The playing surface on a typical board games usually functions only as a foundation for the action. In the innovative three-dimensional game Squashed from PlaSmart Toys, the board is perhaps the most important moving part. Created by Nicholas Metzler, two-time winner of the “Young Inventor Challenge” at the Chicago Toy & Game Fair, and now a challenge-designer on the show Survivor, Squashed is something altogether new in the gaming world.
As something of a mash-up of a tesseract, Chess, and Sorry!, Squashed takes place on the outside of a cube filled with holes. Each player receives four pawns that are placed on their color squares along the four vertical sides of the cube. A King pawn is placed on the top at the center, surrounded by gray squares. Players take turns rolling a die and moving their pawns over edges with the goal of being the last survivors on the cube.
There are two ways to “squash” (eliminate) an opponent’s piece: either by landing on top of the enemy or crushing them by moving the cube. In the former, the player pushes his pawn down on the opponent’s piece until it pops through into the belly of the cube, which also acts as a storage container for the game. To rotate the cube, a player must land a pawn in one of the four squares around the King piece. At the end of the turn, he or she moves the King to one of the vertical sides and rotates it to become the new top. Any pawn caught on the new “bottom” is pushed up into the middle with a satisfying crunch. An included felt pad prevents any scratching or screeching against the table as players move the cube and makes squashing the plastic men easier.
Strategy is a key component of Squashed. Players must be mindful of all positions, or they may be caught with pawns hopping over them. Racing to the King piece is a normal strategy, but it focuses players together in a terrifying free-for-all slaughter. Another strategy of spreading out does not always work since a moved King piece can knock out pawns sitting innocently on their own, whittling down a passive player. Players may even sacrifice their own pieces to eliminate an opponent with a rotating crunch. There is no one right path to victory in Squashed, but aggressive action seems encouraged.
The inclusion of the die brings luck into what might otherwise be a solidly strategic game. Players will have to calculate odds and risk maneuvers that could bring their pawns into the field of danger from an opponent rolling a “3.” While some players might be frustrated at an unlucky roll, the game is too balanced to play without it and would otherwise turn into an endless game of cat-and-mouse.
Squashed is a game for two to four players aged six and up. Its strategic base makes it a great game for lovers of chess and checkers, while the use of a die makes it suitable for younger players who might depend more on luck. Best of all in Squashed is the thrill of turning the game cube to the sounds of crunching squashed pawns and the groans of opponents.
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