With BLOCK.BLOCK, each player takes turns to place blocks of their own color one by one. There are only three rules: (1) all the bottom surface of a block you are placing must be touching either on the game board or other blocks, (2) you cannot place a block of the same shape in a row to the opponent, and (3) you cannot place a block directly on top of another block of the same shape in the same way. After both players place all of their blocks, look at the game board from the top and count the number of squares of each player’s color. The player with more squares wins the game.

The Good

New Abstract for Two (+10)

When you think of abstract games for two players, you probably think of Chess or maybe Go. The learning curve on those games is extremely high and it can be a little discouraging. Block.Block is the game to put on the table if you’re trying to switch up gameplay and mood. To me, it’s not as warlike but rather an issue of timing and manipulation. The method of play itself is also different depending on whether you are choosing beige or brown. The game lasts a mere 10-15 minutes so even if you lose you can simply play again!

Room to Learn (+7)

There are two ways to win: have more areas covered on the board from an aerial view or force the other player to have no legal placement. In either win condition, there is room to learn how to force your opponent’s hand. The board is only so big and the shapes are awkward up until a point that you will need to create a board state that your opponent cannot escape. Consequently, being able to evaluate your options against the placement restriction rules is the mark of the better player. To add to the difficulty, both players have blocks that have the opponent’s color on them! Keeping all of this in mind is what sets this game apart for me in terms of learning.

The Bad

Unpredictable Degrees of Punishment (-2)

While it is interesting to be able to corner your opponent into a quick loss without even paying much attention to area control, this seems to me to be a pretty harsh punishment for not making quicker permutations in your mind. I’m not sure if everyone has the same compulsion to match game time on the box as I do, but it would take me a much longer time to compare remaining pieces than the box suggests. It’s hard enough to keep the placement restrictions in mind to have more space under your control from the top! Your initial impulse is to cover up as much of the opponents’ spaces as possible but the most efficient way to do that is not a legal move.

Needs Mental Investment (-2)

It is mechanically easy to take a turn, so you need to be invested in order to stay engaged. There are no flashy turns where you knock out or steal opponents’ pieces. You will continue to build on the board together until this game is over and a victor emerges. Due to unconventional placement restrictions you’ll also need to get used to making mistakes and undoing a move.

The Ugly

Blocks Can Get Stuck Together (0)

Depending on how warm your shelf or other storage space is, the blocks can get stuck together in the box since they are painted. This is mostly an issue for the brown as the publisher did not paint the white blocks. I mostly wanted to note this because I had to painstakingly pull them apart when the shipment arrived.

Must Be Precisely Put Away (0)

As if the blocks sticking together wasn’t enough, the bottom of the box contains a template to put the game away. The publisher didn’t waste space, which I really appreciate in Japanese game packaging, but that came with the caveat of exactness. If you’re the type of gamer to just remove the insert and throw everything into the box, beware.

Difficulty: 2/5 for Advanced
Satisfaction Grade: B (84.0%) for Great
Worth Your Money? Yes.