The simplicity of Gemlok (Pywacket, 2007) is what makes it so appealing. It’s as easy as rolling the dice and claiming the highest available spot…except it isn’t quite that simple.
The board, which is conveniently small, is a grid with regularly placed”gem” spots. The gems vary in color, and certain colors are worth certain points; from amethysts (2 pts) to diamonds (9 pts). The goal, simply enough, is to amass the most points by the end of the game. But to get points, a player has to move one of his or her eight men onto the gem and keep it there. And there’s the rub.
Gemlok is unique in terms of piece movement and the locking-pieces feature. Movement is accomplished by rolling special dice, shown below, that show a variety of pathways. A player must move one man according to each die roll. They are allowed to land on another man unless that man is locked; if they do land on an unlocked man, they are free to move it up to four spaces away. If a player rolls a “gemlok,” they MUST then flip one of their men over (most likely the highest-scoring one) and lock its position. That man may no longer be displaced by another man. Note that, except on the first turn, if “gemlok” is rolled, the player does not have the option of passing; they must choose a man to lock, even if it is not in an optimal spot. Note also that the higher-value spaces are in the middle of the board, and the men begin the game on the perimeter.
Gemlok is for 2-4 players, may be played in teams, and is advertised, appropriately, for ages 8 and up. It’s a great value for the price and has a ton of replay value. Because of its simplicity, it is a perfect game for someone who isn’t really keen on playing games. It is also great for mixed-age groups.