Konexi (Forrest-Pruzan Creative, 2010) is an interesting game. I can honestly say I have never seen another like it. It takes two seemingly unrelated genres, stacking and word games, and mashes them together in a very unique way. In Konexi, players make a teetering tower of letters, all precariously balanced on one single letter. By adding letters to this “letter tree,” players try to form words in which all letters physically connect.
To begin, the production quality is high. The 26 letters themselves are made of sturdy plastic. Each letter has a number of tongues and grooves which can interconnect with other letters. The game comes with a pencil and score pad, and well as a custom D6 and a little plastic marker. It is packaged in a weird-looking inverted trapezoid box, which is more than a little annoying for those of us who like to store games sideways on shelves. Despite its odd shape, though, the box is structurally well-made.
To begin the game, one letter is selected to be the base of the “tree.” It is placed upright in the middle of the table, and all other letters are placed in a circle around it. The plastic marker is placed next to one of these letters, to indicate it as the starting letter.
On a player’s turn, they roll the die and move the plastic marker that many letters around the circle (think Patchwork). The current player must place the resulting letter onto the tree. This is where dexterity element comes in. Using only one hand, the player must connect the letter to the tree using its tongues and grooves. This means that all letters are interconnected, and they must all balance on that one single starting letter; no other letter can touch the table.
If a player is able to make a word using their current letter and adjoined letters, he/she scores points. The letters do not have to be in order. Thus, if I play the letter R so that it connects to the sequence F-Y-I-A, I have made the word “FAIRY.”
It’s hard to explain, but this game seems to defy physics. The letters seem to balance in ways that they shouldn’t. When the letter tree is really wobbly and you’re certain the next letter is going to cause it to tumble, somehow, it stays standing. Of course, if the tower does fall, there is a penalty, but I find that this game doesn’t even need the full rules.
At its core, Konexi is a simple stacking game. My group rarely ever keeps score, because the real fun of the game is simply in building the letter tree. Heck, we usually don’t even roll the dice and move the marker, we just do a “you place one, I place one, and we both try to make cool words” kind of thing. In our games, no one cares about winning or losing, it’s just fun to play.
With that said, though, I find that Konexi lacks staying power. The idea is really novel, but it quickly loses its luster. I was first introduced to Konexi at a local con. I had never heard of it, but I played it and had a blast. When I thrifted a copy on the cheap, I was sure my group would eat it up. And they did. For about 10 minutes. After a round or two, they were over it. In this way, the game is kind of a one-trick pony. It has this really unique idea in it, but once you’ve experienced it, well, you’ve experienced it. It no longer has that novelty factor.
I think that with the right group, Konexi could be a hit. Kids would have a lot of fun playing with the chunky letters, and casual gamers might enjoy it as a different take on Jenga. But for gamers, the game leaves much to be desired. In my opinion, the best place to play it is at a con, like I did.
In that first game we played at our local con, our table was near the middle of the main gaming area, meaning there were dozens of other games being played all around us. It was funny, because everyone around us, even though they were invested in their own games, was watching us play. In the midst of 4-hour euros and complex war games, all the people nearby were eyeing this silly stacking game. I remember hearing commentary about how “that tower is totally going to fall next turn” from the next table over. Some of these observers seemed more interested in our game than they did in their own games. When we finished that round, a bunch more people wanted to try it out, because they were so intrigued by it.
I can’t give Konexi my full recommendation. Like I said, it’s a one-trick pony. What I will say is this: Konexi is worth playing at least one time. You will have a lot of fun with it. I don’t know that it’s worth owning, unless word or stacking games are really your thing, or unless you can find it for super cheap. It’s out of print right now, but it’s not that hard to track down. Give it a try, but don’t expect a gem that will see years and years of play.