So, my sister knows I’m pretty big into board games (and apparently reads my blog from time to time, so here’s to you, champ), and bought me Tetris Link for Christmas or my birthday (I think my birthday?) a while back. Now, when you think Tetris, you usually think “a franchise looking to keep printing money into perpetuity”, and not in a positive way. There are (just from a quick Google search) Tetris bedsheets, clothes, cups, and more Tetris games than any reasonable person would ever actually want to play in several lifetimes.
That being said, hear me out on this one. Tetris Link is a hybrid of Tetris and Connect Four, in which you place your tetrominoes randomly (at the behest of a die) and try to link up three so that you can score points. Other players are playing in the same board as you and can try and block you, but the weirdly-shaped tetrominoes cause all sorts of entertaining issues and problems.
This game is preposterously easy to set up. Each player has a bag of tetrominoes corresponding to their color, be it red, blue, green, or yellow. There’s a big board, a die, and two feet. Here are the steps:
- Take out the board and put the feet on it so it stands up.
- Assign each player a color and give them their bag of tetrominoes.
- Each player rolls the die until one gets a TETRIS LINK symbol. That player goes first.
Let’s move to Gameplay.
Also crushingly simple. Like Tetris, you usually don’t get to choose which piece you’re going to play. As a result, I find it easiest to segment my pieces into one of each of the 5 types of tetronimo, like so:
When it’s your turn, you roll the die and place the shown piece into the board. If you are lucky enough to roll a TETRIS LINK, you can choose which piece you want to play. The placement rules are as follows:
- If you connect three pieces, score +3 points. Helpfully, each of the pieces has a little circle on it, so you can count the circles.
- If you connect additional pieces to a group of three, score +1 for each additional unscored piece connected. Note that this doesn’t mean you score +6 if you connect two groups of three; you just score for each unscored piece you connect. So if you have a group of three and a group of two and you connect them with a sixth piece, you will have six total points.
- If the piece you place leaves an empty space on the board, you lose 1 point (maximum -2). Basically, if you create gaps in the board you’ll lose one point per gap. This is pretty much the worst thing you can do. This also means that if you roll the S/Z piece on your first turn as the first player, you will automatically lose a point. Sucks to suck.
- If you roll a piece that you do not have, you lose your turn. This sucks, especially if you run out of a certain piece type early on.
- If you cannot fit the piece you rolled in the board, you lose your turn. This also sucks, but it’s much later in the game. Usually it just means whoever has that piece gets a free point.
Other than that, whoever finishes with the most points, wins! It doesn’t take too long.
Not a whole lot to go on, here, but there’re still a few things worth mentioning.
- Blocking opponents is important, but really only in 3- or 4-player games. With two players, there really isn’t a ton of room to try and block your opponent effectively unless you get lucky, so focusing on that isn’t super helpful. If you DO manage to block someone, though, they have to place three more pieces before they can score again, meaning that you have a much better shot of keeping them from scoring.
- You never want to take negative points. Taking negative points is pretty much the worst possible thing you can do, to the point where dropping a piece randomly somewhere is vastly better than taking a -1 or a -2 from placing it and leaving a gap.
- Think a few moves ahead. Sometimes it’s better (especially if you get a TETRIS LINK) to place a piece that you have many of or that doesn’t particularly help you so that you’ll have more options on your next turn.
Like I said, not a whole lot to go on.
Pros, Mehs, Cons
- Very simple to set up and learn. This is a perfectly fine game for kids or just to pass some time between other games. It’s not particularly difficult to understand.
- Quick to play. That’s actually also really nice. Just means if you’re looking to kill some time or if you got eliminated from BANG! or something you can jam on that until the next game starts up. It’s good to have a few of these types of games in your library.
- The gameplay is pretty flexible. If you don’t want to play with blocking people or play aggressively, you don’t really have to, especially with two players. It’s nice that the gameplay doesn’t really require it, and I think that it offers a lot of replay value for that because you have a lot of different styles based on personal preference and player count.
- The color choices were smart. Unlike some games I own, these colors are super distinct and really make the board look nice after a full game.
- The pieces are really hard to take pictures of. Note the severe lack of photography in this blog post. Almost all the pictures come out terrible.
- Unclear on the best way to choose a first player. The game says that the first player to roll TETRIS LINK gets to go first, but what if some players never get to roll? Do you have a face-off between all players who roll TETRIS LINK? Instructions unclear; used Chwazi instead.
- Not very deep, but what do you expect? I’m not gonna ding this game for being exactly what it suggests it is.
- The score arrows are a bit tough to move. Unclear if it just hasn’t been played enough or if they’re just a teensy bit frustrating, but there you have it.
- Kind of annoying that you can’t remove misplaced pieces without taking out all of them. Honestly, Connect Four lets you frustratingly try to pull a piece out of the top, but Tetris Link just stays “well if you want to re-place a piece then you have to dump them ALL out.
- Punishing if you’re not great at spatial reasoning. This usually leads to you mis-placing a piece that you wanted to put somewhere else, and as I mentioned they’re impossible to undo without destroying the game.
- Losing a turn is a huge bummer. It can often turn the game around if people are playing at near-equal levels if one person just happens to run out of pieces. It’s a bit of a shame.
- SUPER luck-based. Doesn’t appeal to everyone, but yeah, you can be pretty great at this and if the die rolls don’t work out in your favor you will lose. Especially if you’ve already used up all your tetrominoes of one type — if you roll that type again you lose your turn and your opponents get a free turn that you can’t block or participate in.
Overall: 7.5 / 10
You know what, Jenny? I like this game. Thank you for getting it for me. That’s pretty much all there is to say about it. Is it a paragon of deep strategy and variable player abilities? No. Is it an artistic treasure that shines with beauty? No. Is it a perfectly serviceable and fun spin on Tetris that actually is fun to play with multiple people and brings something unique to the table? Yes. And sometimes that’s all it takes to be a good game. The colors are nice, the gameplay is reasonably entertaining, and it’s a good experience for all players. I was surprised by it, and now I enjoy playing it.
I’d say it’s worth a look if you’re trying to find something different to play.