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Sectre Review

Quick Look:

Designer: Peter Mariutto
Artist: Peter Mariutto
Publisher: Freshwater Game Company

Year Published: 2018
No. of Players: 2-6
Ages: 10+
Playing Time: 45+ Min

Find more info on BoardGameGeek.com


Editor's note: This review of Sectre is unique from other reviews in that two of our reviewers—Brody Sheared and Nick Shipleyhave teamed up to give their combined thoughts on the game.

Rules and Setup:
Brody: The rules for the game are explained on cards instead of having a rule book. This makes it a little hard to start since you don't really know which card you should read first. After looking at these cards, you will then find what each card is for by the text on the left side. There is a card for house rules, setup, getting points, and scrabbles. It doesn't really lead you to get the game up and running, but the rules and the game come down to simple rules and mechanics.

Referring to the setup card, you will figure out how many cards each player receives; this is dependent upon the number of players in the game. The cards are double sided and can be used on whichever side you would like. You will be trying to "connect" like colors, making shapes shown on the scoring cards and also connecting 5, 10, or 15 of the same color squares together to collect points. When "connecting" these colors and adding your cards to make these shapes, like-colors can not touch orthogonally. This is also true in every aspect in the game: if two like-colors are touching, then someone made an illegal move. You will place one of your cards and then score any points you made by taking the card that shows you connected 5, 10, or 15 like-colors in any orientation, or that you made a shape from the scorables of a certain color. Each color has each shape card that can be scored by the first person who makes that shape.

When every player has ran out of cards, the game ends. Each player will add up their score cards and the player who has the highest total points wins the game.

Theme and Mechanics:
Nick: As the case with some other abstract games, there really isn't a theme to Sectre, no more than, say, a game of checkers. But when an abstract game has simple, yet thought-provoking mechanics, they can rely on that alone without the inclusion of an elaborate reason as to why players are laying bi-colored cards on a board. In all my plays, I never found myself wishing for a theme, and in fact, I think that the inclusion of more thematic elements would have felt shoe-horned into a light abstract game with mechanics good enough to stand on their own.

The mechanics, primarily tile laying leading to pattern creation/recognition, are the stars of the game. As Brody mentioned above, the instructions come on individual cards, but once the order of the cards is deciphered and the game is learned, Sectre is quick and simple to teach and play. The main objective of pattern creation is simple enough for children to understand, but can still be competitive enough for adults looking for a light-weight abstract game.

Game Play:
Nick: This may seem like an over simplification of gameplay, but explaining the objective is fairly simple: create colored patterns on the board and get the corresponding points for those shapes. Players have a set number of cards and take turns placing the cards on the board, with the only restriction being that players cannot place a card in a way that would make like-colors touch orthogonally.

But, while explaining the objective is simple enough, achieving it is a bit more challenging, as players are ultimately trying to achieve the same outcomes with the same components, all while blocking their opponents. This fine balance between aggressive and defensive play is where players will find success.

While the box game-time is listed at 45+ minutes, I found that the game played much quickercloser to the 30 minute range. I played it with two, three, and four players, and the gameplay remained consistent with each of the different player counts.

Artwork and Components:
Brody: Being an abstract strategy game, the game's art is limited, but is also important with graphics and colors used to make the visual appearance appropriate. Black, white, orange, and blue are the colors used and I feel like they are well enough distinguished to use in the game. The graphics used on the rules and explanation cards are done well and look sharp, simple, and easy to read.

The components consist of cards and a board. The board is folded into four parts, and due to this, there can be a crease in the board, causing it to not sit as flat as it should. But this doesn't really take too much out of the game. The cards and board are all professional-grade quality.

The Good:
Brody: The game is fast and quick and doesn't take long to teach to someone new to the game. I like how certain colors seem to be focused on by players and, as the scoring cards get claimed, the focus changes to another color and another after that. I like that you can score points by making the required shape, but also by connecting a certain number of squares together without forming a certain shape. Near the end of the game, you are stuck with whatever cards you have left, and if you strategically thought this through you might be able to score some missed points while others are forced to just waste their cards. The game has this element where you place a card to score some points, but might setup the next player to score more points, and then sets the next player up to score points as well. If you are playing this game to deny other players of scoring points, then it becomes difficult, as there will be many opportunities to score points. Lastly, I like how you need to strategically think out which points you want to score and which ones you don't want others to score if you place your card to score those points.

Nick: I think there is something commendable about a game that can stand so firmly on its mechanics that it doesn't need to add a theme. It's also refreshing to see a game that has strong, yet simple mechanics, keep them simpleno added steps, no creative or new ways of describing a common action, no added fluff. Sectre accomplishes both. It's simple in look, feel, and mechanics, but most importantly, it is simply fun.

I enjoy Sectre for what it is, but I really enjoy Sectre for what it can bea good educational tool for pattern creation and recognition for kids. I want to be clear that it isn't branded as a children's game and that I enjoyed playing it with other adults, but the most enjoyment I had with it was playing with my daughter and watching her develop her own strategy and capitalizing on my "mistakes." Our previous go-to for this type of game was Connect Four, but Sectre offers the same strategy, and so much more. Instead of looking for four-in-a-row horizontal/vertical/diagonal in one color, you're looking at four different colors and over 12 different patterns. And again, since the game mechanics are simple, it was really easy to teach to a younger player.

The Bad:
Brody: When first opening the game and having never seen the game played or knowing the rules, it's hard to really understand what the full rules of the game are. The cards explain the game as if you have already played before and you just need a little refresher.

Nick: I concur with Brody, in that the rules are on cards rather than a rule book. That being said, they have a good play through video and I would recommend going to the Freshwater Game Company's website and watching it. The rule cards work great as refreshers, but they can delay game play for first-time players.   

Final Thoughts:
Brody: The game is a fun abstract strategy game that I enjoy playing. I will place this game next to hive that is one of my favorite abstract strategy games. Once you understand the game, you can ditch the board and just take the cards with you, and this game can be played almost anywhere.

Nick: I'll break my final thoughts into two sections: "gamer" and parent.

As a "gamer" I enjoy the game, but that being said, it would have to compete with some similar abstract-genre heavy-hitters (e.g. Azul) in my collection for table time. The one advantage that it has, as Brody stated, is ease in play and portability.

As a parent, I fully and without reservation endorse this game. Pattern creation and recognition in children is shown to boost math comprehension, creativity, memory, and critical thinking skills. Sectre is better at developing these skills than the ubiquitous classroom staple of Connect Four. This game allows you to teach those skills without the child feeling like they are being taught. It is challenging without being so challenging that it becomes discouraging. 

Players Who Like: Abstract games, Hive, Connect Four.

Check out Sectre on:

https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/239242/sectre   https://www.freshwatergameco.com/  https://www.facebook.com/FreshwaterGameCo/  https://twitter.com/freshwatergame   https://www.instagram.com/freshwatergameco/   https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCuUhZMdvhHuNaeGAoZe86LQ

About the Authors:
Nick Shipley is a compliance consultant by day, a board gamer at night, and a husband and father always. When he is not bringing a game to the table, he is running (most often to or from his kids) or watching the New York Yankees. You can follow what Nick is playing on Twitter at @NDShipley

Brody Sheard played board games with his large family growing up. He continues his love of games by teaching his family, local gaming guild, and friends about new and exciting games. Brody believes that board gaming keeps your mind healthy while also having fun interacting with others.
Sectre Review Sectre Review Reviewed by Brody on June 14, 2018 Rating: 5

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