Board Game Bonanza: Thwarting the Competition


A game of Blokus in progress. Photo by Edward Boice.

Blokus is about aggressive offense, strategic defense, and the pleasure of watching opponents melt in fits of frustration.

Game Title: Blokus     Game Type: Strategy, family friendly
Designer: Bernard Travitian     Number of Players: 2-4 (best with 4)
Expected Play Time: 20-30 min.

Now that you and your friends have traveled around Europe in a game of Ten Days In, you might be feeling some animosity toward your opponents. Maybe that Indian Ocean card you had been looking for was taken by someone else. If you’re feeling frustrated, Blokus could be the perfect game for enacting a little revenge. As the name suggests, Blokus is about slyly blocking your opponent from eking out a victory, all while frustrating them to no end.

Blokus was created in 2000 by Bernard Travitian. Over a few years, the game became hugely acclaimed, winning awards such as Japan Boardgame’s 2002 “Best Japanese Game,” Australian Games Association’s 2003 “Game of the Year,” and Arets Spel’s “Best Family Game” in 2004. Being so popular and well-liked, several companies have published spin-off titles like Blokus Giant.

Blokus is played on a 13” x 13” raised board with 5/8” square indents forming a 20” x 20” grid inside the border of the board. Each player has a set of 21 pieces that resemble Tetris’ famous tetrominoes, irregularly shaped chains of various lengths comprised of 4/8” squares. Players fit these irregularly shaped chains into the indents on the board trying to cover as much of the board with their colors as possible. The four sets of pieces have their own grouping color: red, yellow, blue, and green.

Each player sits at one corner of the board. The color of a player’s pieces determines their turn order. Blue goes first, followed by yellow, red, and then green. A player’s first turn is placing a piece in the corner of the border, into one of the square indents. From then on, players place pieces next to other pieces. As easy as that sounds, there are some tricky rules about how to place the pieces.

The first rule is that pieces can only be placed next to your own color pieces, and pieces must touch at the corners. Second, pieces of the same color cannot touch each other anywhere other than the corner (pieces of different colors can touch elsewhere). Once a piece is placed, that piece cannot be moved for the rest of the game. Last, pieces cannot be placed on top of each other; they can only be placed in free space.

The difficulty comes from trying to cram more blocks into an increasingly jam-packed space.

The object of the game is to have the fewest pieces in hand at play’s end. As the game nears the end, it becomes harder and harder to place pieces. All of the color pieces form an interwoven mass that looks like roots, making open spots tight and small. Most likely, you will not be able to place all of your pieces on the board. Getting rid of all your pieces is a special accomplishment.

Regardless of the number of pieces each player has, play ends when no one can place any more pieces on the board. Every player then counts up the squares that make up the pieces he or she has left unplayed. Whoever has the fewest squares (not pieces!) wins.

In the beginning of the game, you should place your pieces so that they make a line straight toward board’s middle. You want to spread your pieces all over the board, watching not to clutter up your available space – which will limits your options later on. Try to place the larger, oddly shaped pieces early. These big pieces are harder to play as your opponents’ (and your own!) pieces cover board space. However, sometimes it’s a guessing game when trying to figure out the order you should place your pieces in: with three other minds at work on the board, it becomes the luck of the draw. You always seem to place one piece first because you never need it. But later in the match underway, you’ll find it’s just the piece you need.

Strategically, you should look for opportunities to prevent your opponents from placing pieces in large areas. Even if your opponent has not made a move toward an open space, try to occupy the area as soon as possible to limit your opponent’s available space. Such preemption will limit the pieces they can put down, maximizing your chance to have the fewest squares left.

Whether you strategize a careful victory or just troll your friends, Blokus is a game that can be enjoyed and played by any age level. The basic rules of the game make gameplay seem easy, but you’ll soon come to learn that play is tricky and frustratingly chaotic.

If you’ve got some free time and a little frustration to take out on someone, Blokus might just do the trick.



Categories: Art, Entertainment, & Lifestyle

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