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Awards

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You Might Like

  • Lovely artwork
  • Calm, puzzly, play
  • Easy to learn

Might Not Like

  • The strategic options may be a little too limited for some gamers

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Hiroba Review

Hiroba Review

Whenever there is a newspaper in our house, the puzzle page mysteriously disappears. You see, my husband is a die-hard sudoku fan. As such, I don’t get a sniff of sudoku satisfaction unless I’m quick off the mark. I did have a book chock full of them once. Until we went on holiday, and he whizzed through all eleven billion of them whilst reclining in the sun!

I was intrigued and excited to play Hiroba which takes well-known solo sudoku puzzliness and transforms it into a competitive tile-laying game.

Sudoku For Two…Or Three….Or Four

If you know how a sudoku works then you already know 90% of the rules in this game. But I don’t suppose many of those bland paper grids you usually fill in have Koi fish or zen gardens. In that case, this is sudoku Jim, but not as we know.

it.The objective is area control. But rather than one large grid, there are tiles which contain smaller garden enclosures. And when the required number of tiles are pushed together to form a modular board, rows and columns appear. Your objective is to place your numbered pebbles on the board so that you have the highest value in each garden by end game.

And just like regular sudoku, numbers cannot be repeated. So each row, column, and garden cannot contain more than one of the same number – whether it is yours or an opponents’. And in an extra twist, you can only place your pebbles in rows and columns where you already have a pebbly presence.

Koi Koi

Your pebbles are double-sided and feature numbers 1 – 9. Based on the above, you’d think you would be trying to place your highest numbers possible in every available garden. But those Koi are crafty. In order to gain their score multiplying bonuses, you must have placed the lowest total value adjacent to them at end game! Each player also gets stones for blocking off spaces in gardens – because, you know, there wasn’t already enough to mess with your zen.

To keep the game tight, the board is scaled. So, depending on player count, not all tiles making up the board in play will feature gardens into which you can place pebbles.

Final Thoughts

This game might look zen. A peaceful puzzle to ponder. But you aren’t playing alone anymore, kiddo! Hiroba is a quick blast of strategic placement optimisation. You don’t have the luxury of every available space, and others are coming for those Koi!

Granted, more of the board opens up to you as the game progresses – with each pebble you place, another row or column could become an option. But it can be a pointless advantage if your prized pebble number is already present in that row or column! Now, you could turn that frown upside down and head over to the Koi ponds with your low-value numbers. But even if you manage to hook a fish, you still need spaces in your majority gardens in which to place the x2 tiles! And those stones can really mess with your plans.

And that’s the two-tier tactical tussle in Hiroba – go go go for gardens, or fish for bonuses! There aren’t other powers or symbols to factor in that trigger other bonuses or pebble shifts, So you’ll need to do a bit of both in order to hit that sweet sudoku spot! Keeping your eyes peeled on what your opponents have left to play (including stones) will help. But what if they flip a pebble to the other side or block the exact space you were targeting next? Do you have a stone you can use to safeguard gardens or Koi from the others? Gadzooks, Gardeners!!

Component-wise, this game is lovely – nice thick chunky tile and printed wooden pebbles. The Koi pebble boards are a nice touch too.

We are greedy gamers and even at 2 player count, we wanted to see and use all of the gardens. So we upped the ante and played 2 colours each so that we could have all 9 tiles in play. We combined our scores to crown the ultimate Hiroba hero! Regular 2 and 3 player modes work really well though with the restricted spaces for maintaining the tension and limiting options.

Despite the 'thinky' strategic planning that is going down in Hiroba town, the overall experience is a cool, calculating, and calming one. An air of satisfaction (or frustration) descends once final scores have been tallied. And with a random modular board set up, and double-sided pebbles, this is a sudoku challenge that you can replay.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Artwork
  • Complexity
  • Replayability
  • Player Interaction
  • Component Quality

You might like

  • Lovely artwork
  • Calm, puzzly, play
  • Easy to learn

Might not like

  • The strategic options may be a little too limited for some gamers

Zatu Blog

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