The essence of a good abstract game is a simple set of rules that hide evolving depth to challenge players. U-Turn absolutely excels at both of these design goals, and has quickly become a game anyone should consider carrying with them.
U-Turn is a two player game with a simple goal and simple ways to approach it. The game consists of 22 U-Shaped blocks of sturdy plastic, half of which are green and the other half orange. All but 2 of them have a dot of the other team’s color placed somewhere on their exterior, and each team has an identical but reversed set. Starting with the two unadorned pieces interlocked, each player will attach a piece from their set. The ultimate goal of each player is to surround one of their colored dots with their colored bricks. This need not be a perfect square, as long as you form an unbroken shape of your own color.
At the outset this sounds like a basic tic-tac-toe experience with a few moves and countermoves until someone has outplayed their opponent, but as you turn the ever-growing shape of the game over in your hands, the possibilities explode around it. You are struck with the realization that U-Turn is played on multiple dimensions. Every play has implications for every side of the structure. My first game consisted of a brilliant fakeout by my opponent, who appeared to be countering my moves on one side but was actually building herself up in another section.
A game of U-Turn has you turning the structure over in your hands, planning an attack from multiple angles. Every piece you place can affect the game in multiple dimensions, especially because you can surround your dot on multiple depths. I won a game once by combining pieces from one level with those several levels deep, something my opponent had trouble recognizing. It really tests your ability to think abstractly and reevaluate the game.
It bears saying that the pieces can be very difficult to slot into place. It involves a lot of sawing them around, but this is a necessity to keep the game together as it gets bigger later on. Not having played for very long, I can’t speculate about whether they will wear down over time, but I can say that the plastic material is very durable. U-Turn also comes with a mesh carrying bag for you to take it wherever you go with ease.
As great as U-Turn can be, you will only want to play a few games at a time before putting it aside. The game is quick and uses the same few skills for success, so you find yourself getting what you want out of it and being comfortable putting it aside for a while. Unlike Hive, another transportable abstract game, it has issues feeling quite satisfying enough to stand on its own on a game night.
The last layer of strategy you have to contend with is one that gives U-Turn the most longevity for those who are interested. Because you place your opponent’s dots and you both have identical pieces, you have two tools to build your plan around. You have better knowledge of what your opponent will put down the longer the game goes on, and you can control which dots they can access. These elements don’t really come up unless you are committed to learning the game, so they will go unnoticed by many players.
Designed by: Dominique Breton
Published by: Blue Orange Games
Age Rating: 7+
Time: 10 Minutes
Mechanics: Abstract, Puzzle
U-Turn is the ultimate example of simple-but deep abstract strategy. Its multi-dimensional structure, created by both players throughout the course of the game, creates an evolving battle of wits that is worth revisiting, but rarely in the same night.