Players: 2 – 4
Time: 15 minutes
Times Played: 30+
Abstract games are my jam and Blokus was my first. I remember being intrigued by the “reverse Tetris” style of gameplay promised (and the affordable price).
Unlike most abstracts, there isn’t even a thinly veiled theme or story for Blokus. You are strictly playing a game where each player starts with the same selection of plastic pieces. Each piece ranges in size from one to five squares. There are four colors (one per player) and the pieces themselves are sturdy, transparent plastic. Players are trying to get as many of their pieces placed on the main board as possible before they cannot place another piece.
This game is incredibly simple to pick up and just as easy to teach. The vibrant color pallet helps the game stand out among the typically dreary color choices of most games.
The rules for placing pieces is that each piece must touch one of your already placed pieces in a corner-to-corner manner. These pieces cannot touch edges with any of your existing pieces. To start the game, your first piece (whichever you choose) is placed in the corner that you start in. Due to this corner to corner placement, players can touch edges with opponent’s pieces and with planning, can block opponents from making moves.
Gameplay continues until no player can make any further moves. Each square you have on the board is worth one point and each square that went unplaced is worth negative one point. There are additional bonuses for utilizing all your pieces and placing your single square piece last as well.
Personally, we just count how many squares are left over and the lowest number wins. We never really use the bonus scoring as our group is quick to cut one another off, ensuring no colors were fully placed.
Blokus is a quick and easy to learn abstract and after a game or two, the basic strategy is apparent to players. Typically, game two is much more of a challenge as players come into their own. Speaking of quickness, games rarely if ever last more than thirty minutes and once you and your group have an understanding of it, games can breeze by in fifteen minutes, even at a full player count.
Blokus bills itself as a game for two to four players and while it does accommodate that player count, I would only suggest playing at two and four players. At three players, the “fourth” player is traded between players each round and just makes for an uneven and wonky experience. Players typically have an agenda on where they want this ghost player to go but without proper communication, those plans rarely see fruition. Couple that with players that are overly aggressive or worse, passive, and the placement of these pieces are usually less than optimal.
At two-players, each player controls two different colors but the rules stay the same. This version of Blokus is okay but I would really only recommend it once you have a few normal plays under your belt. Unless you were absolutely dying to get your Blokus fix, I would recommend playing something else that fits the player count more appropriately. Four-players is the best version of the game as each player will control their own destiny.
Blokus has become an excellent filler and pallet-cleanser game for us. We tend to pull this out between heavier fares and play a round or two before moving onto the next heavy game.
The key to Blokus is to move quickly and not keep yourself sequestered in your own corner. You need to make like America and expand as fast as possible. Using your five- and four-sized pieces to start the game will help immensely once the board starts to shrink. Since the game is played on the same board and all information is public, you can see exactly what your opponents are trying to do and who, if anyone, is trying to encroach on your space. If you notice someone heading towards you, block them. That’s the name of the game. Do not let them find an empty corner to connect to or if they can, make sure they are using a one- or two-sized piece to make that move, burning a valuable piece earlier than anticipated.
I think Blokus is one of those great games that you pull off the shelf every couple of months and get a few plays in before it heads back up to collect some dust. And that’s fine! Not every game needs to be played over and over and over again. This is an excellent change of pace game that does not take up much space (play-wise or storage wise) or cost too much. Is Blokus a top ten game for me? Nope. But it might be top twenty just because it’s so dependable and simple to teach and play.