Thursday 20 February 2014

Blokus 3D

Blokus' very distantly related step-cousin.

(The name is in fact quite misleading - With some small exceptions, it's almost nothing like Blokus)

Name: Blokus 3D (2003 - first released as Rumis)

Notable Honours2003 Spiel des Jahres Recommended; 2004 Mensa Select Winner

Publisher: Quite a few exist, but mine (the Australian version) is called 'Divisible by Zero'

Editions: Rumis was the name given to it when it was first released. Though I am not sure, I gather that gameplay is exactly the same in Rumis but with different components and South American themes.

The story goes that apparently Mattel saw the potential to reap massive profits so they bought Rumis and renamed it "Blokus 3D".

Designer: Stefan Kรถgl

Players: 2 to 4 players.

Age: 7+ (apparently - I can never tell how they know this)

Time to play: About 30-45 minutes.

Price Range (AUD): I'm not too sure to be honest. I bought mine for $57.90 including shipping. Currently Amazon is selling new copies for $99 (I'm assuming this is in USD and it's presumably without shipping included). So it's fairly costly.

Availability: Quite hard to find from my experience - I had to order this via eBay.

  • Puzzle
  • Abstract
  • Family

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

6.9* out of 10. (Decent - See my Rating Scale)

Fundamentally speaking, Blokus 3D is a game that I think is a whole lot more interesting than normal Blokus. However the comparison is a bit strange. 

In Blokus, players place pieces corner-to-corner on a flat board. In Blokus 3D, players place pieces surface-to-surface and stack them upwards - whoever has the most number of faces visible from a birds eye point of view wins (less the number of pieces left in their hand). Hence, whilst spatial awareness is a similarity between the two games, the nature of the games is quite different.

There is still a whole lot of strategy, but perhaps on a different scale. In Blokus the gameboard is considerably bigger I suppose, and Blokus 3D feels a lot more cramped - but perhaps deliberately so as we are dealing with length width and height. Hence, the strategy in the latter may feel more restrictive (in the sense that there appears to be less options for you to place your blocks) but that does not necessarily reduce the challenge or difficulty.

On the whole I think this makes for a great family game, though it may be perceived to be a childish game by some. Like almost every game, Blokus 3d may also prove to be repetitive if played too many times - but this shouldn't be a problem if you like abstract games.

It would have been nice if more template designs and blocks for an additional 1-2 players were available. (Though I note that Rumis has the expansion Rumis+ - though I doubt whether the expansion is compatible with this game)

* July and September 2014: I revised this score down from 7.5 to 6.9, not because the game itself is flawed, but because it just doesn't feel right giving this a higher score than games such as Carcassonne or Hanabi which are both quite unique in their own respective senses. Furthermore, whilst Blokus 3D is certainly a good game for its genre I don't think every single person will be wanting to replay this over and over again. Part of the reason for this is that, at least on my view, I would argue that it's more likely that the mathematically or geometrically gifted (relatively speaking of course) will properly appreciate the strategy in this game. I'm certainly not one of them - I just play randomly. For those interested in abstract games, or those who are kids, opinions proffered will be quite different. Of course it's still fun to just randomly place pieces all over the park.

The Good:
  • Visually very interesting - blocks stack upwards and you get all sorts of interesting scenarios
  • Relatively easy to explain
  • It's probably better than Blokus
  • Trains your brain's spatial awareness
  • Decent variety of templates to use - these essentially change the shape of the arena (eg. pyramids)
  • Draws attention?
  • Game provides a cool turn-tile that allows you to look at the blocks from any angle
  • May have some degree of strategy that I am unable to comprehend
The Bad:
  • It is easy to knock blocks over, especially when you stack things quite high - but if you use care this shouldn't really be a problem
  • May be perceived to be a kid's game
  • Abstract games, by their nature, tend to get repetitive for the "ordinary person" but this is not necessarily a bad thing.
  • Replayability may be limited for those not interested in abstract games - the reason being that the full strategy of the game is not quite appreciated.

What makes this game fun? 

Speaking the obvious, I think people will be attracted to the fact that this game is a "3D game" and allows players to exploit the airspace by stacking their blocks vertically upwards. There is considerable spatial strategy involved as well - but that being said, the strategy is far from overwhelming and will appeal to all ages and everyone who enjoys puzzle/abstract-based games.

(Like all abstract games, it's more a case of experienced players discovering subtleties in strategy, rather than the strategy being overtly dominating and off-putting to newcomers)

- 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 (Photos courtesy of my mum, Joanne)

Everyone gets 11 pieces (8 "four-block" pieces; 2 "three block" pieces an 1 "two block" piece)


The aim of the game is two fold:

1) To have the most number of coloured squares at the end when looking from a bird's eye view down at the board
2) To put down as many pieces as possible

The game "ends" when no one can put down anything further.

Your score in Aim 1 will be subtracted from the number of pieces you have left.

Example: So if, at the end of the game, you have 15 squares in your colour from a bird's eye biew, but you have 1 "four-block" and 2 "three-blocks" left then your final score is 15- 3 = 12 (hence the size of the pieces doesn't matter. Look at the end of this section for a better example.)

This game is best taught by example. I will simulate a 3 player game.

First moves

Everyone agrees on a template - there are a few here to choose from (such as the pyramid and steps template - in these special ones each row has certain height restrictions).

Each template offers different challenges, set-ups and height restrictions.

Here I've selected the easiest template - the rectangle. Here, for a 3 player game, the height restriction is 6 units upwards. This is stated on the template itself.

Green plays the funny 4 piece block.

The person who goes first must place their piece next to the border of the template, as shown above by Green.

Then, for the FIRST TURN only players after the first player must place their pieces in a manner such that they TOUCH the SURFACE (not the corner) of the first player's piece, so long as they don't exceed the height limit.

Here are Red, and Blue's next turns:

Red plays a straight line that just touches one surface of Green.

Blue plays an L shape that wraps around a portion of Green's piece

Second Moves and beyond

THEN AFTER EVERYONE HAS HAD THEIR FIRST MOVE, from now on everyone must place a piece in such a way that the surfaces of their newly-placed blocks touch a surface of their own colour.

Hence, Green's next block must touch a Green surface like so. Green chooses to do this with a square 4-block which is placed to touch the surface of the protruding green block:

(Important: Do note that you cannot leave vertical gaps, or gaps in between pieces vertically! But you can leave gaps horizontally, like in the picture above - there is a "horizontal" gap between the red and blue pieces)

So for their second moves:

Red places the vertical 3 block piece which touches the bottom 4-block piece below

Blue then places the Z "tetris" shape which touches their existing blue piece below

If we skip to a few turns later...

You can see that the height limit has been reached for Green and Blue who have stacked up to 6 units. They can continue stacking each column up to that height, but may not exceed 6 units for any given column.

And this is the view from the other angle (the board allows you to swivel the whole template around)

At the end of the game, you count the score by taking a bird's eye view. So assuming the game ends here (which it won't - there's still plenty of space - this is just an example), Green and Red would be tied on 6 points, less the number of respective pieces they have remaining.

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