Calvin’s Commentaries: Dikarya

It is very hard to beat an abstract strategy game that has wood pieces and a wooden board as well. Aesthetically, it is the epitome of beauty for me in terms of board games.

So when I first laid hands on Dikarya from designer and craftsman Nick Ryan I was immediately smiling.

Of course, good looks only go so far.

A game should be fun to play, and in the case of an abstract strategy game, it should be challenging as well. Perfect information games, in particular, two-player games of the genre, should make you think as you play.

In the case of Dikarya I was first aware the game was very much a tweaked version of a much older game, so thanks to email, I asked Ryan about this game’s specific origins.

“Dikarya is basically latrunculi which is an ancient Roman game,” he explained via return email.

For those not familiar latrunculi, gives a quick history; “roughly translated as ‘Robbers’, this abstract battle game was known to be played by the Romans, and versions of the same game may well have been played before by the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians, and afterward by the Persians. Games archaeologists and historians disagree hotly about just about every aspect of this game: board size, number, and distribution of playing pieces, use of a king piece, age, priority, etc, etc; the list goes on. However, there is evidence that the game existed, both in literature and in archaeological finds.”

It was this ancient game from which Dikarya was born.

“I was searching for wholesale wooden pieces to purchase to produce my own Latrunculi game (Idyllwild,” said Ryan. “I had a hard time finding the right pieces but did come across little mushroom-shaped wooden knobs, it sparked the idea of ‘Hey, I could make a mushroom themed Latrunculi!’(Dikarya is a subkingdom of fungi). Then I was thinking about the fungus theme and thought little spores would be a cool idea and would make the game unique.”

So how exactly does Dikarya play?

Each player places their 12 Soldiers along one side of the board and places their King on the row forward, four spaces from the right. Each player receives 3 Spores each, and are placed in the circles on their side of the board.

All pieces may move any number of spaces in the horizontal or vertical direction, except a placed Spore piece.

A single Soldier is captured if it is surrounded on two opposite sides. If a Soldier is “captured” remove it from the board.

Multiple Soldiers can be captured along a line.

Up to this point, the game mimics what many think the ancient game played like.

As Ryan noted the ‘spores’ add a new twist.

When an enemy Soldier is captured, the capturing player may place one of their Spores in the captured Soldier’s place.

When a Spore is placed, it becomes a “blockade” and cannot be moved for the remainder of the game.

A Spore placed on the field may be used – by either player – to capture another enemy Soldier(s).

The spores are an interesting addition to gameplay, adding a level of strategy regarding when to place them, and recognizing how that placement will affect the game moving forward.

Ryan said he developed the game because he likes the genre to start with.

“I love chess but when I played Latrunculi, I really loved the simple ‘back to basics’ gameplay,” he said. “It’s easy to teach newcomers. And if you like chess, Dikarya / Latrunculi is fresh, yet similar feeling.”

So are there tricks to being good at Dikarya.

“My wife is actually better than I am,” offered Ryan. “I would say stay focused and don’t be too aggressive. Also moving a piece to a square that is diagonal of an enemy piece is usually a good move.”

You will want to note the suggestion because this is a beautifully made game that really should be on a gamer’s want list.

Check it out at the above-mentioned website.

Thanks to fellow gamer Adam Daniels for his help in running through this game for review.




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