Review: square off
Publisher: Parker Brothers
Year: 1972
Tagline: Parker Brothers game of quick connections

square off cover showing

how we met

There seems to be an inordinate number of old two player games with big plastic parts. They all look kind of similar in their presentation. I don’t always pick them up, but I did pick up square off. And don’t ask me why because I really do not prefer sliding puzzles.

how it plays

square off is dead simple. Your goal is to create an unbroken line between a given letter and whatever number is rolled on the die. And you must do so faster than your opponent. Best of 3 wins!

Example showing red with unbroken line from letter D to number 4

See the unbroken line from D to 4? It was all downhill from here

The slider puzzles come with a handy extra plug piece so that they do not slide in transit. Once you remove that piece from each side you are ready to play. The letters stand up in the middle of the board between players and do not need to be in any specific order. One player chooses whatever letter they like and the other player rolls a die. Then it’s a race to slide your way to victory. The winning player keeps the letter for scorekeeping.

Picture showing a black piece with a hole in the middle to fill the gap in the sliding puzzle

I thought you might want a picture of the plug

The rules include a couple of variants. One is that instead of slamming your puzzle around as quickly as you can each player makes one move at a time, like chess or something. The other is a solo variant that gives you a challenge with six possible solutions.

how it went

I liked square off okay. Bill won, but I did get one point in there. A lot of the ratings say that Rubik’s Race is a better version of a sliding puzzle game. I have not played it, so I can’t comment. But I would probably not care for that one either. As I mentioned, sliding puzzles aren’t really my favorite.

Close up of the letter pieces

A close up of the letters. Not a very photogenic game if I’m being honest

I like the fact that the combination of letters and numbers is random, so you can end up with a very short trail, a very long one or somewhere in between. I think the short and long ones introduce more challenging play unless you happen to get very lucky.

But I do think this is an example of a game that is less of a game and more of a talent or strength. Players can be mismatched because a brain works well that way or it doesn’t. That can be said for tons of games and game types, but I think it is more apparent in some games than others. And certainly moreso in a 2 player game.

A brain that doesn’t work well at this puzzle will get better, but the people working on their weaknesses will never bypass the people who have natural strengths in a thing. I don’t see that as an issue in the grand scheme of things, but it definitely keeps certain people away from certain games. Me personally, if I go to the Renaissance Festival and watch a kid play five people at Chess simultaneously and beat them mightily, it does not inspire me to practice so I can come back and beat the kid. It causes me to not really want to play Chess. Because I’m not great at it, and I’m okay with that. I’ll spend that money to see the unicorn. Every time.

play or pass

Pass. square off was not my thing, personally, but it does have a lot going for it. It’s quick and simple. It’s random. It’s challenging (to many of us). I can see it being really great between two well-matched players, but it is terribly unbalanced between ill-matched players. The scales are tipped more toward puzzle and less toward game on this one.