Ab Durch Die Mauer
Zoch/Noris Publisher 2-4 players aged 7+ Games take about 20 Minutes
Designed by Jürgen Adams Illustrated by Victor Boden Around $25.00 online
This is a clever and fun family game by the masters of fun family games. It takes a couple of minutes to put the board together, making sure that you have the magical (magnetic) sliders into the correct tunnels of the board - the centre and the two outer tunnels. The game board then sits on the castle floor and is pinned by a centralised plug. The castle floor is a plastic frame-work designed to take the sliders and the board - at first we also thought it was designed to sit on/into the the box base like some previous Zoch games involving Ghosts, but it doesn't - only mentioned this in case you, like me, rush into setting it up and think before you read the instructions.
There are 4 colourful Ghosts that begin on each corner of the board, sitting on their own colour square, the players each choose one Ghost to move across and around the board collecting the necessary pieces of clothing to complete your set. These clothing items are shown on the board, they do not move, ever, though the board can be moved on its central pin as one of the three actions a player can take on their turn.
Ghosts can be moved one space in any direction except diagonally just by physically picking up the Ghost piece and moving it. However it cannot be physically moved through walls, only magically, and it cannot share a space with another Ghost - spirits aren't particularly social creatures.
There are five types (and decks) of GHOST Garment cards which are are shuffled together and dealt into four equal stacks. When you manage to manoeuvre your Ghost onto a square containing a piece of clothing you can take one of the four shuffled decks of Costume cards and riffle through it to see if the clothing piece you have landed on is in it; if it is you can take it. This is where the game becomes one for using your memory - as you look through the deck for your piece of clothing you must try to remember what other pieces you see in the stack. This is where I, personally fail at the game as I often cannot remember very much nowadays.
One of the actions you can take is to move the board on its axis 90 degrees in either direction. This moves the board across and over the sliders and thus possibly making the slider magnets (I mean 'magic') interact with the magical bases of the Ghosts, thus moving them. Another action is to move one of the sliders as far as you wish (up until the legal point) again possible moving the Ghost or Ghosts, you can move Ghosts other than your own. This is a family game and when played with young children that's how it should be played, soft and easy.
If you play with just adults then you can add a simple rule. Seeing as the game is quite like Ravensburger's 'Labyrinth' (this game is a cross between 'Labyrinth' and a 'Magnetic Soccer game') using one of the rules from Labyrinthe isn't too far of a stretch especially as it doesn't really change the premise of Ab durch die Mauer. The rule I am talking about is not allowing the previous move, in this case of a tunnel or the rotation of a deck, to be reversed by the next player. This way you have a small strategy available of moving the slider or the board (or both) to manoeuvre an opponent's Ghost away from the garment they are heading for. It only makes it a little more frustrating and fun but it works. As the rules currently are you can reverse a move, though there is no guarantee that reversing the movement of a slider or board will actually place the Ghosts back where they started from, though they generally do.
Another thing we allow is for all players to have an equal number of turns. As the game stands it is the first player to collect five different pieces of clothing - head, bust, torso, legs (feet) and arms- but it may be possible for two or more players to finish in the same round if they have equal number of turns each, then it's a tie - I have to say that this hasn't happened yet in our games but it has been very close to occurring on several occasions.
In the actual game the first player to fully clothe a Ghost wins. Half the fun is dressing your Ghost up in the funniest 'fancy-dress'.
Something to note on your first game. The rules are that you cannot move your Ghost through walls, and yet your Ghost begins in a 3 square x 1square dungeon cell - hmm! conundrum you may think, especially as the sliders are not directly under a Ghost's, any Ghost's, starting position and so cannot affect them in any way. How do you get out then? If you cannot figure it out, ask a 7 year old.
Most of ZOCH's child/family games have hidden strategies that experienced gamers can have fun finding and utilising. This one is mostly for kids, they love moving the Ghosts around, and the older player strategy possibilities are few and far, but it is still an hilarious family game, even likely to get 7-9 year olds off of their Cell Phones for 10 minutes if you enthuse about it enough.