- Designer: Laurent Escoffier
- Publisher: Blue Orange
- Players: 2-4
- Age: 8+
- Time: 15 minutes
- Played with review copy provided by publisher
Block Ness has a punny title that nicely hints at the theme of the game – that is, players each control their own monster and they try to expand control of the lake with the many different segments. The game is played on a board perforated with a grid of holes – this board fits snugly in the box bottom.
Each player gets the 12 pieces in their color, a head, a tail, a low starter piece and 9 other pieces of varying heights and lengths. In turn order, each player places their starting segment somewhere in the central dark blue area and then attaches the head and tail to their starting segment. Note that each color has a different length starter piece. Pieces must always be placed horizontally or vertically in the grid, never diagonally – and once a segment is placed, it may not be moved for the rest of the game.
The board is made up of three concentric-ish rings; you play with progressively more of the board as the player count increases. On a turn, the active player must extend their creature – to do so, you must place a new segment so that it starts on one of the 3 available orthogonally adjacent spaces to the current head or tail. Place the new piece so that the other end into an available space; move the head or tail piece onto the end of the newly placed segment.
It is possible to cross over other monster’s segments – both your own and your opponents’. You can even cross over the head or tail segment which you are extending from as you will move said head or tail segment to the new end of your monster. One exception to this is that you cannot cross over an opponent’s head or tail marker, even if your piece is tall enough to allow it. This restriction is possibly temporary as your opponent may move their head or tail at some later point. Also, you many never place your segment underneath any other segment.
So on your turn, you place a piece if you are able. If you are unable to place a piece legally, you simply pass. However, you are not necessarily out of the game as the board conditions may change as the other creatures grow further on the board. The game continues until all players have placed all their segments possible. The winner is the player who has placed the most segments (i.e. has the fewest left in the supply). If there is a tie, it is broken in favor of the player with the tallest head segment.
My thoughts on the game
Man, usually the review of gameplay takes at least a page, but not in this case; and I think that this highlights just how simple this game is to play. There are really barely any rules; which I think that this makes it great as a gateway or introductory level game. The plastic bits are quite colorful, and the finished board is a beautiful colorful tangled mess of pieces. It is neat to watch the board grow organically as the pieces are placed from turn to turn.
Strategywise, there is some room for clever play, both setting yourself up for an escape from a tight corner as well as tactically placing pieces to limit the movement of your opponents. As the game progresses near the end, you should always be careful to ensure that there are multiple open spaces to extend your creature. Especially in a four player game, you could end up being unexpectedly trapped if your opponents fill in all the neighboring spaces next to your head or tail.
The game plays as quick as advertised with most of our games finishing within ten to fifteen minutes. This isn’t really that surprising seeing that each player only has a maximum of 9 pieces to place. The early plays take barely any time at all – sure, you have a few options on where to place pieces, but it isn’t until the mid to end game where you’re really have to take some time to think about where you are going to place your next segment (and the one after that…)
Block Ness is a visually interesting game that will work really well with families and non-gamers but there is enough strategy (especially with the advanced placement rules) to be a nice filler for gamers. I like the fact that this game will be able to work with different segments of gamers that I game with.
Until your next appointment,
The Gaming Doctor