An appreciation of a classic game

Published by Jolly Games; game design by Tom Jolly.
Review by Steffan O'Sullivan
This page last updated October 5, 1996 [URL above updated Sep. 14, 1999]

GOOTMU is a game I've played over a hundred times, yet look forward to hundreds more games. More than any other game, it's the one we pull out when there are just two of us and we can't think of exactly what mood we are in.

I should first explain that GOOTMU should really be G.O.O.T.M.U., but that is tedious to type and takes up more space than it should. It stands for "Get-Out-Of-The-Maze Unit" - a little gizmo that resembles a hair-dryer more than anything else, but works like a "Beam Me Up" device in that it beams you out of the maze - and it's the only way to get out of the maze.

Two caveats before you run out and buy this game:

  1. I think it's one of the best two-player games ever made, but it's somewhat lacking when played multi-player. Oh, it can be fun now and then with a lot of folk (especially the first time people play), but it doesn't have the same long-term appeal that it does with only two players.

  2. We've made one very important rule change, and it makes a big difference: played the way it's written, it's not a very lively game. Using the variant rule, it becomes a tense and exciting game. What did we change, you ask? Just this: you may pick up an item by simply moving past it, as it says in the rules, but you must land exactly on a GOOTMU (yours or an opponent's, or an opponent carrying yours) in order to pick it up. Yes, it really does make it a much better game - playing it the way it's written (picking up a GOOTMU is like picking up any other item), the game is too light-weight to have much replay value. But requiring you to land exactly on your GOOTMU allows your opponent that extra time needed to throw a monkey wrench into your plans . . .

    (We've also made one minor rules change: the person who first chooses where to place his start space and the opponent's GOOTMUs moves last instead of first.)

That said, here's the game in a nutshell:

The board consists of 9 square tiles. Each tile has 16 spaces in a 4x4 pattern. There are actually 32 tiles supplied with the game, so you shuffle them upside down at first then deal out nine tiles, simply turning them over in a 3x3 square as you lay them down. Put the rest aside - they're not used this game. Randomly selecting 9 out of 32 tiles means that the game board will rarely be the same, no matter how many times you play the game: there are over 28 million different combinations, not even counting the position or orientation of each tile!

Each tile is a maze, and put together they create a much larger and more complex maze. Light lines separate spaces that you may move along, heavier lines represent walls you may not normally pass through. Approximately 40% of the spaces have some instruction or obstruction on them. Movement is by roll of a single six-sided die, and you must move the exact number of spaces rolled. You may not move onto the same space twice in a single move. If you move over an instruction printed on the board, you ignore it, but if you land on an instruction, you must follow it, if possible. These vary from requiring further movement, to losing a turn, to allowing you to pass through walls on your next turn, to requiring you to move a certain way next turn, to allowing you to go anywhere on the board, etc. - there are lots of different types of spaces, and the rule book is largely a reference manual, with detailed instructions for each space just so there can't be any argument!

There are also a large number of items which start face down on the board at specified locations. These range from tools to overcome obstructions to obstructions themselves to one-shot bonus items, such as a token that allows you to move through a one-way trap door the opposite direction. There are also Power Tokens which allow you to move an exact amount up to six spaces without having to roll the die, or rotate a tile and move with a die-roll in the same turn.

The board is a closed space, by the way, like Tom Jolly's earlier multi-player classic, Wiz War. That is, if you go off one side of the maze, you reappear on the other side of the board.

If you roll a 6 when rolling to move, you have a choice. You may move six spaces, or you may rotate a tile - either the tile you are on, or a tile orthogonally adjacent. This is actually one of the reasons the game is best as a two-player game: with more players, you create a larger maze: 3x4, 4x4, or 4x5 depending on the number of players. But the elegance of the game lies in that tight 3x3 board that is used in the two-player game: a rotation allows you a chance to help yourself as well as bowb your opponent. This isn't usually possible with the larger boards.

(Note: I have finally tried a three or four player game on a 3x3 board, and it works fairly well. With some careful planning, you can bowb two or three opponents at once as well as helping yourself with a simple rotation! The height of fun!)
The game starts with players placing their start spaces and each others' GOOTMU pieces around the maze. Each player has three GOOTMU pieces which his opponent has placed. The first player to get all three GOOTMU pieces wins - they are beamed up out of the maze. This isn't easy though - the initial layout of the maze inevitably creates some "closets," which require either a special power (granted by a space you land on or a chit you pick up) or a 6 on the die at the right time allowing you to rotate a tile so as to make the closet open up. Of course, you may also be subject to your opponent's ability to rotate the board, and just as victory lies in your grasp, you may find yourself rotated into a closed corridor with no way out until you roll a 6 ...

The game has all the aspects of a great game: tension, sudden reversals, a good combination of luck and skill, and a lot of laughs. All in all, this is one of the best two-player games I know, and I highly recommend it.

A link to Jolly Games' Page for GOOTMU (same as the link at the top of the page)
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