Sometimes abstract games are hidden under a thematic layer. The classic Can’t stop, for example, has been published several times with a mountaineering theme. This is not the case with NMBR 9. When you see the box, you immediately know that you’re dealing with, a purely abstract game. That is of course nothing bad.
In NMBR 9 you have to try to score as many points as possible by stacking cardboard chips into (roughly) the form of numbers. The higher a number is in the stack, the more points it scores.
The box contains 10 different types of chips, with values ranging from 0 to 9. Furthermore the box contains a pile of 20 cards with numbers on them (so each number is on two cards). This stack of cards is shuffled at the beginning of the game. One card is then turned face up every round. Players must then take and place the cardboard tile of that value.
When placing the chip you only have to follow 4 simple rules. The first rule is that you must place the chip with the colored side up (you may not turn it over). The second rule is that you must place a chip with at least one square horizontally or vertically adjacent to previously placed chips. The third rule is that if you want to stack chips, you must do so in such a way that the whole chip is supported by the chips on the lower level (there may be no openings under your chip). The last rule is that if you place chips on a higher level, they must always be supported on at least 2 previously placed chips.
After 20 turns all players have a nice stack of number tiles in front of them. The tiles on the bottom level do not score points. The tiles on the first level score as many points as they are worth (so a two is two points). On the second level, the tiles score twice their value (so the two ‘s are worth four points), and so on. The player with the most points wins the game.
NMBR 9: just another puzzle game
Although you play against each other because the scores are compared at the end, during the game you don’t notice much of that competition. Everyone is just puzzling with the parts on their own. This puzzle is still quite challenging because it is surprisingly difficult to fit the chips together. The shapes are extremely unpredictable and it is therefore impossible to prevent gaps from forming at every level. And this makes it more difficult to go up again because you have to place the tiles in such a way that they have to be on multiple tiles and they are fully supported. Just passing the the second level will be a challenge.
NMBR 9 is quite a nice puzzle game. There are too many games in this genre that are good (Fits, Patchwork, Bear Park). The main advantage of this game is that it lasts very short, which makes it a good ‘filler’ for a gaming night.
Finally, it is a shame that it is possible that people (consciously or unconsciously) do the same. This could easily have been solved with a player screen behind which you build or by having everyone start with a different piece.