Deflexion

Reviewer Reviewed On Publisher Designer Published In Rating
December 23, 2005 Self-published Del Segura and Luke Hooper 2005 8
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Lasers are cool. Deflexion (Deflexion, 2005 - Del Sugura, Luke Hopper, and Michael Larson) has lasers. That automatically should alert you to whether or not you'll want to pick up the game. My whole life I've been fascinated by lasers, and how they bounce off of mirrors. When I heard that there was a game that was centered around this concept, I knew that it was one that I would have to play. I have found however, that a cool concept (rolling marbles in Balanx) doesn't always make a good game - and was therefore slightly wary.

Well, there was no need for this caution, because Deflexion is an excellent abstract game; and while lasers are intrigal to the central game structure, the game plays like a slightly easier form of chess. At first, the concept of firing a laser to destroy enemy pieces, and seeing how many mirrors one can bounce it off of, tends to dominate play. But after (or during) a game, players suddenly realize the depth of strategy to the game. Oftimes a game will come down to a single mistake a player has made, but I almost always hear, "Let's play it again." Perhaps the laser is a "gimmick", but it's one that works, so who cares!

Each player starts with a series of pieces on an eight by ten grid of squares. Players set their pieces up according to a prearranged pattern (there are two included in the rulebook). Players have four different types of pieces:
- Obelisk - which looks just like it sounds, a towering plastic piece.
- Pyramid - this is actually half of a pyramid, with a mirror inside to angle the laser ninety degrees.
- Djed - this is a double-sided mirror piece that also angles lasers from either direction ninety degrees.
- Pharoah - This plastic pharaoh piece is a player's leader. If killed, they lose.
The gold player goes first, and play alternates for the remainder of the game…

On a player's turn, they may move any of their own pieces one space in any direction, including diagonally. Alternatively, they may rotate a single piece ninety degrees. No piece can move into a spot occupied by another piece, except the Djed, which can "switch" spots with an adjacent piece (except another Djed or Pharoah). Each player has one row (on the far side of the board) that is in their color, and the other player may never move a piece into that row.

After a player moves / rotates a piece, they fire their laser. Each player's laser shoots directly down their colored row, bouncing off of any mirrors it may encounter. Often the laser will harmlessly end in a wall, but if it strikes a piece on a non-mirrored side (which means that the Djeds are invincible), that piece is killed and removed from the board. A player MUST fire their laser, even if it kills one of their own pieces. Play passes to the other player. The first player to kill their opponent's pharaoh is the winner!

Some comments on the game…

1.) Components: As might be suspected, Deflexion is a huge game and comes in a rather large box. More surprisingly, however, the game really is fairly lightweight, and all of the pieces are fairly durable. Each playing piece is made of an opaque plastic color (silver or gold), and the mirrors do a good job of reflecting. After about eight consecutive reflections, the laser eventually misfires slightly; but such long combinations are rare, and players can still, by using ninety degree angles, figure out exactly where the laser goes. The game packages well, using a plastic covering and styrofoam piece to hold the game into position. The lasers themselves are small diode lasers, which while not the highest quality, certainly work well enough for the game. I'm tempted to play the game in the dark or buy a smoke machine to get the full effect of the game.

2.) Rules: There are only three pages of rules with full color diagrams. That makes sense because the game is so easy. "Move or rotate, then fire," is all that need be said, with only the Djed movement and colored row restrictions as exceptions. I've taught this game to many people and shown several people who NEVER play games, and they all understood it.

3.) Lasers: You can't separate Deflexion from the lasers; they're not only cool, but they are a way to get people interested in the game. I've shown the game to many people who normally don't have an interest in games, and they wanted to move the pieces and shoot the lasers. It's a feature that will have many adolescents interested, and adults will crowd around, hoping to get a chance to fire the laser. And by the way, I saw some concerns about people using the lasers. It would take some chicanery and tricky maneuvering to have them do this, so it's nothing I would worry about.

4.) Strategy: The game isn't all about shooting lasers; that's just the draw to the game. Moving the pieces around, trying to set up the perfect shot to kill your opponent is the real meat of the game. Many players play defensively, attempting to protect their king at all costs, and block their opponent's laser. I myself like to play a little more aggressively, which involves my trying to set up a good shot, killing every piece that gets in my way. Often this means that I'll make a mistake and set up my opponent's shot. Either way, after every game I'll think about it, and wonder what I should have / could have done differently.

5.) Djeds: These pieces are, without a doubt, the most powerful pieces in the game. Since they can never die (which means the game WILL end at some point), they can help deflect shots all over the board, and their "switching" power is quite useful. However, they are also dangerous. Having one near your pharaoh is almost a double-edged sword, because they can be used by your opponent to destroy your own pieces! Having mirrors on both side of a piece is not always good!

6.) Obelisks: I'm not exactly sure what the purpose of these pieces are other than they look cool. All they can do is soak up a shot from the enemy. While that is useful, it's not really that big of a deal, and in many games they are never moved. I saw on the internet where one player suggested that they can move like Chess rooks, but I haven't found that necessary. They seem like big stupid guards, ready to take the dagger meant for the pharaoh.

7.) Setups: There are two setups in the rulebook: Classic and Ihmotep. I've played both of them several times and am satisfied, although I look for new ways to setup, and I'm sure some will pop on the 'net. It is critical to have a balanced setup, because when a friend of mine and I took turns placing pieces on the board to set up, it became a blood bath and ended in less than five minutes.

8.) Decisions, Decisions: Players can take a long time to think of their turn, since you can't shoot the laser until AFTER you move. However, this "analysis paralysis" isn't any worse than most other abstract games I've had, so I didn't find it to be much of a problem. Most of my games took thirty minutes or less, so Deflexion became a "meaty", quick game.

9.) Fun Factor: The game comes with two lasers. That's all I need to say.

Okay, maybe you're not a person who is "wowed" by the fact that a laser is involved in this game. Perhaps you still be impressed by the pretty good depth of strategy and tactics in this abstract strategy game. But for the rest of us - who cares! It has lasers, and that automatically puts it on many people's want lists. And while lasers are the neatest thing ever, it's nice to know that there's a good solid game backing them up.

Tom Vasel
"Real men play board games"