Thursday, 9 January 2014

Blokus

I was told that people who are good at maths tend to be brilliant at this game (I don't know if this is true though).


"Block Us"



Name: Blokus (2009)

Publisher: Apparently many, but the mainstream one I know of is Mattel

Distant RelativesBlokus 3D and Gemblo Deluxe (though Gemblo Deluxe is a lot closer in blood)

Players: 2 to 4. May be awkward with 3 players due to something related to the Kingmaker Scenario (where, potentially, 2 players can gang up on another player and make that person's life miserable).

I've heard that Blokus Trigon solves this problem to some extent, but have not tried it.

Age: 5+

Time to play: 30 minutes, but I reckon possibly less if you want a quick game.

Price Range (AUD): $40 to approximately $70 (if ordered online). I bought a cheap version for about half price because the box was damaged, which proved to be very good value.

The price is fairly costly for what you get.

Availability: Mainstream and widely available (department stores, game shops...)

Genres
  • Family
  • Abstract
  • Puzzle
  • Almost everyone who plays this for the first time says it reminds them of Tetris.

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

~6.85+* (at best, a 7) out of 10. (Borderline Good - See my Rating Scale)

This is a good puzzle game for all ages. There is some strategic depth to this game, but it largely depends on who you play the game with. Personally, I don't really have much of a strategy ("move to the centre; occupy space; block people") but I have a good time anyway. Most people aren't really that serious either but they almost always enjoy this game.

However, the game can be as competitive as chess; I've even seen some opening moves being widely publicised such as the "Barasona" opening. As my friend Jason  (who loves this game) suggests, there is actually immense strategy involved as you often have to decide whether to "expand" your territory or to block opponents (there is a trade-off at work here). You also have to be pretty good with managing your pieces as you'll often find that pieces you could have used to migrate to a different section of the board were wasted in an earlier opening move.

The reason why I'm unsure about this score of 6.85* is because I'm not particularly a fan of pure abstract games. However, I will say that they are quite fun to play when you are in the right mood. This one is quite well thought out and it's no surprise that it's a modern classic. I do think though that Blokus 3D is a better game!

* September 2014: Reduced so that its score is lower than Blokus 3D.

The Good:
  • Very easy to explain ("Corner to Corner" - see Rules below)
  • I suppose it is fun to hold physical "Tetris" blocks and place them down onto a board
  • Considerable strategic depth; but if you're playing casually with friends, there is nothing too overwhelming or intimidating - just the right dosage to keep things interesting.
  • Apparently a good training tool for the brain. "Endorsed" by Mensa!
  • Playable by almost everybody. I once played this with some very old relatives and they got on just fine.
  • Fairly large pieces

The Bad:
  • Not everyone's cup of tea - purely strategic games (or abstract games) can be a turn-off for some
  • The packaging is quite poor compared to the packaging that European games boast - the box is flimsy (probably due to the mainstream nature of the game)
  • May not have a good replay value - it takes a particular mind for someone to enjoy these sorts of games if played repeatedly

What makes this game fun? 

If you enjoy a brainy challenge and don't mind trying a puzzle-based game, you should try it as it's quite interesting.











- This concludes the basic overview of the game.
If you are interested in reading about the components & rules to the game, please read on -









Rules & Components

Everyone starts off with 21 pieces including:

  • 12 "5-block" pieces (Pentominoes)
  • 5 "4-block" pieces (Tetrominoes)
  • 2 "3-block" pieces (Trominoes/Triominoes)
  • 1 "2-block" piece (Domino)
  • 1 "1-block" piece (Monomino)
All the Blokus pieces each player gets. 

Pieces are placed one at a time by each player. Eg. In the below example, Yellow puts a piece, Green puts their piece, then Red, then Blue

Each player must start in the corner of the board as below (ie. at least one of your pieces must touch the corner of the board).

If you are playing a 2-player game, each player controls two of the four colours (played in alternating order). The rules state that there is a particular colour order but I don't think this really matters.

Example of opening play. For some strange reason. I usually open with Blue's piece. I always think that Blue's piece looks like a praying man on his knees.

MAIN RULE: Corner to Corner

From now on, each player must play their pieces such that only the corners of their own pieces touch. (Note that more than one corner may touch)

However, a player must NOT place pieces adjacent to (or orthogonally adjacent to) their existing pieces. In other words, a player may not place pieces such that their pieces have their flat sides touching.

But note that a player's pieces can be adjacent to pieces of another colour; that is, the flat sides of YOUR pieces CAN touch the flat sides of pieces of another colour.

For example:

This is a valid move:

Corners are touching = valid move


This is also a valid move: 


Illegal - flat edges of pieces touching

This below, however, is an illegal move as the flat sides on two of Blues pieces are touching each other.



Legal for pieces of different colours to touch on the flat edges

However, this would be a legal move - the corners of Blues pieces are touching and the flat sides of the z-shaped 4-block are allowed to touch the flat sides of Yellow's piece.




Scoring

The game ends when no more pieces can be placed on the board.

You lose points for pieces you do not put down on the board equal to the number of squares your blocks consist of. 

So if you failed to put down a "5-block" piece and two "3-block" pieces, you would be on negative 11 points (5 + 3x2).

If you manage to put all your pieces down you get a bonus of +15.

If you put down all your pieces and the last piece you put down was a 1-square block, you get a bonus of +5 on top of the +15 bonus.



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