Play time: ~10 minutes.
BGG | Board Game Atlas
Buy via Big Cat Games!
Logged plays: 12
Full disclosure: A review copy of BLOCK.BLOCK was provided by Big Cat Games.
Abstract games! There are so many of them, and I love them. Shobu, Santorini, even classics like Othello. I find the strategic component a lot of fun, even if the games can sometimes run long. My next game in the review queue is an extremely special abstract strategy game; a doujin game that’s really impressively-made (and, don’t worry, will eventually be sold minus some components at a reasonable price). Let’s dive in and check out what BLOCK.BLOCK has to offer.
BLOCK.BLOCK doesn’t have much in the way of lore (as a lot of abstract strategy games tend to be lacking in this area), but it does have some really nice blocks. They’re wood; they’re nice to work with and they have a good weight. Your goal is to cover as much of your opponent’s space as you can before they rise to the top. Will you be able to put a dent in your opponent’s score? Or will you end up, well, blocked?
Not much setup. Give one player all of the dark pieces:
Give the other player all of the light pieces:
There’s one piece that’s both colors; give it to the player with the dark pieces. There’s a board; set it in the center:
You should be ready to start!
BLOCK.BLOCK requires you to play every block that you have, which is always exciting. On your turn, you may play any block of yours anywhere, following one rule: it cannot have space between any part of it and the ground. Basically, no overhangs. Beyond that, you can play in 2D or 3D space; whatever makes you happy. Turn blocks, flip blocks, cover your opponent’s blocks; go off. The only other rule that matters is that the .5-block must always be played last.
One more thing — your opponent can’t play an exact copy of your block on top of your block. We’ve been somewhat flexible and said that you can play the exact same block on your next turn, but it can’t be used to fully cover the last block that was played. It’s reasonable.
The key thing about this game is that, at the end, you total your score by looking at the board from above, effectively reducing it to a 2D space. Every block of your opponent’s that’s on top is a point for them; every block of yours that’s on top is a point for you. The .5-point block counts for both players. The player with the most points wins!
Player Count Differences
It’s another two-player-only game.
- Don’t play your biggest pieces too early. That gives your opponent a lot of real estate to build on top of, which is never good for you. Instead, try to hold on to them for as long as you can and either use them to bait your opponent into a bad move or set yourself up so that you can play them late in the game and get a ton of space out of the move. Just make sure you don’t hold on to them long enough that they become points for your opponent (as the longest pieces tend to do). That’s where you end up costing yourself. If that’s going to happen, put it on top of a space your opponent already controls; at least that way you’re not giving them more points, which is some consolation.
- Keep an eye on what your opponent has. You should make sure that you’re not tripping into an obvious trap, and make some big moves when your opponent can’t respond to them (since they don’t have the right pieces for them). I usually wait for my opponents to get rid of the 3-block L pieces before I make any big attempts or huge plays.
- Not all of your blocks are completely your color. Yeah, so, the 3-straight and 4-straight are your opponent’s blocks at the ends. You can’t just play them vertically without scoring for your opponent, so, don’t do that if you can avoid it! I usually use them to try and shore up a spot so that I can cover it later and earn even more points.
- Leave space for you to make big moves later. If you leave certain shapes on the board that your opponent doesn’t have pieces for, they can’t cover them until it’s too late. You can use that to really quickly and easily turn the tide of the game, if you’re lucky.
- If your long blocks can’t be played, they score your opponent one point. Remember that. Like I said, just kinda put them on top of one of your opponent’s blocks so that they at least don’t get more points.
- Giving your opponent some good ground so that you can take it all back may be worth it, depending on how many points you can gain from that kinda risky technique. It’s an ebb-and-flow sorta business; sometimes it works for you, sometimes it extremely does not. Be careful, as you would sacrificing territory / points in any game.
Pros, Mehs, and Cons
- I mean, it’s a work of art. I think my copy is handmade. The blocks are beautiful, the paint job is beautiful, the whole thing just absolutely sings. It’s a good weight, it looks great on the table, and it’s not terribly difficult to transport, either. All in all, just an absolutely incredible product.
- Very easy to learn. Just pop pieces down and try to cover your opponent’s pieces. I haven’t seen anything like it, but it’s clever as hell and doesn’t require a lot of effort to learn.
- Plays very quickly. I really appreciate that; even with players with some AP we can still get the game done pretty rapidly.
- Very nice table presence. I think the vertical element of it really helps in that regard; it keeps moving on up and it looks different every time that you play, which I really appreciate.
- The mostly-zero-sum play makes for a really satisfying game of tug-of-war. It appeals to my brain a bit differently than, say, Santorini does, even though they both have a blocky 3D component.
- Yeah, you’re still going to see some pretty bad analysis paralysis during this game. The 3D spatial component is going to throw some people off, and they’re definitely going to be trying to think more than two or three moves ahead, which is a massive decision space. Try to coax them gently out of that nightmare before they get in too deep, or you’ve lost them.
- I legitimately worry about damaging this game. It’s possible for a game to be too nice, right?
- I was slightly disappointed that there wasn’t actually a dexterity component to this game. Alas. That’s just me, in love with dexterity games, I think. Maybe in an expansion…
- It’s currently pricey. They’re doing a lot of work to make it a lot more affordable; I think they’re getting rid of the wooden board and the transport bags, for starters, which should cut down on a lot of the costs. I usually don’t talk about prices of games, but I remember kinda balking at the cost when I was told about it (once it was translated from yen). To be fair, this is a pretty visually striking and impressive construction, so, it’s your money; do whatever makes you happy once you’ve fulfilled your basic needs.
Overall: 8.5 / 10
Overall, I think BLOCK.BLOCK is pretty awesome. It’s fairly abstract, but it’s also a meticulous work of art; the pieces feel weighty and well-made, the bags for storing the pieces are nice, the wood on the board is sturdy, too. The whole thing is just a really impressive product and I’m so glad that I got a chance to try it and review it. That said, those sorts of things come with their own problems; it’s rather expensive, for one thing. That said, I’ve been reading a bunch of tweets from Pen & Dice about how they’re working to bring the cost down for a more marketable version (felt board, no bags for the pieces, things like that), so I’d say it’s less that the game is pricey and more that I got a Deluxe Version, I suppose. That’s cool, yeah. The game itself is very solid; it feels like it hearkens back to a simpler time in gaming where I used to play Othello or checkers; it would fit in nicely with those without much effort, though I’d say it’s a bit closer to a 3D Blokus or something. Anyways, I’ve been having a blast playing it, and if you’re looking for a solid (really solid, physically and gameplay-wise) abstract and you can appreciate an artfully constructed game, I’d definitely recommend checking out BLOCK.BLOCK if you can! I’ve had a blast with it.