A while back we lauded Ravensburger and games-designer-extraordinaire Reiner Knizia for adapting the mechanics of Tetris from the digital laptop to the analog table-top with their game Fits. Each round of Fits had a different challenge based on the card you were playing.

The follow-up game, Bits, uses similar Tetris mechanics but offers up a much wider array of challenges. The end result is a game that is challenging, surprising, and even more elegant than Fits.

Each player receives the following: a game board (a 6×6 grid of squares), a board holder called a ramp, 20 game tiles (colored), and a neutral tile (grey). There are also 5 stating tiles that players use to start each round. Each tile is rectangular and divided into two squares. Each square (besides the grey ones on the neutral tile) can be orange, blue, purple, yellow, or black. As you play on your game board, these tiles start to form patterns of color that you will recognize from Tetris and other block puzzle games.

Games consist of 3 rounds. At the start of each round, players blindly draw a starting tile and place it at the bottom of their board. What tile the players can use next is decided by a deck of 20 cards. These are shuffled and revealed one at a time to show players what tile must be used. When you play a tile you must be able to slide it into place from the top of the board (like when a Tetris piece descends) but it must come down without rotating or sliding left or right. If you do not want to use a tile that is revealed by the deck, you may use your gray neutral tile in its place.

Scoring changes from round to round. In a normal game, there are 3 scoring decks called task cards. Each deck of task cards is shuffled and the top card revealed at the beginning of each round. The task cards tell you what shapes will score points and what shapes will result in lost points. This method makes each round unique and unpredictable. It also means you have a lot of strategic choices to make as you place your tiles.

Although it seems like you need to keep track of a lot of cards and tiles, the game is largely intuitive and you learn most everything you need to know in the first round of play. Illustrated instructions show you how to move the tiles and how to score. The difficulty of this game is not generated by the cards and rules but rather by the challenge of fitting your pieces into a tighter and tighter space while keeping your eyes open for good and bad combinations of blocks.

There is no clock so the game invites planning and analysis, but we found that the pressure of knowing that others were ready to move on really motivated the slower players (like yours truly). The pace remained brisk. A single player can also have a rewarding experience in a game of solitaire. Ravensburger provides a score range for those who want to move up an accomplishment ladder by themselves.

The design is colorful and elegant. The puzzles are challenging. The action is intense. The rewards are great. There is fun to be had with Bits. Major Fun.

For 1-4 players, ages 8+

Bits designed by Reiner Knizia. © 2011 by Ravensburger Spielverlag GmbH.

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