Blokus – Choose Your Own Adventure!

The final entry in my analog game blog posts will cover the game Blokus, which I played with my nephew. Blokus is defined as an “abstract strategy game” on BoardGameGeek.com and that description fits very well. Each player chooses a different colour of 21 differently shaped transparent plastic pieces of various sizes. The pieces are shaped a bit like various Tetris pieces and the challenge is to fit them all together corner to corner without allowing any edge of your piece to line up with another of your pieces. You are free to line up with other people’s pieces in this manner, however, enabling you to block them from expanding (hence the name!).

The winner is normally determined via a point system. You count up the number of squares in each piece you have not placed on the board. This number is subtracted from the total. Any player who has placed all of their pieces earns an extra 15 points and five additional points if they managed to place the smallest one square piece last. Whoever ends with the highest total of points wins. I say this is the way it is normally played because I was playing with a six year-old who found this process to be thoroughly uninteresting. As such, we altered the game to just be a challenge of who can place the most pieces on the board before there is nowhere else to put a piece.

This is a fine example of how rules can be altered to better accommodate certain audiences. I would highly recommend that the library maintain paper copies of alternative rules to games that they can include with their board game collections. This allows diversity of play and also allows the games to be better targeted towards certain audiences. Even better, a library could have a fun creative exercise in challenging a variety of players to take games and come up with variations on the rules. Encourage radical alterations and see what sort of things can be developed by your patrons! This method allows the game to act as a choose your own adventure rather than a standard novel, if we think of the games as text.

My nephew enjoyed our play session. He was fascinated by my method of sorting the pieces into different piles based on the number of squares they consisted of and he mirrored the practice. This allowed us both to try to figure out the biggest pieces we could place on the board while there was the maximum amount of space available. Since there was only the two of us space was at less of a premium than it can be with four players. We compensated for this by aggressively trying to block each other in to each other’s mutual amusement.

The game is an interesting one and it challenges a form of spatial thinking I don’t feel particularly proficient with. My nephew seems to be a natural at it, however, and over the course of a number of games we had a definite back and forth. The game won quite a few awards, including the Mensa Select. Since there is something inherently brain puzzley about the game this makes a lot of sense to me. I would recommend it to anyone looking for a bit of a brain teaser. The more players the better though, with a little alteration, it can be fun no matter what!

For more information on Blokus, see the following: https://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/2453/blokus

For a step by step guide on how to play, see below: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bEvS5A6TCr8

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