SEKRIT MESSAGE SSSHHHHHHHHH
I can't really explain why I've been taken with this game lately. I stumbled over it completely by accident while looking for something else, and it's been in the forefront of my mind ever since. Friends called up for a night of goofing off, so I thought this would be a good time to try a few hands of Block.
I used a deck of Empire playing cards for the game, stripping out the kings, queens, and the suit of anchors. The 4 and 9 of spades were dropped too. The three jokers were the Block cards. I decided to match the original game's cards for this run, instead of a 54-card, artscow-friendly version, thinking it's better to try the base game before experimenting.
We were 5 players total, and no one but me had played a stops-like card game before. "What's it play like?" they asked. "Sort of like Michigan Rummy." "What's that?" Uh oh...
I explained how there aren't tricks, and we don't play in turn. Play is forced--the player with the next card in sequence has to play it. Some strategies were covered, like playing a string of cards when you can. The function of the Block card was brought up, along with why you might want to play it.
A half-open hand followed, with me walking people through the simple stops part of the game. They caught on quickly and realized how easy it was. We didn't bother keeping score, instead choosing to see who could go out first. I did point out when and where points would be applied; whenever the 5 or 10 of spades was played, I reminded that it would be 5 or 10 points to that player.
My guinea pigs liked playing this. We talked about some of the things we learned as we played, like how it's to your advantage to remember which cards have been played, so you can remember where the "breaks" are. (When a sequence gets broken because the next card is already played or doesn't exist, the current player gets to go again, which is a huge advantage). Jacks (11s in the original) turned out to be nice to have, because you could dump them almost for free if you were able to pick the next card to play. "I'll drop the Jack of Hearts. Whoops, end of the suit, I'll play the Jack of Spades. Darn, I get to play again!" Aces (1s) were horrible to have, because you could only play them as the start of a sequence. They also tended to turn into a run through the whole suit, pulling cards out of everyone's hand and reducing the end-of-hand score.
We played about 7 hands before switching over to the WoW card game Ninjas vs. Pirates as my hosts were interested in playing it with us. I don't think it went over as well as they'd hoped--compared to the simplicity and speed of Block, it felt a little painful to play. (NvP seems like it might be ok with some rule hacks, though, and poker chips for scoring.)
With a little luck we might wind up playing again in the future. My hostess commented that it would be really easy to put a theme on the game, which I took as a sign that she liked it. I know I had fun, even if I never did win a hand.