Socialspiel Gives Board Games on Facebook Just the Right Push

Board games have had little success on Facebook, with the exception of Scrabble in its various incarnations. One might wonder whether this fact is due to the speed of the games (or lack thereof), the demographic’s inexperience with the play-by-mail style, or if it’s simply that not enough developers have actually tried. Socialspiel, an Austrian company, is giving the genre a try with an entirely new board game called Push.

Push is easy to learn, hard to master. It has few rules and even fewer options. Played on a hexagonal board of five units per side, Push initially resembles dual-player Chinese Checkers. Two players face off beginning 13 Pops (or marbles) with the intention of knocking three of their opponents’ Pops off the board.

The rules are simple: a player can move a group of one to three adjacent Pops at a time, in any direction — up, down, forward or backwards. In order to push an opponent’s Pop, you must do so with more Pops than they have. The first to push three Pops off the board, wins.

Pops also represent the in-game currency. During ranked games against other players, who are pulled from the worldwide pool, special moves paid for with the currency are available. Three are available, like recovering a lost Pop or transporting one to another location. However, all are on a timer, and I’ve yet to manage to use more than one in a game.

Ranked games are on a timer; non-ranked games can be played at your leisure over days or even weeks. But because the board is so small and the win condition limited, most games end very quickly. Though nothing has been announced, Push looks like it would lend itself well to tournaments.

Special note is owed to the art and music. Pon du Bear, your guide through the tutorial (and your opponent when you can’t find a human), is decked out in cool 1930s attire. His bowler lifts off, his bowtie takes flight, and occasionally he sits back in his lounge chair and smokes a pipe while commenting on your play. When I first played Push, an option to dress him for Pops was “coming soon”, though that is no longer visible.

The music fits the art perfectly. Smooth, cool jazz the whole way, it’s just as mellow as Pon du Bear and fits the relaxed pace of the game.

Push has grown to over 140,000 monthly active users in under a month, but it probably won’t take off on Facebook. That’s not because it isn’t an excellent game. It actually is quite good, but it also doesn’t fit the harried and hectic pace of the Facebook demographic, appealing instead to the more cerebral gamer. Still, here’s hoping it finds its footing; it’s about time board games came into their own on Facebook.