Game Review: Blockhead
The Quick and Dirty: Cleanly designed dexterity game.
Rules/Mechanics: The game is played with 20 lightweight wooden blocks (balsa wood?), in several different shapes and sizes, and a flat cardboard base. The first player places any of the blocks on the cardboard base. No subsequent blocks may touch the base. The next player selects a block and must place it on top of the first block. Play continues as players add blocks anywhere on the growing stack (with the stated exception that no new block may touch the base). During the first three turns, there is no penalty if the tower falls over, and if the block the player is attempting to place falls off, there is no penalty. However, after the first three moves, if a player's actions or placement cause the stack to fall (that is, cause one or more already placed blocks to tumble out of position) then they earn one strike against them (they are refferred to as a "square" at this point, and must still place a block on the stack). A second tumble earns another strike and the title of "character." The third time a player knocks down the stack, they are a "blockhead," and leave the game. Play cotinues until only one player remains.
Strategy: Unlike many dexterity games, Blockhead possesses significant strategic elements in addition to its physical challenge. Chief amongst these is block selection. When choosing a block, take careful note of pieces which might not only fit well into the existing structure, but which might make it difficult for a subsequent player to place a block. For example, there are a number of pieces with shallow angles. Placing a block on top of one of these is not terribly difficult. However, if the angle is accentuated by placing *another* angled piece on top of it, so that the angle is magnified, it is possible to build up a slope which is too steep for another player to cap. Just so, the various curved pieces can be nestled into small wedges in order to create a very slippery surface. Note, however, that you must also take into account the remaining blocks -- in the previous scenario, for instance, if one of the L-shaped pieces is still remaining, it is fairly easy to up-end it over the cylindrical blocks, so that your opponent will be able to place that piece, leaving you with two difficult sloped surfaces. Practice, as with all dexterity games, is also a winning strategy.
Components: The small square box available with the Pressman edition (the most commonly available variant) is rather thin, but adequate to contain the pieces. The blocks are strangely compelling, extremely lightweight and brilliantly colored, large enough for even children to grasp easily, yet small enough for convenient storage.
Remarks: Blockhead, as noted above, is a dexterity game with a strategic component. This elevates it above the usual children's dexterity game genre, and there are a number of adult gamers happy to use the game as a filler between more serious fare. It is very mildly competitive in nature, but there is usually enough goodwill (generated in part by the colorful components) surrounding the game that no-one takes the game too seriously. This is also an extremely accessible game -- even very young children can enjoy simply standing the blocks on top of one another. The one real objection I have is to the spiteful names which the game suggests should be given to those who upset the tower. So we just ignore them. I suggest you do too.
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