NAVKAKRI is an exciting new two player title from FROLIX coming to Kickstarter in March, found here. We want to preface this preview by stating that Sushiball Games has not played this title yet, and this preview is based solely on the online files currently available (including rulebook and promotional elements we reviewed) Media is entirely provided by FROLIX.
NAVKAKRI plays exactly like the game Nine Men’s Morris, with the same rules that this historic game has had since ancient times, but utilizes an electronic board with lights and sound instead. NAVKAKRI also comes with a rechargeable battery (with USB-C charger) for extended play time. The board uses SmartAssist (a software algorithm developed by FROLIX) to provide responses, following each player’s moves throughout gameplay, and tracks the winner.
Setup is non-existent aside from taking the board out. All players need to do to set the game up is to press the center of the board, and it will light up in confirmation. Then, each player’s set of nine pieces/”men” will come out of the board (which is pretty neat and futuristic). The tops of the pieces are black or white to depict each different team.
Players will take turns, placing one “man” on their turn. These individual pieces will light up with a white light beneath them. Players can form a set of three men in a line (aka a mill), which allows them to remove an opponent’s piece. When a mill is created, it will light up green, which is a nice visual indicator that a mill was successfully formed. When removing an opponent’s piece, any piece can be removed except a piece from their mill, unless the opponent has no other pieces. If the opponent’s mill piece is removed, their mill is also consequently broken. All pieces need to be placed on the board to advance to the next phase, so removing opponent pieces is more about having an advantage of strategic placement over the other player in this phase. FROLIX suggests varied placement in the first phase and not working on mills too aggressively on one part of the board.
When all 18 pieces are placed on the board, a new phase begins. Initial placement is done, so this phase is all about moving the existing pieces. Pieces can only be moved to adjacent locations and cannot jump other pieces, which is a fair limitation. This phase has some of the same elements of the first. Players continue to form sets of three men (mills) and remove opponent pieces. Since players are moving their own pieces, they can break their own mills and recreate them so that they may remove opponent pieces more times. FROLIX suggests having two sets of almost-mills (two pieces each) close together with one piece between that can keep forming and breaking mills for continuous opponent piece removal. The opponent’s pieces available to remove become highlighted with a red light, assisting the players with more visual cues. There are fewer and fewer pieces to move as this phase continues, and the phase is over when one player has only three men left on the board. The other player can have more than three left.
Remember the adjacent limitation from the second phase? In phase 3, “Flying,” players are given the freedom to move their men anywhere on the board on their turn. This is fair with the limited number of men players have remaining at this point. SmartAssist continues to track the pieces as they are placed on the board with white, green, and red lights. When one player has either only two men remaining or no possible moves, the board will announce the winner with flashing green lights under each winner’s pieces on the board and sounds.
Language Barrier Playability: Excellent. The rules show that you can rely almost solely on visual cues for this game. The green lights for mills and the red lights for opponent pieces available to remove actually help with language barrier accessibility because you do not need reminders mid game on what to do. On a non-electronic board, this requires more verbal communication.
Replayability: Seems great. As this is a preview we reviewed the rulebook/available media for, it cannot be said with certainty, but the ease of access with an electronic board in a classic game of strategy sounds like our cup of tea. We will likely play a few rounds in a row.
Artwork: Gorgeous. If I were to describe a futuristic gameboard, I’d point to NAVKAKRI. The lights and sounds aren’t added just to seem fancy. They actively assist players throughout gameplay. However, this game does so while also looking sleek, modern, and unique from other games. The silver pieces and outer board pair nicely with the red, green, and white lights without looking overwhelming. The futuristic design is also a nice contrast against the centuries long history of the game. The electronic features functionality and look both show what this version of the game uniquely offers.
Quality: We cannot speak to quality without physically seeing the game. However, from the images available, the pieces are made of metal, so it is likely very sturdy, and overall, the system looks to be of good quality.
Strategy: Great. The rulebook shows that there are different strategies to all three phases as they utilize different placement rules in each phase. The creation and deletion of your own sets affecting the opponent’s pieces is a fun strategic element as well.
Instruction Manual: Great! Short and to the point with no room for confusion. The manual right now is 6 pages long and offers the opportunity to quickstart the game. The lights and sounds are also nice guiding tools for gameplay.
Organization: Good. The prototype appears to have a brown envelope looking box with a nice, sleek design.