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Game: Ta Yü (Kosmos)
Submitted By: Charles Bahl (The Quake Coast Game Club, San)
Ta Yu (published by Rio Grande) is an intriguing connection game in the manner of Twixt, Antipalos, Hex, The Game of Y, Connections, Trax, Pipeline, etc. Perhaps it is most similar to Pipeline, because in both these games playing pieces are drawn randomly from a common supply. Ta Yu, however, is the first game of this kind that I know of that introduces a scoring system and permits more than one connection to the edge of the board.
Ta Yu is played on an a board of 19x19 squares. Game pieces consist of 112 rectangular tiles (or stones) imprinted with a water channel. Each tile covers three squares on the board. There are four each of 28 different stones. The path of the water channel differs on each of the 28 types. But in all cases the channel exits the tile at three different locations. Tiles that have channel exits on three different edges (as opposed to two edges or one) are marked on their reverse side with a special symbol. This information can often be used to a player's advantage when drawing a tile.
Starting from the first tile (which must be laid across the center square of the board) players attempt to connect as many channels as possible to their edges of the board. One player attempts to connect to the north-south edges; the other to the east-west edges. A player scores 1 point for each channel connected to his/her edge (three special locations on each edge score 2 points for a connection). And the total score is the product of the score for one edge times the score for the second edge.
At the beginning of the game the tiles are shuffled and stacked upside down into a wall two stones wide. During a player's turn he draws one of the two stones at the end of the wall. The selected stone must be played so that the channels on the stone connect with channels on previously played stones. A tile may not be played in a position that blocks other channels. Players alternate turns and the game ends when a tile is drawn cannot be played. The player with the highest score wins. Although the basic game is for two players, Ta Yu can also be played by four players and by three players in a special "cutthroat" version.
Although stones are drawn at random, game play demands much careful consideration. Like most connnection games, Ta Yu requires a delicate balance of offense and defense. The choice between extending your own channels or blocking those of your opponent is often difficult to make. In certain situations you may even find it to your benefit to connect a channel to your opponent's edge of the board in order to block him from making further connections! In any case, Ta Yu is a nice blend of pure strategy and the luck of the draw.
This is a beautifully produced game with heavy plastic tiles reminiscent of Mah Jong, but it also has a hefty price tag (about $60 retail). Still, I was more than satisfied with the game, and I have gone back to it many times for replay. If you like games of this genre, Ta Yu will not disappoint. To my way of thinking, it was well worth the investment.