FTW Staff Picks - Totem

For The Win Board Game Cafe's Staff Picks is a weekly series where we take a quick look at some of the staff's favourite games, old and new.


Designer: N/A

Genre: Abstract

Player Size: 2 to 4 Players

Game Length: 30 minutes

For fans of: Blokus, Abalone

This week we've decided to go with a rather light affair. Some of the most played games in our cafe are things that can be picked up, learned and played within 30 minutes. Blokus is a great example of a game that many people enjoy and play multiple times in one sitting. Generally abstract games fill that hole, but they also veer into 2-player-only territory. So when a solid multiplayer abstract game comes around, it's worth exploring. 

Totem presents players with a clear goal, move your totems from your end of the board to the opposite side. Along the way, players are presented with resistance from the player across who is hoping to accomplish that same feat. The rules for moving are based off of whatever colour space is considered blocked. You can move as far, until you hit the blocked colour. There are also a few special spaces that allow the player moving into them to change the blocked colour to one of their choosing. 

Totem plays great with 2, and equally as well with 4. With 3, I would skip over it entirely. The game attempts to handicap the player without an opponent on the opposite side by having them move an extra totem to win. It doesn't really balance out to make it a fair experience for all sides. For the reason, I'd only play Totem if you were in a setting of 2 or 4 players. 

Totem won't win any glamorous awards and it doesn't reinvent the wheel. In many ways it could even be considered a forgettable experience. All that being said, since it first landed on our shelf, it has seen quite a lot of play. And each experience has been a positive one. As much as you want to provide good suggestions for your customers, you want to invest just as much time observing what games they enjoy on their own. It's a good opener before getting to something meatier. Tactic Games doesn't have the most lavish library of games, but among them we've found a few good ones that now have a home on our shelf.  

Earl OliverosComment