Time to Square Off: A Retrospective on Blokus

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The holiday season is only one more week away. You know what that means? Time for us at Toy-TMA to put down our Wii Motes and Dualshocks for a while (don’t worry we’ll come back to them), and find some new activity to spend some time with our friends and family on reality’s level. For me, what a better fit for my Rainy-Day-Oregonian sensibilities than something that will trick all those close to me into thinking I’m smart. Enter Blokus: “A strategy game for the whole family.” –the box.

Think Risk, except replace dice and chance with Tetris pieces and actual strategy.

Blokus falls in the ‘simple to learn yet challenging to master’ category of board games. You can easily figure out everything by watching one play through, but here’s the run down: Each player chooses a color and takes a set of 21 pieces made of all variations of 1-5 squares. Players take turns placing pieces on the 20×20 square grid, each starting from the corner of their color.

Each new piece you place must touch one of your other pieces, but only at the corners. Pieces of the same color cannot be in contact along the sides. However, there are no restrictions to how your pieces touch other colors.

Your goal is to cover as much of the board with your pieces as possible, while blocking your opponents from expanding their own territory. The game ends when all players are blocked from laying down any more of their pieces. The player with the most squares placed on the grid (or easier to tally, the player with the least number of squares left unplaced) wins.

These are all the shapes you have to work with. Rule of Thumb: Start with the 5-square pieces early.

The game plays with 2 to 4 players. With 2, both players take two colors each and alternate between them. Unfortunately games played one-on-one can very easily be turned into stalemates. With 3, each player takes one color and alternates every turn playing for the remaining color. This is sort of interesting, but, to be honest with ourselves, the only real way to play is when you have 4 solid players. Half the challenge and fun of this game is having to micromanage between offensive and defensive approaches to 3 opponents at the same time.

What’s also nice about Blokus is that no matter how good you may get at it, the game never seems unfair or crippling to newcomers. In fact, get too good and all three players will easily single you out as a threat and start gunning toward you first. While it is fun to make alliances and pick out threats, toward the end of the game, all deals will be off as everyone will be scrambling for whatever little space is left.

In college, the name of this game was eventually changed to “Blok-Gus.”

In my opinion, Blokus is the ideal party game, and I’m probably not alone in this, seeing the several awards it has won since it’s creation, including the National Competition Winner by Mensa, the High HQ Society. It is the perfect combination of being very easy to pick up and learn how to play, while also making the players think. It doesn’t suck time or become monotonous like Monopoly or Sorry, and has incredible replay value. It’s also the perfect gift for that special strategist in your life, or anyone for that matter. Find it at your local retail toy section, or check it out online at their official sight. www.blokus.com.

Want more good family games? Check these articles out for tips:

“Ain’t” Is Not a Word: A Scrabble Guide For The Lazy

Mario: A Retrospective Part 7 (On Mario Party)

How To Beat Your Friends In Board Games

I Am Scattegories And You Can Too: A Scattegories Retrospective

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