Dale Yu: Review of Brikks

Brikks

  • Designer: Wolfgang Warsch
  • Publisher: Schmidt
  • Players: 1-4
  • Ages: 8+
  • Time: 25-35 minutes
  • Times played: 4, with copy purchased at SPIEL 2018

One of the big themes of SPIEL 2018 was the use of polyominos in games.  Another was the ascendance (and possible jumping of the shark) of Roll-and-Writes.  Brikks is one of a few games that sits firmly at the intersection of these two Venn diagram circles.

In Brikks, each player gets an identical scoring sheet at the start of the game.  The goal is to fill in the sheet as completely by filling in each horizontal line as fully as possible.  The scoring sheet looks like an arcade game with a grid of 11 rows to be filled in. Underneath this grid is an area used to mark bonus scoring and then a energy bar to show where you have captured and then later used energy points.  Each player starts with as many as four energy points (depending on the number of players), you will notice a slight green haze around the first four energy circles to denote this.

Players get a second scoresheet which they flip over to the reverse – the back side is printed with a player aid which is used to show which block is falling on your screen.  While each player starts with an identical empty sheet, the game does start asymmetrically. Going in reverse turn order, each player chooses one of the shapes from the leftmost column of the player aid and then fills that shape in on their sheet such that part of the chosen block touches the bottom line of the board.  All players must choose a different shape.

The starting player then takes the first turn.  Turns will continue until all players have dropped out – you drop out of the game when you are unable to place the designated piece on that turn.

The active player rolls both dice.  There is a d6 which has six different colors on the faces and a regular d4.  The combination of these results will point to one of the 24 polyominoes on the player aid sheet.  Players can use a chip to mark this shape. All players use the same die roll on the turn. If the active player does not like the result, he may re-roll all the dice once – but he must then accept the second result.  Again, all players end up using the same die result.

If no energy is spent (more on this in a second), the designated piece will start at the top of the board (in the columns of the players choosing) and starts to fall straight down until it hits the bottom of the board or another block previously played.  While it is falling, you can “move” the block left and right to maneuver through gaps, but the entire piece must be able to fit through the gap or else it will get stuck. As in the videogame, you are also allowed to scoot a piece over right as it hits something in order to move it under another block.   When the block stops, you should draw in the outline of the shape and then fill in each individual square with an X.

Now, remember I told you earlier about the energy bar.  Again, you start the game with up to 4 bits of energy. You can gain more during play if you manage to cover one of the colored dots on your board with a piece of the SAME color.  Each time you do this, place a circle around the next two energy dots on your bar to show that they are available. When you use them, you will fill them in. Some of the energy spaces have a red X in them.  Each time that you circle a spot with a red X in it, you make a mark in the bonus point track found just above the energy bar.

There are two ways to use energy (as shown just beneath the energy bar).  For one point, you are able to move the chip one column to the left of right.  This is the way that you can rotate the piece before it falls. The columns do not wrap around, so if you are on white 1 and you really want to place white 4, you’ll have to spend three energy points to do so.  Your other option is to spend FIVE energy points, and this allows you to simply choose any polyomino on the chart. This is the only way to change to color of the piece used in the particular round.

If you decide that you just don’t like the block for the round, you can always blow it up.  You have three bombs available to you on the right side of the board. If you wish to skip the round (and not place the designated piece), you simply cross off the topmost available bomb.  You do not write down a shape this turn, and you do not get a replacement either.

So, the game moves on with players trying to fill in their rows of spaces as efficiently as possible.  There is a scoring system found just underneath the grid. For each full line (all 10 spaces filled in), you will score 5 base points. You score 2 base points if nine spaces out of the ten are filled in, and 1 base point if eight spaces are filled.

There is also a bonus given if you are able to fully complete multiple lines simultaneously.  Each time you are able to complete two lines together, you get to mark off one space on the bonus scoring bar; two spaces for three simultaneous lines and four spaces for four simultaneous lines.  You are also allowed to then hum the first verse of the Dance of the Sugar Plum fairies as loud as you wish. (As you set this up, you’ll either want to have a lot of energy points available or hope that the table rolls a lot of “3”s on the d4 – as this is the main way to get three or four lines filled on a single turn.

Players will eventually drop out of the game when they are unable to place the current block on their sheet. Once they drop out, they cannot come back in the game even if they are then able to place a later designated piece.  The game ends when all players have dropped out. At this point, you then tally up points.

First, you score the points for each line in your grid.  Again, you use the 5/2/1 pt metric for 10/9/8 spaces filled in.  However, if you look at the right side of the grid, the top half of the board has x2 and x4 multipliers.  Apply the stated multiplier for each row and then note the score on the line next to the row. To this you add the points to the first legible (uncrossed) number in your bonus point bar, as well as any points seen on unused bombs.  Finally, you score 1 point per every 2 activated but unused energy bits. The player with the most points wins.

My thoughts on the game

This ended up being the third or fourth polyomino game that I played from this year’s fair – mostly because English rules did not come in the box, and I had to wait until I got home to find an English translation.   This one seems to be most true to the video game, and I think the presentation of the game in an “arcade cabinet” helps the theme here.

The game is challenging enough, and between the asymmetric start and the use of the starting energy bits, the boards diverge fairly early on which makes for an interesting game.  

Being the active player is a powerful spot as you have the best chance to get a piece that you really want.  Sometimes you need a particular shape (or part of a shape) to fit into a particular place. Other times, you may want a color in order to cover up a dot to get energy points.  And then, sometimes, the active player in our games will look around at what particular opponents need to decide if they want to re-roll or not to prevent them from getting the same benefits.   

This act of choosing a die roll based on what the opponents might need is really the only interaction in the game.  Otherwise, the game is pretty much simultaneous solitaire – which isn’t a bad thing; in fact it’s a type of game that I enjoy.  Our groups do sometimes turn the game into a little bit of a negotiation game because everyone is always sure to point out when another player would really benefit from the current roll and try to cajole the active player into re-rolling.

The energy points are very useful, though I will say that in some games, they can be very hard to come by.  It seems like it would be an easy thing to fill in the board in a way to generate more energy points, but I have found that sometimes lady luck just doesn’t want you to earn any more points.

For me, most of the points come from filling in the top rows of the board efficiently. But I’m not very good at the game as my win-loss record will attest to.  The players that tend to win in my games are the ones which are able to move furthest right on the bonus scoring bar. I have seen someone get as high as 51 points on the bar, and that 51 point total alone was almost enough to beat my whole sheet that game!   Of course, the key to getting the high bonus score is scoring multiple lines at ones, and this takes a lot of advanced planning and a lot of luck as well (or lots and lots of energy points to get the right shape at the right time).

Component wise, I’ll admit that I’m again not a fan of the graphic design of a Warsch roll and write.  While the arcade cabinet art works well with the theme, I really don’t understand why it was printed on a dark background.  There is no space to tally up your final score on the sheet, and I don’t really want to have to use the back of another sheet as I do in Ganz Schoen Clever.    The design could have been much better if the sides of the sheet were not black so that you could write in your scores… or better yet, as most modern roll and write games now include – there should be an area where you can tabulate all the different areas of scoring to come up with your final total.

Thanks to the wonders of the Internets, there is a fan based sheet posted on BGG – and this has become the form of the sheet that I have laminated and added to my roll and write travel kit.  https://boardgamegeek.com/filepage/171212/printable-unofficial-version-score-sheet

Overall, this is a solid roll and write that offers a fair amount of strategy and tactical choices.  It might be on the longer end for the genre, but there is enough here in the game to justify the slightly longer game length.  Herr Warsch continues to impress me with the breadth of his game designs as well as the sheer quantity of them in the past two years.

We had a nice chat in Essen about this, and I must say that I am looking forward to see what he comes up with in 2019 and beyond.

Thoughts from Other Opinionated Gamers

houghts from Other Opinionated Gamers

Simon W: I’m definitely on the “I love it” end of the scale for this Wolfgang Warsch beauty, I think it evokes Tetris as well as the Knizia game FITS and obviously is more portable and slightly quicker to play. Lots of fun.

James Nathan (1 play): I struggle to find a Tetris-style polyomino game that I enjoy.  When I think about the parts of Tetris that excite me, it’s (a) the push your luck of trying to only complete 4 lines at a time, (b) the errors induced when pieces start to fall faster than you can rotate and position them, and (c) delightful Russian music. Here, as with the others that I’ve tried, I fail to find something that fulfills those buckets – which may be fine: it can do something else interesting. But this one doesn’t for me.

Joe Huber (1 play): Yet another perfectly reasonable roll-and-write game, less compelling for me than FITS, though not by any large amount.  Even though I’m susceptible to multiplayer-solitaire games, this one doesn’t stand out enough that I’ll be the one calling to play it, though I am willing.

Dan Blum: It’s… fine. I like both polyomino games and roll-and-write games, so I like this, but I don’t love it. It doesn’t have enough tension and the bonus scoring for the higher rows, while it makes “thematic” sense, seems a bit odd in practice because you tend to accumulate energy as you go and therefore can have a reasonable amount available when you get to the bonus rows to make sure you complete some of them. (Assuming you don’t spend it all earlier, of course, but that’s under your control.)

So I’d certainly play it again but I’d rather take FITS out again, honestly. If I were Knizia I would be trying to re-sell FITS to someone with pads and pens instead of plastic pieces, now that roll-and-writes are so popular.

Ratings from the Opinionated Gamers

  • I love it! Simon W
  • I like it. Dale Y, Dan Blum (might drop to Neutral after a few more plays), Steph, W. Eric M.
  • Neutral. James Nathan, Joe H.
  • Not for me…

About Dale Yu

Dale Yu is the Editor of the Opinionated Gamers. He can occasionally be found working as a volunteer administrator for BoardGameGeek, and he previously wrote for BoardGame News.
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