Games Magazine selects: *Star

*Star was chosen by Games as one of the 100 best games for the year 2006 in the Abstract Strategy Games category. Here's reviews editor John McCallion's write-up from the December 2005 "Games 100" Buyer's Guide to Games:
*STAR   2 players

It's simple. It's dazzling. It's the pinnacle of connection games. The pentagonal board's 276 hexagonal cells include 50 perimeter cells where most scoring occurs. Gone is the central space's advantage for its occupant:   It is permanently vacant, and represents both players' colors, through which groups connect.

Each turn, place a marble of your color on a vacant space. Play ceases when no useful plays are possible. Groups of connected stones score one point for each perimeter space they surround or occupy. Gain a bonus point if your groups own a majority of the five corner cells. Finally, the player with fewer groups earns points equal to twice the difference in the number of groups, and the player with more groups loses a like amount. Highest score wins.

The need to balance the occupation of scoring perimeter squares while attempting to unite central point-earning groups will provide endless hours of challenge. —JJMcC  (3/05) [Date refers to first review, shown below.]

This review of *Star appeared in Games Magazine, in the March 2005 issue, with a nice color photo, and edited by R. Wayne Schmittberger:
Designer: Ea Ea.
Players: 2. Playing Time: 1 hr.

Rules for a forerunner of this game, known simply as Star, appeared in this magazine way back in September 1983. The geometry of the board has changed since then, but the most important difference between the old Star and the new *Star involves the scoring system, as explained below. (More about the evolution of Star and other connection games can be found in the article, "Making Connections," June 2000 GAMES.)

The pentagonal board has 276 hexagonal cells, including 50 along the perimeter where most of the scoring takes place. In the center is the unique Star space; this cannot be occupied but represents both players' colors, through which groups can connect. This clever rule neatly eliminates the problem of the central space providing an unfair advantage to its occupant.

Players alternately place a marble of their color on a vacant space. Play ends when all spaces are filled or (with experienced players) when both contestants agree that no further useful plays are possible. Gain one point if you own three or more of the five corner spaces. For each connected group of two or more stones in your color, score one point for each perimeter space they occupy and one point for each vacant perimeter space they surround. If one player has more connected groups than the other, subtract the lower number of groups from the higher number. The player with fewer groups adds twice the difference to his score, and the opponent deducts this amount. (In the original Star, the amount added and subtracted was simply the difference in the number of groups, making connection of different groups only half as valuable.) The player with the higher score wins.

What makes this game so intriguing is the continuing dilemma that players face. Occupying perimeter spaces is a prerequisite to earning points, yet occupying central spaces is vital for connecting as many point-earning groups as possible. The player who is better able to balance these contradictory needs, as well as handle the often tricky tactics, will prevail.

The playing arena includes markings that define two smaller boards, which are recommended for beginners. Kadon adds extra value to the package (as usual) by providing useful strategy tips, as well as additional games and puzzles in the rules booklet.
     —John J. McCallion

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