Reviews of TRAX

The following are just some of the many favourable reviews and awards TRAX has received since it was first published in 1982.


October 1982, Sid Sackson in Games Magazine, New York

Tiles that fit together to form paths are not new but their use in this game, the brainchild of New Zealand inventor David Smith, is fascinatingly different. For one thing, all 64 tiles are identical. For another, there is no board

Each tile has two sides, one depicting a "crossroads", the other quarter circles. Players place tiles alternately, either side up, onto any flat surface. Connecting paths must be the same color, and the tile array may not exceed eight rows and eight columns, but there are no other placement restrictions - a player may, if he wishes, place a tile that extends or turns a path of his opponent's color.

Each player's goal is to form either a "loop" - a path that connects with itself (which can include as few as four tiles) - or a "line", a continuous path of at least 8 tiles that connects two opposite edges of the array. If a placement creates an empty space with two lines of the same color leading to it, the space is filled with the appropriate tile in the same turn.

Though a game between experienced players rarely ends with the completion of a loop, a threatened loop can divert your opponent from his own plans and can even force him to help you with yours.

Inventor's Note: As with a number of reviews, this one gets the strategies inherent in TRAX wrong. The final paragraph is incorrect. Games between experienced players often end with the completion of a loop, never in isolation but in at least 50% of all 8 x 8 games when either two loop attacks, or a loop and a line attack are made in the SAME TURN. Indeed this is the essence of clever TRAX strategy.

December 1982, Scot Morris in Omni Magazine

A simple boardless two-person game that could have been invented a century ago but wasn't. All game pieces are alike, with straight black and white lines on one side, curved lines on the other. You win by completing a loop or by connecting opposite sides of the playing area eight rows apart.

Learnable in a couple of minutes, the game contains traps for the unwary and surprising high levels of strategy. The cardboard pieces aren't the highest quality, but at $8 you can't have everything.

Inventor's Note: Only the first 4,000 sets contained cardboard tiles, before the high quality urea plastic hand painted tiles were adopted as the standard TRAX tile.

October 1983, Sid Sackson in Gifted Children's Newsletter

TRAX, by David Smith, pits two contestants in a test of pure skill as each attempts to be the first to achieve a winning configuration, using the game's 64 identical square pieces. On one face of each square crossing straight lines, one black and one white, connect opposite edges of the square. On the other face, a curved black line connects two adjacent sides and a curved white line connects the remaining two.

Players choose to be either black or white and then strive to complete either a closed loop of their color passing through four or more pieces, or a path of their color passing through eight or more pieces and connecting opposite edges of a limiting eight by eight square. Pieces are played on a flat surface, starting with a single piece and growing in any direction. Each piece must touch at least one side of a previously played piece and all extended paths must match in color.

April 1995, Bill Sefton in Game News 1995

TRAX claims to be "the most intriguing game you'll ever play". It's not. It is, however, an imaginative and diverting head-to-head strategy game. There is no board; the game consists entirely of 64 identical, two-sided tiles. One side of the tile is a straight black track intersecting a straight white track. The flip side has non-intersecting black and white curved tracks. Play is rapid with opponents alternately placing tiles in an attempt to complete a loop or a line in their own color.

The game features "Forced Plays" (the analog of a multijump in checkers) which allow placement of several tiles in one turn. This adds a dimension of suspense to even the most innocent of moves, and often reverses the roles of aggressor and defender.

TRAX has a number of strong points to recommend it. The rules are well written and easily absorbed in 10 minutes (a welcome change from the novelettes that are in vogue today). A game that goes the maximum of 64 tiles occupies an area of less than a square foot, making desk play possible). The tiles are made of jigsaw style cardboard that appears strong enough to withstand anything but an unsupervised pre-schooler. And a game in progress forms an eye-pleasing pattern of neat loops and unconnected lines.

Is there a fly in the ointment? Well perhaps not a whole fly but certainly a wing and a couple of legs. My major complaint with TRAX is that well matched opponents could find themselves playing to a draw as often as not. The objective of TRAX is to form a loop (any track that closes on itself) or a line (any track that connects the opposite edges of the full sized playing area) in your own color.

It is difficult to conceal your intentions and fairly easy for your opponent to defuse your threats. What's more a full length game of 64 tiles usually takes no more than 40 moves- that doesn't give you much time to get sneaky! On balance, TRAX is a good game and well worth the price they charge for it. It's short time set-up and playing time make it a candidate for lunch time entertainment. Players who enjoy abstract strategy games and stand to occasionally neither have the thrill of victory nor the agony of defeat will find TRAX a welcome addition to their collection.

Inventor's Note: Not surprisingly for such a subtle game as TRAX, this is another reviewer who underestimates the game's enormous scope for skill. 8 x 8 TRAX can be drawn but by no means "more often than not" (more like one game in six). It is only "difficult to conceal your intentions" if you are learning the game and make pointless attacks that have no secondary motives. A full length game is more than enough time in which to get sneaky (even though it takes an average of 26 moves and not 40 as stated above). Given which, that "most intriguing game" by-line one publisher gave it may not be so wide of the mark after all?

Note also that 8 x 8 TRAX is now a seldom played TRAX variant and that all serious games are played to a finish with no draws possible (despite which, 26 turns per game is still about average.

Sid Sackson

TRAX goes in new directions for a game of total strategy - away from the capturing in Chess, the bracketing in Reversi / Othello, and the surrounding in Go. Although the rules for forming the attractive tiles into winning paths are deceptively simple, the opportunities for growth in the game are as endless as its classic predecessors.

Scot Morris

I like TRAX and think it has a good possibility to be a widely recognised game, especially if tournaments are arranged. I was impressed with the complexity that arose out of such simple pieces and rules - that's always a sign of a lasting game idea.

April 2000, Kerry Handscombe, in Abstract Games Magazine

TRAX has such a natural logical construction that, once you've seen it, it is obvious. In this respect it does have the sense of something discovered in the same way as a mathematical truth is discovered rather than invented. Go has this quality but Chess, on the other hand, is quite clearly a human construct.

The manufactured set is pleasant to handle and relatively inexpensive.

TRAX has obviously had extensive play testing and it would seem apparent that, for experienced players, attack and defence are nicely balanced.

TRAX is a completely new experience that may prove to be just a little too different from conventional games for some players. However, this difference, together with simplicity and elegance, is one of its great appeals. I am looking forward to investigating this charming game further. I highly recommend it for a change of pace.

October 2009, Calvin Daniels in Yorkton This Week

You have to love a game which fits in a handy little pouch about six inches square, making it a perfect ‘take it where you go’ game. That is Trax. The package isn’t much larger than the walkman-style CD players you saw people wearing a few years back before the world went higher tech with mp3 players.

Trax is a tile-laying game that I suppose has its roots in dominoes in the sense it has that sort of ‘feel’ although the pieces here are geometric shapes, not numbers. Trax is a two player abstract strategy game of loops and lines which will be explained later. Each piece is identical, so Trax is a perfect information game. You know exactly what piece your opponent has, because they all match. There is a different design on each side of the pieces, with straights on one side and curves on the other. One straight and one curve is in red and the other in white. Each player is assigned one of the colours in this two-player game. Trax is a game which truly excels in terms of simplicity and convenience.

The tiles are bakelite so they have excellent durability, and are easily cleaned. So if you take the game to the coffee shop and they get sticky from the caramel bun, no problem. The tiles are also the board in the case of Trax. The game can be played on any flat surface.

The rules of Trax are also very simple. On their turn a player places a tile, or at times multiple tiles, adjacent to those already in play so the colours of the tracks match. The objective is to get a loop or line of your colour while attempting to stop your opponent with their colour. Adding depth to the game is a forced play rule which allows, or may require, multiple tiles to be played in a turn.

Trax is not a newcomer to the gaming world. In fact, it’s almost into the area where you would term it a classic, having been created in 1980 by David Smith. The game is in some respects a forerunner of several games using similar tile-laying mechanics, including Tantrix and Palago which also come from Tantrix Games Ltd.

Trax is one of those games which is nearly a must have for anyone liking board games. The quality, portability and simplicity all rate extremely high marks. That it is an abstract strategy game which makes you think is a bonus, but it doesn’t come across as being as involved strategically as say chess, which is good in the sense chess-like games scare many casual game players away.

Just an outstanding little game which begs to be enjoyed.
TRAX is the common law mark of David Smith and is used to identify his tile game and equipment. Rules of TRAX copyright 1981, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1998 and 2017 David Smith, Christchurch, NZ.
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