Ruin Review
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Players: 2-4 (ages 10+)
Playing Time: Around 45 minutes

I’m a big fan of curveballs: the unexpected twist at the end of a movie, the subplot that wasn’t as pointless as you once thought, the sudden reversal of fortunes in a card game. So the “interchangeable” board game, Ruin, is just my style—because the board itself can change at any time.

At first glance, Ruin looks like the typical board game—like Sorry or Trouble. Each player gets two pawns, and the object of the game is to get them both around the board and into the treasure chamber in the center. Getting there, however, isn’t as easy as it looks.

Before you begin playing, you set up the game board, placing game path cards in the 12 slots around the outside of the board. Each card forms some sort of path, consisting of brick spaces and blank spaces. Some also contain special spaces—like secret stairways (which you can use to skip ahead to other stairway spaces) and colored idol markers.

Each player also gets three path cards. You then take turns rolling the 20-sided die and moving your pawns the indicated number of spaces. If the number has a red background, however, you start your turn by replacing one of the path cards on the board with one of the path cards in your hand. If, after the new card has been placed, one of your opponent’s pawns is on a blank space, he or she then moves back around the board to the last idol marker that matches his pawns’ color.

Play continues, with the path constantly shifting along the way, until one player gets both pawns into the center of the board, winning the game (and the ancient treasure).

The basics of Ruin are pretty simple: just roll the die and move your pawns around the board. Anyone who’s played a board game before will catch on pretty quickly. But this isn’t just another ho-hum, die-rolling board game, thanks to the ever-changing game board.

There are some simple strategies involved, but it’s probably best not to get too attached to any one plan. After all, with just one roll of the die, your strategies can fly right out the window. In just one turn, you can go from first place to trailing far behind. Your winning pawn can end up on a blank space, sending you back to the beginning. Or you can set up a secret staircase that will allow you to skip to the end of the board—only to have another player foil your plan. Those constant twists may be frustrating, but they also add some excitement and suspense to the same old board game.

Since players are constantly sabotaging one another, Ruin does take a while to play. This isn’t the kind of game that you play for a few minutes before dinner. But if you have some extra time, Ruin makes for a suspense-filled board game adventure. The constant barrage of curveballs definitely keeps things interesting—and you’ll get so caught up in the race to the finish that you’ll barely notice the passing of time.

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