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Reviews - Bendomino
 
by Emma and Allan Sugarbaker


Bendomino box

Bendomino

Published by Blue Orange Games
28 Bendomino game tiles, rules
$15.95

This game is featured in our 2007 OgreCave Christmas Gift Guide.

When we set forth to start playtesting Bendomino, my daughter and I each had some preconceptions of what a domino game would be like. I thought that any domino-style game would be roughly the same experience – lay down the matching numbered tile, draw another tile, continue. Emma thought dominoes was played by standing them up in a line and knocking them down to the ground. ("Its fun!" Emma said.)

As it turns out, we were both a bit right, and also both pleasantly surprised that Bendomino was more than we expected.

Around the bend
Bendomino comes packaged in a sturdy metal container shaped like a curved Bendomino tile. This novel box shape stands out on store shelves, but remains compact enough not to annoy retailers, who are notoriously picky about space. Inside, the game's easy instructions lie atop two shrinkwrapped stacks of crescent-moon shaped domino tiles.

Bendomino tilesThat's right: Bendomino adds the – can't avoid saying it – twist of curved domino tiles. Each tile bends such that three Bendomino tiles placed end to end will form a closed circle. The unusual shape forces a different style of gameplay, to be sure, but at its core, this is still Dominoes.

Players start by drawing a number of tiles, which varies by the number of participants. The rest of the tiles are placed nearby, face down, to draw from as needed. Starting with the player that drew the highest double tile (6/6, 5/5, etc), players lay tiles on the table so their numbered ends match with those already in place, and build on either end of the chain that forms. If a player can't make a play, he must draw a tile, and either play it or pass his turn. The first player to run out of tiles wins the round, and in multi-round play, each round's winner gains points equal to the numbered tiles his opponents left unplayed. Rounds then continue until a predetermined point value is reached (usually 100). Basic dominoes, more or less.

Then the differences start to spice things up. It's all well and good to have a tile that matches the number at the end of the chain, but if your matching tile bends the wrong way, it could curl back and run into an earlier section, a big no-no. We both found ourselves stymied by this multiple times, which only added to the fun. (As a side note, we tried several times to create a closed loop at game's end, but never quite managed it.)

The bent tiles also prevent playing off of the side of a doubles tile. Well, you could technically play off the outside edge, but the inner curve is too tight to allow it. Not a huge difference in gameplay from original Dominoes, but significant.

Bendomino is also a fun game for parents to use as an educational aid with their kids. The numbers and colors on each bent tile will help kids practice their counting and color recognition. Once kids learn to sight-read number pips up to six, regular dice are no problem, and a whole world of games becomes that much easier to reach. Not that Emma needs the help anymore, of course. "Throw in some times-tables practice," she says, "and then we're talking."

A few variant games are detailed in the brief rules pamphlet to help with replay value, as well. Some of these involved starting with a number of tiles already in place, or scoring points each time the tail ends added up to a certain number. Each seemed like a solid optional play method, and we were happy to see them included.

It speaks to the elegant simplicity of the game's design that little more was gleaned from playtesting with other adults. A true equal-opportunity game.

Conclusions
Sure, any Dominoes-style game is largely luck based - you can only work with what you draw, and only play on the tail end of what other players have placed ahead of you. But Bendomino captures just the right amount of strategy, like the original game, to hit that balance between planning and chaos that is so playable by such a wide range of people. It isn't difficult to learn, and yet you'll never be sure to win. It isn't time consuming, and yet it maintains the relaxed feel of a game you could while away an afternoon with. For gamers or casual game players, young players or grizzled veterans, Bendomino is a solid choice for some enjoyable gaming.

And yes, you can set them up and knock them down, too. You'll figure it out.


 

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