Syeknom: Battle for the Island Review

Syeknom: Battle for the Island is a two player combat game from Syeknom Games.  Each player has 10 combat units, 5 of which are placed on the board at the beginning of the game.  The other 5 units are placed on the carrier pad.  These combat units have different ranges in which they can shoot an opponent.  The tanks have a range of 4, jeeps have a range of 3, and soldiers have a range of 2.  Note that the range has to be exact.  A solider cannot shoot an opponent that is 1 away, and a tank can’t shoot an opponent that is 3 away.  The combat unit must also be facing forward toward the opponent’s unit.  There are also 10 land mines set out on the board at the beginning of the game, facedown.  Some of these land mines are duds, and will not do any damage.

Syeknom 1The gameplay itself is simple.  A player rolls a 6 sided die (0 to 5), which determines the movement.  Players have to move in a straight line, and can use the last unit of movement to turn right or left.  If a player rolls a 0, they do have 3 options.  One option is to move a combat unit off the carrier pad.  Another is to turn a unit right or left.  Lastly, you can move the carrier pad along your side of the board.  After you decide which option to take, you roll again to determine how much movement your action takes.

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At the beginning of your turn, you can choose to shoot, or wait until after movement.  You have to be in exact range and direction to shoot a land mine or opponent.  You cannot move through any units or land mines, so you have to be careful to not make your unit stuck.  Once you are in range to shoot an opponent unit, they are immediately removed from the board.  Your own unit is also removed from the board if you cannot make any valid movements with your roll.  This does speed up the game, otherwise it would go into a stalemate.

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Syeknom is a simple combat game that is made for people who enjoy games like Aggravation and Stratego.  While you can use strategy to block opponents from moving or to shoot them, you are also at the mercy of the die rolls.  You may have a hard time getting in exact range for the units or have a hard time rolling zeroes which give you more movement options. This may frustrate players who dislike randomness that they cannot control in games.  You must also be wary of the land mines as you move your units along the board, as a player may be able to trigger one, which explodes the 8 tiles around it, as well as the tile it is on.

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The component quality is decent, but the combat units have stickers on them and not all of them are straight.  The board itself is thinner than standard boards.  The rulebook we were provided was riddled with errors, but the 2nd edition of the game should have updated rules.  The artwork is also very simple, and not colorblind friendly.  The blue and red soldiers look particularly similar to colorblind players.

If you are looking for a war game that has the randomness and strategy balance of Backgammon, this may be a game for you.

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