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Brikks

The latest roll-and-write from designer de jour Wolfgang Warsch makes its way to the North American market via Stronghold Games. Does it truly mimic the fun of playing a beloved video game shape-stacking experience?

Gameplay

Brikks makes it very easy to open the box, grab a pen, and begin rolling dice to fill in your score sheet in pursuit of the best score, be it against other players or your best score. Players take turns rolling a pyramidal die (with numbers ranging between 1-4 on each face) along with a traditional six-sided die with a different color on each face. Depending on the number you rolled, you will then be limited to choosing from one of the five colored polyominoes within that color. To aid in this decision, players will reference the colored die they rolled. Now, all they must do is fill in their 10x11 grid with the shape, rinse, and repeat.

But Brikks is not this simple or boring. Much like the popular video game from which it is inspired, there are variations of difficulty to make each game different from the last. And holding out on finishing four rows with one fell swoop of a shape can net bonus points. Warsch additions such as energy and bombs can affect which shapes from which column you choose (or disregard), where you place a chosen polyomino, or bump up your points at the end of the game if you hoard them rather than using them.

Energy is the most notable and is the real qualifier for the range of difficulty a player chooses for themselves while playing. Different colored nodes are sprinkled throughout one’s sheet. In easier variants of the game, covering these color nodes with a shape of the same color will yield 2 energy (and covering it with any other colored shape will yield 1 energy). If a player chooses a more difficult experience, covering a node with the same color yields only 1 energy and any other polyomino of a differing color will yield nothing. Energy is the main engine of the game. Spending different amounts of it will allow players to choose a polyomino from one column to the left of right of the colored shape they originally rolled or choose a polyomino of their choice.

Using energy may cost you, though, since at the end any unused energy will gain you points. But using energy may gain you more points by strategically placing polyominos to complete multiple rows at once (which have its own bonus scores attached) or allowing players to slip in a polyomino into a tight, empty space for row completion bonuses. Bombs function in a similar manner, allowing players to skip using a shape. However, players only get three bombs and using one will incur a point penalty at the end of the game (-1, -2, and -4 points).

Finally, there are points for completing each row, which is the crux of scoring in the game. Filling in all 10 spaces in a row will grant 5 points, 9 spaces will be worth 2 points, and 8 spaces worth one. From rows 6-10, this point total can be doubled, and the last row can provide a quadruple bonus.

Brikks components
Photo courtesy W. Eric Martin on BoardGameGeek (licensed under CC BY 3.0)

Review

Brikks is a brilliant take on the popular polyomino stacking game that has continued to capture the imagination and admiration of tens of millions. Even the retro design of each player sheet, mimicking the look and feel of an old arcade cabinet to capture the feel of a forgotten time, and yet still feel cool and retro for a younger crowd. The gameplay is simple, but strategic. Energy is the currency of choice in Brikks and getting as much of it as possible allows flexibility and monster point totals.

As far as player interaction goes, it comes down to the comradery of things not going everyone’s way, or the yelp of joy when someone is able to manipulate a polyomino thanks to spending energy or completing multiple rows while others are just trying to puzzle out awkward placements of shapes on a jumbled board. Brikks does its best as a solo experience, where players can try to best their highest score with each play. The box comes with plenty of play sheets if you do not want to laminate and the rules are intuitive.

Considering that many board games, as well as roll and writes, are starting to rely on polyominoes as go-to centerpieces of games, Brikks is one of the less brain-burning uses of the twisted shapes. Though there can be some complex strategizing when one plays at Level 4 (the hardest difficulty), the easier levels can be mindless fun.

As far as the roll and write genre is concerned, there are deeper experiences in other games, but if you’re looking for a pick-up-and-play game that emulates Tetris, one can rarely do better than Brikks.

Pros: Easy to learn, quick to play, plenty of strategy at higher difficulties

Cons: Better at lower player counts or as a solo game