Tether box art

Tether Preview

Recently, the One Board Family crew all assembled at TantrumCon 2023. It was a great weekend where we got to catch up with old friends and make a few new ones.

We also got to try out plenty of games I haven’t played before. Personally, I was a big fan of The Great Split and Furnace, along with a few others that have been released in the past few years. But I also got to try out some games that are either on Kickstarter or almost there, and the one that stood out to me the most was Tether.

Strapped In

Tether is a card game from designer Mark McGee and his company How to Steam Broccoli. The game takes place between 2 players as they seek to tether together astronauts floating out in space.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the game is its use of a Mirror Deck, an interesting mechanic in which each card has two different two-digit values. When you rotate the card, the digits of the value swap. For instance, if a card is a 18 one way, it will be a 81 when you flip it upside down.

On your turn, you seek to place a card down in the play area. One player is seeking to connect cards in order vertically, while their opponent is seeking to connect the cards horizontally. Since each player sees the cards differently (because of the Mirror Deck), connections one player can make will be unavailable to the other player.

Players also have the option of playing cards from the “untethered” group of astronauts, and they can also connect two separate groups together. Whenever groups of cards reach certain sizes, they are scored. The points are distributed based on how wide (for the horizontal player) and how tall (for the vertical player) the groups are.

The game continues until a group of 14 or more cards is created and scored. At that point, whichever player has the most points wins!

Tie the Knot

A couple of things stood out to me about Tether. First, it’s simplicity. At TantrumCon, Mark and his wife Janelle were able to walk us through the rules in about 2 minutes, and Sarah and I played through our first game in about 20 minutes.

At the same time, there’s more strategy than first meets the eye. When I first started playing, I wanted to put down every card I could (which you can do, if you want). However, I soon found myself without any cards, leading to a few boring turns in a row.

As the game progressed, I realized that I had to be more strategic, making sure to only build up groups when they could lead to better scoring opportunities for me. By the end of the game, I knew that I had a few options for big points if just the right cards would show up.

It’s Pretty in Space

Another thing that stands out: the great artwork. I love the personality that’s added to each character on the card. The designers have also done a good job of making sure that the art works in both card orientations.

There are also some small design details that help with gameplay. The font used on the cards is OpenDyslexic, which assists those with reading issues to differentiate between the numbers. They have also used a color gradient from the lowest to the highest number so that you can more quickly group cards in your hand.

Tether is one of those games that you’re honestly surprised doesn’t exist yet. The mechanics and components are so simple, yet they work very well together. The game definitely takes up a lot of table space, but if you’ve got room for it, Tether will make a solid addition to many two-player game collections.

The Kickstarter campaign for Tether runs through March 21, 2023.

Ric White

I teach math for a living and enjoy time with my super awesome wife, awesome kids and almost as awesome dog. I like card and board games, and I truly enjoy learning and experiencing new games whenever I can.

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