By Jeff Dougan
This month’s treatment of a Family Game Night is a family of games, in addition to being games for families. Although not in the library collection (I’m moving away from it for a little bit, except for next month’s column, in favor of things I can write about more comfortably), these are all readily available at your store of choice. This family of games are the Blokus games. They are:
- Suggested ages 5+ for all games
- Play time ~20 minutes for all
- List prices ~$25 each
- None in the library’s collection (yet)
The Blokus (“Block-us”, incidentally, not “Blow-kus”) games are a series of what are usually called “abstract strategy” games. This sounds scarier than it really is, since I can nearly guarantee you’re familiar with at least two abstract strategy games already — chess and checkers. Backgammon and mancala are two other pretty common examples. All it really means is that, unlike in some of the other games I’ve written about, there is no story to help explain what’s going on.
Blokus, Blokus Trigon, and Blokus Duo are all similar to each other in that you have a series of pieces made up of several squares or triangles pieced together. Your goal is to play them all onto the board. Your pieces have to touch each other, but cannot share an edge — only touching at the corners is allowed. You want to place your pieces in such a way as to make it impossible for your opponent to place theirs, as you score points based on how many pieces your opponent(s) has left.
Blokus 3D works a little bit differently, because it existed independently before being acquired by the owners of Educational Insights. You’re still trying to place your pieces so that your opponent can’t, but must share a face with piece you’ve already played. In addition, the pieces are formed of cubes (rather than squares), and there is a limit to how high the structure can rise. Here, you score points based on how many squares of your color can be seen looking straight down from the top.
Like Carcassonne, these are good spatial reasoning games that require no reading ability and have pretty simple rules. The Grasshopper was about 4.5 when he started playing with, and then playing, Trigon and 3D (the only two that I own), and usually holds his own pretty well. If 3D is down, we’ll let the Munchkin play with a set of pieces when she’s not busy trying to destroy the things we’ve already got in place.
Jeff Dougan is a scientist-turned-teacher-turned-full-time dad to the Grasshopper, 5, and the Munchkin, 15 months. A lifelong gamer, he’s always willing to teach a new game to anybody, and equally willing to learn a new game almost anytime.