Focus

August 4, 2016

 

Players: 2-4

Age: 12+

Teaching Time: 5 mins

Playing Time: 20 mins

Setup Time: 5 mins

Value For Money: Depends

Luck: Low

Complexity: Low

Strategy: High

Price: £20

Recommended: No

 

Focus has been re-made multiple times such that a cheap version should be easy to find. As such value for money can be spotty, the £20 listed above is if you want a copy right now but you should be able to track down a copy for under £10 with a little patience, it would be good value at that price. Its understandable that the game got so many re-prints, designed by Sid Sackson its very much the sort of game he specialised in and made excellent versions of. Focus feels like it could have always existed and its essentially just an accident of history that draughts came first. 

 

Game play involves moving stackable draughts like pieces orthogonaly as many spaces as there are pieces in a given stack with its top piece indicating its controller until only one player has any stacks left. Stacks top out at 5 pieces with extras being removed or reserved depending on their colour vs the controlling player of the stack's colour and stacks may be split by the controlling player at any time. 

 

The game is simple and elegant and has the sort of tactile elements that have historically attracted the Spiel Des Jahres boards with its playing pieces clicking together neatly. Its probably too abstract and simplistic to be a serious contender these days but its a fine lesson in abstract game mechanics. Anyone who enjoys this is these days well provided for by a whole sub-genre of Print and Play games designed for use with draughts sets, or check out Sackson's own book A Gamut Of Games. Focus' style is one where a player with a knack for it will quickly begin to dominate, on the one hand this gives a sense of reward for skill, on the other it leaves only players that do have a feel for the game hungry for multiple re-plays. It has mechanical flaws, the reserve pieces are far too powerful, but if you're only going to play it a few times every once in a while its no big deal. 

 

If you enjoy this sort of abstract game, Focus is a great choice especially if you pick up a cheap version at the bottom end of its price range. There are several alternative rules sets available to balance the game a little better and house rules can quickly fix the game's flaws. However, it is a game surpassed in many places now with free versions or more fully abstract release games such as Tak and with tactical stacking from Santorini.          

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