzzles without speaking to each other. Fortunately, though, Blue Panther Games has come up with a way for us to get our Sudoku fix together.

If you’ve ever tried your hand at a Sudoku puzzle, you know the general idea. It’s typically played on a nine-by-nine grid. You place the numbers 1-9 in the grid, making sure that each number is used only once in each row and column—as well as in each of the board’s nine three-by-three grids. For Sudoku Tactics, the same basic guidelines apply—but instead of filling in a puzzle on your own, you go up against an opponent (or up to four opponents).

To begin, all 81 numbered tiles are placed facedown on the table. At the beginning of your turn, you pick up anywhere from one to five tiles (players agree on a number before starting the game) and place them on the nine-by-nine board, adhering to standard Sudoku rules. Players take turns drawing tiles and placing them on the board, trying to complete full rows, columns, and three-by-three squares. Each time you do so, you earn a point. You then remove all nine tiles from the board and place them facedown on the table with the rest.

Play continues until one player reaches the agreed-upon number of points and wins the game.

If you’re hooked on Sudoku puzzles, you’ll find that Sudoku Tactics is every bit as addictive as the puzzle—and maybe even more so. But you don’t even have to be a Sudoku puzzler to love the game—because the strategies are completely different. Instead of simply filling in squares, you have to try to complete rows before your opponent(s). You have to weigh your odds and fill in squares accordingly. You can even sabotage your opponent’s moves, making rows or columns impossible to complete.

Because of the game’s open-ended rules, you can make the game just a little bit different each time you play. For example, if you’re only playing one tile at a time, you’ll need to use completely different strategies than you would if you were playing five tiles at a time. You can also make the game as quick—or as time-consuming—as you’d like. But I’ll warn you now—once you start playing, you’ll have a hard time stopping. I may not be a hard-core Sudoku puzzler, but I could easily play this game all day without noticing.

If you’re tired of spending your free time with a spouse who’s silently hunched over a Sudoku puzzle, Sudoku Tactics is an absolute necessity. It’s an easy game to learn—but an impossible one to put away. And since it’s a sturdy game—made completely of wood—so as long as you keep a rubber band around the box (so you won’t lose any tiles), it’s sure to stand up to years of regular play.

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