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Obscure Finds: The Baton Races of Yaz Game Review

Mud, muck, and mire – oh my!

The game is old and was given away in a magazine, yet the charm never ceases to amaze.

When I was a kid, I played a lot of Dungeons & Dragons. I had a subscription to Dragon Magazine {1}. I read each issue cover to cover within a day or two of it reaching my mailbox. There are issues of that publication that resonated with me for decades after I read them.

  • Issue 96 (April 1985) which was an April Fools issue with the adventure Nogard, designed entirely to make the point that your uber-powerful character built on cheats, lies, excessive Monty Hall syndrome, and who-knows-what-else needs to be retired.
  • Issue 99 (July 1985) which had the article A Sharp Systems for Swords; this article changed everything about how I viewed magical weapons and armor, and their role within the greater story of the campaign.
  • Issue 106 (February 1986)—this one had the article A Plethora of Paladins, an amazing look at what it means to dedicate your life to an alignment.

Each of these is a treasured memory in a life that needed treasured memories. The most treasured article I have from Dragon Magazine comes from issue 82 (February 1984) which included a complete game designed to be removed from the center of the publication, called The Baton Races of Yaz. This was a two player relay-style game on a strange planet with almost perpetual rain and a wonderful collection of sentient Yazzite races called Skadingles, Flibdills, Tarnoses, and Luggants. I was intrigued.

I do not write in the margins of my reading material, I do not tarnish my periodicals, and I am not one to tolerate things like people dog-earing the pages of my books. So, I went to the bookstore a bit after I got this and purchased another copy of the magazine. I took the game out of the center of that one, carefully cut out the various pieces, and played it. It was fun, silly, and engaging for reasons I am still at a loss for words to explain. The whole thing made me smile no matter the outcome, win or lose.

There was an incident in my life about which I will not delve into too many details. Suffice it to say that all of my role playing material—along with a whole host of things that were irreplaceable—was destroyed. But this game was in another part of my room, stored in a folder and ziplock baggies. It was spared.

The folder I have kept this game in for decades; the rules (held together with a strip of duct tape); the baggie with all of the pieces; and the game board.

Pieces and Setup

There is a common board (pictured above) which is broken into hexes. These hexes are either mud (orange), muck (brown), or mire (green). Each player then takes their playing pieces. For the basic game, these consist of:

  • Baton (×1)
  • Bulges (×6)
  • Skadingles (×2)
  • Flibdills (×2)
  • Tarnoses (×4)
  • Luggants (×4)

In the advanced game, each player is given one additional Skadingle and Flibdill (×3 each), one fewer Tarnose (×3 each), two additional Luggants (×6 each) and three additional Bulges (×9 each).

As you can see, the pieces are pretty small…

Each of the races of Yaz has its own strengths and weaknesses. These are indicated on the pieces themselves.

Everything you need to know (almost).

The only thing not on these counters is the special ability of the Luggant – keep reading.

The board is placed in the middle of the table and one player is designated the setting player. That player places their bulges about the map, according to some simple placement rules (i.e., no bulges can be adjacent to one another; one-third of the bulges must be placed in each type of terrain—mud, muck, and mire). The bulges are sized and shaped to allow two to occupy a space, so once the setting player has placed all of their bulges on the board, the other player placed their bulges in those same hexes.

During setup, it is important to understand the objective of the game: players are attempting to use their Yazzites to carry the baton to each bulge in order to break it (removing it from the game). Once all of a player’s bulges have been broken, the game is over and they have won.

Once the bulges are placed, players then alternate placing each of their Yazzites on the board. Again, these have some simple restrictions (i.e., no Yazzite may be placed in a bulge hex; no Yazzite may be placed into a hex occupied by another Yazzite; no Yazzite may be placed in a hex forbidden to that Yazzite).

Finally, the setting player puts the one baton piece in each hand and the other player selects one. Whichever baton is selected is placed first, by the opposing player. Then the other (again, placed not by the owning player, but by the opposing player). As always, there are a couple of simple placement restrictions (i.e., batons must be placed in a space with a bulge, batons may not be placed into the same space).

Setup is complete.

The Race

Each player alternates taking turns, starting with the setting player. On a player’s turn, they may move as many of their Yazzites as desired. Each Yazzite can only be moved once in a turn, and if it stops before using all of its movement, any excess movement is lost. Yazzites are limited in the terrain they can enter (as shown above). The objective is for a player to use their Yazzites to move the baton to each of their bulges and break them.

The sluggish Luggants are the slowest race, slower even than the Tarnoses. They, like the Tarnoses, can move through any terrain type. Their advantage is that they can end their move on a space occupied by another (opposing) Yazzite. When they do, that Yazzite is throttled and can no longer move for as long as the Luggant remains atop them. This ends only if the Luggant moves, or another Luggant comes along and throttles the first (which causes the original Yazzite to pop out into an adjacent hex)..

Movement has a two other restrictions:

  • At the end of a player’s turn, no space can have more than one Yazzite from the same side.
  • At the end of a player’s turn, no space can have more than one Yazzite from opposing sides, unless one is a Luggant.

The Baton is an important piece! It may only be picked up by a Yazzite of the side that owns it, with the exception that Luggants are not allowed to grab the baton. Initially, the batons are on a space with a bulge. The first Yazzite of that team to move into the space adjacent to the baton picks it up. Once it is picked up, it remains in the possession of a Yazzite from that point forward (it cannot be dropped). A Yazzite with the baton may hand the baton to any adjacent, friendly, non-Luggant Yazzite at any time. In fact, this is how a player builds efficiency: figuring out how to best move the baton between their Yazzites across a turn to get from one bulge to the next. If a Yazzite moves into a space adjacent to one of their bulges immediately breaks that bulge. When the baton is initially picked up, the bulge in the space it occupied is immediately broken


This game occupied just a couple of paragraphs more than four pages in the magazine. It came with a short story telling the tale of how the Yazzites play this sport in remembrance of their struggle to break free of the bonds of an alien race known as the Floyyds (taking up almost one entire page). There is another full page of strategic advice on playing the game. There is half a page of optional rules… the game was not that complex.

But it was a lot of fun!

If there is a drawback, it is that (being from the middle of a magazine), the game is printed on paper as thin as thin can get. Even though the board and the game pieces are on slightly thicker paper, it is just that: slightly thicker. It is a wonder I have been able to keep this game in as good a condition as I have. If this game were to be redone with proper, modern production values, I think it would do very well for itself. My rating of the game might go up a full point with that…

This is one of those games I would love to see someone do a deluxe version for modern audiences. You know, the kind of thing that has a modular board, miniatures, and so on. There was a box called The Best of Dragon Magazine Games published in 1990. It has six games from the magazine, including The Baton Races of Yaz. I missed this due to my deployment schedule in the Navy, so I cannot speak to the production values used in this edition of the game. If anyone has this one, leave a comment and tell me what it was like!

{1} The Internet Archive has all of the issues of Dragon Magazine scanned and available online. You can go see all of the articles I am discussing here, and more! Check it out.

  • Good - Enjoy playing.

The Baton Races of Yaz details

About the author

K. David Ladage

Avid board gamer, role-player, and poet; software and database engineer. I publish some things under the imprint ZiLa Games. Very happy to be here.

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