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Joshua Noe
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Wauwatosa
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Overview: On a grid-like board, various shapes of 4 colors, played by 2-4 players, continue to grow from their respective corners. Be the player to lay the most of your shapes, and you win.

Components: The board is a grid perhaps 2’x2’. It is made of sturdy plastic and the actual usefulness of the design is well thought out. It serves to hold various plastic “Tetris-like” pieces up in place such that even if you “bump” the board, the pieces will most certainly not shift. This is key for this game. It is a light board, so can it can be easily transported to that gaming night we all wish we had. The pieces are Tetris-like, although instead of up to 4 blocks in each piece, they go up to 7 (I think). Each block is about 1 cm square and is translucent. They are quite sturdy as well. There are 4 colors representing the 4 player; each player has the same types of pieces. Beyond that, there is nothing more to the components.

Pros: Simple pieces that serve their purpose.
Cons: The smaller pieces (e.g. 1 and 2 block pieces) can be easily lost if you are not careful when putting the game away.


Mechanics: The game is abstract. If you not a fan of abstract games (like Go, Tetris, Chess), then this game will not be for you. However, like most abstract games, the rules are incredibly simple. Players alternate placing their pieces on the board. The first piece must go in their corner (each player picks a starting corner). From there, the rule is that each new piece much be DIAGANOLLY ADJACENT to one of their other pieces. That is, a single block of their piece must touch the corner of another pieces single block. It may NOT touch any SIDE of another of that player’s pieces. It DOESN’T matter how the piece plays in relation to OTHER players. If you cannot play, you must pass, and hence are gone for that game. You receive a set point amount (I must admit, I have forgotten the amount…I believe it is 30 points) if you can lay all the pieces. You get a bonus point amount (also forgotten the exact number) if you lay the 1 block piece last. You then subtract the number of total blocks you did NOT play from your score. The winner is the player with highest score. You can see that the winner will always be the person who can play all his blocks. This is rare, though, in that few games will have a player who has no pieces left. The scoring system also allows for “best of 3”-style matches, since there are negative points as well. It only takes perhaps 20 minutes to play a full game. Due to the fact that the board is empty at the beginning (like Tetris or Go), the possibilities of how the game plays out are endless. Add to this that there is no randomness in the game, strategy players will find this welcome.

Pros: Easy rule set that can be taught in minutes. No random gameplay. Fast game.
Cons: It has all the disadvantages to abstract game play: it relies on your mind to enjoy it, rather than aesthetics or randomness. Some people will not enjoy the mind-crunch of abstract games.


Strategy: This could be as long as War and Peace, but I’ll keep it simple. Ideally, you want to lay you bigger pieces first, since the board is going to fill up quickly. You also want to force you opponents into a corner, such that they can no longer lay those big pieces, but you also want to defend your position so you have room to get all your piece down. That’s really about it. While the concept is simple, like most abstract games, there are literally hundreds of ways to go about this. Add to the fact the board itself changes every single turn (like in chess), you are going to be thinking on your feet as you go. Because there are 4 players/color, this means that planning more than a turn or two in advance is possible, but difficult. Contingency plans are a must as things change so quickly.

Pros: A young child can usually grasp the strategy as well as an adult can. You plans are modified by your opponents shrewdness, not a random die roll.
Cons: Because there are more players, planning far in advance is difficult. This may be a turn-off for certain hardcore strategy players.


Does it work as well with few (e.g. 2-3) players as many (e.g. 4) players?: The game always uses 4 colors. It has to or the board will not fill up appropriately to make it crowded toward the end. When using 2 players, each player gets 2 colors. For 3 players, the 4th color is played by a different player each round. So the short answer is “Yes”. But as you can see, a 3 player game is going to be vastly different than 2 or 4 player game.

Pros: It can accommodate 2-4 players with little change in the rules
Cons: The game for 3 players will change the strategy versus 2 or 4 players.


Will my non-gaming wife/spouse like it?: If they enjoy the Tetris hype of the 90’s, then the answer is probably “Yes.” It is MUCH lighter on the brain than chess or Go. It is short and works great for families. It is easy to teach with no exceptions on the rules.


Good for kids?: As above, “Yes”. Easy for kids around age 8-9 to grasp, although getting younger than that, you are asking them to reason abstractly and that is difficult for those younger to do.


Should I buy it?: It retails for $29.99, which isn’t too bad given that you can break this out with almost anybody. If you are looking for a good “family night” game, this is fantastic. They also sell a travel version for cheaper, which would be a wonderful use of car rides for you or your kids. It also acts as a good filler game, since it only takes 20 minutes to play a game. But you could also make a short evening out of it, playing best-of-5. If you are into games like Go, Tetris, or Chess (or can answer “Yes” to the above questions), then I would strongly think about investing in Blokus.
 
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Ryan Olson
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Auburn
Kansas
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Quote:
Good for kids?: As above, “Yes”. Easy for kids around age 8-9 to grasp, although getting younger than that, you are asking them to reason abstractly and that is difficult for those younger to do.


Only if you care about them playing it well. My son has been playing since he was 5, and my 4 yr old daughter plays with a little help.

Although they randomize the game a bit. Unpredictable and random are good words for their style of play. Although my now 8 yr old son is getting better.
 
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Swood
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I agree. Blokus is one of the rare games where random kid moves can often make the game more interesting.
 
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