I picked up an interesting little puzzle called Tantrix Match Mini from Tomas Linden in Washington last year. From memory it only cost about a fiver and came with ten graded puzzles printed on some nice shiny card and six mini Tantrix pieces.
Each of the puzzles has a grid of ten hexagons, four of which are pre-printed – your job is then to place the six tiles in the blank squares so that the edges all match. They start out pretty simple and then ratchet up until the last couple present a fairly decent challenge.
I really enjoyed this little puzzle and thought that it presented a great puzzle per pound (in both senses!) balance.
After I’d made my way through those ten challenges I did some Googling to see if there were any other similar puzzles out there and managed to find its bigger brother, Tantrix Match... and a little while later one arrived at my front door courtesy of Amazon.
Whereas Mini majors on puzzle and minors on presentation, bigger brother almost does the reverse.
Tantrix Match comes with a moulded playing surface with a space for the problem cards on the top of a tray and storage space inside for the problem cards you’re not currently using (and the tiles when you pack the whole she-bang away). This version comes with 12 graded puzzles each covering a playing area of 13 tiles ... and there are three different types of challenge this time: All of the variants must have all the edges matching, however there are two additional variants that require either a continuous loop or a continuous line to be formed – and your first task is generally trying to work out what colour that line or loop needs to be.
Working my way through the challenges didn’t take an awful long time until I got to the very last challenge – just a simple edge-matching challenge as it turns out, except there are a lot of degrees of freedom in there... try and try again, I kept getting to literally the very last piece only to find it wouldn’t fit. After banging my head against that particular brick wall a few times I decided that I needed a more systematic approach to reducing the alternatives and set about creating some notation and drawing tree diagrams and then systematically pruning them back... Sod’s law dictated that I was on my third tree (out of four) before I finally managed to find a solution... Success!
I rather enjoyed playing with those puzzles and it was nice to spend some time playing with the Tantrix pieces again ... I’ve had a couple of their smaller sets (Xtreme and Discovery) and enjoyed their “make-a-loop” challenges – and I suspect that I might need to pick up a full set and work my way through the bigger challenges as well now...