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Stonehenge board game
Souvenir board game!!!

During a holiday in Europe, I procured a few souvenir board games to add to my collection.

I didn't have room in my luggage for the larger Stonehenge Anthology Game or the Ring of Stones game. So instead of buying them in the Stonehenge gift shop, I ordered them online and had them shipped to my house. They were both waiting for me when I returned home from the trip! The Ring of Stones game was purchased directly from the English Heritage online shop's Stonehenge gifts section. The Anthology game had to come from Amazon because it isn't available from the English Heritage online shop, but I got a really good deal on it!

There was also some Stonehenge Monopoly and playing cards, but I'm not into those sorts of novelty variations that I can get anywhere. It was the unique games that caught my eye.

The third game that I brought back from Europe is a medieval Viking game called "Hnefatafl". I had seen it in the Viking Ship Museum gift shop when I was there last November, but I didn't buy it at the time because I wasn't sure if its rules were written in English or Danish. I didn't want to buy a game that I'd never be able to play because I couldn't read the rules. So when I saw the same game in the British Museum's gift shop this summer, I decided to go ahead and get it.

Board games from Europe
My European souvenir board games include 2 Stonehenge-themed games and a traditional Viking game.

I'm going to talk specifically about the Ring of Stones game right now. I'll also be reviewing the Stonehenge anthology game and the Viking Game Hnefatafl in the following posts in the coming days.

Stonehenge "Ring of Stones"

I'll go ahead and start with the simplest game of the bunch: the Stonehenge Ring of Stones game. This is a 2-player dice-rolling game in which the first player attempts to build a stone circle by placing standing stones and covering them with cap stones, while the second player attempts to tear the circle down. The number rolled by the die tells the given player what kind of move he or she is allowed to make. If the first player successfully places all the stones on the board, he or she wins. The second player wins by removing all the pieces from the board.

Sounds pretty simple. And it is.

The box advertises the game as a "quick-thinking game of strategy". That label is being a bit generous. Most of the game really comes down to the luck of the die roll.

Strategy consists entirely of taking advantage of lucky rolls to prevent your opponent from making a legal move.
[LEFT] Rolled 3, but no legal position to place capstone; [RIGHT] Rolled 5, but can't legally remove standing stone.

If the first player rolls a three, but there are no legal positions to place a capstone, then that player must forfeit that turn. Conversely, if the second player rolls a five, but can't legally remove any standing stones because they're all covered by capstones, then that player loses the turn. So the strategy for player one is simply to try to cover every stone with at least one capstone, so that in the 1-in-6 likelihood that player two rolls a five, he or she must miss the turn. Player two's strategy, therefore is to try to remove standing stones so that in the 1-in-6 likelihood that player one rolls a three, he or she has no two adjacent standing stones on which to place a capstone and must miss his or her turn.

And that's the entire game! Honestly though, I don't really expect much depth or complexity from a £10 souvenir game from a UNESCO World Heritage site gift shop. It's a simple time-killer game, and that's fine.

If there's any real complaint, it's that the nature of the die rolls means that games can sometimes drag on for much longer than they should. Players can roll lots of ones or a string of unlucky rolls can cause players to keeping undoing and redoing the same couple moves repeatedly. The game can also be almost entirely decided by a single lucky (or unlucky) die roll early in the game. Rolling a one or a six on the first couple turns can lead to the outcome feeling like a foregone conclusion, but the die rolls can always turn the game the other way in a heartbeat without the players really doing anything to contribute to it. In any case, the game rarely takes longer than ten minutes to play.

Child playing Ring of Stones
It's a good entry-level game for kids.

Even though your money isn't really paying for a robust board game, it is paying for pretty high-quality components. The board is a nice ceramic disc with slots for the standing stones and Celtic patterns etched along the rim and in the center. The stones themselves are a sturdy material with a convincing stone texture. If nothing else, the game can make for a nifty little display piece on a coffee table or shelf.

Ring of Stones can also be a decent entry-level game for young board gamers in training. It's a mostly mechanical process, but the very simplistic strategies force younger players to maybe think a little bit more carefully than if they were playing, say, Candyland or Chutes and Ladders. It can also help such youngsters to develop some dexterity, as they'll have to balance the small capstones on top of the standing stones. And maybe you can use it to teach them some history while they're at it! If only the pieces were magnetic, it would also make for a nice little time-killing travel game.

PROS

  • Quick and simple to play
  • Could be a good way to introduce youngsters to simple game strategies
  • Components are very nice, and makes for a dynamic display piece
  • Inexpensive souvenir that supports the English Heritage trust

CONS

  • Random die rolls leave very little actual strategy
  • Die rolls can cause game to drag

Ring of Stones FINAL GRADE: C-

Manufacturer: English Heritage trust
MSRP: £10 GBP
Player(s): 2-players
Game Length: 10 minutes
Official site: www.english-heritageshop.org.uk/toys-games/stonehenge-ring-of-stones-game

Ring of Stones on coffee table
At the very least, the game's components make for a nice little dynamic display.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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