Blokus is officially pronounced “block us”, which is stupid because “bloke us” sounds way better.
Blokus is an abstract strategy game, which means the theme is not important to the experience of playing. Abstract strategy games tend to be games in which the players pose a series of puzzles to each other. These types of games are also (usually) played with only two players.
A purist’s definition of an abstract strategy board game requires that it cannot have random elements or hidden information. This, however, is extremely strict and does not encompass most generally-accepted games in this genre. Other examples of abstract strategy games are Chess, Checkers (Draughts), Mancala, and Go.
Abstract strategy board games are some of the earliest games ever played by humans. If you’re a history nerd (like us) and want to learn more, check out our article on the history of board games here.
A Brief Overview of Blokus
Blokus is an abstract strategy game that plays like a weird reverse version of Tetris. Players compete to place as many pieces onto the board as possible and cover the most area. Same-colored pieces can not touch on the outside edges but must be connected by corners. Different-colored pieces can touch any which way.
Versions & Expansions
To up your Blokus game, try the 3D version. Instead of building on a flat board the pieces are three dimensional and players will be stacking and building upwards.
You could technically play the original Blokus with some added house rules or you can go for the Duo version. It’s designed specifically for 2 players and fixes a lot of the issues of trying to play with only 2 players on the original board.
“Squares are so last season.” Blokus Trigon swaps out the square pieces/board with triangular shapes. The triangular shape may seem like a small change, but it does get a little tricky and actually forces you to stay sharp and reason on a different level.
I’m honestly not sure why this exists. Blokus is such an easy game to figure out with simple rules and gameplay that I’m not sure why you would ever need this. I honestly feel it’s just a dumbed-down, smaller version of Blokus.
Bigger is always better right? Blokus Giant is literally a big @$$ version of Blokus. If you have trouble seeing the board, discerning the differences between pieces, motor function issues, or just want a bigger board, it may be worth your while to track down a copy of Blokus Giant.
There’s not a lot of components needed to play Blokus.
Everything in the box is all solid plastic. The original version does come with a divider section to keep all 4 colors separated for easy cleanup and startup. You won’t need a handful of baggies or anything, but if you don’t like having inserts (and you’re a monster) you could remove it in favor of baggies.
The board is a solid square with ridges that fit the pieces perfectly. Overall it has very simple components but is solid all the same.
How to Play Blokus
Blokus is a simple game, but don’t mistake that for a boring one.
Each player picks a color.
It’s always interesting to see different gimmicks for determining who goes first and I’m sure you could come up with your own, but Blokus has a set color order for turns; blue, yellow, red, then green. It’s not quite rainbow order, but it’s close.
Each player has a pile of different shapes and everyone’s first move must cover a corner of the board so that everyone starts as far away from each other as possible.
Everybody takes turns placing tiles. The same colored tiles cannot touch on any side but must be connected by corners.
Any other color can touch the sides of any other color, but not their own.
To keep it more simple:
- Same color = only corners
- Anything else goes
Scoring & End Game
The game ends when all of the players can no longer place a piece on the board. You have either locked yourself out or been blocked out.
If you manage to place all of your pieces on the board, you’ll receive 15 points. If you played the single square piece as your last piece you’ll also get a bonus 5 points.
That’s the only way to get points. Everything else is negative.
Every remaining piece in your possession is worth negative 1 point per square size. So if you have 1 piece left that consists of 4 squares, your final score would be -4 points.
This basically ensures that the player who can successfully place all of their pieces is the winner.
It’s not uncommon to see one smug player with 15 points and everyone else in the negatives.
Your First Game of Blokus
As far as overall strategy goes, there’s actually quite a lot you can do with Blokus.
You could try to carve out a section of the board entirely to yourself, but I wouldn’t recommend that. You could spread out as quickly as possible and try to reach the other corners to give yourself the most space, or you could simply run straight into opponents hoping to fill up the board with your pieces.
Blokus is an abstract strategy game, so there’s no big theme to get lost in. Just enjoy the strategy and thought processes that go into it.
Blokus is a great game. If you’re someone who enjoys other abstract games like chess, you’ll have fun, and Blokus has the advantage of including up to 4 players.
So, after all that… Why the hell is this game so addictive/popular?
The Versatility of a Blokus Board
If you’ll look on the box you’ll notice a ton of awards that Blokus has won or was nominated for over the years, including a Mensa Select Award.
I’m gushing and ranting a little bit, but it is a really cool board and there’s a lot more to actually do with your Blokus board than just play Blokus. This is why, as an 8th-grade teacher, I highly recommend this game if you have young children.
If you’re tired of playing the game or just want a mental puzzle, you can attempt to play a cooperative Tetris-type game and take turns filling up the board.
Simply trying to fill up every available spot perfectly is an interesting mental puzzle in itself.
The Blokus board also doubles an interesting canvas. Try messing around and using the board to create a pixel art masterpiece. I’ve seen some interesting designs and even some nifty NES Mario pixel art.
You could also use it as a makeshift Tangram board and try to recreate shapes and images.
Part of the beauty of this game is its versatility. The rules are so simple, yet the actual level of strategy can be amped up depending upon the other players. There are also quite a few fun things to do with the board itself.
Mensa & Spatial Reasoning
Why did this get a Mensa award?
Blokus has shown to actually help children learn and develop spatial reasoning.
Spatial reasoning is a person’s ability to look at an object and understand it in 3 dimensions within their mind. It is similar to seeing a unique figure and being able to understand what it looks like from different angles.
Spatial reasoning skills have been shown to help with math and there’s a link between high spatial reasoning and a higher ability in STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math). Will this make your kids grades higher? Maybe, maybe not, but it will help develop those skills and present them in an interesting and fun manner.
Education & Early Childhood Development
Children’s brains are basically aliens compared to adult brains. They aren’t fully developed and they think in a completely different way. Promoting a different way of thinking and creativity is incredibly healthy and important to child development.
I do actually have a degree in education and studied childhood development so I’m not just blowing smoke. I’m also 100% NOT saying that if your kids play Blokus they’ll become engineers. What I am saying is that children think differently from adults and finding an outlet where they get to exercise their brains and are challenged to think in a spatial way will help promote healthy development. I personally think board games are an excellent way to challenge children, which is why my classroom always had a few on the shelves.
Okay, that’s enough teacher ranting for now.
Pros & Cons of Blokus
- Simple to teach & play
- Educational & supports spatial learning skills
- Allows for a lot of strategic thinking
- Not a showstopper
- I don’t like the box
The rules are so easy to learn that even very young children can quickly grasp the rules. That being said, adults will still have fun and stay interested.
I normally lean towards the highly-thematic games. I like getting lost in a good story or world. I don’t always have the time to sit down and dedicate the time allowed for them.
I put Blokus in the same category as Sequence. It’s a game that we can pull out and start playing quickly. The setup is simple, everyone knows the rules, and it’s a nice way to unwind and relax. It’s a game that no one person every consistently wins either, which is another big plus. Sometimes you’ll get a game where that one player consistently wins and it ceases to be fun, but Blokus hasn’t been like that in my experience.
It’s not a showstopper of a game. You probably won’t have a group of people running to your house on game night shouting, “LET’S PLAY BLOKUS!!!”, but it’s a good starter and time killer when you’re relaxing at home.
The last thing I want to mention is the box. I’m not a fan. For such a large board, there has to be a way to keep all of the pieces and the board hidden away in a compartment to make it easier to store. It’s a small gripe but I think about it every time I look at the board.
Blokus Review (TL;DR)
Blokus is simple enough for small children to learn but has enough strategy built into the game to keep everyone interested.
There are several random fan-made rule variants and some interesting puzzles you can make with the board and pieces, which can make it a fun coffee table fixture.
It may not get played every weekend but you’ll definitely be playing it consistently.
Blokus is an abstract strategy game and a relatively simple one at that. Do not underestimate it.
I don’t think you’ll ever plan out an entire game night for Blokus but if you’re waiting for people to show up, have something in the oven, need a beginner/starter game, or just want something pleasant to do during the day, Blokus is a clear winner.
I do enjoy abstract games. Kendra and I carry a foldup chess set around when we go wandering around town. The problem with Blokus is that it’s a bit of a pain to travel with. I’ve been to a couple of pubs that actually had it sitting on a shelf and that’s perfect for me.
So I know I keep going on and on about what qualities it lacks, but I still play it a lot. It’s taken a few factors and mechanics and distilled them down into a pure experience. Honestly, a lot of designers could take a lesson away from Blokus. A game doesn’t need a lot of components or bells & whistles to make it fun and successful. It has to simply be fun and accessible. It won’t appeal to everyone but there is something to be said about the mass market appeal of Blokus.
Have you played Blokus? What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.
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