Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Blokus- Simple Fun for All Ages

I have a personal prejudice towards games that allow you to build things- cities, space colonies, castles. I also like games in which you act out some fun activity- driving a formula race car or flying being examples. For this reason Blokus is a game which would not otherwise jump out at me. It is a favorite game of a friend's family, however, and has won dozens of awards and is sold in dozens of languages so let's take a look.

One of the appealing qualities of Blokus is it's simplicity. The board has a grid of squares on it. Each player gets a bag of colored shapes. The players take turns placing the shapes on the board so that each shape touches the corner of a shape of the same color. For example, I'll be the blue player. First I place a blue square. In my next turn I can place another blue shape anywhere as long as its corner touches the blue square's corner. The challenge of the game stems from the fact that space on the board gets taken up quickly. When there is no more space the players count up the number of shape pieces they have left. Bigger pieces count as more points and the idea is to have as few points as possible.

Blokus is simple enough for even younger children. No matter how you score the game there is a sense that every person is a winner. Simply by laying down some of your shapes you've participated in the game and parents can add liberal doses of "good job" and "wow" to younger player's experiences. Older players may recognize a strategy and try to get rid of certain shapes first, or block other players from getting rid of their larger shapes. One could imagine that teens and adults could spend some time planning their moves and develop complex strategies and plans. In this sense Blokus has good value as a game that can appeal to a wide range of players and remain fun over several years.

I've enjoyed playing Blokus more than I would have expected. Each game is different and results in a colorful pattern forming on the game board. I like the quick playing time and I like the potential for strategy that the game offers older players. Blokus also has good travel potential and could probably be played in the back seat of a car.

Interested parents can check out the game at Blokus.com. If it suits you then you could find it at many local toy stores- Hit and Run Games in Lexington or Belmont Toys come to mind.

Pros: Simple, good appeal over many ages

Cons: Abstract, does have smallish pieces

Beyond the Basics: Good potential for strategy and improvement

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