Code Sudoku

Saturday, May 21, 2005 Code Sudoku (front) Code Sudoku (back)

Most people know about the smash hit that the puzzle Sudoku has become over the past year. It’s in many major newspapers; several people I know have become addicted to it, and I have found it to be a fun, thought provoking puzzle. For those who haven’t yet been attracted to the craze, Sudoku is a puzzle in which a grid of nine by nine squares is divided up into nine equal blocks. Using a few numbers that are in some of the blocks as clues, players must place the numbers “1” through “9” in each set of nine squares that form a block. The trick is that each row of the grid must also have exactly “1” through “9” in it, as must each column. It’s deceptively easy; and while some of the puzzles are quite simple, they can also be devilishly difficult.

With the immense popularity of Sudoku, it was no surprise to me to find that several board games were modeled after it. I was a bit skeptical, wondering how a solitaire puzzle could be transformed into a multi-player board game. Code Sudoku (Kod Kod International Games, 2005 - Conceptis Puzzles) is one such game that I came across, and my love of Sudoku plus the attractiveness of this version led me to snag a copy.

First of all, I will admit that this version of Sudoku, which can be played solitaire, is much more interesting than writing down the numbers on a newspaper. With forty+ puzzles and a nice setup with both tiles and erasable markers, this will automatically make a tremendous gift for the Sudoku fan – or even an interesting way for someone to learn the game for the first time. The game also includes rules for a multiplayer version, which works fairly well between players of equivalent skills. In short, the game will please Sudoku lovers. If you’re not a fan of the puzzle, you probably won’t like the game.

A puzzle is placed underneath a plastic window with a raised grid on it for the multiplayer game. Each player sets their score markers at zero, and a pile of tiles marked from “1” to “9” are placed near the board. One player is chosen to go first, and a one minute timer is flipped.

On a player’s turn, they must try to place tiles on the board that are correct. Each empty spot shows the numbers “1” through “9”, and a player can use an erasable marker to show numbers which are eliminated from a spot. However, only by placing a tile will a player score any points. For the first correct tile placed on one turn, a player scores one point, for the second – two points, etc. A player also gets three points if they place the final tile in any row, column, or section. If a player places a tile in an incorrect position, as noticed by another player, the player who alerts the others to this situation removes the tile and scores a point instead of the placing player. The game continues until all the tiles are placed, at which point the player with the most points is the winner!

Some comments on the game...

1. Components

Code Sudoku is a very attractive game – one that really looks good on a table, certainly better than a puzzle clipped from a newspaper. The medium sized box and board come in an attractive red, white, and black motif; the board has shading to delineate between the different sections, and the numbers are slightly faded but are still easy to read. Whoever did the graphic design and layout of the game did a superb job. I’m not a huge fan of the sliding score markers on the side of the board, but that’s simply a personal preference on my part. The game comes with a little sponge to wipe the erasable marker off the plastic board, and it works fairly well. The tiles are thick yellow plastic pieces that nestle easily between the raised grid on the board. The sheets of Sudoku puzzles are very good quality – all with a puzzle on each side. A few blank sheets are included for people, who may get puzzles elsewhere (internet, newspaper, etc.)

2. Rules

The rules for Code Sudoku are less than a page, and the rules for the multiplayer version likewise. Yet the rulebook has six full-color, wonderfully formatted rules. The reason for this is that the designers have taken great pains in explaining just how to solve a Sudoku puzzle. I already use my own methodology, but for the casual beginner, these are fantastic tools on how to exactly solve a Sudoku. I consider Sudokus a very useful tool in the classroom – emphasizing logic, and the tips in the rules made for great lesson plans.

3. Fun Factor and Puzzles

You won’t see a lot of excitement and yelling at a table of Code Sudoku. Each player must concentrate the entire time – they must carefully watch the other players, to catch their mistakes and build off of their successful tile layings. When I do a Sudoku puzzle on my own, I can take a break whenever necessary, but in a multiplayer version of Sudoku, you can never really rest unless all players agree to take a break. The timer keeps things moving, and it adds a level of tenseness that’s not in the ordinary puzzle. If you are not a puzzle fan, or someone who is thrilled by cooperative or solo deep thought, then this is not a game for you.

4. Puzzle

Is the game better multiplayer? – I’m not sure. I want to say yes; but whenever I’ve played the game, invariably I’m better than my opponents, so it’s not much of a challenge. And in one game where I played folk who were quite good at Sudoku, it wasn’t much of a challenge for them, I’m sorry to say. Code Sudoku only works in situations in which the players have fairly equal skills. As a single player puzzle, it’s a nice set to work with, as long as you have the room to set it up. A magazine is still going to be preferable to this when traveling; but when a player is just setting the game up to work on it in the privacy of their own home, then I would prefer the board game.

If you are a Sudoku fan, then this is the best (I’ve seen and played several) board game version. It works well in a solo situation and actually has some good, entertaining multiplayer rules. For the average gamer who couldn’t care less about Sudoku, I would give this a pass. However, high quality components and a good selection of Sudoku puzzles will make this the perfect gift for your puzzle-minded friend.

Reprinted with permission

Originally published February 20, 2006 on TheDiceTower.com

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