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Board Game Review: ‘Give and Take’

Give and Take by Matt Niehues is a modern addition to the time-tested genre of family board games. Its components are reminiscent of any number of games from just about anyone’s childhood: player pawns, a brightly colored track for them to move upon, and dice to drive them along. Yet Give and Take offers novel strategy and “purchasing” mechanics that will draw in adult players looking for a whole new level. In Give and Take, players line up their four colored pawns in the initial “Start” track in the middle of the triangular board. The object is straightforward: Players follow…

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Give and Take by Matt Niehues is a modern addition to the time-tested genre of family board games. Its components are reminiscent of any number of games from just about anyone’s childhood: player pawns, a brightly colored track for them to move upon, and dice to drive them along. Yet Give and Take offers novel strategy and “purchasing” mechanics that will draw in adult players looking for a whole new level.

In Give and Take, players line up their four colored pawns in the initial “Start” track in the middle of the triangular board. The object is straightforward: Players follow the spaces in the arrows around the board to get back around and into the “Finish” track. If a player lands on a space already occupied by an opponent, that opponent’s pawn is moved backwards. The first player to get all four of their pawns into these spaces wins.

It’s a very easy premise, something that younger kids will readily grasp. The real fun of Give and Take, however, comes with the use of the chips.

Different consequences happen depending on the color of the space a player lands on based on the roll of the dice. Landing on one’s own color is safe, but landing on another player’s color means paying three chips in “rent.” Landing on other spaces may earn a “tax” of one chip from each opponent, chips from the bank, and even the ability to move another player’s token backward.

These chips may initially seem like points, but the premise is still simply to be first. Instead, the chips may be used to buy special actions, such as splitting the dice roll to move two pawns, an extra turn, swapping positions on the board, or even the expensive yet devastating “Move 1 opponent’s pawn back to the Start.”

The balance of skill and luck in Give and Take makes it a blast to play. Its move-around-the-board dice mechanic is a solid base, and the inclusion of the chips for purchasing power gives ample room for strategy. Players may save up their chips to try to knock an opponent all the way into last place, or they may spend them more quickly to move to key positions on the board. Social aspects may come into the game as players might devise an effective way to swap their pieces to mutual benefit, or they may lash out in vengeance against an earlier betrayal.

Give and Take is a board game for two to three players aged six and up. It is quickly paced, lasting about 20 minutes for two players and half an hour for three. In addition to its fun, Give and Take also offers a great chance to practice quick math and comparative analysis. Players must add up their dice totals and determine which pawn would be best moved to which colored space, taking advantage of special bonuses and avoiding pitfalls. Kids and adults alike will return again and again to its easy-to-learn, challenging-to-master gameplay.

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About Jeff Provine

Jeff Provine is a Composition professor, novelist, cartoonist, and traveler of three continents. His latest book is a collection of local ghost legends, Campus Ghosts of Norman, Oklahoma.