One of the hallmarks of abstract games is their low barrier of entry. Easy to learn, difficult to master, as you nerds love to say.
Manolis Vranas and Jamie Sajdak’s Shobu — which Google Translate informs me means “processing unit,” although I have no idea how they got that from the kanji for “victory” and “defeat” — is so easy that its three rules are printed on the back of the box. How delightfully brazen! Which is why, although I’m usually loathe to list a game’s rules, I’m going to teach you how to play Shobu right this instant.
It’s hard to deny that Bill Lasek’s Koi is a handsome game. That soft color palette, Christy Freeman’s stunning illustrations, the wooden dragonflies and carp and frogs — throw them together and you have something approaching serene, the surface of the pond glasslike other than the occasional ripple of a predator flickering from the deep. At any rate, it’s far prettier than the muck-choked “pond” we had out back as a kid. The one time we stocked it with goldfish, they lasted all of one afternoon before being sucked down the storm drain.