Friday 21 March 2014

Gemblo Deluxe

Blokus' long-lost sister, separated at birth and living on the other side of the world..

Korean box, but there is an English version that looks and is otherwise (apart from language) exactly the same

Green Board Games Edition - considerably cheaper (About $35 at the time of writing which is about 30% to 60% less than the Deluxe Edition as ordered from Korea?), but the pieces don't look as good though

Name: Gemblo Deluxe (2005 - though the game cover on mine says "Since 2003")

Publisher: Gemblo, Inc - but there many others though out there including the Green Board Games Edition

Version: I am reviewing the DELUXE version - which looks much prettier and jewel-like than its normal-version counterpart.

Notable RelativeBlokus

Designer: Justin Oh

Players: 1(?!) to 6

Age: 6+

Time to play: 30 minutes, apparently

Price Range (AUD): $54.59 to $93.39 (including the mini-expansion - but I ordered this by "slowboat" which takes about 1-2 months to deliver. The speed of delivery can change the price obviously)

Availability:  Quite hard to find unless you speak Korean and can navigate Korean websites. Believe it or not, I had to email Justin Oh himself to buy this game...

  • Abstract
  • Pattern Recognition
  • Puzzle

Andre Lim's Rating and Brief Summary:

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

There is an ongoing "debate" as to whether Gemblo copied its game mechanics from Blokus. It is undisputed that Blokus was released first in 2000, but, if my memory of the debate serves me well, Gemblo's owners claim that their game was developed independently of the success of Blokus.

Irrespective of which game came first, I like this better than Blokus simply because it caters for more people: it plays especially well with 6 people. It may seem like a cop-out reason but the ability to play with more people is quite important to me. However, the comparison does not stop there - as you will see, I think Blokus is better for 4 people.

As alluded to above, the gameplay is generally similar to Blokus - instead of pieces needing to be placed "corner to corner" (as in Blokus), pieces must be placed "one line away" from each other [see the rules below]. Players again share the same goal of placing as many of their pieces as they can on the board and, like Blokus again, this means they must take into account spatial considerations and decide whether to expand their territory or to focus on blocking opponents.

In that general strategic sense, I think both games are similar. However, that being said, I am not well-versed enough in mathematics or spatial geometry for me to appreciate the subtle differences in tactics that may be present from using a board made up of hexagons (rather than squares as in Blokus) and, correspondingly, hexagonal pieces. On gut instinct though, it would seem that such differences could make a heck of a difference to the overall spatial strategyI can imagine though that some people will prefer the "simplicity" of Blokus' corner-to-corner rule.

There is also a particular awkwardness with the various markings on the board - the board has different "starting positions" and "playing areas" for different numbers of players and admittedly it is difficult to distinguish between the markings and to tell where to put your pieces on.

In particular, 3 or 4 player games may, perhaps, produce some difficulties. (Hence, 4 players may prefer to play Blokus) There are special rules for a 5-player game which look quite interesting.

That being said I think the 6-player and 5-player variant is quite good as the whole board is used and there is no room for confusion.

* September 2014: Reduced from 7.1. As Gemblo and Blokus are similar games, it wouldn't be right to rate Gemblo too much higher than Blokus.

The Good:
  • Light and friendly game, yet has considerable strategic depth (just like Blokus)
  • A lot of people have commented on the aesthetic appeal of this game because of the colourful and crystal-like components
  • Plays more people than Blokus
  • Fundamentally the same as Blokus with slight variations
The Bad:
  • Markings on board are hard to see when trying to determine the outer boundaries of games with less than 5 players. Hence may play awkwardly with players less than 5
  • The "clear coloured" game pieces are almost impossible to see on the game-board
  • Massive box and board - hard to store!!! (it's also an awkward shape)

What makes this game fun? 

This game contains everything that is fun about Blokus and adds the ability to play 2 extra players, but in a slightly varied strategic setting. For existing Blokus players, it perhaps would serve as a variant to the game, but may not necessarily be a total placement, depending on your view of things.

- 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 receives a bundle of 18 game pieces (8 "five-blocks"; 5 "four-blocks"; 3 "three-blocks"; 1 "two-block" and 1 "one-block). They choose from these following colours:

Pieces get placed on this board:

You might be able to just barely make out the markings on the board - they show you the board area and where to start for different numbers of players. It's not my intention to go through all of the various starting positions and board sizes (this is already well covered in the instructions manual). It suffices to say that the game board can be confusing if you play with anything less than 5 players (note that there are special rules for 5 players - it involves using up the whole board though, so that is fine in terms of minimising confusion with boundaries)

I'll be dealing with the 6 player version

Starting Positions

Everyone places a piece at each VERTEX/POINT of the Hexagon - this intuitively makes sense because there are 6 vertices and plays just like Blokus.

Then, after everyone has had their turn (placing a piece on the vertex), on your second turn you must place a piece ONE LINE AWAY from your existing piece. For example you could do this:

Green places their piece - it is "one line away" (lines refer to the sides of the small hexagons that scatter the board)

If we fast forward the game, we can see that the game might look something like this:

As you can see all respective coloured pieces are one "line" away from their own pieces

If it is Green's turn, Green can do this:

Adjacent to other colours: Hence, just like in Blokus, it is fine to be adjacent or "touching" or "not being one line away" from DIFFERENT coloured pieces, so long as your OWN COLOURED PIECES are one line away from each other (as above).

Illegal move: However, when pieces are "one line away" from each other, the line itself CANNOT PASS THROUGH another coloured piece. For example this addition of the 5 block "l" shape is illegal:

Illegal - the line that separates the two green pieces cannot pass through the purple piece.
However, the line CAN pass BETWEEN two different coloured pieces like so:

Here, the Green 5 line piece has been legitimately placed - there still exists a line "outside" or "in-between" the pink and blue pieces (as a borderline of sorts).

Scoring: You win if you have the least number of hexagons (I am assuming smaller hexagon shapes that comprise the block, rather than entire pieces/blocks). If there is a tie there are special rules to resolve the tie which I can't understand because they are in Korean. However, it seems as though certain shapes are worth a higher penalty than others.

Other quirks

The game has solo puzzles for you to perform, by way of a book that shows you pictures you can create and the pieces you need to do it.

The game also has a mini-expansion. Mine came as part of the deal. Various power-up cards can be played that let you do things that you wouldn't normally be allowed to do.

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