NMBR 9 is an enjoyable, mathematical puzzle game that’s great fun when you have 20 minutes to spare.
• Designer: Peter Wichmann
• Publisher: Z-Man Games / Abacus Spiele
• Number of Players: 1 – 4
• Playing Time: 20 mins
As far as abstract puzzle games go, NMBR 9 is about as simple as you can get. The box contains Tetris-style number tiles from 1-9 which must be arranged in a stack to score points over 20 turns; the higher the stack, the more points are scored. Each player builds their own stack and the numbers to be placed are determined by a card flipped over on each turn. This means that all players have exactly the same numbers to build with, and the number drawn must be immediately laid. Any tile laid must be, adjacent to another, or across two tiles if a player is to “stack up” (which prevents anyone from building a pile of the same numbers) with no parts overhanging or crossing a gap. They can be rotated, but not flipped over to the back.
If this sounds easy…well, it is. However, the tiles are all strange shapes and don’t stack very easily on top of one another. Tiles on your first level, Level 0, are worth no points. Tiles on Level 1 are worth their value x 1, tiles on Level 2 are worth their value x 2 and so on in the endgame. This makes it crucial to try and judge when it’s a good time to build upwards because a single tile on a high level can be worth a small fortune. If you go upwards too soon, you’ll find yourself unable to build a big enough base layer to really aim high. Leave it too late and you’ll be rueing missed opportunities as you watch your opponents stack up to Levels 2 and 3 (nobody has got to Level 4 in any of our test games). The fact that all players get the same numbers on each turn truly makes it a test of judgment and puzzle-solving. You can’t blame luck when you all get the same number tiles in the same order. We found that the more we played, the closer our overall scores became to each other.
There isn’t much else to NMBR 9, but what it does, it does well. I am not a mathematical person, but I enjoyed every single game I played of this. In terms of components, there aren’t many for the game; just number tiles and a small deck of cards. The number tiles are thick and chunky, printed in bright bold colours which keeps the puzzle visually appealing. The box insert is perfectly designed and serves as both storage and a play aid. The rules are simple and quick to explain. Honestly, you open the box, punch out the numbers and you’ll be playing inside 5 minutes.
Whether it’s a board game or a collective competitive puzzle might be a question for another day, but it’s a fun diversion for 20 minutes, suitable for all ages and plays exactly the same regardless of the number of players. Don’t pay the RRP of £29.99 for it: hunt around and you can pick this one up for under £20, which is a more realistic price point.
NMBR 9 isn’t going to win any awards or be the centrepiece of an evening’s gaming, but it’s a fun little puzzle game for a few minutes and engaging while it lasts.