That the game has a name; Maiak, which remains something of a mystery to pronounce for my English tongue. The strangeness of the name, owing no doubt to it being created by Matěj Jedlička, who hails originally from Prague in the Czech Republic. My maternal bloodlines trace back to the Czech Republic area, but I never learned a word of the language in my youth from my grandfather.
So what exactly is Maiak?
The game is a tactical little creation with players each starting with five pieces on the opposite sides of a grid board, a board that comes together from pieces stored in that strange little box.
At its heart, the game is a race, where players are trying to be the first to get one of their pieces across the board, think the 2001 created Breakthrough.
Pieces move only forward, straight, or diagonally, and only one space at a time.
In moving diagonally if an opponent’s piece is in the space, it is captured and removed.
The trick here is that the board is made up of colored squares, red, yellow, green, and blue.
Some of the colors can only be moved onto through sacrifice.
Blue spaces are free to move too, and you can move to the same colored square as your piece is already on for free as well.
In other situations you pay. You sacrifice one of your pieces in play to move onto the green, two to yellow, and three to red.
That sounds pretty harsh, but on a turn, a player also gets to switch tiles. You take an unoccupied tile and switch it with any surrounding tile. That opens up moving your piece forward if it is the switched tile, or moving a costly red tile in front of an opponent to limit their options.
The game plays quick as it is only played on a 5X5 board, but thanks to the shifting board pieces there are some interesting choices along the way.
The piece movement is straight forward, with the only fresh aspect that if you move to certain squares it’s very costly, since you have only five pieces, and there is no mechanism to restock.
The board is naturally bright because of the colors and wooden so that is a plus too.
There is enough of interest here that it is worth checking out at eshop.maiak.cz