“The point isn’t to win the game. The point is to play a beautiful game.”
Tak is an abstract strategy game from the best-selling novel The Wise Man’s Fear, the 2nd book of the Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss. In the book, the game is mentioned but Rothfuss purposely left any much detail about how its played. In came James Ernest from Cheapass games. Together he, and an initially reluctant Rothfuss laid out the rules to the game and launched a tremendous Kickstarter project to bring Tak to life.
Tak has since grown by leaps and bounds. Players have many options when it comes to sets to play the game. There’s travel sets with cloth boards and small wooden pieces all the way up to luxury sets made my Wyrmwood Gaming. Creative individuals are even making their own sets out of everything from wood to bone.
In just under a year we’ve already seen the rise of the US Tak Association, a group that helps spread and support love for the Tak with resources and hosted tournaments.
Tak is most commonly played on a 5×5 board but can be played on a 3×3 board all the way up to an 8×8 board. The number of pieces used in the game is determined by the size of the board being played on. The goal of the game is to connect two opposite sides of the board. The best way to learn is by using the video below or checking out the resources at the US Tak Association.
For the sake of this review, we’ll be talking about the pieces found in the standard Tak retail box. The set comes with a 2-sided board with a “Tavern-style” 5×5 side and a “Court-style” side that’s a hybrid 5×5/6×6 design.
The board doesn’t fold and fits perfectly into the game’s box. The player pieces are made from wood and have a wonderful heft and feel to them. The box’s insert isn’t the best, having a single channel to hold both sets of player pieces. This is easily fixed by flipping it upside-down allowing players to store each set of pieces separately.
There’s a lot to love about Tak. It’s easy-to-learn, elegant, and has the feel of a classical abstract. The amount of depth in play and the choices open at any particular moment will keep you coming back for more, developing new strategies and honing your skill. It’s been a wonderful experience exploring Tak and seeing different scenarios play out on all the different sized board.
It’s also been quite the experience watching the Tak community grow and evolve over time. At first, it was just a group of fans talking about the game and their initial impressions and strategies. It then grew into AI bots, Tak notation for playing by email/mail, the US Tak Association, and tons of crafty individuals posting their personal Tak sets they created. There have been several tournaments now, both online and physical events. The game has quickly grown beyond a mention in a popular fantasy novel to a power in its own right.
Tak has also quickly become one of my favorite games, and one of my few 10’s on BoardGameGeek. I have not only enjoyed playing the game, but sharing my love of the game with my kids, friends, and even the Scouting Pack and Troop I’m involved in. It’s one of the few games I carry with me wherever I go, tossing my Tavern Set and cloth board in whatever bag I have on me at the time.
I can’t say that Tak is for everyone. People who aren’t fans of abstracts most likely won’t find the game interesting. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t introduce them to it! I’ve met a few people who aren’t even gamers who have gotten enjoyment from the game just because they are a fan of Rothfuss’ books.
Tak is worth taking the time to dive into. Just be careful or you’ll find yourself with different Tak sets littering your home. Not that I’d know from experience or anything…
Both the retail edition of Tak and the Tavern Set and cloth board were provided free for review by Cheapass Games