Friday, January 07, 2005

Games are Like Jolly Ranchers

They're hard, sometimes sweet but sometimes sour, and they hurt your teeth. Wait. No. Santa head candies taste like Jolly Ranchers.


Blokus pieces are like Jolly Ranchers.

*record scratch noise*

Well, we kicked off the 2005 season of WAGS with two classics and one newcomer, Princes of Florence, Pirate’s Cove and Blokus.

Princes of Florence is becoming more strategic as people begin to understand better the more subtle aspects of bidding, and the more coarse aspects like remembering to leave an action to actually play a work on the last round. This time I was very satisfied with my timing and my bidding, but it wasn’t quite enough to prevent Easy from snatching first place. We are achieving higher scores than ever in Princes of Florence, with familiarity being the obvious cause.

Pirate’s Cove held up well on its third appearance, with some shrewd strategy and sneaky moves making appearances. All the other players managed to build up their ships quite quickly, while I limped off to Pirate’s Cove to nurse my wounds after two early round trouncings. Fortunately, I was able to claw my way back up, and despite Shemp’s apparently commanding lead on rounds 8-10 the final scores were fairly close. Shemp did win, but Easy and I had to fight it out for second.

The introduction of Blokus, a simple geometric strategy game with a lot of depth, was a success. Blokus is played on a raised grid of squares, onto which each player plays an assortment of differently shaped pieces ranging in size from five squares to a single square, 21 shapes in all. The pieces must be placed so that each newly placed piece only touches corners (not flat sides) of your own colour pieces, and no pieces may overlap in any way. The play proceeds with each player placing a piece until he or she is “out of the game” when unable to place a new piece. The player with the fewest total squares in their pieces remaining once no one can play a piece is the winner. Bonus points are given to players who play all of their pieces, as well as those who use the tiny one-square piece last.

Blokus is one of those games which you cotton to immediately. It has an attractive look, the pieces interlock easily and are removed easily, and the game play is simple but strategic. There is no theme to speak of, but in the case of this game, none is needed. It is a refined a game as you could expect, up there with Go, Chess, Backgammon and Chinese Checkers as shining examples of simplicity in design.

I kept on having fragmented flashbacks of the light cycles from Tron while playing this game initially, but more apt comparisons are to Qix, Domaine or fractal geometry – the successful strategy is a combination of defensive play to maximize your own future moves, while offensively blocking opponent options.

A very good game, destined to become a classic with many enthusiasts, I think.

For the records (being kept by me, but open for your inspection), scores and rankings:

Princes of Florence

1st Place = Easy – 63 prestige
2nd Place = Kozure – 59 prestige
3rd Place = Hapi – 50 prestige
4th Place = Shemp – 49 prestige

Pirate’s Cove

1st Place = Shemp – 37 fame
2nd Place = Kozure – 36 fame
3rd Place = Easy – 35 fame
4th Place = Hapi – 26 fame

Blokus, Session 1

1st Place = Easy – 7 squares
2nd Place = Kozure – 14 squares
3rd Place = Hapi – 17 squares
4th Place = Shemp – 19 squares

Blokus, Session 2

1st Place = Tie, Kozure/Easy – 7 squares
2nd Place = Hapi – 8 squares3rd Place = Shemp – 12 squares

Rules Question: Pirate's Cove

Can one person play a Royal Navy card, then another person play a Royal Navy card to send the RN somewhere else?


  1. Thanks for the post, Kozure.

    Had a great time in our first outing of 2005. I wanted to start the year off with the classics (Princes of Florence and El Grande), but instead wound up going with a classic (PoF) a current favorite (Pirate's Cove) and a new arrival (Blokus) (why the change? a last minute meeting kept me from arriving until 8pm. Grrr. I thought government workers didn't do overtime!!!)

    I always enjoy Princes of Florence, and this was no exception. The winner was not clear until the very end, and as Kozure said, we're getting better so the strategies are becoing sharper.

    This was my second night playing Pirate's Cove (although, it was my 4th game). I still enjoyed it quite a bit. I was impressed at how tight the game wound up being, considering how beat up Kozure and I were early in the game. This makes me think that game play is more important than some would say (This on is often accused of being totally random on BGG).

    Blokus has become very popular at my house. Priscilla likes it, and so do all the people that I introduce it to. It's a very accessible strategy game, which has the bonuses of being simple to learn and quick to play. As Kozure said, it's also fairly attractive. Anyway, I get the sense this one will have a long legs, with many plays in our game group and at family gatherings in the future.

    Blokus: 8

  2. I think I'm mostly in agreement with the others - Pirate's Cove is holding up really well, better than I'd expected. It keeps getting MORE fun time each time we play, and that's a great thing. I've already given it an 8.5, and I think that holds.

    Now, Princes of Florence is the opposite case for me. It's still fun, and I AM getting better, but I actually find this to be a little less compelling than it has been in the past. I think that I'd downgrade it by a half-point to 7.5. I don't think this is bitterness at never really contending - I think the problem for me is that nothing unexpected or unusual ever seems to happen. The same basic things happen in perfectly reasonable but not in particularly interesting combinations. In my opinion, of course.

    Blokus - Rockus!
    (That's good) On Blokus, I agree with all the above thoughts - it's an eight. And, I have finally defeated the robot at, without switching turn order! Yay, me!