D: Laurent Escoffier
A: Simon Douchy
P: Blue Orange
2-4 players 15 min ages 8+ MSRP $28
Time to Teach/Learn: 3 minutes
Once home to a single very shy sea monster, Block Ness is now teeming with long bodied serpents! Each one is looking to stretch out and claim as much of the lake as it can. By twisting your monster’s undulating body over and around the others, can you create the longest serpent from head to tail?
Table presence is a relatively new term in the world of games. Think curb appeal when you hear realtors talk about houses and you get the idea. Block Ness has table presence. It will grab your eye from across the room!
The game is played in the box which represents the lake.The thick lake board has a grid pattern of holes punched into it and these holes will be filled by very large and colorful segments of sea monsters.
Each player has ten different arching segments with pegs that fit snugly into the holes in the board. Some segments arch high while others are low. Some are long and others are short. Each player also has a serpent head and tail piece which can be attached to the top of any body segment.
While playing, the game board will look like a tangled mess of serpent segments with monsters’ bodies intertwined.
To set up, each player snaps their starting serpent segment into the center of the lake board and places the head on one end and the tail on the other.
The goal in Block Ness is to create the longest serpent you can on the board before you run out of space in the lake. When playing with four players you use the entire lake board. When playing with two or three players, you use a smaller portion of the lake.
Each turn, in clockwise order, players will select and place a new serpent segment to extend either the head or the tail of their beast. The holes in the lake board are arrayed in such a way that there are six legal spaces where you can add a new piece. One directly in front or behind your serpent and two to each side at the front or back. Diagonal placement is not allowed. After the new segment has been added, you will move the tail to the new end of the creature or the head to the new beginning.
Play continues in this fashion with each serpent taking up more space. When no more pieces can be played, the game ends and the player who has placed the most serpent pieces on the board wins. In the case of a tie, the player whose serpent head is the tallest is the winner.
Block Ness asks its players to think in multiple directions at once because the lake is so small. Even after the first turn, it will be clear just how fast this lake is going to fill up.
You have to think about how to fold your serpent back against itself and how to extend each arching piece over yourself or others to find open water for your next move. You may never go under other pieces, even your own, and your piece may never pass over the head or tail of an opponent’s serpent.
As the game winds forward, you may only have a few starting spaces open because other serpents have slithered up next to you. And you have to keep a close eye on the length of each piece to insure each end of the segment you want to place has a open hole to land in.
Think sideways. Think up and down. Think head and tail. The challenge and fun in Block Ness comes from keeping your options open as long as you can in as many directions as possible.
Block Ness is fast and wonderfully tense. It might seem simple, but there is subtle depth in action. A good abstract strategy game presents each turn as mini-puzzle a player must unravel. Small victories linked together help you create a strategy and push your opponent to do the same. Each small puzzle you solve links to the next in a very visual way. Nessie herself remains a mystery, but in Block Ness, we can witness Major Fun made manifest, rising from the waves of its cardboard lake.