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Game Review: ‘Kozo’ from Winning Moves

Kozo from Winning Moves Games adds a further dimension to the block-stacking genre of games. Adding one piece of a structure at a time is a precarious challenge for balancing enthusiasts, and Kozo makes play even more interesting with its wide variety of block styles. Rather than having a few standardized blocks, the Polycubes of Kozo come in twelve varieties of four different sizes. Players will have to wager with themselves not only where to place a piece but whether to take a small, more easily placed piece worth less points or a bigger, more complex one for maximum points.

Play in Kozo begins with a wooden base showing nine squares with the middle one marked out. Not only does this base level the site for the game, it also gives boundaries where players cannot build out, only up. In addition to the outer boundary, no piece may be placed over the middle “chimney” square at any time. This drives the Kozo structure ever-upward and interlocking without a central support, so each piece placement is its own challenge without an easy out.

Kozo adds another dynamic to play with its Balance Cubes. After placing a Polycube piece onto the growing tower, the player then adds a smaller Balance Cube on top of one of the previously placed Polycubes. This means that each turn gives a player two chances to mis-stack and topple the structure, raising the stakes from most stacking games that are one-and-one. The Balance Cubes also add to the unruliness of the structure since no Polycube may be placed on top. However, Polycubes may hang over them, creating a mismatched assembly that drives upward and boosts the threat to tumble.

The rules of Kozo are simple: players take turns adding Polycubes and Balance Cubes, picking up a scoring tile for each Polycube placed. Players lose their points if they cause the structure to fall and end the game. If the structure stays up to the last Polycube, both players keep their points. After three rounds, the player with the most points wins. This gives plenty of opportunity for come-from-behind victories to reward risk-takers.

In addition to its standard play, the straightforward blocks allow for numerous variants. Players may place the scoring tiles facedown, so rather than carefully planning and selecting a Polycube, their options are limited by what score they draw. Other variants change how the Polycubes are placed or give single-player challenges by using the Polycubes as puzzle pieces.

Kozo is a stacking game for two or more players aged eight and up. With the rapid rate of fall for the structure, it is best with a few head-to-head players or teams to pass the opportunity to tumble quickly back and forth. Thanks to that hot-potato aspect, it is an intensely social game with plenty of intense silence broken by excited screams. Yet, the solo-play variants make Kozo practically a two-in-one game as puzzle-lovers will work to assemble the pieces a hundred different ways to build the perfect block with no gaps from the multi-shaped Polycubes.

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.

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