Lakeside was a board game publisher from Minnesota that published board games from around the 1950s to the mid 1980s. The most notable game they ever made was probably Perfection. In the 1970s Lakeside released a line of abstract strategy games. One of those games was Trespass which I took a look at a while back. Today I am looking at Overboard which was released in 1978. As I wasn’t a big fan of Trespass, I didn’t have high expectations for Overboard either. One thing that was encouraging though is that the game was designed by Alex Randolph who has a strong resume of creating good board games. Overboard is a surprisingly fun little abstract strategy game that unfortunately doesn’t have a lot of replay value.
How to Play Overboard
Arrange all of the pieces according to one of the following pictures. All pieces must be placed so they are in one of the intersections.
Each player will choose which color they will play as. The players will also choose who will start the game
Playing the Game
On a player’s turn they will push one piece of their color. They may push the piece in any direction for as far as they want if they follow these rules:
- You may only push the piece in one direction during your turn. You may not change the direction you are pushing the piece at any time during your turn.
- You must push at least one of the other player’s pieces off the gameboard.
- You can never push one of your own pieces off the gameboard.
- You can push pieces that are separated by a gap.
- If you are unable to or don’t want to push an opponent’s piece off the board, you can push one of your pieces one space into a vacant space.
- When moving pieces, make sure all of the pieces end on a space in an intersection.
End of Game
The game ends when one of the players lose all of their pieces. The other player wins the game.
My Thoughts on Overboard
I have always had conflicted feelings about abstract strategy games. In theory I like the idea behind the genre. Basically the games rely entirely on strategy as there is very little reliance on luck. In order to win you need a good strategy to outsmart your opponent. Normally I would like this as I like games that rely on their strategy. The other key component of abstract strategy games though is that they have basically no theme. This means that abstract games rely heavily on the gameplay being fun. If the gameplay is not fun, the game becomes boring quickly. Unfortunately too many abstract strategy games fall into this trap where the gameplay is just not very fun. I was worried that Overboard was going to fall into this trap as well.
The good news is that Overboard’s gameplay is pretty fun. The game is pretty simple as you just push one of your pieces until at least one of your opponent’s pieces are pushed off the board. You have a lot of options regarding movement, but you can never push one of your own pieces off the board. That is basically all there is to the game. With the game being so straightforward the game is really easy to play. I honestly think you could explain the game to new players within a minute or two. The game has a recommended age of 8+ but I think younger kids could play the game as well. They might not get all of the strategy, but they should understand the game’s rules.
This simplicity also leads to the game playing pretty quickly. Unless the players suffer from analysis paralysis, I can see most games ending in around 10 minutes. A lot of games will probably end even quicker than that. This is a good thing as one of the problems with a lot of abstract strategy games is that they last too long. The games are drawn out which leads to them becoming boring after a while. With games of Overboard lasting around 10 minutes, you can play through quite a few games really quickly. This allows you to play a couple game match to determine the winner.
Despite the game having really basic rules, there is quite a bit of strategy to the game. As a matter of fact I would say that the game doesn’t rely on any luck. The only “luck” in the game is your opponent making a bad mistake. Overboard is the type of game where one bad move can ruin your chances of winning the game. If the other player doesn’t make a catastrophic mistake though, your success in the game relies entirely on the moves you make. You cannot blame your loss on anyone but yourself.
The biggest problem that I have with the strategy in a lot of abstract strategy games is that they give players too many potential options. This leads to the game having a serious analysis paralysis problem. If you are the type of player that has to always find the best move for every turn, you can waste a lot of time analyzing all of your different options. Fortunately this isn’t really an issue in Overboard. The game gives you plenty of options, but it is usually pretty easy to analyze all of your options for a turn. You need to analyze them because if you make the wrong move the other player can knock three or four of your pieces off the gameboard in one move. Basically when you make a decision on which piece to move you need to analyze how many pieces you can knock off as well as what your opponent could do on their next couple of turns.
At first you will probably think that you should eliminate as many of your opponent’s pieces as possible on your turn. Sometimes this is your best move. Sometimes it might be better to leave some of your opponent’s pieces on the board though. You might be in a position to knock two or three of your opponent’s pieces off the board. You might want to consider leaving one of those pieces on the board though. This is because your opponent’s pieces can act as blockers for your pieces. As the other player can’t knock off their own pieces, you can strategically leave some of your opponent’s pieces on the outside of the board. This will prevent them from taking some of your pieces. Some of the biggest mistakes in the game come when you eliminate one of your opponent’s pieces that was acting as a blocker. This opens your opponent up to taking three or more of your pieces. Strategically leaving one of your opponent’s pieces on the board can really help you on future turns.
I have to say that I was honestly a little surprised by Overboard. I initially thought it was going to be another really dull abstract strategy game. I found Overboard to actually be pretty fun though. I think the game’s shorter length and simpler gameplay really helped the game. It is actually pretty satisfying outsmarting your opponent and eliminating several of their pieces. I think Overboard does a good job balancing between making the game accessible and yet still having enough strategy. For this reason I think Overboard is better than the other Lakeside abstract games that I have played so far.
Unfortunately Overboard has some issues that end up preventing it from being as good as it could have been.
The first problem with Overboard is that it has a potentially serious stalemate problem. If one player has a couple more pieces available to them than the other player at the end of the game, they should be able to finish off the other player. If both players have the same number of pieces things become quite a bit more difficult. If both players only have one or two pieces at the end of the game, there really isn’t a way to end the game. Players will just move their pieces back and forth until either the players agree to a draw or one of the players forfeit. With only one or two pieces you can’t really force another player to lose their last piece(s). Because of this I unfortunately see a lot of games ending in a draw.
Another potential problem with the game is that it feels like it will get repetitive pretty quickly. The game only has four different starting setups. The board layout can change based on the moves that players make. I have a feeling that most games will end up basically playing the same though. After playing each setup a couple times I think players will just repeat the same moves over and over again. I honestly wonder if Overboard is solvable where the first player can guarantee a win/draw. For this reason I question how much replay value the game has. I can see playing the game a couple times every so often, but it will get repetitive quickly if you play it a lot.
The final complaint I have with Overboard is that the game’s setup takes quite a while. Basically to setup the board you have to follow one of the four setups shown in the instructions. This is pretty easy to do, but it is not that hard to accidentally place one of the pieces incorrectly. It probably takes at least a minute or two to setup the board though. With the game usually taking less than 10 minutes to play, the setup takes quite a bit of time for how long the game is.
While the setup takes longer than it should, I will give the game credit for the component quality. The components are quite basic as all you get is a plastic grid gameboard and some basic game pieces. The components serve their purpose though. It is quite easy to push the pieces around on the gameboard. Occasionally pieces will get pushed out of one of the intersections and will have to be readjusted. Outside of these instances though it is really easy to push the pieces however you want. The components might not look like much, but they make the gameplay move smoothly.
Should You Buy Overboard?
I will say that I was a little impressed by Overboard. It is far from perfect, but it is better than a lot of abstract strategy games. I think this is because it is straight and to the point. The game is simple to play which leads to the game playing quickly. The game has quite a bit of strategy as you will win or lose based on your own strategy and whether your opponent makes mistakes. The game gives players options, but not so many that it leads to analysis paralysis issues. I had fun with Overboard. The problem is that the game feels a little limited. I see most games basically playing the same which will lead to the game getting kind of repetitive. I also think there is a stalemate problem where there is no way to end the game outside of a draw if both players either have one or two pieces left.
If you have never cared for abstract strategy games or don’t care for the game’s premise, I don’t see you really liking Overboard. People who like abstract strategy games will have some fun with the game. Due to the game getting repetitive pretty quickly, I would only pick up Overboard though if you can get a good deal on it.