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SPIEL '18 Preview: Brikks, or Taking Tetris to the Tabletop

W. Eric Martin
United States
North Carolina
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Board Game: Brikks
Here we are just 2.5 weeks prior to SPIEL '18 opening and thousands of games descending on the Messe in Essen to check out all the new games at that show — and this relatively small amount of time means that you're going to see far more video previews from me in the days ahead. I've been able to play many upcoming titles thanks to advance review copies from publishers, and I'm running out of time to talk about such things, so it's time to get busy! Well, busier!

Wolfgang Warsch's Brikks is the third title in Schmidt Spiele's "Klein & Fein" line-up of roll-and-write games that started with Noch mal! from Inka and Markus Brand in 2016 and continued in early 2018 with Warsch's own Ganz schön clever. Like those two titles, Brikks has rules for solitaire play, is suitable for players aged 8 and up, and is labeled as being "especially suitable for two players". I could see an argument being made for that claim, but first let's cover the gameplay:

To start the game, each player draws a different quadromino at the bottom of their individual game sheet. On a turn, the active player rolls two dice — a colored d6 and a numbered d4 — then optionally rolls both dice again. The two dice determine which specific quadromino — that is, which colored shape and in which orientation — all players must "drop" into their grid. To represent this, you draw an outline of the block at the bottom of your sheet as if you had dropped it in from the top, then X out the spaces covered by the quadromino.
From gallery of W Eric Martin

If you cover a circle on the grid that's the same color as the quadromino just placed there, you collect two energy points. By spending one energy point on a turn, you can possibly "rotate" the quadromino to be placed depending on what dice were rolled; by spending five energy points, you can place exactly the quadromino you want, ignoring the result of the dice. As you collect energy, you might cover an X on the energy chart; if you do, you track these Xs on a separate "extra point" bar, with the points escalating for each X you collect. If you complete 2-4 lines through the placement of a single quadromino, you collect an additional 1-4 Xs for this extra point bar.

Each player has three bombs they can spend to blow up a block instead of placing it, but by doing so you give up endgame points.

As soon as you can no longer place a quadromino in your grid, your game is over. Once everyone has filled their grid to the top, tally your points. In addition to the extra points bar and any bombs unused, you score 1-5 points for each horizontal line that contains 8-10 Xs, with these line points doubling, or even quadrupling, as you go higher in the grid. Whoever scores the most points wins!
Yes, Brikks takes the familiar challenge of Tetris and converts it into a roll-and-write game. (Roll-drop-and-write? Drop-and-drop since you're dropping dice?) You're trying to fill as many rows as completely as possible to score points, while the desire for energy so that you can rotate quadrominoes pushes you to take risks and stack blocks in a way that you might not want to do. Good thing you have that energy as now you can rotate something to fill a hole that you just created!

Ganz schön clever has this same type of symbiosis as in that game sometimes you think you want to take the purple die, but instead you realize that you can take the yellow die to complete a row, which gives you a green bonus, which lets you place a 6 in the next purple box anyway. You're kind of spinning your wheels from one perspective, but all that spinning has boosted your point total, so it's worth the trouble.

With four players, you start with more energy in your reserve to make up for the fact that you'll be the active player only one-quarter of the time, but you'd probably prefer to play with two (as per the box cover) because then you'll be active player half the time, giving you more control (sort of) over which quadrominoes you need to place in your grid. As in Tetris itself, you will probably spend much of your time wishing that a certain brick will drop, only to curse the fates again and again when you have to place something else instead, so keep those bombs handy!

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