The tangram is a style of puzzle originating in China about 1,000 years ago known as “the seven boards of skill.” It was brought to Europe by merchants, who renamed the game “tangram” in a portmanteau of the “Tang,” referring to the Chinese dynasty, and “gram,” the Greek word for picture. Tactic brings the classic puzzle game back to life with a new twist in Tangram Race.
Like the classical tangram, each puzzle is illustrated by a silhouette that can be constructed by the seven geometric pieces. Tangram Race is set above the older style, where players simply work to solve the puzzle, by pitting everyone against everyone else in an all-out competition to be the first. Each player receives a colored set of wooden blocks. Players spread the cards on the table in a wide circle that shows pits of each picture. In each round, a player chooses a card, reveals the silhouette, and players race to be the first to reconstruct it and shout, “Tangram!” Players who get it right are awarded the card, but players who have done the puzzle incorrectly lose the card and have to sit out the next round. The first player to collect five cards wins.
Tangram Race is one of the most challenging games to grace tabletops. Much of our time in our visual society is spent aggregating images into a collective whole, so our brains have to be rewired to break the pieces down. To crack the game, players might do a few practice rounds or even play on their own, as players did centuries ago sharpening their intellects. Once players get their minds warmed up to breaking images down to their pieces, the puzzle-solving becomes exciting and a little addictive.
The game includes 200 puzzle cards, all in different shapes such as a soccer player, a fox, and a boat. The deck is divided into easy yellow figures like the bird, moderately difficult orange figures like the whale, and hard red figures like the pig. This allows players to choose what suits them best. If a gaming group has one player substantially more skilled at puzzle-solving than the rest, players may always flip cards from different stacks in the same round to race one another each with more or less difficult goals.
Tangram Race is a game for two to four players aged six and up. Puzzle enthusiasts will also love solitary play, taking time to study the difficult silhouettes and piece them together. Anyone studying art will especially enjoy Tangram Race as an opportunity to practice breaking objects down into their basic geometric shapes to better understand their composition. It takes a fair bit of practice, but once a player’s mind clicks to deciphering the tangram, he or she will want to play again and again.