That is pretty much the situation with Totem from designer Philippe Proux and publisher Ludarden.
The game when complete looks a bit like an art nouveau sculpture, to the point it begs to be left out on an end table where it can be a conversation starter.
The great thing is once that conversation starts, Totem takes about 90-seconds to share the rules with someone new, and you are set to introduce a new player to the game.
Play is so simple Totem is a great entry-level offering, for those people who are convinced they don’t like board games.
Once played this game is sort of an addictive nature too. You might lose, but you are left wanting just once more game to redeem yourself.
So what is Totem all about?
Well, the goal of the game is to have one of your pieces atop at least three of the five ‘totem poles’ at the end of the game.
Each player has a set of 12 pieces of the same colour. The pieces are in varying shapes and can be played onto the poles in different ways, varying how much of the pole they take up.
The first player puts one of his pieces on one of the poles. Then each player plays at his turn by putting one of his pieces in one of the poles. It should be noted the five poles are slightly different in height, so what you do in terms of strategy needs to vary a bit pole-to-pole.
When a player puts one of his pieces on an opponent’s piece, he has to play again. This is an intriguing aspect of the game. It might seem an advantage to play more pieces, but ultimately it only matters who tops each ‘totem’.
The game is over when one of the players has no more pieces, or when it is not possible to place a piece anymore.
The player who has the most pieces on the top of the stacks is the winner.
This is not a game that has the depth to be an all-evening focus for gameplay, but it has a simple charm and definite beauty that makes it a game you are likely to return to over and over again.
It is definitely a lightweight game, but a contender for the belt in its weight class.
Thanks to fellow gamers Trevor Lyons and Adam Daniels for their help in running through this game for review.