Pegasus Spiele's abstract matching game is a somewhat typical Reiner Knizia masterpiece of family and gamer entertainment. It is a family game with gamer overtones.
Anyone who regularly plays Knizia games knows that his main strengths are in Colours, Numbers and Patterns; so no one will be surprised that AXIO features two of these, Colours and Patterns, and that Numbers come into but only on the players own scoreboards. Speaking of scoring, AXIO features another of Reiner's favourite winning conditions; the player who has the highest lowest number wins - basically meaning that you need to balance obtaining points in all five possible colours.
Players have a plastic 'Scrabble™' stand on which they can hold five domino-style tiles. Instead of numbers on these 'dominoes' there are coloured symbols (designed for colour blind players to recognise by shape if the colours affect them). These tiles are played one at a time, player after player in turn order, onto a grid board that has a central 9x9 grid surrounded by a single slightly darker border that itself is surrounded by yet another single tile border, again slightly darker than the previous border. These 'borders' come into play depending on the number of players.
The central white area has one each of the five symbols printed on it, one on each edge central square of the row and the fifth in the exact central space of the grid.
Players scoreboards show one row of 18 points for each of the five colours and on each there are placed a matching colour plastic gem-like cube. As points are scored the specific Gem/s is/are moved along the row, no points over 18 in any single row count. Points are scored when players lay a tile from their stand over two empty spaces on the board, not covering the printed symbols. Depending on how you place the tiles scoring is made from one or both ends, taking into account the colours/shapes that are adjacent and the same as the tile laid. Double colour tiles (ie those with the same shape/colour twice) do not feed off each other, thus for example a double Blue Cross does not score 2 points just by being laid on the board.
When you place a tile you count one point for each matching colour/symbol in the row or column it is placed in a straight line with. Occasionally the placing of a tile will create a single empty space. As tiles are all two spaces long you cannot fit one into a single square. This is where you put one of the single square-sized pyramids and score one point for each different colour the sides of the pyramid are adjacent to - clever placement of previously placed tiles can get you three or four points, but experience has shown that 1 or 2 points is the norm.
The rules and sequence of play are virtually the same and easy to follow:
Place 1 tile on the game board
Score the Placed tile
Place a Pyramid if you have created a single empty space
Draw a tile
A nice twist to the usual tile placing game is that when you play a tile it doesn't have to match any previously laid tile; not at all, neither end has to match. Of course if you play a non-matching tile it will not score you any points but it may break up a high scoring run, thus sometimes not scoring is as good as scoring.
For 2-4 players aged 8 upward this is a 20-30 minute game of luck (tiles are dealt and then drawn randomly), vision (seeing the bigger picture when playing tiles from your hand) and balance (it's no use scoring 18 points in Red and only one point in Blue, as your final score would be just '1').
It is extremely likeable and surprisingly quite addictive. The rules are easy to understand within minutes and no "takes a lifetime to master" sub-header. The components are Plastic Gem cubes, Plastic Pyramids and fairly solid card tiles, the latter being kept in a black drawstring bag which also doubles as the bag from which the tiles are randomly drawn.
Found in game stores, department stores and online AXIO should cost you between £17.00 - £20.00. There are a few new and sealed games available on eBay.co.uk with prices under £10.00 but these also have a fairly hefty postage charge.
A fun game for families, it is best played, in our opinion, with 3 or 4 players as with 2 players it is easier to manipulate the board to suit your own tiles - in fact it is almost a different game with just two players. There are actually rules to allow for a single-player game, but it isn't the way I would recommend it be played, though I would happily recommend it as a game to be owned and played fairly regularly during family gaming sessions. It also makes a nice break from heavy strategy games for core gamers, though its medium is more likely as a part of a collection that includes all the usual suspects; Cluedo, Monopoly, Scrabble etc.