Tantrix Discovery is a challenging, progressive, solitaire puzzle, by Coiledspring Games. It is a pocket-sized game that is suitable for children and adults alike. It is a robust set of tiles that seem virtually indestructible giving it “play-anywhere- ability”. The discovery set introduces the concept of Tantrix and its “big brother” set too. This review covers the Tantrix Discovery puzzles and explains how this little gem can really be a useful gap-filler or puzzle gift for kids. With Autumn upon us and Christmas just around the corner, this would make a perfect stocking filler for children or a little gift to keep Dad quiet on Boxing Day.
The concept of Tantrix was created about 30 years ago by a New Zealander puzzle creator. It is an abstract, tile-laying puzzle consisting of a series of hexagons. Each tile has three curved or straight lines going from edge to edge. No two lines on a tile have the same colour (red, yellow, blue and green). All of the tiles are different and on the reverse they are numbered 1 to 10.
Tantrix Discovery is a solo set of puzzles of increasing complexity, taking from about 30 seconds to perhaps 45 minutes for the most difficult. The tiles need to be arranged such that the lines form at least one single continuous loop. The initial puzzle contains just the first three tiles. There is a simple solution that most people should solve within seconds.
The next puzzle adds a fourth hexagon to make a new loop (perhaps of a different colour), but this time four tiles long. The other lines on the four tiles also need to match and align. As each puzzle is completed so the next numbered tile may be added and the created loop will be longer. The numbers of possible tile positions and difficulty of the solution increases exponentially with each new hexagon. The colour of the new loop to be made is indicated by the colour of the number on the reverse of the final tile.
The challenge is to complete all ten puzzles. The concept is simple, but the execution becomes harder. The final loop, ten long, is convoluted and will take quite a while to solve. The final solution is a pleasing, interconnecting web of lines.
Thoughts about Tantrix
Tantrix Discovery is a challenging set of puzzles. What starts as an easy tile-laying problem, that takes seconds to solve, soon draws you into a fiendish, inter-connecting set of pathways. As you move one tile so you might disrupt other connections. For each of the problems there appears to be just one solution.
The puzzle game itself is a compact set that will fit in a pocket and could be played even on an airline tray in economy class. The ten tiles form a tight column that fit nicely in their wooden stand. If left out at home it draws the eye almost like a mini modern art piece. It has an appeal that makes you want to pick it up and play with it.
The hexagonal tiles do not disappoint. They are made of a high quality Bakelite material, giving a lovely deep-black, shiny finish. The other colours are vibrant and clear, with sufficient contrast to make it easy to distinguish between red and green lines. The lines are actually broad grooves or tracks moulded into the tiles. The numbers on the reverse are engraved and painted too. The tiles seem to be made of a heavier material than standard plastic – almost like a resin. This gives them a weight and firmness in the hand. They have a reassuring quality to them and wonderful tactile element.
Built to Last
There are some games and puzzles that might feel cheap or thrown together. Tantrix Discovery is certainly not one of those. Other games, such as Azul, also have a pleasing touch, and these Tantrix tiles feel as though they would last a lifetime. As a family we have had our Tantrix tiles for over 20 years. They have been played regularly by all three children, taken around the world and even played in a swimming pool. They look almost as good now as they day they were first opened. These hexagons are built to last.
The puzzles themselves require spatial awareness and patience. They will not appeal to those who cannot concentrate for more than a few seconds. By the time the fifth or sixth tile is added to the mix the Tantrix challenge may take several minutes to solve. Although the colour of the number of the last tile will give a clue as to the line colour, the key to solving these problems is to look at which other coloured lines actually cross the main loop. I am not going to give you the solutions but suffice to say from experience if a coloured line enters the middle of the loop, it must leave the loop to solve the challenge. Mathematics experts could explain this better and probably have a technical word for it too.
Tantrix Discovery is a useful set of puzzles. They are easy to pick up and attempt. It takes moments just to count out the required hexagons and start where you left off. Some children (and adults) could use them as a way to unwind and focus their thoughts on Tantrix rather than other distractions.
Having solved the tenth puzzle the final group of inter-connecting hexagons looks and feels lovely. This gives great satisfaction and left me wanting more. Tantrix Discovery is a way to dip your toe into the bigger pool of Tantrix Game Pack. Many will want to dive in deeper.
The Discovery Set does not try to be anything more than it is. It is a very well-made set of puzzles that will last for decades. For many, myself included, it provided a useful stepping stone into the huge array of games and puzzles in the Tantrix Game Pack. It is useful way to see whether Tantrix is for you before making a bigger commitment but more importantly a chance to discover the fun that can be had in playing Tantrix.