Some games are so addictive that they should have a Saturday morning special. Tetris, especially at its peak in 1989, would need a weekly prime time slot over more seasons than The Simpsons. That the game has spawned countless imitations and iterations over the last 20 years, speaks to the power of its concept and design. That Reiner Knizia and Ravensburger have animated a compelling variation of Tetris for the dining room table speaks to their creativity and attention to what elements of the digital game would translate to the analogue world.
Fits can be played with up to four players although some of our games tasters doubled up and had quite a lot of fun playing as a team. Each player has a ramp-shaped board holder, 4 playing boards, and a set of 16 tiles (similar to Tetris tetrominoes but with more variation). Each playing board has 12 rows of 6 dots, evenly spaced, that players attempt to cover with their tiles. As in Tetris, the tiles must slide down the board without any interference from other tiles. Players may turn and manipulate the tiles to find the best position, but ultimately the piece must slide straight down from the top and stops when it touches another tile or the bottom of the game board.
I mentioned before that there are four game boards for each player. This is what gives Fits such wonderful variation. Each board has a different challenge. Board 1: cover all the dots. Board 2: there are some numbered dots—keep these uncovered. Board 3: some dots are numbered—cover the negative numbers and keep the positive ones uncovered. Board 4: there are pairs of symbols scattered on the board—you get points for keeping both parts of the pair uncovered and lose points for covering half of the pair. As we played, we noticed that some people were much better at some boards than at others. This seemed to keep the play lively and the scoring more even.
There is a strong element of randomness to the game but this is balanced by the players’ ability to manipulate the tiles and plan according to what tiles remain to e played. At the beginning of the game, players draw a card that tells them with which piece to start. Every player starts with a different tile. A draw pile of 16 cards is then shuffled and turned over one at a time. This tells the players which tile to play.
Although players are essentially playing independently of each other, there is a delicious tension to the game as the players agonize over each choice and compare their stacks of tiles to each other. The instructions do include a scoring guide for solitaire play. I think a timer and some inventive penalties could make the game more interactive between players, but as it stands, the joy of the game is much like the head to head games of Tetris that sucked up so many study hours back in the halcyon days of Super Nintendo. Fits is Major Fun and it won’t give you carpal-tunnel thumbs or strobe-induced seizures.
Fits by Reiner Knizia. © 2009 Ravensburger Spieleverlag GmbH.