Review: Blokus

Hopefully the first in a series of board game reviews:

Blokus Game

Publisher: Educational Insights

Number of Players: 2-4

Playing Time: 10-30 minutes

Release Year: 2000

Year I got it: 2005

It’s a cross between: Tetris and Go.

Number of Plays to Obtain Proficiency: At least 3. The first time is to get the rules. The second time is to develop a strategy. The third time to train your eye to see how to implement your strategy.

Replayability: High. The game is short enough that you can play it multiple times in one night, with each player adapting their strategy iteratively.

Social Interaction: Low, this one sort of plays like chess. You can spend a fair amount of time pondering what move you are going to make, but very few moves are game-changing. When a move is game-changing, it triggers competitive thought from the other player(s) rather than boisterous conversation.

Blokus is a game based on a fairly simple concept. You have tetris-like shaped pieces to play on a grid, some of them very large, some of them very small. On a players turn, one of her pieces is played on the board so that at least one of its corners are diagonally adjacent to another of her pieces. You are not allowed to play a piece if any of the edges push up against an edge of one of your other pieces. The objective is to block your opponent(s) from being able to play their pieces (by blocking any corners that are jutting out from the pieces they have played).

The grid eventually gets very full; there are very few places to play the last few pieces. In this way the game can be like a good game of scrabble – you are restricted not only by what you’ve put on the board, but by the fact that there is very little space to fit your remaining pieces in. There is one piece that is only one block wide – easily played on the board, but if you play this piece last you gain extra points. (it can be your saving grace earlier in the game, allowing a way through a particular crowded section of board).

I have no idea if I’m accurately conveying how the game is played, but I have developed something of a strategy:

  • If you have a choice, play your biggest and most crooked pieces sooner, rather than later. This nets you two benefits: first, you get out onto the board, producing more corners to play off of and getting closer to blocking your opponent. Second, when the time comes later in the game to fit your pieces onto the more crowded board, it will be easier with smaller and straighter pieces.
  • If you see an opposing piece that has an end sticking straight out, try to play a piece that will cover all three of the end-spaces (like making a T). This blocks him from being able to play off of both of his corners, and usually your piece will fit snugly against everything around it, which is usually better.
  • When the game is nearing the end, thinking two or three steps ahead is often necessary if you want to fit all your pieces on the board.
  • As always, point out places for your opponent to play if they are stumped that benefit you! You’d be surprised how often this works.

Blokus is a reasonably good game, easy to learn, and also quick. It’s best with four players, but it can be played with two (which is often important, finding people to play is sometimes the hardest thing). I recommend it.

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