The point isn’t to win (or lose) Tak, Bredon tells Kvothe in Patrick Rothfuss’ The Wise Man’s Fear, but to play a beautiful game. And now, thanks to Rothfuss, James Ernest, and Cheapass Games, you can try your hand at a beautiful, real-life Tak set.
Rothfuss and Ernest had previously collaborated on bringing to life another game from The Kingkiller Chronicles, the card game Pairs; as a stretch goal during that Kickstarter campaign, they committed to publishing the rules for Tak. However, as Rothfuss explained in a recent blog post, he still had his misgivings:
“Tak is supposed to be my world’s version of Chess or Go or Mancala,” I said. “I can’t ask you to make a game like that. It’s like saying, ‘you know those games that have stood the test of time for hundreds or thousands of years? The best games ever? Do that, but in my world.’ So first off, it’s unreasonable for me to ask. Secondly, you can’t do it. No one can. And thirdly, if you did somehow manage to pull if off, nobody would give a shit. We’re living in the golden age of board games right now. Nobody cares about strategy games like chess anymore.”
But the rules were a hit when played with a checkers set, and eventually Ernest and Rothfuss decided to manufacture the proper tokens to play Tak for real. Rothfuss was the toughest critic (in his words, “a curmudgeonly fucker”), but he reported that his first time playing was better than he ever expected:
I was stunned by the game. Stunned that anyone could make something like this. It’s more elegant than chess. It’s more enjoyable than Go.
I learned to play it in about five minutes and had a blast. More than a year later, the game is still unfurling for me like a flower, as I understand more and more about the play of it.
Now the game can unfurl for you, too. Rothfuss and Ernest have already exceeded their Kickstarter goal five times over in a few days, and there are plenty of options: the Classic set versus Tavern set, a companion book, collector’s coin, and other perks.
Tak and Pairs join a growing list of fantasy games being translated from the page to a real-life playing space: Earlier this month, Crafty Games announced the Mistborn: House War board game to help you refine your noble intrigue skills; there’s also a fan-made version of the Snakes & Foxes game from The Wheel of Time series.
Learn more about the design process over on Ernest’s blog.