(a summary of play-testers’ feedback)
The good news is that y’all liked this game!
This in spite of (or perhaps because of) its being new to almost everyone.
In fact, despite John Scarne’s grandiose prognostications – he thought Teeko would soon surpass checkers in popularity, and then chess, after which all schools would become Teeko academies, and people would drink their morning Teeko while reading the Teeko-papers with their beloved Teeko partner, with whom they exchanged lifelong vows of “Teeko” – this remains an obscure game.
Ah well. As many famous people will happily attest, obscurity is no shame! (I’m sure the obscure people agree, but I don’t know where to find them to ask.)
In gameplay, one overwhelming question arose (because of the ambiguity of my directions): Do tilted squares count?
Play-testers took two basic approaches:
Disallow tilted squares. This is what Scarne intended. In fact, the original rules for Teeko allow only the smallest possible 2-by-2 squares. An “advanced” version (from which I drew these rules) permits squares of any size.
Allow tilted squares. A sizable majority took this path, and seemed to enjoy its effect on the game. It means there are a lot of threats to watch for!
Oh, and I should mention a third approach: Prove that allowing tilted squares creates a guaranteed first-player victory.
Credit goes to Glen and his play-testing pals:
Anyway, long story short, I’ll specify in the book that squares must share the same orientation as the board. No “tilted” squares allowed. (Though I’m glad so many of you enjoyed the experience that way!)
One thing I appreciated was your creativity in choosing pieces to play with:
You can play the game on the spot almost wherever you want: I could imagine playing it on the beach with shells and rocks…
And when I say creativity, I mean creativity:
I expect it would also be a good game to play with living pieces – drawing it in chalk and letting 8 children play it. Though it would probably be better to play it with 10 children and let 1 make the moves. Or rotate… Oh, I want to try this out now.
Although this creativity sometimes led to problems:
I didn’t have coins so I tried to use little colored pieces of paper, but they kept blowing away. This was 100% my fault.
And even to fiasco:
I don’t recommend asking your kid to find the playing pieces. You’ll end up playing with chunks of unused staples as one of the sets of markers. I kept getting my finger stuck between the prongs.
One play-tester simply mentioned “we enjoyed eating our tokens at the end,” leaving me to hope they did not use shells, rocks, or chunks of unused staples.
One play-tester suggested an interesting variant of the game:
I don’t know if it was intended that way, but we played it so that you… could choose when you put your items down. It turned out that the one who can play a bit longer with only 3 items has an advantage, because the 4th one can be used to block a carefully crafted strategy or be a well crafted winning piece.
My own experimentation suggests that Player 1 can force an early victory in this variant, but I leave you to determine for yourself. Anyway, it reminds me of a chess variant I came across in which each player keeps a knight in her pocket. She can, at any point, use a move to place the pocket knight on any blank square – even to deliver checkmate!
And another useful suggestion:
Quite often, a player would win just because the other player failed to see a threat (which was anticlimactic). We took to calling “check” when there was a threatened win-in-1 and that helped a lot.
That strikes me as a good idea. I’ll probably mention it in the book.
Okay, one final thought on Scarne’s game.
To be clear, I like it. Simple. Easy to learn. Surprisingly deep.
But the idea that it belongs to the same echelon as chess, or even checkers is… well, the gentle word is “wrong,” and the technical word is “delusional.”
A few play-testers put their finger on this game’s Achilles heel. (Is that a mixed metaphor? If so, no apologies.) Anyway, the thing about Teeko is it doesn’t evolve. Look at a game in progress, and you’ve got no idea whether it’s the 5th move, or the 500th.
One person put it especially well:
Chess and checkers have a sense of progression through different phases of the game. This game does not; it’s two players studying endless variations of the same positions, until finally one person reaches a breakthrough.
That’s why victories often seem to “come from nowhere.”
That’s why some rounds are lightning fast, and others feel endlessly drawish.
That’s why, despite Scarne’s insistent optimism, no city on the globe has “Teeko clubs.”