This is an update to our review of Uptown. While the gameplay of Blockers! is identical to that of Uptown, the visual design of the game has been changed as have the game pieces. Briarpatch took a Major Fun game and gave it an upgrade. We’ve upgraded our review accordingly. Without further ado, the new and improved Blockers! review…
Like much of the Midwest, my neighborhood was iced in for several days this winter. And by iced in I mean doors-frozen-and-the-ground-a-death-trap-for-all-but-polar-bears iced in. My daughters and their friends (ages 7 – 12) passed several of those days chatting over games of Blockers! With all the games at their disposal, that was high praise.
The game board for Blockers! is a nine by nine grid. The columns are numbered sequentially from left to right and the rows are lettered A – I from top to bottom. The grid is also divided into nine three by three sections. Each section has a unique symbol for the squares within. Players have a set of 28 tiles. Each tile corresponds to a letter, a number, or one of the symbols (plus a wild tile) on the board. Players keep five tiles on a rack and replace ones they play with the remaining tiles.
On your turn you place one tile on the board. You may play the tile anywhere on the grid that matches the symbol on the tile. For example, if you have the tile with the number 2, you may play it on any square in the 2 column. If you have the Triangle tile, you may play it on any of the squares in the section that is marked by the Triangle. Look at your tile, and match it to the proper symbol on the board. Easy.
The goal is to have the fewest groups of tile on the board. Groups of tiles are formed when tiles share an edge horizontally or vertically. Diagonals do not count. This goal of having the fewest groups leads to a very interesting dynamic where it is difficult to directly attack another player. Although you can replace your opponents’ pieces, you may not break one of their groups into smaller groups. In the end, the winner is the player with the fewest groups and in the case of a tie, the player who took the fewest pieces from the opponents.
It took me a while to catch on to the fact that taking a tile off the board actually helped my opponents and often hurt me by the end of the game. Humbling when many of my opponents had concluded as much early on. And most of them were under the age of 10.
The game design and rules are very impressive. The rules are intuitive and fit on one small sheet of paper. The tiles are colorful and the board is designed with raised grid-lines to hold the pieces. Everything fits snuggly together and is made to take a lot of wear and tear. There are several strategies which can lead to victory and the strategies are available to even young players. Blockers also dispenses with the storyline that Uptown used with its packaging. It’s a good call because it emphasizes the strategic nature of the game. And it just looks fun. Major Fun.
But Blockers! proved to be much more elegant and strategic than I expected. So much so, I quickly joined my kids and we enjoyed the experience of trying to keep our tiles connected as the board quickly filled with the colors of our opponents.
Blockers! is pblished by Briarpatch, Inc.
William Bain, Games Taster