Friday F.O.M.O. 8/23/19 – Serpent Master

Woohoo!! Friday is here — with the weekend approaching, it’s a great day to talk about board games. In fact, I’m taking a little time off today myself to enjoy some games with my son. But more on that later.

For now, the focus is Kickstarter and taking a look at games that end in the next week. If you are watching the pledge site closely, you may be aware of a VERY big title that will be ending soon. I’m going to let that campaign ‘sleep’ with its six-figure pledge total, though — while it looks like an outstanding exploration game, I just don’t think it would find much table time in my neck of the woods…so I’ll just ‘lock-it’ away for someone else to explore.

[yes…those are some bad puns and poorly veiled messages…]

The campaign ending soon that has me personally intrigued is Toresh Games’ abstract strategy title Serpent Master.

There are times when I love the chance to sit-down with an opponent across the table…and enter into a strategic battle of the minds. Checkers, Chess, Connect 4 (a personal favorite) come to mind. Of more modern games, I love Santorini for the same reasons. You move, I move…we dance around each other looking for the right moments to strike, while simultaneously staying on the defensive to avoid your own devastating maneuvers.

A few months ago, I had the chance to give The Rose King a try with my brother-in-law. It was a wonderful gaming experience and this new game, Serpent Master, gives me similar vibes.

In Serpent Master, players control a slithering, sneaky, serpent. Not just any snake-like creature, though…but a serpent with the intent on becoming Master! The goal is to slither around the pit (the board), dominating the area with your creature’s body.

Each player starts with a pile of snake body pieces and a deck of 15 cards. This deck gets shuffled and four cards are randomly discarded back to the box by each player. The game then plays out over 11 rounds, with each player picking a card that will determine their serpent’s movement for the round.

sample movement card, providing multiple slithering options

In playing these movement cards, the goal is to a) expand your serpent’s control in the pit with body visibility, but also b) to cover up your opponent. As the game progresses, these movement decisions will become very tight — because you can’t move on top of your opponent’s serpent head…nor can you cross back over your own body pieces.

A poorly conceived early game strategy could quickly turn into a rush of reversed momentum if a player finds themselves trapped, unable to use cards, watching their opponent start taking over the pit. At the end of 11 rounds (once all cards have been played), the winner is the player with the greatest area control of the Serpent Pit.

There are starting to be more games that take the chess-style of strategy and incorporate new movement techniques. Games like Onitama and War Chest come to mind. Serpent Master appears to fall into that same arena, but I appreciate the spin it gives on the genre with serpentine movement and area control. Furthermore, Serpent Master is not just a 2-player game, but can play up to four serpents at once.

The game board is an 8×8 grid — at 2 players, only the inner 36-squares are used, but the full board comes into play at a 3 or 4 player count.

So…are you an abstract strategy game enthusiast…does Serpent Master look like it could sneak it’s way into your collection?

For more board game previews, reviews, and discussions please follow me on Twitter @boardgamecrock1 and YouTube

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