There is always something generally positive about simplicity when it comes to abstract strategy games.

And in terms of the new game, Linear Pursuit by Stuart Ralph certainly has an element of simplicity to it. In fact, at first blush, as they say, the game reminds quite a bit of Nine Men’s Morris, a very old game with a very simple rule set. Of course, the game is still played today, and can often be found in dollar stores for sale is a testament to the simplicity still having created a compelling game.

Like Nine Men’s Morris, Linear Pursuit is all about moving pegs around a board following certain established lines to create a winning move – capturing the opponent’s ‘master’ piece.

Designer Ralph said one of the key aspects of the game is that it offers variety by allowing for varied opening set-ups.

“It’s flexibility,” he said. “Multiple two player setups providing a different experience each time, Solo Challenges and the adherence to the driving force behind its conception, playing pieces that stay where they’re placed. You could virtually kick this board down the street before they are disturbed.”

Of course for Ralph designing flexibility was natural for a guy who has always appreciated a challenge in a game.

“Ever since I was a child I have been excited by being tested,” he said. “I really relished examinations in school, that opportunity to excel.

Whilst joint first place was acceptable, second wasn’t.

“Abstract strategy, for me, satisfies the need to be challenged.

“However, soon after designing Linear Pursuit 31 treats ago that need was satisfied by the prospects of raising a family and my relationship with abstract games became ever more distant.”

But it never completely disappeared and the germ of an idea for the game remained, having been borne of frustration and disappointment, said Ralph.

“In 1987 I read an article in a local paper about a board game designed by Danny Kishon, “September”.
It was an inspiring story of how he came to design his abstract strategy game. I immediately went out and bought it,” he said.

“Upon opening the box my heart sank. Whilst the newspaper article was exciting and dynamic, the game itself was not. Not that it was a bad game, but its execution was poor. The board was underwhelming and the playing pieces were flimsy foam plastic shapes that when attempting to place them readily stuck to your fingers, those that were placed would move out of position all too easily.

“Such was the disappointment, I resolved there and then to make a better game, even if the game itself would not be better, the experience certainly should.

“That very day I started designing Linear Pursuit.”

Of course, creating a playable game is not so easily done.

“Having decided that I would make a game that provided a better experience than I had had with September, I immediately had a vision in my mind of what my game would try to achieve; Chess with playing positions on the circumference of a circle, pieces interacting by moving between positions via pathways across the board.”

At this point, I will intercede to suggest Linear Pursuit won’t immediately make most players think Chess. Lots of games hope for that comparison, most do not achieve it. This is a fun game, with nice wooden elements, (a prototype edition), but it is not chess.

Ralph did put lots of effort into developing the game though.

“I spent on average around 12 hours a day for the next 7-8 months drawing circles and lines,” he said. “Too many positions rendered the board unfathomable, too few could not generate a design with any degree of complexity. Having established the optimum number of positions I needed a design to accommodate them. With so many positions, in order for it not to be too daunting on the eye, it would require symmetry. Given that the pieces would need to have varying movement abilities a piece capable of moving two positions could not work on a four-line design, three would be too few, therefore it needed to be a five line design.

“I had a board, now it needed rules. The kernel of the rules came very quickly, whilst the design of the board, a single, simple five-line design with four transpositions, was without a doubt, in my opinion, the finished article, the rules would take a further 5-6 months to develop. Initial playtesting revealed the ability for a player to perpetually evade capture in the latter stages. Hence a single line from left to right across the center of the board was introduced. This had the desired effect of severely limiting the ability to evade.

“In 1990, MB Games wanted to include it in their Christmas ‘92 range, however, in my youthful naivety (it was 1990 and I assumed they were stalling for time to steal the idea) I told them to return the game and I am so glad I did. Upon receiving it back, I placed it in the wardrobe.

In the summer of 2017, one of my nephews quizzed me as to its whereabouts and the obsession I once had for it returned with interest.”

Time does allow for refinement.

“Today it is a much better game than it would have been back in 1992,” said Ralph. “I have since established solo challenges and multiple starting setups.

“Does it fit the criteria of being a better experience? I am too heavily invested in the game to form an unbiased opinion, but I believe it does.”

What Linear Pursuit is, in the end, is a solid abstract strategy game that might not wow a player on the first playthrough, but offers enough depth that additional exploration will reveal a game genre enthusiasts are likely to enjoy.

The game is on Kickstarter at present, so check it out.

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There is always something generally positive about simplicity when it comes to abstract strategy games. And in terms of the new game, Linear Pursuit by Stuart Ralph certainly has an element of simplicity to it. In fact, at first blush, as they say, the game reminds quite a bit of...